This story is by Carly Commiato and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Another car pulled out of the driveway at full speed. Through the years of pain and darkness, Adam saw those that his heart chose to love come and go. Time and time again, Adam would regret letting anyone into his own personal hell because as soon as the buried shadow of himself came to light, the other person would run. He would try to keep this shadow hidden for as long as possible, but as the gripping arms of attachment grew to embrace his soul to the other, the shadow would slowly rise up to the surface and make itself apparent. With great fear and a glimmer of hope, each time Adam’s heart would get burned by the departure of another loved one.
His shadow was his downfall, and he felt he had to do everything in his power to keep that side of his soul buried deep within.
College courses came to be a productive way for Adam to focus his attention and intelligent mind on something other than his deep rooted past of pain. Whereas many students dreaded the assignments and long hours of studying, Adam saw it as an escape for his overthinking personality.
Fellow students would come and go but Adam always kept to himself. He felt he were destined to be alone his entire life, so why would he waste any time now trying to make friends with those surely to leave him one day? He was a young man, just over 21, and had already faced more loss than any human should face in an entire lifespan. His hope was not drained, but it was indeed scarce.
On an afternoon in December, the week before finals, Adam sat in the corner of the university coffee shop lost in his studies. This was his least favorite time of the semester because the libraries and study rooms would be over crowded with students manically cramming for exams. Adam liked the quiet. He sighed as he observed the long line curving around the small shop, students arguing over predicted exam content, and spilled coffee staining the cold tile floors. He sipped his bitter green tea felt its warmth simmer down his throat. It brought a small comfort in the busy chaos.
His focus was momentarily broken when he heard a loud bang to his side. He quickly turned to see a girl picking herself up off of the dirty floor. Adam halted his tasks and jumped up to help the girl.
“Are you okay?” he asked gently, trying not to bring any more attention to the surely embarrassed young girl.
He placed a hand on her back to stable her body and took note of her dark features. She wore thick glasses that covered her brown eyes, a sharp nose, and long black hair pulled back into a perfectly straightened ponytail.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied as she brushed herself off.
Adam returned to his seat in the corner and continued creating his detailed notes. The girl approached him and apologized for interrupting him a second time, and asked if she could take the seat opposite of him at the small table, as the rest of the coffee shop was entirely packed. He nodded, but only retained eye contact for a moment before turning his gaze back to his computer screen.
His focus strayed as the girl took her seat. He watched her closely and observed her movements. She seemed to be just as awkward and introverted as he by the way she folded her arms and kept her gaze down at her textbook.
“What’s your name?” Adam asked.
“Jade,” she replied. She looked up for a brief second with a coy smile.
Adam suddenly became conscious of his rugged appearance in his reflection on his computer, now in sleep mode. His hair was black, shaggy, and had not been groomed in days. His black concert t-shirt had small tears in the neck to match his old ripped jeans and dirty white Vans.
The next hour was spent in silence with the two studious introverts deep in their studies.
Upon closing of the shop as evening set in, Jade closed her book and stood up to leave. This brought disappointment to Adam, and without much thought he spoke to her,
“Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?”
“Your exams next week.”
“Oh. I hope. Are you?”
“Yes. I’m sure you will do great.” He smiled at her and watched her walk out of the shop.
On an impulse, leaving his laptop and backpack at the table, Adam ran after Jade and asked her to a movie the following night as a break from the studies. After slight hesitation, she agreed, and Adam’s heart filled with joy, a rare occurrence for him.
Seeing the movie with Jade sparked Adam’s dying heart back into function. The cheesy action film (chosen by Jade, gladly agreed upon by Adam), the brave question to hold her small hand, and the quick kiss shared to end the night were pure perfection.
Finals week came and went, and Adam and Jade spent much of their winter break together watching movies about space and superheroes in his small apartment, discussing their favorite albums, and slowly acting on their physical impulses to hold each other tightly and never let go.
Adam was truly happy for the first time in what felt like an eternity. But after one intimate night spent holding Jade in the cold apartment bed, he felt the shadow begin to emerge. His shadow, comprised of every detail of his shameful past and dark thoughts, was easy to hide from those without connection to him. No one could see it until a very strong attachment began to grow.
Fear and panic circulated through Adam’s blood when he felt the shadow surfacing. He had to leave the bed and get away for a moment. He threw on a black fleece sweater and stepped outside to sit on the cement stairs outside his door.
His mind raced. How would he hide his shadow this time? He knew he loved Jade and all her imperfections that matched up with his insecurities of himself. He loved her quirkiness and standoffish demeanor that mimicked his tendency to want to be alone. Their interests overlapped so well that they seemed as clones of one another. They made perfect sense, but at the first glimpse of his shadow, she would surely run away. Everyone else did.
Unfortunately, the only way Adam knew to fix his problem of keeping his shadow hidden was to retreat into that dark castle inside, boarded up with walls so thick that not a soul on earth could tear them down. And so that’s what he did. He would rather face the pain of being without Jade than the pain of losing Jade through fear of his shadow.
Weeks went by, Adam and Jade only spent short moments together here and there. He didn’t want to push her away, but he felt he had no other option. He could see the pain in her pretty brown eyes as they filled with soft tears of sorrow. He’d give her apologetic looks in return, but knew that he was killing her sweet heart with each cold departure.
Life without Jade, Adam soon realized, was not a life worth living. Before he met her, he had never known feelings so strong, pure, and compassionate. He wanted to be with her every second of every day, he wanted to hold her hand for the world to see, and he wanted to share all of his dark secrets with her intelligent mind and hear all of her hidden thoughts in return. But with that, he’d have to let the shadow come to light.
Adam was lost in turmoil. He knew he’d have to face Jade and make the choice between letting her go or continuing his relationship with her. Every night he dreamt their wedding in spring time, with flowers blooming and doves flying overhead. Jade wore a pure white gown, walked towards him, and shared that famous kiss of promise. Tears of joy and smiles of happiness covered their young and hopeful faces.
The dream would always be followed by a second – this one not so Hallmark. A dark black figure emerged from Adam’s chest and wrapped its transparent hands around Jade’s dainty neck until her breathing ceased. The figure morphed from a black shadow into the form of Adam.
Adam awoke sweating every morning, with his heart racing and tears staining his cheeks. He’d let out a forceful scream into his soft pillow and beat his fist against the weathered spring mattress.
The mornings of frustration continued with Adam sitting in his bed with his hands covering his face, considering his next move. He knew he couldn’t live in the “in between” state any longer, and it was time for him to make a choice.
Adam came to a grim conclusion that the only way out of his wretched situation, was to remove himself from existence. He chose to face a steel powerhouse head on, on its nightly trek across the tracks down the road from his apartment complex.
A heartfelt goodbye was in order for one person only, the person he’d decided that he could no longer live without. Adam put his pen to paper and filled seven pages with his unconditional love for her, apologies for infecting her beautiful life, and the revelation of his hidden shadow that kept them apart.
“I’m sorry,” were the last words written on the ink covered page.
Adam numbly walked to Jade’s apartment that night and placed the tightly sealed envelope into post box #212. Jade would probably not see it until the deed had been done. He left with tears in his eyes and made his way to the rusty train tracks.
He took his place in the center of the tracks and stared into the blackness of the night. The tracks were on the edge of town, with the small city on one side and the empty woods on the other. He stood in silence.
“Adam stop!” Adam turned to see Jade running at full speed holding his envelope in her hands. She awkwardly stumbled into Adam and they collapsed into the muddy ditch beside the tracks.
Neither one of them spoke. Jade hugged Adam tightly. Everything was forgotten and in that moment, in her arms, Adam knew that he’d never want to be anywhere else.
“Please don’t do this, Adam,” Jade cried with tears falling from her chin.
“Did you read all of it, Jade? I’m not good. I’m not good for you.” Adam shut his eyes tightly, releasing his body from Jade’s embrace and allowed his shadow to seep out of his chest. The black figure sat silently in the messy ditch along with the pair. Adam opened his eyes.
With the moonlight shining down onto Jade’s pale face, Adam saw Jade close her eyes as a black figure, in the form of Jade’s body, appeared to her side.
Adam and Jade stared into each other’s eyes. He felt an empowering sense of relief at the discovery of Jade’s shadow. She bent forward and kissed Adam. The shadows gently returned to their hosts.
That night turned into “Page 1” of Adam and Jade’s new story. The pair grew happier with each other every day. Adam’s philosophy of hiding his shadow to avoid being rejected transformed into the belief that no shadow is dark enough, sad enough, or shameful enough to repel the right person who would be willing to accept such a darkness.
All along, they never had to hide or exorcise their shadows. They only needed to let the shadows out for the entire world to see to find each other and know that they truly belonged together.