Me and my shadow

When I go out, three creatures tail me. They try to at least. But I’m still grieving for Erich.

Erich had tailed me for years. Erich was physically fit, different from these three. He wasn’t tall, but compact. His body muscular, his skin felt cool even after a long walk when I bumped into him by mistake. You feel closer in such situations, familiar in some odd way. Erich even had a sense of humor. Once he whispered to me: I’m just five feet three inches tall, Lehmann, how can I shadow you? I can only tail you.

Erich was always well informed, but that’s normal for his kind of people. Should be, at least. These three are not. Erich always knew beforehand if I planned a walk through the woods at the edge of town. On those occasions he took along some food. He knew better than I did where I wanted to go. But I don’t think I went into the woods only when Erich brought food. I don’t think I was ever dependent on him like that. Eric had a sharp, prominent nose and lots of deep wrinkles around the corners of the mouth.

The three can’t hold a candle to him, but now they’re all I’ve got. Because Erich whispered to me one day that his organization would probably be going belly-up soon. He had intelligence, he said. Then I would have to walk alone. He wished me good luck. He tailed me one more week, then never turned up again. After a few days a letter came, but the envelope was empty. The powerful handwriting with its serifs on the envelope was Erich’s, for sure. I’ll never know what he wanted to tell me.

Now those three obviously have the task of shadowing me. As soon as I step out the door, I hear them mutter: Here comes Lehmann! Then they try to follow me. But they have no feet, and their legs are flabby like pillow snakes, their pant legs sewed up. And they appear to be headless, I refuse to look too closely at them. A creaking sound escapes their chests after having followed me just ten yards. Then they stop, if they are not already flat on the ground, having clumsily pushed each other over, or because they stumbled over their own legs. What would Erich say?

Now my walks are for me alone, but the feeling of freedom is spoiled whenever I think of those losers lying on the sidewalk not far from my front door.

When they see me, they struggle to their feet and shout: Here comes Lehmann! The rales and wheezes of consumptive lungs accompany their words.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

At the window

There are five windows in the white wall. Two on the second floor, three below. Or vice versa, it does not matter.

You focus on the bottom right window. You belong to the world, but you don’t have much to do. I stand inside and look out. Slightly on the side, but clearly visible. At first you mistakenly thought that I was interested in the outside world. Because I often sit on the windowsill, tuck up my legs, turn outward on my backside and then push off with both arms to jump onto the lawn. But shortly after you see me back inside. Believe me, it’s all about me and my window and nothing that is outside.

You have to admit that you never see me go through a door. You don’t even know whether there is a door, because you see only one side of the house and part of the roof. You are only watching this one window. But it’s worth it. Every time the house is in flames, I take an artistic header through the window, but not before carefully closing it. The glass splinters spectacularly. It is not dangerous for me, or for you. Feel free to come closer! You may have noticed that I sometimes jump with my mouth wide open, hoping to get a shard between the teeth. The glass in fact consists of sugar glaze. And the house is not really on fire. Otherwise this could not be repeated that often.

By now, you step quite casually onto the soft and flowery meadow in front of the window. Time after time you watch me come through the window in different ways and approaching you. And then I’m back inside again and looking through the window. I jump when I get uneasy, or when I feel that the window demands it. I would also jump when the phone rings, but this has not yet happened. Believe me, it’s not about me and not about the world or you, it’s just about our window. Maybe I will bring my phone number next time, written on a piece of paper. You’ll find it on the front lawn when you wake up.

And then you will see me standing inside again, at the bottom right window.

***
Rupprecht Mayer was born 1946 near Salzburg. After some 20 years living and working in Taiwan, Beijing, and Shanghai, he recently resettled in SE Bavaria. He translates Chinese literature and writes short prose and poetry in German and English. English versions appeared in Connotation Press, Frostwriting, Mikrokosmos/Mojo, Ninth Letter, Prick of the Spindle, Washington Square Review and elsewhere. For more of his work, see www.chinablaetter.info/rupprechtmayer/

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