Shadows

— An excerpt from the novel that I’m working on (click here for more details).  Describing the children lost and forgotten within Child Protective Services.—

A shadow serves the essential purpose of confirming that an object exists and is firmly planted in reality.  You see, something that doesn’t cast a shadow can’t be real.

But most people don’t doubt the reality that contains them.  They accept what is around them as fact, concrete and solid.  They are so firmly grounded in that acceptance that they don’t even spare a moment to think about it.  They just go about their day and the authenticity of their world goes without saying: home, bed, bathroom, clothes, breakfast, vehicle, roads, office, building, home.  No need to check that these things are there, they just are, as they always are and always will be every day, as people carry on about their lives.

In the same way people don’t take a moment to reaffirm the existence of the objects in their lives, they don’t look at a shadow twice.  Most don’t even spare it that first glance, unless it creeps up on them unawares, thrown off at how quickly the sun had moved and time had passed.

Shadows are just there.

They were shadows.  They were cast and forgotten.  Their poor existence served as a counterbalance for those who were better off:  for each one who lived a terrible life, it confirmed that there must be someone out there who had a better one.  For there is no woe if there is no joy.

Any sense of belonging that they felt was temporary.  They were bounced around from home to home where most people couldn’t care less about their well being as they passed through, so long as the government sent the accompanying check with the custody of the minor.  Ironically, it was that same money that they awaited to receive that was meant to assure that child’s well being.

The younger or newer ones that were introduced into the machine that was the Child Protective Agency were too naïve and were too often taken advantage of, violated, brutalized and mistreated by those they trusted too hastily.  Throughout the years, the older ones would develop tough exteriors and a tendency to rebel against authority. They were often labeled as lost causes, those judging them not knowing that they only acted with self-preservation in mind, however misguided they seemed.  Their innocence had been ravaged and they had been abused too many times to let another in so easily, even the few who had good intentions.  How do you make yourself vulnerable and credulous when you were so often betrayed?

So, it was not uncommon for them to lie, steal, and distrust all except one another.  When held in the shelters and detention centers, they found solace in the company of their temporarily shared and unsure journey to either a permanent home or legal adulthood: whichever came first.  When the going got tough, it was not uncommon for them to run away and to fall off the grid, taking their chances with a life out on the streets of whatever European city they could get to with the amount least hassle.  Some times, the only thing they would have to their name was a bottle of cheap, harsh liquor, stolen or otherwise illegally obtained, passed around a half circle of them to keep the cold away.

They were the begging faces on the streets, looking so young, yet so worn and aged.  They were the dangerous looking wayward youths that made strangers clasp their purse a bit tighter as they passed  by on the underground stairway.  They were often the lost souls that wandered the streets intoxicated to numb the pain and forget their worries as judging onlookers shook their head.

They were the shadows of the normal lives that most take for granted, the shadows that were forgotten until they crept up unawares.

But just as quickly as most past them by, they are forgotten.  And life went on regardless of whether that moment was taken to remember that they existed.

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