To Dress a Shadow
   
      translated by Thomas Christensen  
     
   
 

homeward bound

 

The hardest thing is to surround it, to fix its limit where it fades into the penumbra along its edge. To choose it from among the others, to separate it from the light that all shadows secretly, dangerously, breathe. To begin to dress it casually, not moving too much, not frightening or dissolving it: this is the initial operation where nothingness lies in every move. The inner garments, the transparent corset, the stockings that compose a silky ascent up the thighs. To all these it will consent in momentary ignorance, as if imagining it is playing with another shadow, but suddenly it will become troubled, when the skirt girds its waist and it feels the fingers that button the blouse between its breasts, brushing the neck that rises to disappear in dark flowing water. It will repulse the gesture that seems to crown it with a long blonde wig (that trembling halo around a nonexistent face! And you must work quickly to draw its mouth with cigarette embers, slip on the rings and bracelets that define its hands, as it indecisively resists, its newborn lips murmuring the immemorial lament of one awakening to the world. It will need eyes, which must be made from tears, the shadow completing itself to better resist and negate itself. Hopeless excitement when the same impulse that dressed it, the same thirst that saw it take shape from confused space, to envelop it in a thicket of caresses, begins to undress it, to discover for the first time the shape it vainly strives to conceal with hands and supplications, slowly yielding, to fall with a flash of rings that fills the night with glittering fireflies.

By Julio Cortázar, from Around the Day in Eighty Worlds,
copyright © 1966, 1967, 1974, 1975, 1984 by Julio Cortázar
Translation copyright © 1986 by Thomas Christensen

 

julio cortazar
julio cortazar

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