Shadow Games

This is the last photograph I took in Jordan. Isn’t it ugly?

There were many other photos taken with pleasure and curiosity and the errantry of free time—sibling street cats in milk crates, the ruins of a Byzantine mosaic, a neighbor’s abandoned TV in the middle of a garden. But it was this photo, snapped on the way to Amman’s airport, that stopped me cold.

When the plane hovered over us a tremor ran through the trees near the Byzantine ruins. The alley cats ran away. The neighbor stuck his head out of his second-story window for the first time in two weeks.

“It’s the Royal Jordanian Air Force,” said one passerby.

“It’s an aircraft from the American military base here,” said another.

“It’s an illegal Facebook post,” said a third.

“It’s a kind of military climatology springing virtually out of nothing.”¹

¹ Peter Sloterdijk, Terror from the Air, Trans. Amy Patton and Steve Corcoran, p. 19.

“No, it’s just a stress shadow,” said the last eyewitness. “A stress change produced by the state indicating that many nearby dangers were relaxed by the deployment of the military plane. This relaxation results in a ‘shadow’ effect by creating a fearful region in which future dangers are delayed.”

shadow” | Old English sceadwian, “screen or shield from attack”