Too Many Years Later (Handsome Stranger)

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Twenty-five years old--

Snuggled beneath the comforter in a rundown, one-bedroom apartment--I stacked my hands on my chest as though trying to hold the shattered pieces of a broken heart together. I was lost. Loneliness and rejection had become my natural states of being. It exhausted me. Broke me. Crushed any courage I had to search for a life with a brighter future. Intuitively I knew existing shouldn't be this hard, but it was. Intellectually I knew I was smart enough to solve my own problems, but I couldn't. Life was a never-ending cycle of dizzying confusion. I felt powerless. Heard nothingness. Saw purposelessness.

"I can't," I whispered to the darkness--tears burning the perimeter of my eyes. "I--can't."

As I rested alone on my back in the still of the night, a blanket covering my right knee tightened around my leg--unexpectedly. It felt as though something sat on the edge of my bed, yet no one entered the room. I froze. Every fragment of my concentration focused on the spot where my bedding applied pressure to my leg. My right knee with a dime-sized birthmark warmed as if I shared body heat with another being--yet no one entered the room.

"Who's there?"

No answer, but the presence in the room was real--beyond real. Part of my mind--the creative and romantic part--wanted to drape the invisible realness with some sort of imagery to make the experience more comprehensible for my senses. I needed rationalizations my intellect could agree to, if only partially. Blankets don't tighten on their own.

Are you an angel? I wondered, waiting for some sort of response.

I got nothing.

The presence remained peaceful. Unmoved.

As my imagination revved into high gear, a chill ran down the length of my spine. Are you an alien or demon or something? I thought. Again, the energy in the room stayed still. Immensely powerful, but still.

My heart raced and my breath quickened for reasons beyond thoughts of being abducted by space creatures. I felt no trace of danger. I probably should've been terrified, but I wasn't. If truth be told, I was more terrified by the fact I wasn't terrified.

Despite flying under the radar of the five senses, the invisible presence seemed--familiar. It felt both ancient and twenty-something. Timeless. Unrestricted from labels like age and gender.

Are you someone I loved? I wondered. Someone who died?

Again--nothing. Only the powerful force of stillness and silence filled the room.

Are you like--some sort of divine power or energy?

This time the blankets near my right knee tightened as though the presence shifted. I immediately glanced down at my right leg but didn't see a thing. Despite being surrounded by an air of contentment, the poison of doubt exploded through my veins.

Nope, nope, nope, nope, I thought. I'm acting crazy. I'm not a crazy person. I'm a rational, scientific-minded, human being. I'm probably just dreaming or having sleep paralysis or something.

I glanced down at my leg again and decided this was a rational explanation. Probably a lucid dream, I concluded. Am I dreaming? Wake up! I think you're dreaming!

As the presence continued to sit near my knee, my cat jumped on my bed and licked my forehead with her scratchy tongue. She curled up in the crook of my neck and stared towards the empty space where the invisible visitor waited. Am I dreaming? I repeated in my mind. Oh my gawd! Please tell me I'm dreaming!

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