My first memory of being connected with things other than the reality around me, was when I was five. We lived in an apartment community where everyone knew everyone. My best friend and I had made a pact, we'd wait for our parents to fall asleep and then we were going to run away. Apparently we were frustrated with the hierarchy and this seemed like a viable plan.
I remember laying awake in my bed, faking sleep each time one of my parents would check on us. My brother Joey and I shared a room and he was only two, so no worries about anyone ratting me out. I'm not sure what time it was but eventually the house was still. I threw off my covers, put on my slippers and robe, I guess the nighttime attire seemed appropriate for my new life, and I grabbed my fave stuffed animal. A plush dog that sadly, I can no longer remember his name.
The chain for the lock on the front door was especially high due to my prior late evening escapades. My parents would play bridge with friends who lived several apartments away and my grandma would babysit. A few time times when she'd fallen asleep, I decided I wanted to go visit them and join the festivities. Needless to say, my dad solved that issue...or so he thought.
Knowing the hurdle coming between me and my life adventure, I devised a plan to scoot one of the kitchen chairs into the living room as a stand to boost me up. We had wood floors so I needed to take my time, I didn't want any screeching of chrome to oak waking up the enemy. Did I mention I was five?
Standing on my tip toes, I reached for the chain and quietly slid that sucker to freedom. I slipped out the door and gingerly pulled it shut. I jumped down the few steps to the sidewalk and waited. The moon, nearly full, illuminated the dark skies just enough to add a ominous glow casting shadows that crept along the pavement, swaying with each wave of chilling wind. The scene had been set and I was center stage—by myself. I waited. Cold, anxious, and tired. Then a hum, carried on the breeze orchestrated by the trees. Alerting that little voice to go inside, my friend wasn't coming. She was probably tucked under her warm blanket in the safety of her own bed, under the roof of her parents watchful eye.
I gulped as the shadows seem to grow, stretching towards me. I turned around, leaped up the stairs, and pressed the lever to safety. Once I'd made it back to the warmth of my living room, I locked the door and returned the chair to the kitchen. Slipping back into bed, I pulled the covers to my neck and tried to ward off the anger. My friend had deserted me, left me to be murdered by the night, with no one the wiser. And that's when it happened. Her hand, lovely, soft, gentle. She caressed my hair, playing with it like mother's do, only this wasn't my mother. I shot up and widened my eyes, straining to see though the obscurities that blanketed my room. Once I was satisfied that nothing that shouldn't move...didn't, I laid back down. Again, the gentle hand of the unseen stranger played with my locks. I held my breath, waited for something horrible, but it never came. Whoever she was, I made resolve with myself that she only wanted to comfort me. I drifted off to a peaceful sleep.
Over the years, this has happened to me numerous times. I'm not sure who she is, if indeed this is the same acquaintance from my childhood, or several that have traveled with me at different stages of my life. It no longer feels important to me to know who she or they are, just that in times of emotional need, there's a gentle hand to soothe it away.