The following is a short story I wrote during my time at St. Cloud State University as part of my graduate studies.
By the time she arrived at the gas station, Lisa felt exhausted and so tired she just wanted to go home and cuddle up on the sofa for the rest of the evening. Hopefully, she thought, her husband had made plans for himself tonight. In truth, she already knew what would await her once she got home… he hated it when she went hiding for longer than twenty minutes, and her need for solitude had caused plenty of trouble in their relationship lately.
She stretched her neck and moved her head in circles, hoping this would help release the tension and numbing pain in her forehead. Lisa closed her eyes and massaged her left temple while listening to the gas gurgling into the tank of her old Buick Regal. The moment she opened her eyes again she noticed him. In a split second, she made out a tall, slender frame and short, blonde hair. The whole appearance was surrounded by a misty, white light. Or was it purple?
She turned her head to look again and saw… nothing! She must have made it up, she thought. If she started hallucinating, it was high time to go home and get some sleep.
She paid inside, slipped behind the steering wheel, and backed away from the car in front. Just when she moved the stick-shift to “1,” the door opened and a young man quickly, almost gracefully, slid into the passenger seat.
“Do you mind?” he asked with a warm voice.
Lisa sat still, paralyzed. A stranger. She felt her heart drumming against her throat. Maybe, some weirdo wanting her to do some ugly things with him. You read about this all the time, she thought, feeling an icy tingle gushing down her spine.
“What… I beg your pardon. What’s this supposed to be?” Actually, he didn’t look like a weirdo at all. He looked kind of nice. The sort of trustworthy nice.
“A visitation. Go ahead, let’s drive around for a while.”
She didn’t really know what to do. A stranger in her car seemed like a situation to be worried about. Yet, somehow she was oddly calm. Maybe, it’s because I’m so tired, she thought, and drove on the street heading north.
“May I ask who you are and what you’re doing in my car?” She expected her voice to sound shaky, but the only thing shaking was the little dream catcher on the rearview mirror as the car wobbled across a patch of cobblestone pavement.
“I’m your guardian angel, and I think it’s time we talk.”
The road ahead was really busy now. So was Lisa’s mind. It kept spinning in circles, desperately trying to get a hold of the situation. She was used to being in control, always. She was known for staying calm and level-headed in the most chaotic of situations. What was happening right now made her feel very uncomfortable. And, no, she hadn’t given angels much thought lately. She had read about them a couple times, but who knows what was true and what wasn’t?
She remembered the faded picture of an angel and two children that used to hang over her grandma’s bed. She didn’t like it much. Or was it that she didn’t like sleeping in her grandmother’s bed because dad had come home drunk again and her mother felt it was safer for her to stay with grandma for the night? How often did it happen? Twice a week? Every other day? She didn’t remember. Memories of her childhood had neither been plentiful nor vivid, and they had faded even more since she had moved away from New England. She had tried to work on some of her issues—or what she considered them to be—but she had stopped the moment her counselor had made a remark that there might be a reason why she didn’t remember much about the early years of her childhood. He had begun to ask questions about her family life. He had asked her whether she could think of any pattern she saw in her life right now that reminded her of the life at home. Lisa had refused to go there. She didn’t want to go back and re-experience any of the gut wrenching scenarios. Eventually, she had stopped going to counseling altogether and decided that there were much more serious and more important things to take care of right now. How she’d be able to pay the tuition for next semester was one of them.
She sighed with a hint of despair tickling in the back of her throat. Yes, how would she be able to pay for her education from now on? Two weeks ago they had had one of those late-night arguments that had become part of her life over the last year or so. Her husband had told her he would no longer pay for her education.
“Oh sure, you are my guardian angel. How could I not recognize you? Excuse my curious question, but where are your wings tonight?” Her words dripping with irony. It was a poor attempt to gain control over this strange situation.
“Angels only have wings when they want to have them. We can take on a variety of shapes and forms depending on the situation.”
He spoke in what English teachers would consider perfect Standard English, and he talked about wings as if they were chatting about the weather. His voice didn’t sound one bit arrogant either.
“So, let me get this straight. You’re an angel, which I doubt because I don’t believe in stuff like that. And you can either come with or without wings. Then why didn’t you come with your wings. Because if you are an angel then you know that I don’t believe in angels, and wouldn’t it be much more effective to have your wings with you if you want to convince me that you’re real?” She was proud of herself. Didn’t that sound like a good argument?
“First of all, I have no intention of convincing anyone of anything. I know who and what I am, and if you don’t believe me, it’s your choice. You can believe whatever you want, you are free to choose. Isn’t that what all humans are so proud of? And secondly, I wouldn’t be able to sit comfortably with wings attached to my back, would I?”
Still, no hint of arrogance in what he said. His voice was clear and warm, and his explanation came across natural and kind and what was even worse—it made sense. How could one with wings sit down in a car seat? “OK, you scored one,” she said and wondered why her palms started to wet. Was that some kind of a game?
“I don’t want to score points. This is not a game, Lisa.” Could he read her mind? “I came because I think it’s time that the two of us have a talk, and I thought it would be best if I spoke to you in person since you’ve been ignoring my messages for months now.”
Messages? Did I see this guy before? She peered over to her right, realizing that she hadn’t given him a close look since he had climbed into her car. Her heart seemed to jump out of her throat when their eyes met. It was him! The guy she had seen at the gas station before. Only, now he was real. He had the most painfully blue eyes she had ever seen. Deep blue, like the ocean offshore Alaska she had seen in pictures. Something in his eyes touched her, excited her, scared her. They were like clear water, bottom-less, no ground. Just an endless ocean of …. “Do you wear contacts?”
He smiled amused and said, “You better pay attention to the road, I’m not on duty tonight.” He chuckled. “Actually, that was a joke; I’m always on duty, of course. But you are not scheduled to have a car accident at this point anyway.” Now, he found himself to be really funny and laughed heartily as if he knew that every word he had said right now opposed everything she believed in. It was the most heart-warming laugh she had ever heard in her life.
“Not scheduled?? You have an interesting sense of humor. I didn’t know divine beings had humor.”
“Why shouldn’t we have any humor? Who do you think invented it?” He chuckled again.
She couldn’t help but smile, too. But something else caught her attention. “What do you mean? Don’t tell me some higher power schedules what happens to me. I don’t believe that. I believe in choice. I myself and nobody else am creating my life. And are you saying that I’m in to have a car accident at another time? Oh, what am I talking about? That’s all rubbish anyway. I can’t believe I’m actually falling for this. There is a guy jumping into my car, without any invitation,” she gave him a furious look, “and claims to be my guardian angel. Of course, that happens to me, because strange stuff happens to me all the time.”
“It!” He said slowly. Only now, he didn’t smile at all.
“What did you say?”
“I said it, I’m neither male nor female. Angels happen to be genderless.”
Lisa shook her head in confusion. “Wait a minute. Why do they have names like Michael and Raphael? Doesn’t that suggest a gender?”
The It giggled in what looked like obvious amusement, “Yes, but there are also Ariel and Haniel. See, people have given us names at some point in time, and since you don’t have names to express something that’s balanced between two genders it had to be one or the other. But they are only names, a string of letters, subject to change anytime…”
“So, do you have a name?” Lisa couldn’t wait to hear an extraordinary name. Something that sounded poetical.
“Saaaam? That’s kind of ordinary. Ah, oh, …excuse me, I mean it is a nice name though. But doesn’t it suggest that you are male?” Could this get any more out of hand? Why was she driving down fifteenth now?
The genderless Sam seemed to notice, too. “Sam can be short for Samuel and Samantha, right? And by the way, don’t you live on the other end of town? Why are we going on the highway now?”
“I don’t know,” this couldn’t get any more embarrassing, “I missed the last turn, I guess.” She hadn’t felt this stupid since the Math placement test two years ago.
“I suppose driving around isn’t such a bad idea after all, it is a nice earth-night I have to say.” Sam snuggled a little deeper into the seat, looking like he was really enjoying the drive now. “Let’s get back to the important things. We really need to talk. The things that you called 'strange stuff' earlier were actually the messages I sent you.”
Where did this lump in her throat come from all of a sudden? “What messages are you talking about? I don’t know anything about any messages,” she asked hesitantly, feeling strangely uncertain about herself.
“That’s exactly the problem. You didn’t necessarily overlook them, rather you decided to ignore them. Even though you know better, sometimes you make a real effort not wanting to recognize things for what they are. If you don’t want to see something, you close your eyes and pretend it’s not there. It can be right in front of your nose, but you ignore it if you decide to. You humans are really good at that.”
“What messages are you talking about, Sam? I am not aware of overlooking something.” She was getting slightly upset now. She considered herself much more aware than the average person, and she didn’t exactly run around with her eyes closed all the time. “And… aargh, I can’t believe I’m actually buying into this. I’m a scientist, I major in physics. There is no such thing as angels anyway. Modern science would know about that. We can fly to the moon, we are able to explore the depth of the universe in this day and age, and we can alter our own DNA. Angels are mystical figures that people made up to have something to tell their children when there were no Pokemons and Harry Potters yet.”
“See, Lisa, that’s exactly the problem with you. You think you know it all, while in reality you know very little. If you knew so much you wouldn’t be so stuck right now, would you?”
The lump slipped further back in her throat, and she swallowed with a gulping noise. It didn’t even sound like he judged her in any way. She could hardly imagine his pleasant voice could do anything but good.
“Didn’t you find a hawk feather when you walked down County Road 8 a couple weeks back?”
“Yes, I did. I took it home, and it’s still on my nightstand.”
“I know. You wrote in your journal about it, and you searched the internet to find out its symbolic meaning.”
“Yes, I did. It is an omen that reminds of talents and the courage to experience. It also reminds you to keep the big picture in mind.” She remembered in detail the colorful website she had checked. Her heart beat in rhythm with the raindrops that drummed against the windshield now. She turned on the wipers, and the recurring squeaking cut into the lingering tension between the two of them.
“And, what did that mean to you?” Sam sounded very serious now.
“Aaactually, I didn’t think that… that… I mean that this was a sign specifically for me,” she couldn’t believe she had just stuttered. She hated when people did that.
“Oh, I see, there is a feather fluttering from the sky, landing right in front of your feet. But, of course, that has nothing to do with you.” The genderless angel Sam paused and sighed patiently. “Didn’t you dream about eagles for a couple consecutive nights? And didn’t you find out that the eagle is a symbol for clarity of vision; that it’s about seeing beyond the veil of the materialistic world?”
“Yes, I guess that’s what I read.” She felt tiny, stupid. How could this guy, and he looked like one, know all this? What if there are actually angels in this world, or somewhere else? Was this all just a dream, and she would wake up in her bed any minute? It must be. It was so surreal.
It was completely dark outside now, and the rain seemed like a heavy, glittering curtain hanging from the sky. She pulled over and headed down Exit 25.
“No, it’s not a dream, Lisa, it’s perfectly real. I am an angel. How else would I know all these things?” Sam answered to her thoughts again. The idea of someone reading her mind seemed scary, but somehow she didn’t mind him doing it. It reminded her of something. She felt a vague tingle in her chest, as if something began to wake after a long sleep. What did it remind her of? What…?
“So, you found the feather of a hawk, you dreamt about eagles, then I even had a real eagle passing by your living room window while you were at your computer, and you still didn’t think it had anything to do with you. I sent you dreams about whales, and you figured they had to do with intuition and believing in your feelings. Then you had this tiny pigeon fly into your bedroom, circling above your head, and leaving again. And you still didn’t get it. Next, you found a greeting card on a swing in the park, saying You were meant to find this and suggesting to let go of your worries. Lastly, you heard this voice talking to you, telling you that there is nothing you have to do in your life, but start to fly. You even cried when you heard it—and by the way, the eagle and the whale are your animal totems who tried to contact you with my help, and the voice—that was me. And after all of that, you still don’t think that someone tried to get your attention to send you a sign or a message?”
Fortunately, she had pulled into a parking lot thirty seconds ago. How appropriate, she thought, when she realized the tall building that was barely noticeable in the dark was a church. She didn’t know what to say anymore and just glared at him, stared into those deep eyes that seemed to sparkle in the dark. There was so much depth in his glance, so much exciting mystery but calm awareness at the same time. He seemed to look straight into the innermost corners of her being. She felt exposed, naked, helpless, and perfectly safe. How could she have ever doubted that angels exist? Those eyes were not from this world. They had so much love and compassion in them, so much understanding and warmth; she could barely stand their look. Streams of tears were flowing down her cheeks now, dripping on her blue jeans and her hands folded in her lap. All of a sudden, she felt relief, as if a huge weight was lifted off her chest. She could breathe, finally, breathe. She inhaled the cool, moist air that replenished her senses and seemed to enter straight into her bloodstream. Sadness burst out of her system, exploding in a shower of salty pearls, washing crusts away from age-old wounds, cleansing her doubting mind of insecurities. If Sam would just hold her hand.
“Lisa it’s time to change the course of your life. You haven’t been happy in months, even years. I think the last time I saw you smile was last Christmas when you received the present from your professor.” Sam stared at her intensely, furrowing his brows.
“What do I need to do?” Her voice sounded as if she was drowning.
“You need to realize something first. There are laws in this universe, Lisa. They work; just like the ones you learned in physics and mathematics. First of all, there is the law of creative power that says that you always get what you want. You are the creator of your life; you are the creator of your experiences. There are many more things that contribute to the experiences you actually have, but let’s stay for now with this simple but tremendously important law. If you start a quest, you will find an answer to it sooner or later. That’s bound to happen. The moment you create the energy in form of thoughts, the Higher Powers start to work with you and help you experience the right things in order to achieve your goal. You have done this by asking yourself what your calling is. You have quit your old job and you went back to school, because you sensed that there is more for you to accomplish in this life. You have started to ask what you should do with your education and which direction to turn with your interests.”
“Am I on the right track?” She starred at him with eyes begging for confirmation.
“There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong, Lisa, it’s a matter of choices. The point is, you have made a choice; one of many. And the rest of your life doesn’t match anymore with what you’ve chosen. You have created a conflict by then, which is why you have so much trouble in your marriage. You know, there is cause and effect. That’s another law. You choose something and there’s going to be a consequence that comes with it. Most often, you don’t see how far the consequences will actually spread before you experience them first hand. In your case, your personal growth is no longer in alignment with your marriage, and now you have to make a choice again. Life is about choices. That is because the soul's primary purpose is to experience. I know you understand perfectly well what I mean.”
She nodded slightly. Lisa didn’t know why exactly this all sounded so easy and simple. It wasn’t that difficult, was it?
“So, what is my life purpose? What exactly is it that my soul wants me to experience?”
“I think what you mean is life theme. A soul incarnates with a main theme, something that the person must truly realize. This can be a thousand different things. Sometimes, when the person has understood the theme, or had an enlightening insight about the particular theme, they can depart again. That’s why some people die young. They have already accomplished their life’s mission, so to speak. I can’t tell you what your life theme is, but be aware that it is usually what seems the most troublesome to one. Because it’s something that needs to be resolved, it’s naturally one of the most painful things for a person. However, as I said, you receive what you ask for. So, if you ask to know it, you will be guided to find the answer.” Sam’s eyes seemed almost black now. There was a white spark in them, or was it the reflection of the church’s clock that struck 11 p.m.?
It was a beautiful Saturday, and Lisa was on her way to an appointment a friend had set up for her. An older lady was looking for someone to move in with her. It sounded like a really good deal for both of them. The old woman wouldn’t be alone in her huge house, and Lisa would have an affordable place to live with a little privacy to herself. The sun was unexpectedly powerful for this time of spring and warmed the inside of the car, flooding it with a gush of orange light.
All through last week, Lisa had thought of Sam every day. Longing for his calming presence, she had decided to leave her husband to try to get on her own feet. She had packed her stuff and stayed with a friend until she could find a place for herself. For whatever reason, she was strangely relaxed about life nowadays. The conversation with Sam had opened a completely new perspective on things and everything seemed so easy now. All of a sudden she felt as if she was just a visitor on this earth, watching everything through a peaceful, pink veil from a calm distance. Things that had mattered before seemed to have lost their importance and power. All that really mattered was the feeling she carried since the moment Sam had disappeared right in front of her eyes. There was this cozy warmth that covered her chest like a fluffy blanket. It was always there, never left her. It was like she had opened a door to greet life.
She had also pondered what her life theme might be. Every time she thought about it, or wrote about it, the word LOVE popped into her mind. But what exactly did it mean? She had started to pray and ask for guidance, and in some moments she had thought she had felt Sam’s presence right next to her. Knowing that he was around made daily life so much easier and happier.
She had also picked up therapy again. She and Kyle, the guy in his mid-forties who was working with her, had talked about the relationships with her former boyfriends yesterday. Somehow, she didn’t remember how it happened, but her mother came into play, and she had talked about how much she had hated her mother all her life. Kyle had not interrupted her when, suddenly, all the anger and frustration she had stored up for decades poured out of her. Today, she felt relieved, as if she’d lost a significant amount of weight. Her mother… As long as she could remember her mother had been sick, seriously ill actually. She was 65 now, but Lisa was certain that her mother hadn’t experienced one day without pain in the last 30 years. How terrible must it be to suffer from so much physical and emotional pain? She had lost two children; she had had two stillbirths and lost another daughter when Lisa was still very little. She had endured a husband who was drunk most of the time and had ruined every holiday and birthday celebration for the family that Lisa could think of. Her mother had stayed in “hell,” as she herself used to call it, only to provide her two daughters with food and shelter. And Lisa had hated her for that. She had judged her mother for the lack of courage to get out of that hell and create the chance of a healthier family life for her and her sister. Even though her mother had always explained how difficult it would have been for her, without an education and two little girls, she was certain there would have been ways. Where there’s a will, there is a way, she used to advise her mother.
But now, her perspective had shifted. She wasn’t so angry anymore, had a better understanding and had even found compassion for her mother’s situation. Not all people are the same, and what if her mother’s life theme had been to endure life-long pain? What a devastating life. What a terrible karma that must be.
The second the ideas took shape in her head, tears started to stream down her face. It had taken her such a long time to gain control over her own life; with no children to worry about and a proper education on her back and more money than her mother ever had. Who was she to judge? What right did she have to hate her mother for something she herself wasn’t able to manage well? Her chest seemed to be aflame now. Waves of heat clashed over her head, her heart drummed against her trembling chest. Oh, my God, she loved her. She had loved her mother all along. Was that why she had thought love was her life theme? “I love you mom, always have, always will,” she whispered through a blurry mist the same second she recognized the red truck coming at her from the right.
She was blinded for a moment by the bright light that surrounded her. From the pure white, Sam’s face appeared close by, familiar blue eyes—and warm hands reaching for hers.