About 15 years ago, I went back to the small town where I had previously lived to go to a Fourth of July party at the home of friends there. The party lasted all weekend long, and over the course of the weekend, I met and started a friendship with a young man named Jesse.
Jesse told me that weekend he had just found out that he had AIDS, and I ended up inviting him to go back to Dallas with me where he would have access to proper medical care and emotional support to deal with his illness.
For several years, Jesse and I shared an apartment and became as close as siblings. He was young and impetuous, and we went through a lot of ups and downs together in dealing with his health and in our lives in general.
Even after we moved into separate apartments, we stayed very close. Eventually, Jesse met a wonderful man and the two began a very close and loving relationship. A few years later, they moved to Houston when his partner was transferred. At that time, Jesse and I drifted apart, talking on the phone only sporadically, and seeing each other on the rare occasions that he and his partner came to Dallas to visit.
Three years ago, I began a new relationship with a woman who had never met Jesse, although she had heard me talk about him. She and I and her two children moved into a house together in Fort Worth. About a year and a half ago, I got a call from another old friend telling me that Jesse's health had taken a turn for the worse, and that he was not expected to live much longer. I was unable to go to Houston, so I called and talked with Jesse on the phone a few times over the next year or so. But he tired easily and so our conversations were few and brief.
One Saturday night in mid-October, 2003, the kids were asleep in their room on the other side of the house, and my partner and I were in our room and had just drifted off to sleep. My partner sat up very suddenly, waking me up. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me there was a man in our room. She was attacked in her home 12 years ago, and has never slept well since. There are many nights that I get up two or three times a night to check through the house because she thinks she heard something or someone.
Anyway, I got up, turned on the light and looked around the room.
"There's no one here," I told her.
But she was insistent. "There is a man in this house. I saw him standing at the foot of the bed, near the computer desk."
I got up and checked each room and every closet and was soon able to reassure her that no one was in the house. But even as I slept that night, I could hear a voice speaking to me, trying to tell me something, and even I did not sleep well that night.
The following night, a Sunday, the same thing happened. My partner actually saw someone in our room, standing at the foot of the bed, and I could hear a faint voice and feel a strong presence.
The next morning, Monday, as I was on my way to work my cell phone rang. It was an old friend, calling to tell me Jesse had died. I tried, but could not get in touch with his partner that day, and that night, my partner and I went through the same thing we had experienced the previous two nights.
On Tuesday, I finally was able to reach Jesse's partner, and the two of us talked for a long time. He told me about Jesse's last hours, how he had woken up long enough to tell his partner he was tired, and he just wanted them to let him go. At that point, his partner instructed the doctors to cease all extreme measures to keep Jesse alive, and 14 hours later — a little after 10 p.m. on Saturday night — Jesse sighed, smiled and died.
When I got home that night, I told my partner I knew who it was that had been in our house the last three nights. Then I went into the bedroom and told Jesse I loved him and I would miss him, and that it was time for him to go home.
I guess he must have heard me, because we had no nighttime visitations from him that night or any time since. I know that it was Jesse who was there those nights, and that he just wanted to say goodbye.
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