I was walking the Appalachian trail, staying in hostels in tiny towns along the way that catered to hikers. I was less ‘outdoor survivalist’ and more ‘fumbling my way across the country’, both meant sometimes going through deserted areas alone. along the way, I had been stalked by a creepy man who would watch and follow me, until he tried to assault me.
the dream opens with me arriving at a mega hostel type complex that offered showers and internet, etc. but this place was situated on an abandoned college campus. I was traumatized by what had happened, so I was very jumpy, eyes always down, not wanting to be touched or in close proximity of anyone, and I stuttered when I was forced to talk. as I tried to find some reprieve in the small quad area on the campus grounds, I noticed a curly haired guy watching me. he crossed my path several times throughout the day until I no longer thought it was just coincidence; it scared me. while wandering around the dorm building floors, I came upon a game area unexpectedly and found myself in a room full of young men playing pool. I quickly turned around to bolt and ran into the curly haired guy, falling to the floor from the impact. he tried to help me up, asking if I was okay and when I looked up at his face he seemed friendly, not scary like I had thought before. so I tried to answer his questions of concern but my stutter was making it very difficult. some of the other men started mocking my stutter and disheveled appearance, so I gave up and quickly left.
I saw the curly haired guy again the next day, while sitting outside. he didn’t approach me but waved from across the lawn. I contemplated what I should do; I was torn because I wanted to be around him, even if I couldn’t talk to him. he seemed genuine and made me feel less alone. he noticed my dilemma and he beckoned me over. my eyes locked onto his as I slowly moved towards him, like a skittish rabbit that would hop away at any moment (which wasn’t far from the truth). he had food with him and offered me some, which I gladly took because I had a difficult time getting any on my own due to my heightened anxiety. we talked very little, just sat in companionable silence, which I greatly appreciated. I did find out that his name was Tyler and that he was staying on the third floor of the complex, where I had seen the men playing pool. I stumbled through my name but was finally able to get it out. a tall lanky guy shouted out to Tyler, telling him to leave the “charity case” and come hang with him. Tyler looked to me apologetically but I quickly stood up and walked away, without looking back.
that evening, I saw the creepy man again. at least I thought I saw him; I wasn’t sure because he blended into the crowd. the next day I was certain I saw him, and he saw me. I was so panicked I could hardly breathe! as he smiled his creepy smile, I snapped out of my stupor and ran as fast as I could to the third floor of the dorms, looking for Tyler. some of the men who were standing around asked me if I was okay. I tried to ask for Tyler but my voice wouldn’t work, I couldn’t get the words out, which made me panic even more. the tall lanky guy saw me and started to approach. I ran away from him, but he followed. I ended up tripping and falling down the stairs outside of the building. he caught up with me and touched my shoulder. I couldn’t hear what he was saying because the blood was rushing to my ears, so I curled up on my knees with my arms protectively covering my head. he seemed scared to touch me again but he took off his athletic jacket and slipped it around my shoulders, then backed away and left me alone. the jacket was warm, I slipped it on but noticed several people staring at me as they walked by. I flipped the collar up around my face so I could no longer see them.
I stayed out of sight for the next few days. I kept the lanky guy’s jacket because I didn’t have one of my own and it smelled good. I wondered whether or not I should leave this place and continue hiking but I was afraid to be completely by myself again. I ventured out into the sunshine of the quad and decided to seek out Tyler again. this time I was more in control of myself and was able to ask someone where his room was. as I approached, I saw him sitting inside with the lanky guy and a few others. I hovered outside the doorway until the lanky guy saw me and tapped Tyler, to show him I was at the door. Tyler sat up with a smile and beckoned me inside. I was hesitant of the others in the room, so lanky guy herded them out. as he passed by me, he said his jacket looked good on me and I should keep it, then walked away with the others. Tyler came to the door and gently pulled me inside. I didn’t flinch away from his touch. I wasn’t afraid of him.
Tyler coaxed me into talking, telling me to take my time when I became frustrated by the stutter. as the conversation progressed, I struggled less and less. he asked me what had happened the day I fell down the stairs and I told him about the creepy man. I told him that all I could think of was to find him (Tyler), so that’s what I was trying to do. he reached for my hand, I willingly let him take it. we talked about how I had been traveling alone, and all the places I had been. he said I was very brave. I didn’t feel brave. we talked about my being scared of him at first but then feeling safe with him after he shared his lunch with me. he told me that the lanky guy, Mike, could be insensitive but that he’d never hurt me. Mike was worried about me after my panic attack and had kept an eye on me until I stumbled off to the women’s dorms. I didn’t realize that. even though it was the middle of the day, I was really tired. I hadn’t been sleeping and when Tyler found out that I didn’t have a room or even a bed, he pulled me closer to him and we laid down on his bed together. I fell asleep instantly.
I started to wake sometime later, feeling the vibrations of Tyler talking to someone as I rested on his shoulder. when I became more awake I realized it was Mike. Tyler and Mike were talking about the creepy man. Tyler was telling Mike to ask around and find out anything that he could about him. Mike quickly agreed, asking if I was really okay. Tyler said I was tougher than I gave myself credit for, then he lightly squeezed my arm because he knew that I was awake. Mike saw me smiling at the compliment and winked when I peeked over at him. I burrowed my head farther into Tyler’s shoulder, trying to hide my blush. this made Mike laugh. before he left, I voiced my concern that I didn’t want them getting hurt over me (I still stuttered rather significantly while talking to Mike but he tried to be patient with me this time.) Mike smirked and said that he might be skinny but he was scrappy. He apologized for scaring me before. he said I reminded him of his younger sister, and if that wasn’t enough reason to look out for me, the fact that Tyler and I had formed a ‘freaky bond’ was. they were buddies and they watched each other’s backs on the road; and now that included me too.