She showed up at my door at the worst possible time, at the almost-end of a long day. I’d already packed my bag, put on my coat, grabbed the door handle to walk out the door.

But there she was, when I flung the door open with the forward momentum of walking out. Dark skin and wet eyes and sniffles.

I had somewhere else to be, somewhere filled with professional obligation. I knew I needed to be there. But she showed up for me, and I knew she needed me to show up for her. To really be there, in a way that meant something more than a quick hello and goodbye.

So we sat.

We sat there on the floor of my office, and we talked about the everything and nothing of life. She told me about how she felt out of place with people her age. As though there was something broken about her. As though she valued all the wrong things, and thought the weirdest stuff was important.

She told me about her therapy sessions, rolled up the sleeves on her customary long-sleeved t-shirt, and showed me the scars again. Words, designs, straight lines etched into ashy skin. We talked about how much better they looked since the last day, the first day I’d seen them. She thanked me for that day, for telling her that she could talk to her mom, that she should talk to her mom.

She talked about all the ways it’s still hard, the way life is always still hard, even when you’re doing your best to deal with it in a real way. She talked about her dad, and the day he told her all the impossibly heavy things that no daughter should ever have to hear, things she’ll never completely forget. She talked about all the things she was afraid to tell her mom, not because her mom wouldn’t believe her, but because she would. And because there’s a self-loathing and shame that goes along with the choices you make that somehow come back to affect your own children in horrific ways. And because she knows her mama is a good and loving person who shouldn’t have to feel that self-loathing and shame.

She talked about starfish, how they regenerate their own limbs, and how cool it would be if we could figure out how to capture the part of their being that makes them able to do that and apply it to humans. She talked about how impossibly weird she is sometimes, that she thinks about things like that in her free time. I talked about how really, truly lovely it is to be impossibly weird in a world full of people just trying to be normal.

It must have been two hours that we sat there, sprawled out on the floor of my office. And maybe some day I’ll forget about that all-of-the-everything-and-nothing conversation. But probably not, because I don’t easily forget people or the moments I share with them. Because sometimes, people and moments and the connection that happens during two hours of everything and nothing—those things make me feel a little bit like a starfish. Like even the most broken parts of me can be reborn.

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