Her lips were stained with red wine and her face was drawn, ghostly even. Her long, raven hair was barely held together by two measly bobby pins. She didn’t even feign a smile as she opened the door to greet me. Her sadness carried a hint of shame- shame at being sad when everyone else appeared to be so happy.

“The place is a mess,” she whispered in apology. Early morning sun streamed through dusty windows and haphazardly-shut drapes. Her apartment smelled of stale bread and Chanel No. 5, as if food was an afterthought to staying feminine amid the rubble of her life. The world was a dark place right now for my friend. She was thin and weak, bruised by circumstance, buried under.

I placed my purse and coat on an old wooden chair and sat down across from her on a futon covered with clothes. She was seated on the old red sofa, her knees pulled up to her chest, eyes focused on the floor. I was thirsty, but decided to wait a while before asking for or helping myself to some water.

“Who am I kidding? I’m the mess,” she quipped.

I sat back, crossed my legs and observed her kindly. “You’re raw in your mess,” I said softly. “Everyone is a mess inside. We’re simply at varying abilities to disguise it.”

She scoffed, but said nothing. The past month had been tough. Her partner had left, she had lost her job and stood to lose her apartment if nothing changed soon. All that appeared to make Katie Katie had been stripped away within days. She was, without a doubt, at rock-motherfucking-bottom.

A great place to start. But I wouldn’t say that today. No. Today I would just listen.

“Jess isn’t answering my texts,” she said, wiping at her runny nose. She was sobbing quietly. “She’s done with me. I messed everything up when I called her a stone cold bitch. She’ll never take me back.”

“She might not, honey.”

Katie howled at that and keeled over to the side, clutching a lumpy pillow to her breast.

“I…have…nothing…left,” she managed to squeeze out between heavy, tear-laden breaths. Katie tended toward melancholy on the best of days. The stripped-down state of her life left her in a barrage of barely-masked suffering.

I leaned forward. “You have me,” I said. “But this pain is overwhelming right now. I can see it. So tell me, what needs to be done? What bills need to be paid? How can we get you through the next few weeks?”

She took a deep breath and a few moments before she replied. “My parents paid my bills yesterday and loaned me money for rent. I’m good for this month,” she said.

I smiled reassuringly. “OK, so you have them too. That’s wonderful.”

“Yeah, it’s just..”

“I know. They’re not Jess and this can’t go on forever, but let’s keep it simple. Let’s go one day at a time.”

She squeezed the pillow tighter and dipped her chin to her chest. “Where did my life go? One minute I’m in love and employed, heading toward…toward…I dunno…marriage? A family? And then the next, it’s gone. All of it. And I’m supposed to what? Buy groceries? Eat?! I’m supposed to just find another job like that?!” she shouted, snapping her fingers.

I took a deep breath and kept my voice soft. “When you have some clarity, you may begin to see that there were some clues leading up to this fallout. But you don’t need to worry about that today.”

“Clues? Oh yeah, I’m a loser. That’s your clue, Danielle. I ruin everything I touch. Other than my parents, you are the first person to come by since she left. No one wants depression in their lives. They want sunshine and backyard pools. I bring people down. I did it to Jess. Don’t get too close, Danielle. I’ll do it to you.”

There it was: the darkness. Better out than in, though. This I know.  I’m no therapist, but I know it’s hard to see through the black. The light seems so far. We have to clutch to anything supportive in order to make it out. Katie needed to clutch.

“Oh, I’m good, Katie. You’re pretty awesome, but you’re not that powerful. Your bark is far worse than your bite.” She didn’t smile, but she sat back up and put the pillow aside. Reaching for her phone, she frowned as she looked at the screen and then put it back down again. No word from Jess was my guess.

I breathed in and said a silent prayer for her. Closing my eyes, I saw bright, shiny stones in my mind’s eye. It was time for a new tact. “When was the last time you went outside?” I asked innocently.

Her head shot up, her eyes meeting mine. “No,” she said sharply.

I swallowed. “I’m not going to make you go anywhere. And I won’t make you eat, not right now, anyway.”

She visibly relaxed. “I got some wine last night, why?”

“Oh, well I saw there is a tiny store that sells crystals around the block. I was wondering if you’d come with me.”

Katie narrowed her eyes in suspicion, but I had her. I knew it. Katie loved crystals.

I continued, “I thought we could pick up some Labradorite and Moonstone. You know, to help ease you through these life changes.”

Without a word, she got up, She disappeared into her bathroom and reappeared with her stained t-shirt tucked into her yoga pants and a slightly-less messy bun. It was a start.

“Just the crystals,” she said.

“OK.”

“I’m not eating,” she said, catching my eyes as we headed toward the door.

“OK, Katie.” I opened the door and motioned for her to walk through. “I love you,” I said.

She sighed and ambled through. “I know,” she said.

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