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We sit across from each other in that circle of leather recliners, drinking liquid gold vitamins into our forearms, eager to suck life back into our bodies.

She was my student and I her school counselor five years ago when we spoke of dreams and class schedules in that tiny office with a window in the door. She was the one who offered to deliver cookies when I left for those uncertain weeks of rest, or was it when I left for good, feeling the cold, grey surface of a life at rock bottom?

I’ve seen her since, stocking dresses and jeans at a local boutique, but I could duck around racks to avoid her view. Now, she is my direct gaze, and I hers.

It’s her first day here, to my seasoned six months. Her face is written with pain and uncertainty as the doctor brings more pills. She is buried under an electric pad on her lap. “It feels funny,” she says. “I just want it to be done,” she tells her mom, once, twice. My heart bleeds for her.

I offer her phrases, trite as they feel passing through my lips: “I know what you mean … like that for me too … you’ll understand the pills … write it down for you … you’ll know what to do … give it time ...”

Somewhere in our conversation, her eyes soften, look less afraid. Her mouth curls up at its corners.

And I’m sitting in my office once more: My words the only medicine I have to give.

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