I hear the muttering first. I’m so bad. I am just a terrible person. I don’t even deserve to live.  Then I notice the approach of a dark figure, shuffling, head down, clothing torn and stained, tangled, dirty hair. It’s her, all right.

“Ah, Self-Loathing,” I say. “It’s you again. I haven’t seen as much of you recently. I wondered when you’d show up.”

I bet you hate that I’m here. You want to drive me away. I know it.

I look at her. She whines a lot and says the same things over and over. She smells bad. She radiates hopelessness. I try to muster up a little compassion for this pathetic creature.

“I know you think I hate you,” I tell her. “I’ve always tried to push you away.”

Everyone does. I don’t fit anywhere. There’s something wrong with me.

“Yet you keep on showing up,” I observe. “You feel unwanted, but you keep coming back.”

She looks at me out of the corner of her eyes. I can see she wonders what I mean.

“Is it because you have something to tell me? I mean, something besides I’m a terrible person and there is something wrong with me? What do you want me to know?”

Now she looks nervous and backs away a bit. But I follow her.

“I won’t hurt you. I won’t yell at you. I won’t tell you to go away,” I promise her. “Come on, you can come in the house. Do you want to take a shower?”

She shakes her head, but she does follow me inside. I lead her upstairs to a guest room. It’s a nice one, quiet, with a big bed and a blue and green quilt. She looks around.

It’s nice. It’s too nice. I don’t deserve–

“Don’t say that. I want you to stay here and relax a little. Look, there’s a little bathroom off the side here, and a claw foot tub. I’m going to start a bath for you with lavender bath salts. You can get in if you want, or not. Whatever you feel like.”

She watches me. Then as she walks into the room, she stumbles a little. And she cries out, I’m such an idiot.

I realize then that she’s afraid. She feels weak and vulnerable. She blames herself for things because she’d rather have it be her fault than to think she she is helpless and has no control.

“Okay,”: I tell her. “Things are going to be different. I’m accepting you now. You can stay here, as long as you need to. No one will chase you away anymore.”

I give her a hug. I tell her I’ll send the girl up with some food for her, and I’ll put Strength outside the bedroom door to guard her. If she needs more company, all she has to do is ring the bell.

She hides her face behind her hair. Then she enters the bathroom, where the bath is running and the smell of lavender is already filling the air. She looks up at me just for a moment before she closes the door, gently, behind her.