it is the depths I fear. Traveling the road ahead that leads me to all the places I do not wish to visit, but know I must stop at on my way. To gather supplies for my journey and to meet with demons I have known before. So I stepped forward through knotted vines and held splitting bark on my way to my first stop. my footing lost so many times. I struggled for balance as my head spinned and fear pulsed louder than my words of self comfort. But I stretched and pulled until I found the small cottage in the woods with the smoking chimney and broken door. Promising easy entry and zero safety. I entered with a knock, not even knowing if an answer would be had, but certain i had to enter. The shallow breath behind the door cracked it slightly for me, my fear lightening as I realized this demon feared me more than I feared her. She shriveled under long stringy, unkept hair, falling over her face, shadowing her eyes that never dared look at mine. Her full gown of tattered cotton told me stories of a life seeking comfort and warmth, yet finding harm and leaving these missions battered and worn and worse for the experience. her shoulders hunched from years of carrying a weight her frame was never meant to support. her hands hard and cracked and still somehow fragile and gentle. She shuffled with an uncertainty and a distrust that made me wish to sweep her up and hug her, but I knew she would never know how to receive my gift. So I followed slowly, leaving a distance to allow her safety, towards the warmth of the hearth I know she prepared special for me in anticipation of my arrival. I smelled the sage and bay leaves she added, and appreciated that she cared for me in that way. I let her sit first, her body fallen onto a pillow on the floor, knees to chest. Handing me a soft blanket, she wrapped one around herself, leaving just her face exposed (if shaded in hair truly counts as exposed) in hopes she could tranform into nothingness to avoid being seen. I know this well. So I let her silence fill the room and mix with my own, and our bond grew in energy and without words to pressure the moments. The more time we spent there, the more I understood what I was there for. To see her when she hid. To value her when she wanted nothing more than to disappear into the background. To love her when she couldnt find the love for herself. I spent the entire night there. To avoid the treacherous road in the dark and to enjoy the tranquility that only staring into a fire can provide. I felt safe inside, even with a door that refused to do its job, but I didn’t want to leave her alone there. I handed her my bag, an offer to add some things and travel with me. She looked down and softly shook her head in reluctant refusal. I understood. I was no more ready to spend that kind of time with her than she was me. I rose up to leave, and I saw her eager lips part to speak, but she quickly caught herself. I knew her need to speak quick and frantic, to tell of all her emotion without a thought of how it would be received. And her remembrance that it usually ended with her feeling ashamed and embarrassed, and the receiver of her words smiling softly as they struggled to find kind words to say good bye. She simply grabbed my hand and squeezed, refused the return of the blanket I had come to depend upon for false protection, and opened the door for me. We avoided looking at each other, both crying. As I walked, I heard all she wished to say as whispers in the wind. She want to know love. She wanted to feel worthy of love. She hated herself for having need and for the times she spoke of those needs. The shame she felt around being too much and thus not good enough. For wanting attention. For needing affection. For wishing for loving hands and affectionate eyes. For feeling selfish when being disappointed by reluctant embraces and hard stares. Her words flowed from the winds through my veins in perfect connection, chilling me to the bone with the feelings of neglect and lack and not good enough. I cried them back out. I tried. But so much remained, scratching my insides, sandpaper and grits, painful and constant. I begged her to stop. I promised to meet her again. I meant it. I assured her it was not good bye, but I was tired from a day and night of no sleep and dangerous travel, and the emotions she was drawing were cutting, and making movement difficult. She wished me well, as I felt her pull back into hiding. I missed her presence immediately, but knew I had to let her go for now.