I would have replied, but I didn’t know my voice would be so hard to find. You don’t get starstruck, I kept telling myself, but maybe I’d never seen a real star. She felt like a star. A sparkling, ancient light, as beautiful as it is mysterious, sincere but distant.

I knew that I was going to hand her my book and explain why I needed to see her, what she symbolized to me, the support she’d offered without even knowing it. The new best friend who pops into your life right when you need them.

Sincerity is contagious.

I knew I was going to ask her to sign the passage in her book that struck me the hardest. Cut me deep and allowed me to bleed. I wanted to bleed. I was going to tell her that she let me bleed.

Sometimes it helps to hurt.

But I didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be able to say words. Or connect dots. She talked about dots, I thought to myself. She knows about the dots. Creativity, art, doing art — it’s all about connected dots. Why am I thinking this? She knows this. I read it in her book. Focus.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I… I don’t often know how to handle it. I’ve considered stopping — just… stopping — more in the past year than I did in the previous five combined. Thank… you. Thank you. For this. For you. I–”

“Don’t stop fighting,” she said. I felt the words.

She leaned her head on my shoulder, kissed me on the cheek. I felt like a child. That we were both children. I felt like I didn’t know how to feel.

I felt naïve and confident and terrified and coddled and right. I felt right. I felt like a child.

We were sitting on the playground together. I was the new kid; it was her turf. But I was used to being the new kid. I always landed myself in places I didn’t belong. As a kid, I moved around a lot, but more than that I made spaces up. I created places that I saw fit. As an adult, a lot of my life revolves around creating and occupying spaces that didn’t before exist, at least not for long. It’s lonely work.

I didn’t feel alone in that moment.

“I won’t stop,” I replied. “Please… just… please keep being you.”

I ran away.

I didn’t know how to say goodbye. I couldn’t make words. I hadn’t been that close to a star before. I panicked, a beautiful trainwreck, I got lost on the way out of the bookstore and found myself here, in a bar down the street writing this, because I needed to put these words down. To cherish this moment. To make sure it was real.

It was real.