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I didn't expect to be accepted. Not anymore.

I still couldn't get their reactions out of my head. "You had to do it didn't you?" "Why am I not surprised?" "Is that all you're good for?" "Now you've shown your true self. I expected better but that was just an act, wasn't it?"

I tried to answer them at first. But it didn't make a difference. Their minds were already made up. They found a new bucket to label me with, and they didn't want to think about it anymore. They didn't need to. As long as it made their lives easier, as long as it freed them up to think what they wanted to think, I didn't matter. Not that I should've mattered to them. It was my own mistake to expect they would try to understand. It was my own mistake to believe I'd be able to rely on anybody but myself.

Even with the best among them, the non-confrontational ones, they would smile and be polite, but eventually the wall of silence they built around themselves would become impossible to breach. I thought I could get through to them at first. I thought maybe at least one or two might see how I felt, how I got lost. But no. Their village was receding into the distance, leaving me crying, "I'm fallen. Yes, I know I've fallen," but there was no longer anyone to hear me.

Physically I was still there, but they had decided I was invisible. Weak. Undisciplined. A bad example to serve as a warning to their children. I thought I was alone before, but I was a fool to think I couldn't be more alone.

The months have hardened me. I've learned things I would have never learned if I wasn't forced to rely on myself. I walk these gray windy streets with a new determination. The sun brings no joy and I no longer expect it to.

Mistakes? Yes, I've made a few. Regrets? I don't know. Maybe things could have been different. Maybe I would have remained blind to how they really were underneath. I'm not sure I want to return to that blindness.

I meet people on my path and I can see their friendliness slowly turn into disgust or pity. I'm not sure which is worse. Some days I just want to hide, but I know I can't. Not if I want to get to where I want to go, just to survive on those empty streets. I'm not even allowed the comfort of giving up. It would only confirm their worst beliefs. "See?" they might say, "I always knew that would happen to that good-for-nothing."

Weak. I knew I was weak, but I didn't need to prove it to them beyond all doubt. I needed to make my own way, no matter how long that road was, just to regain some amount of pride.

No, I no longer expected to be accepted. I knew what that was like. I was there once. Innocent and among the bright lights. But that only made it hurt more to be pushed into the night.

The perfect places could only be perfect if they did not tolerate imperfection. And as soon as I could no longer hide my struggles, I was no longer welcome in their palace.

But your place, your place was not perfect. It was old. The paint was chipped. It was hiding in the alley behind the main thoroughfare. Your floor was uneven. It sloped down from the entrance, imperfection that would never be tolerated in the palace. The automatic door was no longer automatic. Surely that violated a city ordinance. It was held open by a plastic tie. Everything was barely holding on and on the verge of collapse.

Like me I suppose.

But you cared about what I wanted. You listened. You didn't tell me I was wrong. You didn't tell me I was right either. You made no value judgements at all. And whenever I was there, you made sure I would not be ignored.

It was in that place I never wanted to disappear.