What thoughts keep you awake at night? The other night it was the memory of a man who I knew five years ago for only twenty minutes. It was the day my psychologist, who was like a mother to me, told me we were going to finish up in a few months time. It was the day my world cracked open and no amount of tears could fill the cavity that remained.

The sun had set and I was on the train back home. I sat on the floor as tears silently ran down my face. A few officers stepped on the carriage, and one of the men noticed that I was crying. He started a conversation with me. We moved to the seats and kept talking. I don’t remember everything he said, but I remember his warmth and empathy. I also remember him mentioning a friend to me, a girl with Aspergers who he often had over. I think his autism radar was pretty sharp; he knew I was an aspie even before I did. We got to Ringwood where the train stopped for a bit. His colleagues got off the train but he kept talking to me as long as he could. In the end he had to leave, but he wrote his phone number on a piece of paper and told me I could call him.

That night I stayed at my parent’s house. I remained distraught about my psychologist leaving me and I could hardly breathe. The next day I threw a jacket over my pyjamas and wandered back to my place of residence, a block of houses run by a service for young people with mental illness. I didn’t care what anybody thought of me not being properly dressed. I felt like I was in a dream. As I approached the houses I stopped and lay on the nature strip just up the road. The staff shortly found me and I ended up being admitted to the local hospital.

After I was discharged from hospital and my distress finally subsided, I remembered the man I met on the train. I wanted to call him, but in my chaotic state I had lost his number. I was too hung up on my psychologist (who, in hindsight, wasn’t worth a single tear) that I couldn’t see what was in front of me. Not treasuring that piece of paper has been one of the biggest regrets of my life. Even five years later I still cry over not being able to contact this beautiful human being who I could have had a great relationship with. And, more broadly, I cry over the way most people have come and gone from my life. Having moved all my life, I was constantly making friends and then saying goodbye. I have only really had fleeting connections that burn out like a fire that cannot properly start. It has really affected my development, and I don’t usually get attached to people now.

How very softly this man tiptoed into my world, and only a moment he stayed. But he left footprints on the sands of my heart, which cannot be erased by the tides of time.