it was a place where what I knew to be socially acceptable, or "normal", was glaringly absent.

I tried to take my life the second time last December. It was serious enough that I had to be admitted to the hospital, in a mental health ward. The duration of the hospital stay was long - slightly more than a week. While I was in there, I managed to recuperate, and to take stock of my life, and to seek treatment for severe depression. That my time in the hospital was unpleasant is an understatement. The ward was filled with patients suffering from a myriad of mental health problems; it was a place where what I knew to be socially acceptable, or "normal", was glaringly absent. Spatially, I felt a sense of entrapment and claustrophobia, and this feeling was made worse by the dim lighting, the general misery, and lack of mobility of the ward's inhabitants.

Yet, it was also during my time there that I was able to experience something life-changing; a serendipitous and fortuitous encounter as it were. I remember noticing, albeit briefly, a particular nurse, and there and then, I remember thinking to myself that there was something tender, gentle, and special about this person. The vibe that pulsated from her was inexplicably positive. I also heard her singing to an old man in a voice that was bright and dulcet, like the trill of a canary.

She smiled at me a couple times, and introduced herself to me shyly, though professionally, when she had to check my belongings. She remained merely an impression, a figure of compassion I would remember as a patient, as a stranger. (Until) On the day I was supposed to be discharged, she came up to me and handed me a present wrapped, as well as a card, sealed in a transparent ziplog bag. Then she said to me cryptically: "This is for you. But you must promise to open the present and read the card ONLY after you leave the ward". I looked at her quizzically, with raised eyebrows and replied: "Ok...."

But I kept my word. I also told myself I'd buy her a present in return, and I decided too that I would leave her my contact details. I got home that night and proceeded to unwrap the present. It was two books about pain and hope. But what sent me into a whirl of shock, surprise, and disbelief was when I read the opening lines of her card: "Dear Ms _____, I can only address you this way because I had the honour of seeing you in school ten years ago." She was a student in the school I used to teach in. I never taught her, but she recognized me. What were the odds, I wondered, of seeing a someone like her in a mental health facility where I was the patient? What were the odds of meeting someone like her when I was at one of the lowest points in my life? But the odds happened. She wrote to me a few weeks later, and we started talking in earnest. It felt surreal then. It still feels surreal now. It is as though I have known her all my life. Today, I can say with thankfulness, gratitude, certainty, and amazement - that I have found my kindred spirit. It took so many twists and turns, so much disillusionment and disappointment, and a powerful dose of kismet to meet her. And I wouldn't exchange it for anything.