"Here are the bits where I am broken," she says and shoves a shoe box into my stomach.
I see what she means. Inside are bitty bits and pieces. I poke through them with a finger - delft bone china handle to something, torn sari scraps red-gold and fraying, bits of beach glass, shooter marbles, a Barbie shoe, a strangely shaped acorn, a triangular pebble, puzzle pieces and a red Sorry game marker.
"Can you fix me?"
I shake my head and shove the box back into her hands. Her box of broken scares me.
I pull out the Sorry man, "Tell me about this."
"Is that a Sorry game piece?"
"You tell me. It's your box of broken."
"What the fuck is a Sorry man doing in there?"
I say nothing. I uncross and recross my legs. I can't put the words in her mouth. I know eventually she will begin.
"I used to love that game, yunno?"
I nod. "What did you love about it?"
"I loved being able to slam someone else's man back into start just as they were about to make it home."
"Hmmmmm," is all I say. We sit in the long silence that follows before I goose her again. "Why do you think there is a Sorry man in your broken box?"
She sighs and blows the hair up out of her eyes. For the first time since we began, I can see into them. They are a warm honey brown, but they are so distant, so closed off.
"My family was always fighting. Even when they weren't, they were. People were always fighting. Fighting to be seen. Fighting to be heard. Fighting to be loved. Until fighting became a thing, became the only thing." She stops and tears into an already shredded cuticle before continuing. "I don't like fighting and I could never get them to stop."
"How did you deal with that?"
She shrugs, "I learned early on that I could make it stops sometimes if I apologized, said I was sorry." She grabs the Sorry man from the box and flings him across the room. "I spent my whole life apologizing. I apologized for everything. I apologized to boyfriends when they broke up with me for not being a better girlfriend. I apologized to my mother for not being perfect, for not being pretty, for not being born a boy, for fucking being born at all. I apologized at work for not working around the clock to get funding. I apologized for every hurt - real and imagined. I even apologized for being silent. Can you imagine? My whole life has been a big fucking apology."
"Have your apologies changed any of those things? Did a boyfriend decide to stay? Did you mother love you more? Did you keep your job?"
"No." She thinks for a while. "The words are just that. Empty words said to make it stop."
"To make what stop?"
"The feeling of losing everything."
"You aren't going to save anything with empty apologies."
"Then why can't I stop apologizing for the world?"
"It's a habit. Like biting your nails."
She jerks her fingers from her mouth where she has been worrying the nail and hides them under her leg.
"You have to exercise it, like a muscle."
She looks at me crookedly. "One of my friends just told me the same thing."
"That is a wise friend," I say. "And this," I hand her back the game piece, "is just a Sorry man."