She washed her hair, carefully, running soap through it with her fingers, then combing her hair with it. Rinsing the comb, then brushing through again. Rinse, brush. All of the soap came out eventually. Then she started all over, soaping roots to tips, combing roots to tips, rinsing roots to tips with her comb.
"The first virtue is resilience," passed through her lips. Voiced or not, it hardly mattered. She was alone; she thought them. They were solid with or without her; that was the point. "Life will pick at you, slam into you. You cannot simply be hard enough; you will shatter. You cannot simply move with it; you will never make anything new. The first virtue is being."
Roots to tips. Rinse. It had been too long since she'd washed her hair, really washed it, and much had happened. Diet, stress. Hormones. Hair came out, enough to catch in the drain, enough for the soles of her feet to be warm in half an inch of water.
Her breath broke.
Soap. Roots to tips. "The second virtue is critique. It is easy to believe. You must pick at ideas. If you pick at all equally, the good ones will stand where the false ones fall. The second virtue is thought."
Rinse. Roots to tips. Rinse. No more hair was coming out by now. Her hair was still reasonably thick. Good.
She leaned her head under the current of water, hair falling in front of closed eyes, water touching her lips, her nose. "The last virtue is curiosity. We are born with this. We want to know." That was aloud, loud enough to bounce back to her above the sound of rushing water. "Resilience gives you the ability to ask; critique gives you enough knowledge to know what to ask. Curiosity is your drive.
"The last virtue is life. Remember it."
In her room lay sketches of patterns: squares within squares, fractal leaf veins. In her office lay papers she would come back to, soon, tomorrow. Because people needed her, because she could bounce back, because she wanted to understand.
For the moment, she allowed herself the luxury. One day. Showering with too much water, too much soap, and giving her life to the conversation. It had started with a mantra, too, a script that let you start somewhere when saying something no one ever wanted to say.
"Ms. Anderson, we regret to inform you that on the morning of the nineteenth..."