Anyone who has taken a higher-level art class can tell you that drawing with visible outlines is bad. If you're going for realism, you're really supposed to use soft gradients and use tone (rather than line) to distinguish objects. Outlines are, generally, seen as ugly and detrimental to the work. The same could be said, I suppose, about life.

Most people who know me well know that I like organization. I take neatly structured notes on textbook readings for school; the articles of clothing in my closet are sorted by season (and, within each season, grouped by color); I even label people and sort them into neat little boxes that define how I feel about and treat said people. I even have titles for the people I become, the roles I play, for each person with whom I interact (The Ditz, The Tutor, The Obedient Daughter, The Self-Deprecating Friend.)

Originally, with you, I was "Hermione Granger on Valium" – a good student who tutored the others in your class, but was, overall, quiet, uninteresting, normal. I prefer for most of my teachers to think of me that way, as someone who does what she's supposed to, as one less idiot for them to devote their time to. And you were just another teacher – someone I listened to and respected, but cared little about in a personal way, who cared even less about me.

But then, of course, the unthinkable happened: I came to class crying. What I was upset over was really not that important – what was was that my defenses had fallen, and I couldn't get them back up – that is, I couldn't control my tears, I couldn't stop them before I had to face people. And, worse still, you noticed. And said something. And wouldn't let it go just because I pretended to be okay.

The moment you offered to see me outside of class to talk about what was wrong, you blurred my neat little compartments. I could no longer be just The Moderately Brainy Girl Who Tutors Her Peers and Is Sufficiently Cheerful To Avoid Suspicion That She's Not Okay; I felt myself letting out a little bit of Lauren, who hurts a lot of the time. She very rarely leaves the confines of my bedroom for fear of being attacked by those who will think she's weak or stupid of she shows her face.

You met Lauren. You listened to her fears, her sadness, her worries. And you understood. I said things to you that I would have told no one else. And you were okay with it. You suggested, once, that I go to a psychologist to talk, but I couldn't. I couldn't talk to another person who would say the right things because they were what he or she "should" say. You, on the other hand, said things that were right but were not "the right things." Do you understand the difference? You said things that were true, that had happened to you, and they felt right and made me feel so much better, but they weren't generic statements intended to do so. They meant so much to me. I even wondered if maybe you knew what it was like to cry and hurt and all those things I do, and if that was why you understood, though I never asked. Eventually, I began to develop an…affection for you. I disliked the feeling because I could not describe it or define it. It was not as strong, certainly, as "love," but stronger than "like." I did not feel a romantic attraction to you (although you're quite attractive), but neither did I feel as I would toward a father-figure or older brother; and not as toward a friend, because you're certainly not my peer, and I know virtually nothing about you. It's partly gratitude for what you've done for me, yes, and admiration; but it's more than that; I just can't say how.

Because I could not define (and therefore understand) the odd feeling I'd developed for you, I was afraid of it. I knew that I cared for you enough to want to sacrifice my happiness for yours, as I do for the people I care about most. I also knew that because I did not comprehend the strange affection, I probably would not be able to control it. I worried that if I allowed you to counsel me, to speak to me in a room without any witnesses, I might inadvertently do or say something to make you, this man that I care about so much, uncomfortable. And it was the last thing I wanted for you to feel that way around me, especially after all you've done for me.

It hurt so much to mail the letter in which I said that I didn't trust myself to talk to you anymore. I spent an afternoon curled up on the floor of my bedroom crying – after all, Lauren had learned from the ordeal that it was a bad idea for her to leave there. It will be hard to see you in the fall, but hopefully I will not have to talk to you about this whole mess. Because, as I've learned, although it takes a lot of pain and effort to stay inside my outlines, it's a hell of a lot scarier not to; as much as it sometimes hurts me to live the way I do, it's a hundred times better than the thought of hurting you (or someone like you) even once.

Outlines may be ugly, but at least they keep me (and everyone I don't hurt because of them) safe.