Hello, Sam, I say to the kid.
Sorry, my name’s Alex, he says squinting his eyes like he’s peering at a mirror through bathroom steam.
I’m sorry, I say. You remind me of someone, just much younger.
No problem, he says shaking his head. Really.
His grey t-shirt portrays people praying, some missionary Baptist event in Romania.
The same broad shoulders, the same thick hair, I say.
I turn back to the isle, back to the baking goods.
Were you and your friend close? he says.
I stare at the second shelf, the long, flat metal. The shelves on both sides of the aisle stretch across the whole of the store and meet at a point far off, the shelves white like their contents, like it was all bleached.
Everything looks the same, I say.
Yeah, it does.
Sam, yes, I say. He and I were close.
Were? he says.
I look away from the shelves, stare at the floor.
I nod my head yes.
I turn to him. You just look like him, I say.
Was it worth it to him?
Everything, he says. Life.
I would say. I nod. Yes, I think it was. I’m sure it was, if you believe that the meaning of life is to experience life in the facet of all its conflicts and phases.
I think I do, the kid says.
the people walking past are ghost reflections.
I do as well, Kid.
Alex, he says.
I turn to him. I do as well, Young Alex, I say.
I palm his shoulder, ready to share my richest secrets.
I saw him broke, I say. I saw him fulfill dreams. And over time, I saw the weight of chemo and gleevec pressing against his best efforts. And I saw life kill him. but the worst of it never got the better of him.
Alex nods. He understands, somehow.
This is only the beginning, I say. There are many textures to life.