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.

I know.



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