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“I know.”

I stood at the register, my feet holding the ground solidly beneath me. I wore a slight smile, the kind you can wear all day, as customers passed me by like waves, my hands pulling the cans of tomatoes and stalks of broccoli and celery over the little red eye in seeming slow-motion. Like a meditation, it was so simple, only the moment existed and I knew it, yet, secretly, I was indifferent to it. Every passing breath as empty as the moment that held it. Until a familiar man and woman came to the register. When I had first met them, many years ago, they were children and so was I. But here they were, before me, smiling, jolly with holiday cheer, ignorant of the moments passing before them, splashing them in the face.

I greeted them. They looked like they might be a couple, now, after all these years, and they’re together. 10 years in the same school. It’s enough to make this big city seem like a small town. They weren’t paying together. She just wanted a few chocolates, he wanted a soda. It was christmas eve, home for the holidays, holiday spirit. We must imagine each other to be such ordinary folk, but really, you, I, and our families, are as dainty and civilized as our cheap, tawdry smiles.

Of course, none of that really matters anymore. We’ve all grown up. I work in a grocery store, they live their lives. I couldn’t ever forget they’re faces, even now. Signs of age and maturity emanated from their pores. Let them have their life, I thought. Enough time has passed. Like moments, we move on. Still, the sight of them made my name-tag feel suddenly heavy on my collar.

“Is your last name Palmer?” he asked me. He had to ask me. I was surprised he hadn’t asked sooner.

“Yes. It is.” Here we go.

“We used to go to school together.”

“I know,” I said, maybe hoping to surprise them, confuse them. They’ll enjoy chatting about it later, I figured. Yes. I know we went to school. Do you remember? Do you remember how we related to one another back then, in those halls and classrooms. I remember it all, but I’m too old to hold a grudge, and too old to pretend like we’ve ever known each other any differently.

“It’s been a while,” I say, taking a $10 bill from him and making change in the drawer.

“Yes it has, how are you?”

“I’m alright, in school, you?”

It feels strange. I hope they don’t consider this “reconnecting with an old friend.” 10 years together and we have always been strangers. But the boy you knew then is a stranger to me too. I just cant seem to help myself here, smiling like a man with too much to say, saying, “well, have a nice holiday,” as you walk away.

Yes. It’s fun to see a familiar face after such a long time. Perhaps when we meet again, instead of stopping, when you see me, you will walk silently by, your hand in hers, moments washing over you like rain. And I will be fine, making my own friends, who remember when they first met me, who know who they are.

Posted in Blogging, Stories by Preston on December 25th, 2011

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