Stopping in for a few things


Now that we have a neighborhood Publix, I’m there all the time. And I’m getting to know the people there: the cashier who throws my groceries into paper bags as quickly as possible, the women who block the aisles with their carts, the creepy sample guy.

Of course, I run into familiar faces while roaming the aisles.

Today, I ran into a former colleague, one I hadn’t seen since summer.

cart-wheel.jpgI was looking for hot dog buns. This being Sunday afternoon, only one kind was left, the expensive wheat kind.


I looked in vain at the semi-empty shelves, when a familiar voice said hello.

I hadn’t seen K. since summertime on the downtown streets. I’ve been worried about her, since her cancer has come back and forced her into more chemotherapy.

She appeared unflappable, or at least, reticent to discuss the intimate details of her bodily malfunctions. Which made two of us.

Now she worked from home, in between treatments. Her pale countenance still wore the same subtle smile as always. And to top it off, a plain cap.

I switched gears, babbling about my new job, writing and traveling, mutual friends, etc. — still dumbly holding the overpriced bag of hot dog buns. I looked at her, staring into my own future, all our futures.

Lifetime odds for men having some form of cancer: 1 in 2. Lifetime odds for women: 1 in 3.

I didn’t reissue my standing invitation for lunch. I just stood there, holding one my one item, caught off guard by a familiar stranger in the supermarket.

We said our goodbyes, and I stood there in front of the shelves of bread. It didn’t really matter about the stupid dollar more for wheat bread, I guess.

And all the things that I feared were gone. Poof, like that. Fear is the thing that holds us back from living fully. And cancer or no, she was living fully.

Maybe it wasn’t the life she dreamed of. Maybe it was better than expected.

Maybe it was simply one day at a time.

I owed her, and myself, the same.


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