i was doing what i do best: waiting for a customer to walk up. the music was unoffensive and frank sinatra. a man walked up and put a few items on the belt.
he was old and appeared sort of glum. when i asked him how was doing he cleared his throat and said "okay" very faintly, like his throat was sick. i rang up his stuff and told him his total. he paused and looked at me, smiling unexpectedly. he said something to me that i couldn't understand because his voice was so quiet. it sounded like "how are you," but with the first syllable missing, so i said, "how am i?"
"are you," he said
"how am i?"
"umm, i'm good thanks"
"no no, just are you, are you," and at that he lifted his palms outward to indicate that we seemed to be alive and in a grocery store
i thought "this is probably happening because i'm going to die soon," followed by more palpable concern for my thought reflexes and some unease at how confrontational the question seemed, at least in my immediate interpretation of it, which was admittedly laden with fear
i said "well, does it seem like i am?"
he smiled again and said "yes, it does. i wouldn't have asked you if i didn't think you were."
we exchanged money and i watched him walk slowly across the parking lot through the window, feeling some vague but warm thing that lingered into the evening