She wasn't an atheist because she didn't not believe something was there.
Before she was thirty, everyone that died was just gone.
Now, some years later, the exact number willfully nonspecific, she felt shells where the dead had been.
At her usual grocery store, the name tag was the second thing she noticed about him--unusual, Russian for a black kid. Bag boy, carrying her groceries, an annoying necessity. Requiring at least one loose dollar bill on her person for the tip.
The thing was, she had just recently seen him somewhere, other than the grocery store. Just long enough to register, once he'd passed, that she recognized him--but that came later too, putting together he was the kid from the grocery. The only time she'd ever seen him outside the normal.
And so, glancing at the paper, seeing the name, thinking how odd that it would occur again, maybe someone related, and she sees the age: nineteen. It was him. An obituary.
The call to her significant, Martin, says word is the cause is not the usual suspect but an underlying heart condition, not unknown to the family, but might as well have been.
She remembered his speech impediment, the first thing noticed, how hard to understand when he attempted small talk. Maybe something anatomical that made it difficult to breathe, and thus?
Going to the store again, what's the word, dismay, at herself that she's actually spooked. Feeling a veneer of his presence that called more attention to the absence. Another reminder of her age, take a look at this bump on my back, Martin, does it look red or brown?
Yeah, right. She was hardly that old.
But nineteen was so young. So young to be a part of forever.
Of which she wasn't, yet. Not even close.