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  • New Sam and I went out to lunch today. New Sam talks a lot. New Sam and I went out to lunch today at an Indian restaurant. Mahendran, Rajiv, Baran. He knew all the staff by name.

    New Sam walks leaning forward, his head slightly extended out. New Sam has a tiny frame, a friendly freckled face, and claims to be “almost 5’11.” He has the same first name as Old Sam, but could not be more different.

    Last summer, Old Sam treaded carefully, his torso still. He had dark bottomless eyes and chose his words precisely, ending each thought in a period. We would sit in silence for whole minutes, his gaze boring into mine as I tried to decipher through his wordlessness what exactly he meant.

    New Sam leads me into the Indian restaurant in an alley around 17th street, and the cashier at the counter bursts into a huge grin. “Sam!” he says. New Sam smiles broadly, “Hey Rajiv.” I turn to him quizzically, “You know him by name?” New Sam is casual, his small frame shrugging. “I know all of the restaurants and their chefs in these two blocks. The chef here is like my brother.”

    Rajiv smiles at me and hands me a mango coconut smoothie. I stand bewildered. New Sam asks me what I want to eat, and I stare at the menu, overwhelmed by the options and the foreign names. “They’re Punjabi,” New Sam tells me.

    We sit down, and New Sam tells me about his adventures in Costa Rica, with magical medicine men who could charm snakes. He tells me about his habit of talking to strangers on trains and his tendency to impulsiveness. He grins at me when I say I live too much in the past. “I could teach you to focus on the present,” he offers cheekily.

    And I think of Old Sam, how he must be heading to Germany by now. I think of last summer, and all the time afterwards that I spent waiting for him to come back. I turn to New Sam. “Show me how.”

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