We were brothers in every past life. Somehow we would lose each other and lifetime after lifetime we would find each other again. The last thing I remember was running barefoot with him through the woods. Our feet were callused and bloody from running our whole lives. Pa got real sick some time ago. Cholera, they said. Without ever having to say it, we knew we would have to take care of each other from now on.

We found a creek at the east end of the woods to wade into. I skipped rocks across it to see if I could make it all the way to the other side. He was up to his knees in the water when he reached up to the sky and hollered from the top of his lungs. It shook the birds from the tops of the trees. He looked back at me, cast in sunburn and freckles, nodding his head and smiling. He wanted me to join in. I stood up tall and beat my chest, letting out my best gorilla call.

We took turns to balance across logs as we’d find them, taking breaks to drink the crystal clear water from our cupped hands. We found a clearing with a warm spot of sun and raced over. Out of breath and reeling with laughter over who was the rotten egg, we split the last bit of bread we had. We lifted it from the market, like always, taking turns distracting the merchant, putting a loaf under our shirt and running like hell. It grew harder and harder to pull off. The baker would see our dirty faces and would shoo us off before we even stood a chance.

He broke the bread and let me choose my piece. I didn’t know I would lose him in the winter as I did when Rome fell, and in that great flood when the world started over, but today we were here. The bread had a crust like broken plates but amongst our clearing, we were kings.