WHEN I WALKED to work from near the NewMarket Corp., I used to know if I was on time by where I saw Radio Raheem. If he was near the plasma donation center, weaving his way through the smokers either waiting for their rides or waiting for their turns, I was late. If we crossed paths closer to Main, I was good.
The man who amplified music from an unseen device disappeared a while ago, before the plasma center moved to a location closer to its clientele of do-gooders and $50-needers, before police shot an axe-wielding man at Third and Main.
I had seen the man hours earlier when was shirted and his hands were empty. As he crossed my path, I said “RVA all day,” to myself as I noticed his kilt in the early morning. I thought not of him again until the news reports and seeing his final smudge linger on the pavement for an unusually long period across from 3rd Street Diner.
“RVA all day,” I said again.
In my younger and drunker days, I often was a denizen of that former Confederate hospital, eating mounds of food of questionable quality on tables of questionable cleanliness, surrounded on those late nights with my fellow dregs of society who first tried to fill the void with alcohol and then pancakes. Or slices from the ostensibly Italian pizzeria as the bass pulsed from the gay bar a few doors down and the back gate of the Times-Dispatch rattled as the late shifts filtered out before the nearby blocks grew as still as the terminus of Third near the Downtown Expressway or the blocks approaching and passing the convention center before the bifurcation into Fifth Street and a ramp from the interstate.
Or the portion lingering in a dying, cloven neighborhood, anchored by a church calling itself the Temple of God with the Last Day Message. And a cemetery.