I met a man at the corner bodega by my brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Friday. The conversation started like this.
“Hey, man. What’s going on?” I said while heading to the beverage coolers.
“Not much, how are you?”
“Can’t complain. Just a lazy Friday. What do you think, Colt 45 or Olde English?”
“Colt 45 is pretty good.”
His name was Dave.
“Yeah, I think I’ll go with that. What are you up to today?”
“Well, I’m going to see my mom in Queens. Waiting on my sister to pick me up now.”
“How is she, your mother I mean?”
“She’s alright. Just like to visit her.”
I start to make my way to the counter and Dave follows.
“That’s great, man. I just went to see my mom as well. She’s doing alright, but the whole empty-nest thing is starting to get to her.”
“I hear that. Same with my mom. Say, where are you from.”
I hand the cashier a five-dollar bill and joke with him about the day’s “New York Post” headlines.
“Here. Good old New York City. Yourself?”
Dave follows me outside at which point I ask what it is he does.
“I’m a DJ in the city.”
I forget which station. It was hip-hop, though. I say that’s really awesome — I did radio in college.
“I’m just trying to get to know people on the block … just moved here and wanted to meet some new people, so I’m happy to meet you Dave.”
“Call me Revo.”
“Revo, like Revolution.”
“I’ll do that. I hope to see you around.”
“Yeah, we can chill here, my crib, the corner. Wherever. Glad to meet you. Ken, was it?”
“Yes, Ken … like the Barbie doll.”
“Likewise, buddy. Have a great weekend.”
I walked away happy that I’d extended myself into the community I would soon be reporting on for The Brooklyn Paper. I felt like a beat reporter — making connections and setting roots. I felt alive and happy to have met Revo. He would stay on my mind for the rest of the weekend: the friendly fellow at the bodega.»
After returning from tonight’s Department of Transportation meeting on the congested streets of Broadway and adjoining roads, I figured I’d delight myself with a 40oz. I headed to the corner bodega.
“Y’all seen Revo?” I asked the two gentleman behind the counter whilst saluting them as I made my entrance.
“Who?” They said together.
“What? How do you mean?”
I placed the 40oz on the counter before them. One of the gentleman brought his thumb to his throat and pulled it across. Suicide?
“No. He go to hospital. Throwing up. Died yesterday.”
“Died? Like, gone? I just spoke to him on Friday.”
“Yeah, we saw you speaking to him. He was good guy. Drank too much.”
“He died from drinking?” I look at the 40oz I’m buying.
“Yes. Drink too much. His liver … never ate.”
I stood for a moment exchanging looks with the two clerks with their eyes growing wider and starting to shed tears. One of them produced an iPhone and showed me pictures of Dave at a recent barbecue. Then with a swipe he showed me one of them together atleast two decades ago. They’d been friends for a while.
He was a staple in the neighborhood they said.
“I didn’t know him well enough, but I miss him.”
We stood silently for a few more seconds. Nobody was in the store. We pounded fists. I said I was sorry and walked away.
There’s some solace to be had with being a neighborhood beat reporter — there’s also a lot of heartache, even if you never truly get to know the person, because it’s the thought that you may have known, at least for a moment, someone special that you’ll never see again. And that is haunting.
R.I.P Dave, aka Revo.
Kenneth Rosen is a freelance writer living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. His work can be found at www.kennrosen.com.