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It was a simple day and something simple happened, sometime in the summer of 2015.
My wife and I had purchased land and a small old house in Rappahannock County. We were excited for our future in this place. Though I was very busy with my contracting career in Arlington, I would occasionally get away for a day to fix up things at our new property here. On one such day, I had spent the morning working in the intense heat and then it was time to head back towards the city. I enjoyed the air conditioning in my truck, yet felt a twinge in my heart leaving the valley, this place of peace, to go back to the noise of my hurried job sites.
As I came to the intersection at 211 I noticed a man standing on the far side of the road. He wore an old suit jacket and dress hat in the blazing 96-degree sun. He leaned out and looked down the strip of hot asphalt, hoping a car would stop and give him a ride. I couldn’t imagine standing out in the heat dressed up as he was.
I immediately pulled over to check on him. He said that he wanted to go to the post office in Washington. It was on my way, so I told him I would give him a lift. I helped him up into my tall pickup truck and got him settled into the passenger seat, pointing the air conditioning vents straight at him.
We talked about little things. At one point he loudly announced his approval of my work truck and told me how good it was that I worked hard and did construction. Somehow, he knew what I did for work without me ever having told him. He was small in stature, but his personality stood tall. He could not have concealed his positive nature had he tried.
I came to a stop in front of the post office. I apologized to him that I did not have time to wait and take him back to where he needed to go, disappointed that my life could not allow me another 20 or 30 minutes with him (or could it?). But he told me “not to worry about nothin.” Helping him out of the truck, I softened my hold on his arm once he got onto the sidewalk. His small curled hand held mine longer than I expected. With a smile, he declared that he would get a ride back home.
“No problem at all,” he said. “Someone will take care of that for me. They always do and they always have in this community, my whole life.”
I felt good about the world for a few extra minutes that day. I also felt good about having purchased property in Rappahannock County. My wife and I had saved and searched for over 20 years, and I felt assured in that moment that we had landed in the right place.
Since that day I have looked out for a short, overdressed, handsome old African American man with a beautiful face; but I have never seen my friend again.
The writer lives in Gid Brown Hollow.