More days than not, I pass him. Standing, sitting, always in the same spot. I pass him at almost every hour. Mostly in the first 2/3 of the day. But generally, when I pass his spot, I pass him.
His spot has nothing, really, to recommend it, other than some imperfect shelter from the elements. Really, it’s about the least appealing sheltered spot I can imagine: high traffic, noise. No sunlight. Limited view. It’s basically a 10×10 landing between inside and outside.
Thousands of people pass him every day.
He wears the same clothes. Always. Orange sweats. An orange vest. And layers of orange underneath, in a way that made sense in January, but much less so now.
I notice, though, more than anything else, his makeshift shoes. They are (literally) cobbled together of a combination of multiple pairs of shoes and copious quantities of silver electrical tape. They add a good 4-5 inches to him, and surely make walking challenging. I’ve never seen him walk. He wears the shoes why? For comfort? For protection? I cannot discern.
He never asks for money. Sometimes, he worries an item of clothing, or his facial hair. Not manically. Slowly. Deliberately. Sadly.
Though I smile every day, he hasn’t noticed me. I don’t think he sees a single person who passes him all day.
I’ve never seen him speak, or read, or, really, move, other than what I’ve described.
I fantasize about piercing his fog, telling him, “I see you. I worry about you.” I imagine bringing him a simple meal. A cup of coffee. Handing him a dollar. I wonder if this would be kind, or if it would be cruel. If I knew the answer, I would know what to do.
But I don’t.
So, every day, I walk past him, striving to make eye contact, hoping he will see my smile, that he will know that I see him, that he is not invisible.
Because he isn’t. I don’t know his suffering, but I see it.