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  • There's a homeless man on Capitol Hill. To be fair, there are quite a few, but one man in particular stands out in my mind. He's probably lived here as long as I have, maybe longer; I don't really know. (I have trouble with faces.)

    I first noticed him about six years ago, on a day like today: Bright and summery, full of promise. In a small patch of light on the shady side of the street, a tiger lily glowed bright, made even more vibrant in relief against the black-clad body of a man in a wheelchair, this man quiet and still in the shade. Light and dark, beauty and sadness, the scene etched itself into my consciousness.

    In the years between now and then, I have seen the man hundreds of times, and every time, I have struggled to catch his eye, desperate to know his story.

    Who is he? How did he end up here? What happened to his leg? Diabetes? War? Is there anything...?

    It's a stupid question. He does. There is. He obviously needs something more desperately than anything I need to know. He lives on the street. He's lost a leg. He's lost a lot more. Wrapped in dark layers, even on the hottest of days, he sits in the shade with his eyes down, always alone.

    Nobody deserves a life like that.

    We are strangers. Neighbors. Strangers. He's etched into my conscience as well as my consciousness.

    I saw him today on my way to the market, sitting quiet and still and (of course) alone next to a patch of flowers. Tiger lilies.

    "Hi," I said with a smile, lifting my sunglasses and seeking his eyes. He looked back at me. "How are you today?"

    "OK," he said.

    It was the first time I'd ever heard his voice. The first time in six years. I hope it's a start. Just where the end is, I don't know.
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