From my window I have a view of the sky and some pines and poplars peeking over the roof top of the next wing of the facility. It's a pleasure to rest my eyes on them, especially when the evening sun catches the poplar leaves and makes them sparkle. Then, when the sun is gone, my eyes drift down to the circle assembled on the patio.
At first it looked like a cocktail party that met three or four times a day, with convivial little groups scattered around. "How nice," I thought. Then I started paying attention.
Just before 4 they began to gather -- the eager ones a bit early. They form their groups and as I watch I see they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the aide who dispenses the smokes. All are tense, faces turned toward the door. They lean forward a little as the door opens then slump back in disappointment when the newcomer is just another smoker.
One impatient fella begins to dig around in the covered ashtray at his side till he finds a butt end big enough to light and, producing a lighter from his pocket, fires up the butt and inhales deeply.
Some, presumably more shaky than others, are covered with vast aprons, fireproof, I suppose, to guard against a dropped cigarette. There is someone with a tracheotomy tube . . .
When the aide with the cigarettes arrives, she passes among the eager congregants, handing out cigarettes and lighting them. It seems an act of sacrament.
And possibly it is. Having never been a smoker myself, I can have no idea of the comfort, the relief, the pleasure these sessions must bring folks who are hurting. The look that comes with the first inhalation suggests how it must be.