I can see the smoking doors from my bed.
As I lay here, looking out my window, I see the doors the staff use during breaks due to a fascinating piece of architectural mismanagement.
They come, rain or shine, when they have a moment to sneak a puff. During lunch there’s a crowd of them, other times it’s groups of one or two, sneaking a cigarette between the more hectic moments of their shifts.
I don’t begrudge them, they have stressful jobs after all. It’s only natural they’d occasionally need a moment to unwind and reset in the middle of their day, and there are worse ways to find one. I dealt with stress the same way, back when I smoked. And when I had a job.
And when I had so little legitimate stress in my life that the idea my job would cause me tension wasn’t laughable.
So I watch them, from my bed. I’ve always been a people watcher. I watch them sneak out the side door for a puff, in groups of two or three, huddled together in the rain or luxuriating in spring sunshine. I watch them smoke, and laugh, and comfort one another, and talk about whatever it is they talk about.
I wish I could hear them. I could use the conversation, even second hand.
But I’m no lip reader, and there’s a pane of glass and a courtyard between us, so likely as not I’ll never know what it is they’re talking about. Which is fine. I have plenty to listen to.
What I can hear is the beeping of the machine to my right, the one that monitors my vital signs, and the artificial whirr of my respirator. When my wife visits, I can hear her telling me I’m going to beat this thing, trying to convince me, and herself, that I‘ll one day be whole again, and that we‘ll go back to being a family. And, when she thinks I’ve gone to sleep, I can hear her crying to herself, softly. I hear these things perfectly well, thank you very much. For all the things that’re wrong with me my hearing works just fine.
She cries more and more often when she visits now. But she visits less and less, so I suppose one makes up for the other…
And, as she tries to comfort me, my eyes keep straying to the window, to see the courtyard, and the side door, and the people sneaking their smokes.
A year ago I’d likely have been out there with them.
In another year, someone else will be in this bed, enjoying my view.
And there’ll be new people in the courtyard, by the side door, doing all the same things. Which is fine, I mean I can’t complain about it, can I? I made my choices, I knew the risks, what kind of a man would complain about the predictable consequences life choices freely made? No, I accept the life I’ve lived, and I’ve genuinely liked a lot of it. There are things I could have done differently, but I didn’t, because it was hard and I didn’t want to. And I accept this end as part of that.
Still, staring out my window, I can’t help feeling a little put out by it.
Is it meant to be a joke?
A mean-spirited dig at my expense?
What the fuck kind of architect puts smoking doors within eyeshot of a respiratory ward, anyway?
And do the administrators not know I can see it?
Although I admit, if they don’t know, I’ll never be the one to tell them.
Because, as I’ve said, the staff have stressful jobs, and they do deserve a break to live in their own head a little while, enjoying their own bad habit, owing nothing to anyone. Even if it’s just for three minutes at a time.
And really, who am I to stop them doing something I enjoyed for close to forty years?