Goiter

His name is S. He lives on another long term ward in the hospital. I stand in a sheltered corner in the dark and watch him for a moment. He is sitting at a picnic table beneath a spruce tree. It is a cold windy night, so windy it’s hard to tell which direction it is coming from. It is snowing so many of the smokers are huddled inside the doors illegally or just outside the doors. This baffles me as it is no warmer beside the building than at the required distance of 60 feet yet we all do it.

He lights up a cigarette and his face with it. He is 50 or 60 with a pleasant face and a clean short haircut. He carries with him his clear garbage bag full of all his possessions. I have never been able to make out anything of value in the bag and I’m sure if he left it anywhere it would be thrown in with the trash. He obviously doesn’t trust anyone which may be a symptom.

S is a lifer, he has been here for many years but appears fairly normal. He is a quiet person and I have seen him smile on occasion. He often only wears a T-shirt or an unbuttoned coat over a T-shirt. His belly protrudes enough to challenge the fabric. He has something resembling a goiter on his belly. It protrudes a good 7 inches in all directions. I am drawn to it like a train wreck, I can see enough that I want to see more.

S is one of the psychiatric poor. I remember sitting with him this summer as he smoked cigarettes rolled with newspaper. In jail rolling paper was at a premium so we often used the waxy paper that the rolls of toilet paper came in or pages torn from a Bible. If we were out of tobacco which was usually the case some of the guys would smoke dried orange peels which had a smell of their own. At times the stringy pulp from bananas would be dried and tried. I’m not sure why you would smoke either of these as there was no nicotine but you can’t underestimate the pleasure of a smoke.

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