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Snapshots of Life in the City

First Day of Chemo

I entered the elevator at the Foggy Bottom metro stop (on the platform level) and three women rushed in behind me. We were in tight quarters and it felt like I was a part of their group because of this close proximity.
"Have you been smoking?" one woman asked another.
The other woman's response was to burst out crying.
I looked down, keeping my eyes on the floor.
"God forgive me - yes," the crying woman gasped. "I am on my way to my first day of chemo and I still can't quit cigarettes!"
I lifted my eyes surreptitiously to look at all of the women, but kept my head down. Her friend was frowning and shaking her head in disapproval.
The third woman simply said, "God bless you."
As we exited the elevator, I kept pace with the three women through the station in order to stand behind them on the escalator to the street. It was difficult to hear much of what they were saying but the smoker was crying and clearly she wasn't getting much support from the first friend. I felt so drawn into this drama and I knew it was weird of me to want to hear more yet there I was evesdropping a bit longer.
But at the top of the escalator, as the three women walked towards the hospital entrance together, I went on my way in a different direction.
The whole scene couldn't have lasted more than a few moments and yet I witnessed a very vulnerable and stressful moment in that crying stranger's life. I could fully empathize with the stern friend who was worried about her friend even though she probably went overboard a bit.
Clearly the smoker was already beating herself up for her own behavior. I'm guessing that was the worst punishment of all.

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