"Did you ever smoke?"
They are sitting on the balcoy outside Alfie's apartment. A hush has fallen over the street for the moment. Traffic is huffing impatiently at the red light a few blocks down.
Suspended in the lull the two men sit side by side watching the sun falling gradually from the sky.
"Sure, when I was young," says Alfie.
"Do you ever miss it?" George asks turning toward him.
"I've never thought about it really. Why, do you?"
The old man sighs. "Sometimes," he says. "There were days back then when a smoke was the only thing helping a man hold onto his sanity.
There wasn't one of us that didn't light up every chance we got." He chuckles. "There were times my hands were shaking so bad I couldn't touch the match to the tip of my cigarette."
Alfie hears the catch in George's voice. His eyes have gone glassy. It's the first time George has talked about his past. He must have been a soldier at some point.
Alfie waits for him to go on.
"Lost some good friends," the older man says eventually.
"Do you have anything to smoke here?" Alfie asks.
George looks at him surprised. "I have some cigars some place. A gifr from my last birthday. Reckon they thought I didn't have anything to lose at this point. Do you want one?"
"I will if you will," Alfie says.
George gets to his feet and shuffles off to the kitchen. He returns with two cigars, an ashtray and a pack of matches.
He lights Alfie's and waits until he's got a good draw, then lights his own.
They ease back in their chairs. The smoke drifts up into the sky. It smells of old wood and good rum. They say nothing. Just smoke and watch the sun go down. The hum of the traffic begins.
Life goes on.