A woman is admitted to the hospital. The young physician sees that she was once beautiful—very beautiful. She has sequestered herself in a large, private room, where she draws the shades tightly. The lights are off, all except a single dull lamp in the corner. A companion reads there, motionless. In the gloom, the only white things are her arms. They move gracefully, they are lovely even with seventy-plus years, most lovely.
The physician goes to open the shades. “Why is the room so dark?”
—“Because of the Angst.” She has slipped into German.
—“Where does the angst come from?”
—“Von der Seele, die Gott mir gegeben hat.”*
* From the soul that God gave me.
Charles Bardes is a physician who lives and works in New York City, where he teaches and practices general medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University as Professor of Clinical Medicine and Associate Dean. He is the author of Essential Skills in Clinical Medicine and articles related to medical education. (3/2006)