“So many beautiful young women’s legs are wasted by wearing trousers,” said Frau Bienkowski.

I nodded sympathetically. I was in an asymmetrical chequered skirt and thick brown tights.

“Your hair looks very nice today,” she said. “Is it freshly-washed?”

“I washed it this morning though that’s not unusual. But I’ve been out in the rain.”

She nodded. “That could explain it; it’s sitting very nicely.”

I wheeled the Zimmerframe down the corridor and picked up two cups of coffee.

“Here, have this 200 gram-bar of chocolate,” Frau Bienkowski said.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly..”

“They’re putting me on a diet, I’m getting too fat!”

“Oh, if you insist!”

Outside the rain pelted down. The sky was white and grey. The trees swayed sadly and their leaves hung limp.

“Weren’t we waiting for a rainy day to clear out the cupboard?” I asked.

“Oh, but it’s Sunday.. are you sure?”

image source: centralavenuepub.wordpress.com

image source: centralavenuepub.wordpress.com

“Sure as can be.”

“Why don’t you use that walking stick to pull out all the stuff at the bottom?”

I fetched the dark mahogany stick and poked absurdly around the bottom of the cupboard, pulling out piles of clothing, carrier bags, cardboard boxes and four rolls of kitchen paper.

We made several piles: too big, too small, keep, discard.

I held up some wide navy trousers.

“They’re for hospital,” she said. “My only pair! Put them in the hospital bag.”

Later, we continued reading from Una Troy’s book about the cantankerous Irish nun.

I read a passage detailing the monotony of convent life. Frau Bienkowski nodded the whole way through.

“Just like here,” she said.

Afterwards I asked her whether she’d listened to the audio book.

“No, Katechen” she said. “I’m so listless and uninterested in life. I sit here and keep my eyes closed.”

“But you could just try it out for five minutes,” I insisted.

“Yes,” she said. “I could. But I am depressed. Well, I don’t know whether I am. But the weather doesn’t help. Every day is the same.”

“You have a lively mind,” I said. “You need more stimulation.”

“The friend I told you about last time,” she said. “She was a year younger than me. We used to bet about who would die first. I said since she was younger it’s only right that I would go first. But she died last year.”

“Anyway, Katechen. How is Andrew?”

“He’s well. Working diligently on his dissertation.”

“And when are you next free?”

“I’ll check my diary.”

“Now, I don’t want you to…”

“Enough, Frau Bienkowski.”

She smiled.



She came with me to the lift.

“Thank you, Katechen.”

“Thank you.”

The doors slid closed but her eyes were sparkling and she was smiling before she disappeared from view.