I picked up my father’s ashes from the crematorium in Gouda. They were collected in a gray urn that I carried in the crook of my arm as you would a newborn baby. I guessed the weight of the ashes to be 3.4 kilos, then transmuted them into flesh. Twenty-two years earlier my father had picked up his newborn baby from the maternity ward of the Gouda hospital, carrying me in the crook of his arm as you would an urn of ashes.
I do not leave when he locks me out; I beg to be let in. I do not leave when he drives off while I’m still in the car, screaming to be let out. I do not leave when his creditor comes knocking, nor when he sells my books, my watch, my clothes. I believe him—no more gambling—and settle his daunting debts. Night after night when he wanks off while watching porn beside me in bed, I do not leave. I merely pretend not to notice. But when he shoves me in a fight and snatches the glasses off my nose to make me blind, I see everything very clearly and I leave—never to return again.
She lived for ninety-four years and six sons carry her coffin. Four daughters hold hands and swallow, strengthening the room with their gazes. While music plays and candles flicker, twenty-two grandchildren rise to encircle her. A subtotal of eighty-three nephews, nurses and neighbours whisper goodbyes from the pews. One husband and nine siblings await her in the earth. And others of course, loved and lost: one stillborn child, two parents. When she descends into elsewhere, the sum of her life, squared by death, multiplies in myriad memories.
Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. She holds a double master’s degree in Literature and Philosophy and has studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her short prose has appeared in anthologies and magazines in the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Currently, she’s finishing her first novel in English. You can find her at @clairepolders.