Fiction from Claire Polders
Looking for a Place to Die
My memories and I sleepwalk into town, arm in arm, down the street of black stockings and long skirts, our flat heels click-clacking on the cobblestones. We pass the hat shop with its window of false promises behind which forgotten heroines change into child brides before our eyes. Horse carriages—the sting of dung—thunder by, so loud that talking to our sisters becomes impossible. We buy milk in glass bottles and are startled by the telephone that rings in the back room like a wayward alarm. With a forced smile, we pick up the horn and pronounce our name, which has strangely changed after we fell in love only once. On the street, the gas lamps have not yet been lit, so we continue along our way in the dusk, my memories and I, arm in arm, distracted by the questioning button eyes of our dolls; we close them at times to protect our dolls’ hearts against the betrayal that is everywhere during the war. We step into a doctor’s office, quickly, hesitant to take off our clothes, until we hear our own voice, screaming in childbirth. Breast cancer is not our fate. Nor is the dark closet of a teacher after school, although we’re not too young to know of such things. At the end of town, we take a left, my memories and I, choosing a dark path where moths are courting one another and age threatens to crumble our bones. We must have changed course, however, because soon early birds are circling in the sky again and spring turns its many green faces toward the sun. What a delight it is, we think, to live a world in which you can witness the dawn multiple times a day.
Claire Polders grew up in the Netherlands and currently roams the world. She’s the author of four novels in Dutch and co-author of one novel for younger readers, A Whale in Paris (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2018). Her short prose appeared in TriQuarterly, Tin House, Electric Literature, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. Online she can be found at www.clairepolders.com.