You go to HEMA for office supplies. You go to HEMA for bed sheets. You go to HEMA for bread. You go to HEMA always, for everything, every day. There is no other shop. There is only HEMA.
You cycle to school. You cycle to HEMA. You cycle to your friends. You cycle to the big city closest to your tiny town. You cycle to the train station. You cycle to your grandparents. Your bike has broken down more times than you can count, yet, you keep cycling.
You take public transport to somewhere too far away to cycle. You’re inexplicably unnerved by this fact. You look out the window and you spot a mill on green stretches of land. You see another mill and another mill and another. You’re approaching the city center. Still, you see mills. You accept this, as everyone seems to do.
You enter Utrecht central station. You wonder if you are on an airport.
You walk along the platforms, heading for platform 1. You don’t notice 6
and 10 and 13 are missing: no one ever does. And if they do, they don’t question this. Hours pass. You’re still
walking toward platform 1. You thank god NS makes sure the trains are
always late, so you’ll make it just in time. You arrive at the platform.
“+10” it days on the sign. You sigh. You wait another 10 minutes and
look again. “+20”, it says.
At the end of the basis school you take The Test. Your parents are more nervous than you. They tell you this Test dictates your entire future. The news tells you the same in a grave, slightly more ominous voice. You’re twelve years old.
When you’re in middelbare school, you notice the seniors suddenly
disappear for approximately two weeks each year to perform a secret
ritual in the largest room of the building. There are signs outside of
this room warning you not to enter. You are frightened as the years
pass, senior year coming increasingly closer; your fate uncertain as you
finally enter the Forbidden Room. You cry. It’s the two most
nerve-wrecking weeks of your life.
Everyone wants to go on holiday to the united states. Only a few chosen (read: rich) go. You ask them how it was and they tell you strange tales of shops other than HEMA, such as “target” and “costco”; of guns on display in supermarkets; how no one owns a bike. You stare, shaken, in disbelief and shock.
It’s the first real day of summer. It’s 20°C and kind of cloudy. You go to the beach. Everyone goes to the beach. You’re stuck in traffic for hours: everyone is headed for the same beach.
When you get to the beach, the water is cold as ice and there are
jellyfish in the water. There are jellyfish on the sand. There are
jellyfish in that shallow pool over there. There are jellyfish
everywhere. You come back the next day. The jellyfish have vanished.
You’re sitting in the sun under a half broken windscreen. A few meters
away, a boy is digging a hole. This means that the boy is german,
you’ve learned. You look to your left. There, another german man digging a
hole. And another. You smile ruefully. What would the beach be without
germans digging holes? This is all very normal.
You go on holiday to another country. People think you’re german. You’ve accepted this. People always think you’re german. I’m Dutch, you say. They don’t understand. They laugh. You’re from germany right? They ask.
Stroopwafels seem to have built an international
reputation. Foreigners adore them. You don’t understand. They’re
cookies. Very good ones, yes. But the adoration for anything Dutch is
something you cannot grasp.
There is a song about a guy named Herman reading in the newspaper that the man he’d sold his car to has crashed it and died. Everyone think Herman is dead, though. This makes him very happy. No one questions this fact. No one wonders if he tells his family he’s alive. No one asks who identified the body. Everyone knows the lyrics to this song.