Close to Enschede, in the east of the Netherlands, is a village called Eibergen. I was born there on Iepenstraat, which means elm street. The assassination of US President Kennedy took place on Elm Street, and that event became part of a web of remarkable coincidences. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror film first released in the United States on 9 November 1984 (11/9) and in the Netherlands on 11 September 1986 (9/11). 9/11 refers to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, another event marked by an array of remarkable coincidences. As these words indicate, this is the beginning of a most peculiar story. More precisely, a story inside a story.

Eibergen means egg mountains, which could be a cryptic reference to a mother’s womb. The initials of my last name, KI, make the Dutch abbreviation for artificial insemination, a way to become pregnant without sexual intercourse so that a virgin can give birth. By the way, it also is the abbreviation for artificial intelligence, so if you think you are smart, think again after reading what I have written. The name of the nearby city, Enschede, may refer to the female reproductive organ. And the initials of my first and middle name, BH, make the Dutch abbreviation for a bra. The song A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash suggests that funny names, particularly of this kind, build strong character. The meaning of songs is relevant to this story too.

I lived in Eibergen until I was four, so I do not recall much of that time. As far as I remember, nothing unusual happened. You might expect something extraordinary to transpire if you know where this story is heading, but it didn’t. Often I went out on a tricycle to feed the sheep in the pasture at the end of the street. Being a shepherd may have been my calling. There often was a clock on television, and I was afraid of it. If it appeared, I took cover behind the sofa. My younger sister Anne Marie was born in 1971. I remember that my mother was pregnant. She was ironing. And I sang songs for the baby in the baby room while my mother was changing diapers.

Our home was in a block. Next door lived an older lady, probably in her sixties. She came from the former Dutch Indies and had a fish tank in the living room. On the other side was another young family with children. They had a daughter of my age and a younger son. I remember playing with them. And I once electrocuted myself by putting the chain of the stopper of the kitchen sink into a wall outlet. Others later said I had used scissors, but I am sure it was the stopper’s chain, which then was confirmed by my mother, suggesting my memories are of good quality.

My father went to work around 6 AM and returned around 9 PM. He loved his job. On Saturdays, he often went out with his friends, hunting, I suppose. And so, I hardly saw him. At home, he caught up on his sleep on the couch to wake up when sports started on television. So, when I was three years old, I once said to my mother, jokingly, I suppose, ‘Who is that man sleeping on the couch?’ That is what my mother later told me. My father probably took the hint. I remember that he took me out of bed every morning before he went to work and played with me for a few minutes for a few weeks.

When I was three, I fell on my teeth on the wooden table in the living room in a brutal smash. A piece of the wood broke off. My front teeth turned black until my permanent teeth came. And so, I became an ugly duckling for years to come. We also had a biking accident. My mother was biking, Anne Marie was in the front, I was in the back, and my mother had trouble handling the bags full of groceries at the handlebar. And then the bike fell over. In early 1973, we moved to Nijverdal, which means industrious valley. It suggests we left the mountains for a life in a valley, but the Dutch mountains are imaginary, and the name of a song by my favourite band, The Nits. The music you like may reveal your character. And I think that is correct in my case.

Featured image: my mother, my younger sister, and I (in the foreground)