Call Me This Now
Who doesn’t daydream of new names with perverse joy about the possibilities of anonymous mischief?
The meaning of my full legal name is “she who retakes the throne lady of the wood(s).” ¶ The harshness of the consonants in my name sit in my throat like glass every time I introduce myself to someone new. The scraping sounds I pronounce to indicate what I am called are an inheritance, an invocation of my grandfather, dead before me, and a shorthand for my own flesh. This name is not just shards of glass but it is also gravity and time, the weight of what I’m told I should choose to remember and every notion of what to pray for in the future.
A name is a categorical imperative. If we can name it, it’s ours, it is domesticated. Maybe a new name contains an element of being untrackable and for a fleeting moment living outside of the logics of the state. Who doesn’t daydream of new names with perverse joy about the possibilities of anonymous mischief?
I wonder why we name our children after the dead the way we do. Even the least religious of my massive extended family take part in this practice. The reservation of the first letter or so of their child’s name to be that of the latest relative who has passed on is an offering to bewildered Aunts and cousins – evidence of their connection to Judaism, and the family; a rewinding of clocks and recalibration of compasses. I am told that this is our way of keeping time.
I acclimate. I swallow the shards. I move slowly with mounting gravity.
It wasn’t until I got called something that felt like me that I realized how badly I needed my own name. Kara was the one who found my first name. It was September in the Blue Mountains, and it was snowing, so I invited her into my tent. Soon enough we were staying up late all night, drawing pictures of trains and reading passages from Immigrants Against the State aloud. Zeydl was the singular name attributed to a Jewish anarchist mentioned once or twice in the book, and it stuck to me immediately. She hasn’t called me anything else since. Kara was the first one to tell me that it’s okay to ask to be called what I like to be called. Up until then it hadn’t even occurred to me as an option.