by Sossity Chiricuzio Views: 505
The key chains hang in rows, ball chain dangling stamped metal tags, a whole alphabet of names. His face behind the counter is deeply grooved and droops low at the corners of his mouth, while his faraway eyes make a silent movie on the wall behind me. I rustle clinking through the tags, searching for a name I like better than my own.
Susan, Lisa, Natalie, Chloe. Martin, George, Bobby, Dan. Tyler. Shannon. Alexis. You can fit a whole disguise inside a name. You can fit a whole person. A tiny tag like a shield, a suit of armor, a magic wand. Find the right name and I can become the right person. A spell to give me a life before I give up on the one that I have.
“For yourself, or a present?” he asks, and I wonder if a present would be their name, or mine? Would giving someone my name mean love, or confusion? I wonder if I’ll ever have a friend close enough to give a name to. I think about the names people who aren’t my friends call me. Loud, across the dining hall, written on my locker, or whispered in my ear in line (if something so sharp edged and startling can be called a whisper).
He clears his throat and I remember there was a question asked, an answer expected. “For myself,” I say, and watch his face register that moment of confusion my voice can bring. The voice that is somehow not what they are expecting. Lower than my sex, higher than my gender. He blinks it off and nods, and turns away. The light catches a twinkle on his key ring, where faint, under oxidation and a patina of fingerprints, a tag reads Tommy.
“Was yours a present?” I ask, before I can clamp my mouth shut on the words. He turns back, reaches for it in a gesture I can tell is habit now. “It started that way,” he begins, then stops, looks at me again. “It was a sorrow when I got it back.” I wait for the rest of the story, but he doesn’t seem inclined to fill in the blanks. I know it’s not his name, because the yellowed tag attached to his breast pocket reads Richard.
My restless hand stirs the tags, a long chime that has nothing of the grace of wind to it. We both shift our feet, but he can’t leave, and I have nowhere to go. “She was my daughter,” he begins, and my puzzlement matches his of earlier, though with a dash of impossible hope to hear a story, however sad, of someone like me. He pulls it off the key ring and holds it closer to my eyes. There, under the build-up of time and the press of goodbye, I see the little line that makes all the difference. Tammy, after all.
“Take your pick,” he says, and I wish that I could.
Sossity Chiricuzio is a queer poet and storyteller who uses writing as a way to examine closely, to celebrate, to create community, and to challenge status quo. She is currently working on multiple book projects, teaching writing workshops, and has been running an open mic for almost a decade. Visit her website at www.sossitywrites.com.