Our Name Gets Weepy
What my father says. I sit on the white tiled floor, fiddling with my keys. Thinking. One mosquito makes a break for it. I feel my teeth aching. What. My father says. What? The night closes in, a litany. Take care of yourself. Don't get so worked up. What my father says. To me. I sit on the floor, shaking my body. In the Men's Room, a woman stands. I try and catch her eye and realize halfway through the eye-catch that she's a man. A man with the face of a bare-boned female skeleton. I look past the stark whites of her skull into her hollow eye sockets. There is no person, not even a female skeleton, and I am alone in the bathroom and the water's running from the head of a snub-nosed aluminum faucet. I have been washing my fingertips for twenty-seven minutes; they are as wrinkled and pale green as white raisins. What my father has always said. Our name, our surname. Don't tell anyone—use a fake. This is something that we'll teach our children. That they'll teach their children. How to not. How to not us. I sit on the tiled floor and fiddle with my key fob. What do we really want? Would knowing our real name make a difference? Ours is a feast of the inedible, and my father, my brother, and I all rehearse for the big choking scene. What my father is caught in the middle of saying. Here I am home. Stay home. Late at night. This day, I happen to be made from little pieces of hardened air. I sit on the tiled floor with my father, white tiles in gray light, one night and a million years ago, surrounded by tiny scraps of paper in which our family’s symbol used to live. Why don't we know our last name? Who are we? We are hugging each other. I am full of jellyfish clouds. I am full of wrong turns and memories of an accident, of crash landing my single-seater spaceship here all these years ago, right smack in the middle of Something Something, South Dakota, just east of West Something, South Dakota. Above a buried hamlet of meth-addled dwarves. I swaddle myself in the toilet air at the university library, thinking about the man-who-was-a-woman-who-was-a-skeleton-who-wasn't-actually-there. Should I be concerned? The computer makes a pinwheel of death, deletes the sense-making thing I wasn’t writing that now will never be returned. What a dark carnival tonight’s pinwheel reveals; then, a clip-art symbol of an hourglass turning over, turning, turning, turning. Us over, voiding; something becomes nothing; a name becomes a not-name. Ours. My voice enclosed within a copper-colored echo. At the back of a line at the DMV, I'm standing. Waiting to become someone else. Have you ever legally changed your name out of fear? What about by accident, without knowing, a typographical error? My voice is like a pocket of verdigrised pennies. Once, in my father’s house, I read a book by a man named Becker that said humans are basically gods with anuses. I'd maybe agree, except in reverse: humans are much more like giant, walking anuses attached to small, vestigial gods. Those gods are wailing, "Help me, you horrid thing!" as the anuses go about their business of shitting out the daily universe. Late at night you can hear it, the weeping of seven billion small, powerless gods who are painfully aware how much they no longer matter. Mechanical words lift up from the large earth piles near the building where I am staying with my father, where we are sitting on the floor with white tiles and black shadows and white light and talking in soft, muddy voices about the future, about what our name will be next year when the men come with their guns, when the men come looking for us and our kind again. Nothing is decided. I have never asked what our real name is. But for now, we are sitting on top of our problems, knocking back our excuses, swallowing. On the floor. White tiles on white light again. Things are easier down here. Arms around one another. My father's problems and mine embracing. "What...?" Nothing. We sit in silence. I think about where I put my faith, where it went after it stopped being. There. To no one in particular.