Today I wanted to write something, anything, with a beginning, middle, and end. This was the result. I don't know yet if I like it, and I feel nervous about posting it and then disappearing again. But I've been trying to take more chances, so here goes anyway:
The Girl Without A Name
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who didn’t know who she was.
Other people seemed to know her, because they knew what to call her. But they all used different names, which confused her.
“Suzy,” a woman who seemed to be her mom would say in the mornings, “It’s time to get up!”
As she slid into her seat at the breakfast table, a man who seemed to be her dad would smile affectionately and poke her face: “Mary’s got the most adorable chubby cheeks, doesn’t she?”
“What about mine?” an older girl who seemed to be her sister would playfully whine, “Aren’t I just as cute as Dana?”
“Of course you and Lauren are just as cute,” their mother would soothe: “But we’re running late – stop provoking the girls and let them finish their toast.”
Things were similarly confusing in school. Her teachers and friends seemed to know her and yet not to know her at the same time. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter that she didn’t know who she was – life seemed to go on smoothly. Even though she never wrote her name on the test papers and assignments she turned in, they would be returned to her with a name filled in. She received report cards with different names each time, and her parents only reacted to the grades she received. No one else seemed to think there was a problem at all.
The girl had looked for a name for herself. Maybe if she could decide what to call herself, she would feel less confused. She tried out some of the names that others have called her, but they didn’t stick – she hated some of them, but didn’t love any of them. Once she tried to insist on being called Abigail – a name that she found on the first page of a book of baby names – but people seemed to find that very strange. Some indulged her, but others were angry or worried. She was called into the guidance counselor’s office after two weeks. The meeting scared her, even though the guidance counselor was actually very nice. She stopped asking other people to call her Abigail.
Day by day, the little girl grew up. She found that she could think of not having a name as a minor annoyance instead of an existential privation. Often it even became a source of private amusement. She graduated from college, began to work for a large company, married her boyfriend, and had a daughter who she named Abigail. She still sometimes felt confused and a little lonely that she was the only one she knew who didn’t seem to have a permanent name. But she was also mostly content.
One day, the once little girl who had become an old woman learned that she was dying of cancer. She was sad, but she had also lived a good life. She was grateful to have a chance to spend some quality time with some of her family and friends. However, as she grew sicker and weaker, she became preoccupied by what name would appear on her headstone. She didn’t want it to be arbitrary, but as always, she didn’t know what name to choose for herself. When she tried to hold onto one anyway -- she tried Abigail, Beth, Carrie, Xena, and others -- her loved ones seemed to perceive it as either a strange rebellion or a form of dementia, which made it hard for her to feel that the name was properly hers. She died without a name to call her own.
The little girl without a name who had died as an old woman woke up on a sunny meadow. She was no longer in pain. She marveled at the exceptionally fresh air and the welcoming sound of a nearby stream. She got up, absentmindedly dusted off her shirt and shorts, and walked to the small yellow house that sat at the edge of the meadow and the stream. She pulled open the screen door with a creak and knocked gently on the gray-blue door.
“Who’s there?” a warm and vaguely familiar voice called out.
“I…I…It’s me,” she hesitated, and then responded in her customary way.
“Who’s that?” She heard approaching steps, then the door opened. The woman on the other side looked exactly like her. She wondered why she wasn’t frightened or more surprised. The other woman smiled in puzzlement: “Do I know you?”
“I think you might,” she replied. “Anyway, I’d like to get to know you. May I come in?”