Government Names: Random Memory #4

No, I’m still not going to tell you what mine is. Just know that very few people can spell it.

By people, I mean most of the young women and men who work behind the counters of Starbucks shops in my area, in other areas, in all the areas in the world. (For the record, I don’t even remember if the Versailles Starbucks spelled it right. I was on a palace high. Anyway, they get a pass.) Apparently, no one has heard my very common name before and no one remembers phonetics from elementary school and sounding things out. I have spoken my name slowly, have spelled my name slowly–all to no avail. This morning at a Starbucks close to the OK Corral, one poor guy asked me to spell the name. After I did, he laughed at himself for even asking, because, I repeat: it is a very common name. 

Anyway, the whole name thing brings back an interesting memory. Back when I was a college-aged Square Peg and worked at my beloved, dearly departed Borders Books, I went through this weird phase where I was tired of hearing my own name. Blame it on the lack of nutrients and being a teenager, I don’t know. But one afternoon, while at work, I started asking my co-workers to call me a different name, a variation of my government name. Hardly anyone questioned this request. By now, most of them understood that this college girl who was in love with books and writing and a certain boy (see link above) was in a universe all of her own. Soon, my name tag changed. When called on the loudspeaker, everyone used this new name. In conversation, I was referred to by my new name. I was on cloud nine. And let me tell you, when my crush used this new name–let’s just say that it was thrilling. Of all people, he was so serious in accommodating my new name…which made me adore him even more, if that were humanly possible at the time. I digress. I rode the high of having this new identity and I enjoyed every moment of it. Until I didn’t.

name
Especially fake ones.

The thing with a new name: if you’re going to arbitrarily ask people to call you by a different moniker, it’s probably best to request this in all facets of your life. Not just work. Because, sure, people were calling me by this exciting new name in one place, but I was still the same old [Insert Name Here] at home, school, etc. After a while, it felt strange and jarring. And unwanted. I quickly informed my co-workers that they could go back to my old name. As expected of my old comrades, they acquiesced. Funny enough, however, some had gotten so used to the temporary name that it was actually hard for them to go back. Can you imagine? Anyway, eventually, things got back to normal at Borders. Old names returned and steady infatuations continued. You can guess which one of the latter two remained.

The above was brought to you a random memory…

…but before you leave me, tell me how you feel about your name, won’t you? Feel free to add whether your local Starbucks butchers it beyond reason, as well.

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About a Boy.

As I stood in line at the café at work and watched one of the employees step over to the espresso machine to whip up a latte for a customer, I thought of him. It was such an interesting time in my life, really, all of it, and he was, by far, the most significant part.

I was 19 years old when I met him. He and I started at Borders Books (I still miss it, sniff, sniff) on the same day, in the same orientation group. I noticed him immediately. Having long been a lover of cute faces, the combination of said cute face, those blue eyes, and that brownish-blonde hair got the heart racing. But, believe it or not, I told my prone-to-endless crushes heart to stop itself. I was tired of silly crushes. I was journeying into adulthood, wasn’t I? So I valiantly ignored R., not even allowing myself to swoon at his Texas drawl and those eyes.

Didn’t work, though.

When we began our first task of shelving books, he called my name. Ever hear your name being uttered by a boy you’re trying to ignore because you understand the inevitability of your soon-to-be deep feelings for him? Yeah, it was like that. I nearly collapsed, threw up, and smiled all at the same time. I heard you’re a writer, he said. I said yes. I write poetry, he then said. Maybe we can talk about books sometime.

A poet? A poet? I knew, then, that I was toast.

We discussed a little about writing, my then in-progress major in English at my college, his former college in Texas. It was a nice conversation. Soon, we were directed from the books to training on the cash register, where we stood next to each other, our shoulders slightly touching. I knew it then. I was in like.

For a year and a half, I went through the usual infatuation journey with R. I alternated between wanting to gaze at him 24 hours a day and wanting to push him down a flight of stairs for one silly reason or another. One distinct memory: as he tied my apron for me in the café, where we were frequently assigned together (which is why I thought of him yesterday), he asked me to be his creative inspiration. Dizzy from our proximity, I merely smiled and went into the back of the café, where I stuck my head into into the freezer.

Eventually, the crush dissipated and we became good friends. We shared poetry and book recommendations, laughed, talked, joked. When he decided to leave Borders and go back to Texas and back to college, I was sad, but not heartbroken. Before leaving, he gave me a sweet letter about enjoying our friendship and the “inspiration” I provided, although I think he was just happy to be around someone who loved writing as much as he did.

I last heard from him in 2000. He sent me a letter and a bunch of his poems to review, for which I never received a reply. I was angry about that.

A few years ago, while perusing the Internet and suddenly wondering what became of him, I googled him. That’s when I learned that he died in May 2002.

The death was unexplained. I merely saw his obituary, and cried, and reached out to the university he went back to, in order to learn something about the situation. Of course, the cause of his abrupt death was his family’s to own and to know, but the shock of it all–the untimely death of this young man that I once knew and treasured…it was unbearable. I was able to communicate my condolences to his family through the university contact that I found. (A memorial scholarship/award, for poetry, was established in his name.)

The triggers can be anything–coffee shops, bookstores, someone bearing his resemblance–and I am instantly transported to that time in my life, when a wide-eyed nerdy girl swooned over and ultimately found friendship with a sweet poet from the South. What a time it was.