Postscript in the place of a name
by Amina Dieng
A person’s name is a fact of their life, just as their birth date is a fact. Sometimes one name easily gives another, the way autumn is born from vanishing summer. A name only calls attention to itself for the brief moment when it is being performed, that is, when scrawled on a slip of paper from the bank. Most of all, a name is performed to an audience. It is listened to and passed around and sometimes has tomatoes thrown at it by people you know and people you don’t know and people within the government. A name is absolutely someone’s bounty, as its primary business is of capture. Capturing bloody, pulsating flesh, then seeing to its occupation by characters and letters, genealogical entanglements and preexisting conditions. In even the quietest of whispers, a person’s name remains fact, and so it can always be asserted.
When putting two names beside each other, the eye is struck by the demands of space: the room on the name tag at my first desk. I shared it with three others, my memories of their shiny kindergartener faces having long worn under the stress of passing time. In Miss Pabon’s perfect handwriting, the name tag spelled “Amy” and I traced my finger against its fanciful, italic strokes. I liked the way that it looked, short and sweet, against the white of the label. This “Amy” was both familiar and arresting. At home, my family called me Ami, but AH-mee was different from AY-mee–Amy sounded neater. I saw what she had done, a clever vanishing act on Aminata, which was crammed into a wooden box and sawed apart. I smiled at Miss Pabon, who smiled back with teeth, and I was made Amy for the next fourteen years of my life. That school year, sometime before spring recess but after Valentine’s Day, we read Chrysanthemum, the story of a young mouse who was named after the flower. She is teased and taunted in school until a new music teacher comes about and compliments her long, flower name. I wondered then why Miss Pabon read us this book, and if she personally thought Chrysanthemum was a stupid name.
Amina Dieng (she/hers): always eats her wheaties, hates the white stuff in an orange.