Why don’t I have a name? People call me Jonathan, but it does not stick. I am not a Jon. Someone called me Stephen once. She must have been mistaken – stupid bitch. Stephen is a friend and we talk so much that his life has rolled over into mine. Why am I so tied up in other people to not know where my identity begins? Never be too social; you’ll lose yourself. Friends help, yes, but if you float along on someone else’s tide for too long you will lose the lands from which you came.
My sister’s friend – I always forget her name – believed that I looked like a Jake. What does that even mean? She could not tell me specifically, although she went on to suggest I resembled one of her friends called Jack. I know this Jack she was referring to and, trust me, we look nothing alike – he lacks the beard.
My parents have repeatedly told me that they had firmly decided to name me Charlie. Charlie is not my name though. I have queried this and they have said I did not come across as a Charlie once they saw me. This confused me to no end. How could I be a Charlie in the womb and then, as soon as I hit the air, suddenly become someone else? Was I someone else? If so, that would suggest that identity is intrinsically linked to a person’s name. That cannot be. If I did not have a name would I simply cease to exist? Surely not. Names, they must have some other value then. An external value, perhaps, to other people. I am Jonathan, supposedly, because people recognise me as Jonathan and as no-one other than Jonathan – except that girl who called me Stephen. What if others began to call me Stephen? Would I change at all? Would I become a Stephen? Talk and act like a Stephen? How does a Stephen talk? Or act for that matter. Would I change because my identity was now intrinsically altered or would I change through a subconscious awareness of the social expectation to be a different person, to act like a Stephen?
Why do I question myself so? Fuck me, that’s something a William would say. A name soaked in such poetic and philosophical turbulence that it would suit me perfectly – even if it was just for pure irony. William is such a rich name. It is tied to so many great and influential men. This makes me wonder if I would even deserve to possess such a name. Or even want to possess a name of great value. Would I walk an inch tall against the other Williams before me? It would be too much for me to live in the shadows or be crushed by the rock of expectation to do great things, to change the world. Fuck that. Fuck starting off life with a handicap, chasing a standard set by history. Usurped from birth; how fucking cruel. Christ, now I have snowballed onto the idea that a name could stand tall enough to cast monstrous shadows over a person’s entire life. No-one really cares this much about the weight of a name do they? Evidently, I do.
Lay a particular set of letters in a particular order and, for each person, there will be a face. Order, that’s all it is. We need to organise people. We need to keep track of those we love, those we hate and those whom we chose to forget. A woman told me that she hated the name Samuel because it reminded her of an ex-boyfriend. Each time she heard that name the past clung to it like a ghost. She even stopped dating a person who she had grown fond of because he shared the same name. She told me that their faces seemed to over-lap in a way that he – the ex – would always break through and haunt her. I have seen both men. They bear no resemblance and I cannot fathom her avoidance of the name Samuel, but I guess I wasn’t present during the moments of her past where that name soaked up so much blood.
That must be it then. Words are saturated with the past. Names can summon the ghosts from a person’s memories and haunt them. But this cannot be limited to names. All words possess this power of staggering and folding linear time in a way that the past pushes through the present.
For me, it is the sunset that summons the past.
I remember a fire that used to burn on the horizon. Its flames could be seen day in, day out: forked tongues licking the underside of pinkish clouds. It was a magnificent Sun that shone like a smile. The blues of the sky spread themselves out in shades of arctic water every day. I would stare out towards that gold-pink line, ghostless, with her at the end of each day. The end of things was so beautiful.
The sunset now sparks a fleeting electric green as the sun sinks and, although it is only visible for no longer than half a second, this green washes the pinks, blues and gold from the sky. Green, a colour soaked in envy. Envy: an emotion of irregular desire. The desire of comparison. Why do I not have the strength of others to sit still and become a reliable fixture? Why couldn’t I stop the shaking? Surely, I was more shatterproof than this? You let her drift off like an abandoned ship. ‘Hang your head, son. You let yourself down. You’re a captain, you should’ve gone down with that ship.’ Thrown from paradise, choking on that last bite. Together, you had a name, an identity. Separate you stand, ‘Jonathan’, staring out at the empty sky, ghosts burning at your side.