Ana Duffy (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
You hate your name.
Fill-in-a-form scenario: participant / candidate / patient / applicant / member’s full name. They’re anal about it. You can’t sweep a chunk of identity under the carpet because your middle name makes the whole thing stutter. So, you go on and stutter along with the boxed-in letters and print your full name in.
But, it starts before that. You are born unbranded and they spit all three names at you: Ana Valeria Duffy. No natural flow. The acoustics of them mimics that of the name of a Venezuelan soap opera girl. A girl with plaits and beauty-coated poverty and dreams and a rich landlord who dreams of bedding her. The names come with a built-in Venezuelan accent that further south, in Argentina, does not belong. It goes on. A name and middle name that stutter, followed by an Irish last name with too many fs that shouldn’t belong either. Not in the land of compadritos and football players, where consonants and citizens are too proud to go in pairs and stand strong.
So you learn the art of spelling. And of mispronouncing. You first toss the surname in, knowing that it will bounce off a puzzled face, and back to you for further enquiries. Then you spell it, double-effing it in monotone, which makes it last longer than a Padrenuestro. And you do it again and again.
To make things worse, Mother likes to call out your nameandmiddlenamealltogether and does the full Venezuelan soap opera name-calling. You wish for her to cut it out, to drop the stuttering string of letters that hunts you in the shopping mall.
No one cares about the flow-interruptus. No one but you.
When you change geographies, you make a decision; you will drop the middle name once and for all into the hole where names are no longer required, where they go to die. Ana Duffy it is. But your middle name has a life of its own and comes back to you, having found itself in an overcrowded hole of names. Full names, it said, black-listed names. Your middle name comes back to you, overwhelmed with unearthed stories of nameless people and peopleless names. Crossed out names, taken/tortured/killed/erased names. All crammed and blurred in the hole of names. Names reduced to pieces like Stasi files and put back together by ladies in white handkerchiefs. Haunting names, your middle name said.
All of this, your middle name said. And you listened.
You keep your Valeria, but stop using it. Your life turns into a weight-loss commercial: before and after. A built-in Venezuelan accented full name at home. A single name with a mispronounced double-effed leprechaun curse in the slightly new geography, just a few hundred kilometers of Pampas up north.
Then you move to an entirely new geography. You seriously do.
You and three names, wishing for better times. Your middle name stays in the airport bin, hanging from a take-away coffee cup. You only keep a certified copy of it for emergencies and anal form-filling.
You cannot believe your good luck when the Aussies make magic with your last name. It does not bounce back once. Double-effing is like Vegemite on toast for them. With the middle name long drowned in some visitor’s (or returning local’s) half-drunk cappuccino, your nominal life would be all good, you like to think.
But you underestimate fate.
Your first name still holds the baton. Your first, straightforward, palindromic name. The one left adrift in your mutilated identity chunk.
You go on pronouncing it as you always did, short and sweet and de-Venezuelanised. And to your surprise, it bounces off a puzzled face, and back to you (for further enquiries). They wish to break the palindrome with unnecessary vowels. They call for spare consonants, more of the same, for which they pull from both ends to make room. They sound it differently; they reshape a perfectly formed name into a waiting room full of spare consonants and peripheral, lurking vowels.
The name you hate does not call you anymore.
So, you go on living your private, mispronounced life on your own.
Ana is an emerging writer of fiction, born in Argentina and living in Australia. She is a student at the Queensland University of Technology Masters in Creative Writing Program. Ana recently left her native Spanish behind and started to write in English. She was shortlisted for the Alan Marshall short story Award and Queensland Writers Centre flash fiction Prize. Her latest flash fiction piece will soon appear in the American journal Coffin Bell.