an immigrant contemplates his name for want of a "G";For a creative writing class
|“Gavin,” I muttered to myself. “My name is ‘Gavin.’ Not Gabe, not Devin, not Alvin. It’s Gavin.”
I turned the shiny, new name badge over in my hands as I sighed with frustration. It wasn't my name on it, though it had been intended for me. This wasn't the first time this had happened, but being the new guy was hard enough without having a badge. I had my own name, after all, but this was not it. If I submitted to the pressure of wearing the little plastic moniker, I would be admitting to the whole world, or at least the portion of it that came into this particular coffee shop, that my name is not important to me. If I did not, I could potentially be written up for showing up out of uniform.
“Perhaps I could be ‘Brie,’” I considered as I looked over my shoulder at the slightly-scuffed name tag that had been slapped onto the fridge in such a manner that the magnet meant to anchor it onto the thick, cotton shirt peeked out from behind it, “but that is not my name either. So, what good does that do me?”
My mind raced as I rubbed the pad of my thumb over the thick, black letters that had been engraved in the plastic, almost hoping it would correct the mistake. These fancy name tags came at a cost; roughly seven dollars apiece, if I’m remembering it correctly. I had to pay seven dollars out of my first paycheck so that I could have a name tag that does not show my name on it.
To most, this wouldn't seem like such a big deal, I’m sure. What’s seven more dollars to have another one made with the correct name? Maybe the manager would be nice enough to re-order it without charging me for it since it was her mistake that caused this. But to me, this was something so much bigger. This was my life. I hadn't scrimped and saved to get into this country just to be treated like cattle in the line. I hadn't changed my name to something “more American” just to have it revoked by some heartless, gutless, soulless little piece of plastic. This was my name that I fought for, and I intended to keep it.
Gavin, a medieval derivation of “Gawain,” a knight from the story of King Arthur. It seemed quite astute at the time. A heroic name for someone who is their own hero, but now I see that a name is just a word for what something is. What is that? Why, it’s a chair; simply because as I grew up, someone pointed to one and said that’s what it was. How did I know that it wasn't a train or a moose? Well, that’s just what everyone calls it. That is its name.
I gasped slightly as I felt a hand pat the back of my shoulder, knocking me out of the swirling vortex of my rage. A smiling face stepped beside me and peered down at the plastic in my hands.
“Oh shoot,” she hissed, her disposition taking on a slightly embarrassed shade of red, “I’m so sorry.” She plucked the name tag from my hands, produced a black permanent marker from her shirt pocket, and drew on the missing “G.” She smiled once more as she capped the marker and held the name tag out to me.
“We’ll get you a new one soon. Kathy is so bad about spelling. I don’t know why she’s in charge of ordering name tags. The company must spend a fortune on replacements,” she giggled.
I gazed down at the “G” she had scrawled onto the plastic and nodded in contented approval
“It’s fine,” I replied, more so to be polite than to actually address the tag.
She beamed as the little bell over the door rang out in the nearly empty shop.
“Ready to get started?”
I nodded again as I pulled the two halves of the tag apart to mount it onto my breast pocket. It clicked loudly as the two magnetic pieces forced themselves together through the thick uniform shirt, and it did, in fact, have my name on it.