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Roman and Jewel
Author: Dana L. Davis

 


      “’Tis But Thy Name That Is My Enemy”


   “What’s in a name? Is something profound and meaningful supposed to live deep within the string of letters? Is a name supposed to say something?”

   I stare into the camera of my phone and take a dramatic pause.

   “Take my mom for example,” I continue. “Her name is Monday. You know, the saddest day of the week? And have you ever met a black man named Dusty? No? Well then, you haven’t met my dad. I mean, what if my dad was a surgeon? He’s not. He teaches fourth grade. But can you imagine? You meet your brain surgeon and his name is Dr. Dusty?” I shift in my seat. “Dust aside, my older brother’s name might take the cake. It’s Judas. Like the stupid snitch who ratted Jesus out? For thirty silver shekels or shillings or whatever money was called back in the days of yore when people were actually named Judas.

   “They saved the best for last. Monday. Dust. Jesus killer—meet Jerzie Jhames. Born where? New freakin’ Jersey, y’all. I’m not kidding, that’s my real name. And I’m not kidding, we live in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I swear I’m like the defunct superhero Stan Lee contemplated before deciding it was a really bad idea. Is it a bird? Is it a 747 jumbo jetliner? Nope. It’s Jerzie Jhames in her silk cape and go-go boots. Watch her werk.”

   I lean forward to read a comment from one of my most loyal followers.

   Eye_Eat_MonkeyBrainz: What about Cinny? That’s a name that makes a really bold statement. That’s the best name ever.

   “Cinny?” The mention of the superstar makes my stomach churn like I just ate something super spoiled. “That name’s okay. I guess. Not sure if she lives among the other one-name greats like Cher. Rihanna. Beyoncé. Ciara. Drake. The name Cinny is unique, but I’m not sure it’s simple enough to relate to.”

   “Oh, it’s simple, all right.”

   I turn to face my aunt, who is twisting her braids into a bun on top of her head as the subway rattles across the tracks.

   “Simple. Trite. Silly. Dumb.”

   I turn back to my phone. “That’s my aunt, y’all. She lucked out in the name department. Karla. A sensible name. Karla’s reliable. Upright. Stable. Lovely. My aunt is such a Karla.”

   I lean forward, reading another comment from one of the eight people watching this livestream.

   Ram_Butt_Booty16: Why’d yer Mom and Dad name you Jerzie Jhames? You sound like a porn star.

   I nod. “Good point. It could easily be a porn star’s name. But then again so could Ram Butt Booty.”

   Aunt Karla snatches the phone out of my hand.

   “Hey! I’m livestreaming!”

   She fiddles with the phone. “Not anymore.” And hands it back to me.

   “Aunt Karla!” I whine.

   “Jerzie, you had eight people watching that. It’s not a big loss. And why are you doing a livestream on a public train?”

   I glance down the aisle. There’s only six other people riding in this car, and five of them are on the opposite end, not even in hearing range, engrossed in phones or books, minding their own business in typical New York fashion. The sixth person, a lady near the closest set of doors, is in deep, whispered conversation with herself; I’m pretty sure she’s not paying any attention to us either.

   “Aunt Karla. Most Instagram accounts are so fake. I want my account to be genuine, so I speak truth and talk about real issues.”

   “Complaining about your name? That’s a real issue?” She frowns. “Why not show them your life—what’s more real than that? You’re a busy kiddo. Voice lessons, dance lessons, piano lessons, too. I follow you on Instagram. You haven’t even mentioned you’re gonna be on Broadway. Talk about that. Show them what it takes to make it to Broadway. Show ’em you can sing.”

   “So you want me to be like those Instagram accounts with narcissists singing into the camera? Desperate for followers? Bragging about all their accomplishments?” I shake my head. “There’s a million accounts like that. I may only have 114 followers, but they’re loyal. And they appreciate my unique style.” I log back on and scroll through the comments that were left before Aunt Karla canceled the stream. Perhaps scroll is an exaggeration. There is only one additional comment, after all...

   GiggleMeister727: Take off your shirt!!

   Uggh. These boys are so annoying!

   The subway screeches to a slow stop. I hear a muffled station announcement through the speakers. Can’t make out what’s being said, but I’m pretty sure Forty-Second Street is next. That’s where we get off. Then it’s only a short walk to the rehearsal space, where we’ll be almost every day for the next few weeks.

   “So, you excited to meet Cinny?” Aunt Karla asks as quite a few people file into the subway car and plop down onto empty seats.

   I shrug.

   “Aww, Jerzie. Don’t be like that. She’s your idol.”

   “Was.”

   “Stop it. You got all her posters in your room. Downloaded all the girl’s music. You’re a superfan.”

   “My musical tastes have evolved. R & B pop fusion, or whatever it is Cinny sings—it’s not really my style anymore.” The train jerks into motion again. “By the way, you think Mom and Dad will get mad at me if I change my name when I turn eighteen?”

   “Why you wanna do that?”

   “Actors do it all the time. Did you know Olivia Wilde’s real name is Olivia Cockburn?”

   “Cockburn? That’s tragic.” Aunt Karla grimaces. “So whatcha gonna change yours to?”

   “I dunno. Like a one-name name. Like Saran. That’s pretty, huh?”

   “Honey...” Aunt Karla’s big brown eyes stretch wide. “That’s plastic wrap.”

   “Okay, fine. Not Saran. But you get my point.”

   “I get it. You want a name weirder than the one you already got.”

   “Not weirder. More amazing than ever.”

   “Jerzie, please. Beyoncé at four years old? During preschool roll call? Trust me, she was cursing her parents, too. These wacky names like Cinny. What is that? Short for Cinnamon?” Aunt Karla pauses to roll her eyes. “These names become amazing because they’re attached to amazing people.”

   I accidentally make eye contact with the lady near the door talking to herself.

   “Is that girl lookin’ at me?” she whispers to empty space. “Why she lookin’ at me?”

   Damn. I quickly avert my eyes.

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