“The Names We Give” by Tyrean Martinson

A friend of mine mentioned to me that she doesn’t know the names of many of her neighbors, despite having lived by them for years. Instead, she and her husband have given the neighbor’s names: Bluetooth Guy

Weed Guy

Yoko and Whatshisname

Mick Jagger

Johnny Carson Girl.

She said she doesn’t want to know the names her neighbors may have given her. 

I laughed and told her about my made-up names for my neighbors: the heart runner

the boy who runs (he grew up so I really should change this)

The guy who loves dogs

The Nuclear Blonde Barbies (stay out of their way)

The short-but-badass runner-woman

The walker with the big stick (literally, she carries a staff)

The sisters who ride bikes

The happy brother (as opposed to the grumpy brother who lives in the same house)

The sad woman who walks slower than I do (is she sick? Is she in a bad situation? Is she okay?)

Like my friend, I don’t know if I want to know the name my neighbors may have given me. It could be: Crazy woman who talks to her phone (I’m dictating my stories, really.)

My name also could be: woman who talks to dogs, cats, deer, and squirrels.

Worse: the fat, slow walker woman

Or: the woman who cries sometimes. (sometimes I throw myself out of the house to walk out of a funk. This happens when I feel the rending dull knife edge of failure.)

Or, I could be: the fuzzy-haired woman who says hello most of the time to everyone except the nuclear blonde barbies, who shout at everyone to get out of their way, scream at dogs, and are generally horrible. (I used to say hello to them anyway, pretend I didn’t hear the nasty words they said when they passed by me, but I don’t have nerves of steel.)

Sometimes, I am the woman who prays and sings. Those are good moments.

I didn’t tell my friend all of that. She isn’t, “in the know” about my internal struggles. We aren’t really that close, but for a moment, it helped to sympathize with her about our neighbors who we name but don’t really know. The longing for connection, and the fear of it. The way we describe ourselves and others.

For a moment, we reminded each other of our humanity, gave each other grace. I’m not going to say the names we have given others and ourselves are good, but confessing them, giving each other names that are more positive than the ones we might give ourselves, can help. My friend calls herself: chick with glasses who never leaves the house except for work. I call her: badass-nurse-author-friend. And I’m learning to call myself: the woman who walks and writes, no matter what comes.

What’s your name? And what names do you give?

Tyrean Martinson (she/her) changes her bio nearly every time she submits a story. Why can’t she decide on the best one? Because decisions are hard. Life is too full of possibilities and wonder. Tyrean writes science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, terrible poetry, devotions, and any idea that feels shiny with wonder. Her newest novella, Liftoff, was something she wrote to entertain herself during early quarantine, a “popcorn movie” style YA novella she hopes will be fun for readers, too.