What’s In A Name?
The place is packed tonight. The lights are low, and the music is loud, which is good. Loud music means less talking. Talking is bad, because it means I have to say it.
“Hi, my name is Purvis.”
Yep, Purvis. I know, right? The first thing people hear, the last thing they remember, the key to the very door of my soul, and my parents choose Purvis.
I guess I could understand if were named in honor of some legendary ancestor like General Purvis Augustus, leader of Allied Forces on some beach in Normandy or maybe Reverend Purvis Leonidas, fearless missionary to naked natives up and down the Amazon. But to my knowledge (and I’ve checked), there are no such heroes in my family.
It turns out Purvis was actually the name of the gardener who worked for my grandmother. He sculpted topiaries of Bible characters. Apparently, his juniper Jesus inspired pilgrimages from believers as far away as Poughkeepsie, sojourners who came to pray before the shrouded shrubbery. And here I am, a testament to his holy horticulture.
Hey, there’s that group of girls from HR. They already know my name, I think. I could just skip the whole introduction part. Oh wait. There’s those guys from Sales. Okay, never mind. I’ll let them have a chance tonight. They probably all have really cool names anyway. Some of them probably even have great nicknames too. I always envied guys with great nicknames. My friend Nathan Canasta played football. His number was 50. So “Five Oh” became his name for the rest of high school. Richard Barefoot was Native American, the only Native American we knew. So we called him “Chief.” It sounds racist now. But that was before everything sounded racist.
So why couldn’t I get one of those names? I was cool. Right? I knew things. I did stuff. I used to write names on my notebooks to try them out. I wrote “Big Show” and then “Full House,” but I’m just over five feet tall and 120 pounds in my Sunday shoes. I also considered “Lefty” and “John Deere,” but I’m right handed, and I’ve never actually seen a tractor in real life. In the end, I’m just a tragically vanilla, homogeneous human being with absolutely no distinguishing characteristics save one . . . the name “Purvis.”
Look who just sat down at the other end of the bar. That’s the girl I saw last week, the one with the glasses and the frizzy hair. She’s sitting alone again. Oh, did you see that? She just looked at me. Well, her glasses distort her eyes slightly, so I could be wrong. But what if? I might chance it and walk over. But what would I say?
“Excuse me, ma’am, but I noticed you were low on nuts?” No, that won’t work.
“So, just how strong are your prescription glasses?”
No, better let that one go too. But I would like to know. Man those things are thick.
If I only had a name like Fred or Ralph or something. Then I could just say “Hi, I’m Fred or Ralph or something.” I guess I could use my middle name, Arthur. Or maybe just Art. But art is what you hang on a wall or make in preschool with macaroni and Elmer’s glue.
And I certainly can’t shorten my first name. “Purv.” Nope, I don’t think so.
“What’ll it be tonight, kid?” That’s the bartender. I think his name is Stan, or maybe Dan.
“Right.” Dan’s a nice guy. He works a lot. Always here when I come in.
“Hey Dan, you got a nickname?”
“Yeah. It’s Stan.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
Hey, when did Jackson come in? “Hey! Jackson, my man! What’s up? Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure. Well, I’ll just be over here. Keep it real, man.”
Jackson runs the sandwich cart on the corner by the office. Now Jackson, that’s a real name. Like “action,” only Jackson. That guy’s gonna to go places with a name like that.
But not me. I’m just gonna sit here at this bar and watch all these well-named individuals go about their happy lives while I waste away in the intoxicating wash of near beer. Just me, the Purv-meister. The Purvinator. Potent. Powerful. Purvilicious.
I’ve got to get a new name.