Sunday, April 21, 2002

When Bad Names Happen to Good People
In the future, names will be assigned by committee upon graduation...

"683RQV!" The voice, the name, brought back a flood of memories. Could it be her? I looked across the crowded bus station and saw her running towards me. It was 429PYD. I ran to embrace her.

"429! You look fantastic!" I thought of how we'd grown up together, sharing so much: our first kiss, our dreams of spending our lives together, our promise to marry once we returned from Academy. "What are you doing here, 429?" I felt like an idiot the moment the words left my lips.

"Same as you, silly. I graduated! I'm here to visit my family for a few weeks before I receive my work assignment papers. I came to see you, too, or have you forgotten?" Before I had a chance to answer, she added, "And it's not 429 anymore, it's Melissa."

"Melissa!" Yes, she was a Melissa. I could have guessed that years ago. I knew she'd never end up a Shirley, or worse, an Esmerelda. Melissa; you have to sigh just saying the name. The Board had done well by her, as she must have done well at Academy. With a name like Melissa she'd be getting a plum work assignment.

She stared at me, and I realized that other than repeating her new name, I'd been silent for several seconds. "Well," she said. "What about you? You received a name, didn't you? You did graduate, right?" The excitement in her voice was palpable, as she leaned forward on her toes anticipating my answer.

"Yes, yes, I'm sorry. Yes. I graduated. I'm now Henry!" Her face registered immediate disappointment as she rocked back onto her heals.

After a moment she said, "Well, Henry is, umh, nice. Of course, I'd always hoped you'd be a Lance, but, Henry is, well, serviceable."

She was thinking the same thing that I was; Henry is a clerk. I'd get a decent enough work assignment, but I wouldn't be in charge of anything. I wouldn't be going to the same places or have the same opportunities as a Melissa. A Henry would only hold a Melissa back. A Henry needed a Shirley, as certainly as a Melissa needed a Lance. But yet, after all we'd shared, maybe there was still a chance for us.

I thought quick to change the subject. "Did you hear about 593YLV? They tried to make him a George and he bolted from the graduation ceremony and over the Academy wall! Nobody's seen him since."

"Yes, I heard," Melissa said, soft and sad. "He's already been caught and reassigned to underground duty." She was already in the know, just days after graduation, she was already beyond any place I'd ever be.

"Well, Melissa, I guess I'll see you during the break?"

"Oh, 683, I've just got so many relatives to see, and to re-introduce myself to, I don't know if I'll have time. But I'll call, I swear I will."

"I love you Melissa." It just came out; I had meant to say goodbye to 429.

"I loved you too, 683. Good bye, Henry."

As I watched her walk off I tried to think if there was anything I could say to bring her back. Just before she disappeared through the door I shouted out, "My middle name's Burt!"

(c) 2002 Ken Goldstein (as is everything I post here, you know)

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