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I lost my innocence and became human four minutes past six on the second day of September, nineteen-ninety-five. My young parents carried me home, tears streaming and hearts high. Mommy took me out of the car seat and held me tightly, but not too tightly; because you know, that would kill me. Daddy drove with more caution than he had since taking his driver’s test, which he had already failed twice before. The car was stacked with dental textbooks and perhaps a hundred drafts of his doctoral thesis. He knew he had to go back to school on Monday and me being born on Saturday left him a day and a half to finish his research paper.

Mommy and daddy were the naïve and clueless immigrants that everyone loved in a similarly clueless way. The neighbours looked on from balconies as they carried the happy couple carried their newborn son home for the first time. In through the door they went, giggling and smiling while their son cried louder than the obnoxious dog that every apartment complex seems to have. They set him on the table, sat down, and took a sigh of relief. The walls were bleak. They were like any other walls; white, square, flat. People always say, “If only walls could talk”, but maybe it’d be better if these walls didn’t talk. Even if they did, no one would listen to the story of their home. They would tell of another family who spoke English but did not dream in it. They would tell of a white-haired school bus driver who had to choose between milk or bread. If those walls could talk, they would sing a thousand somber hymns and a thousand more triumphant choruses. They would tell of why and how my parents came up with the wonderful, brilliant idea to name me something no one could pronounce, spell, or read correctly.

But you know what? I kind of like it. I kind of really like it. According to the US Census registry, I am the only person in the country named Wylie M. I figure Wylie isn’t exactly a popular name in China, so I might be the only Wylie M. in the world. I wonder if that’s why people find my name so interesting. Maybe it’s because Wylie is so simple, yet M. so foreign. How Wylie sounds like a classic cartoon character and M. is awkwardly the name of a murderous dictator. If our names reflect who we are, then Wylie M. is a pendant on my forehead that tells my life story and all of who I am at the same time. It would spell out exactly what I am or at least what I think I am. Weird, controversial, thought-provoking, contradictory, unconventional yet acceptable. Argumentative, “new age” and modern, yet age old and classic. A little tacky at times and a little hard to understand, but above all, genuine and personal. In a nutshell, different. If we can work with two nutshells here; different and polar. Private Joker was a Marine born to kill, but also a peace-loving hippie. He had his button with a peace sign on his chest and his war-torn helmet on his head. As for me, I have my name.

Maybe our names don’t really reflect who we are. What if they’re like the annoying labels that have something like “marinara” written on them when the tupperware clearly has tuna inside. Or maybe that hipster song with a title that has nothing to do with the lyrics, or anything for that matter. Is it the name who shapes us or the parents who give us that name? Or is it our environment that shapes our parents, who choose our name, who shape us, and that’s what makes us become who we become, say what we say, and do what we do. If it even matters at all, that is. I guess only the walls know. If only the walls could talk. But even if they could; we all know that no one would listen.




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