Origin of your Namesake
— For Shylah, for the need of Explanations
I know you have questions now. I have them for you, the answers that you have sought after all your life, those that remained from your sight for so long you questioned the idea of seeing. Rather than see you felt. Underneath your bones — into the marrow the fatty bends that bend and pull at your soul. Yes, you know where. There — the there inside of your. Where all your questions went to hide and rot.
I was still in the Army then. I was a little before my sixth month carrying you. By that time I had questions too. Questions that yielded no answers. Love that gave away the light. All that I had was you. And you I was determined more than ever to keep.
“Goodwin, have you decided a baby name yet?”
“No Rue, I haven’t.”
“McCormick! It’s McCormick now remember?!”
“Oh…yeah sorry about that.”
An ugly pause erupts between us. Ever since she married Rue — McCormick had become unbearable. Everything she said and did revolved around her new life. The person I trust Rue had been erased and replaced with a hypersensitive, overbearing asshole of a woman who continuously prodded me about my plans. Until finally she came out with the truth of her thoughts.
“Goodwin…I don’t think you want this baby.”
“I don’t think you want this baby. I mean you haven’t picked out a name yet. You’re not gonna get married — so I don’t think you even WANT this child!”
Not married. No name. Evidence. I couldn’t fault her she was only saying what everyone else was thinking. That good ole group think will catches up to me every single time.
“Okay, okay. Now that business is over. Let’s have some fun. Time for ya’ll to help me name this baby.” An hour before I had spoken to McCormick — or was lectured by her, I waddled half a mile north from the supply shop to the Motorpool. I knew he would be there, but I didn’t mind as I was feeling jovial and confused at the same time. The concrete walk was slick with wet because of the rain, yet I strode determined that one of those bastards in that office was gonna give me a name for this baby. Today. Not the next day, or the day after. Not in another week or month but on that day. I needed something to shape and mold the experience in my mind not just in my body. Besides maybe I would convince him that this child was real and coming and he better jump on board. I didn’t want marriage — I wanted something more valuable. His trust, his kindness, his friendship.
It felt good to sit in the motorpool office again. How I had missed it. I had been too sick to be around the chemicals and fumes without vomiting. And I was in and out of the hospital most of the time — the pregnancy was a rough one, more than most. My doctor prescribed treatments that the American doctors didn’t sign off of like Magnesium suppositories which kept the daily nausea in check. It took weeks but I was able to walk around again, to hold conversations again, to feel a bit more human.
“Okay, so…what are we gonna name this baby?” Everyone laughed the moment I said it. I was glad. It felt good to hear the laughter of others when it came to the baby. Mostly all I got was scorn for making choices on my own. Choices that defined me and defied the Army social platitudes. But when you grown up in a single household, when you seen mistrust and mistreatment up close in damn near ever relationship you have including the man who impregnated you then well marriage isn’t really a suitable option — is it?
“I just want to…to do this…” When he placed his lips against mine it was a soft peck but filled with so much beautiful longing. A small token a gesture of falling in love under the moonlight in our Kevlar helmet and vest neither of us man nor woman just two soldiers on guard duty on a cold German night. And yet with that small almost innocent peck I never felt more loved by a man. I felt the warm moon shining on my face, I saw how it lit his white skin the blue frost of his eyes. That kiss made me feel…wanted. But he made sure that feel didn’t last long.
What hurt so bad was that I couldn’t trust your father anymore. The night of the argument I went inside myself. We’d argue before, but the shouting matches never injured me the way the last one did. I don’t recall all of it. I remember that he lost his rank for throwing a large wrench at an NCO.
“ I didn’t throw it AT him; I just threw it in his general direction.”
“If you were overworked why didn’t you talk to Sergeant Sweat about it? He could have helped.”
“Sgt. Sweat doesn’t give a fuck about me. I’m just the Motorpool’s bitch.”
“You can’t keep thinking that no one cares about you. I care about you. I love you.”
Silence. A cold hard press silence hanging in the air after I said that. I said that many times before but never when he was enraged. Not that I know of. Something in him cracked, splitting him wide open. Carey was known to have a temper. But this, this was fucking demonic.
I DON’T NEED YOU.
Made me feel…
WHY ARE YOU HERE?!
When Tiffany wrote him that damn loved letter I was sunken. It killed me that she would send me back to the man I hated only weeks after she and I had made love for the first — and last time.
“Why did you do that? You know I don’t want to get back with him.”
“I just hoped he would talk to you.”
“So what did he say?”
“Nothing it was like he didn’t even care.”
“I had a feeling. He doesn’t give a damn about me or this baby.” I didn’t want to admit it then, but I will now. Some part of me wanted him to care. I always had. It was HIS child I was carrying. And…nothing.
I remember the worst of it. There was a day when I had attended formation — on time for once. It was a wet day, foggy but the cold never bothered me while I was pregnant. While I was carrying you. One of the soldiers there had had a long night. He smelled. I mean the odor wasn’t normal like musk or sweat. I could smell the night on him. The late night partying, the all-nighter drinking and drugging and if he was lucky the fucking. The aroma was noxious. But I was the only one who could smell it. I was choking, gagging on the bile on my stomach. The Platoon Sergeant saw this and let me go to the back. Only he took his time with it. He could have relieved me at any moment but he chose to make me wait. It was almost the end of formation when I was let go to vomit behind the last line. I didn’t stop for maybe 10 minutes straight. Everybody just walked away. Including you father. I was scorned for not playing by their rules.
“How ‘bout Careyann Goodwin!”
The office erupted with laughter but this time it wasn’t with me it was at us. He and I. Rybus had a way of making humilation extra humilating. God how I hated that evil, crosseyed freak.
“Rybus you’re not allow to talk anymore. Turn and face the wall.” He hated anyone who made fun of his crossed eyes. Which made it all the better for me to say it.” Pregnancy made me indifferent at times. I had gone through so much fresh hell that others feelings had become obsolete.
“Name the baby Rianne.” Johnson said. He was 5"3 and had dark brown skin. From Texas I always found him easy to talk to. One time while I was visiting his room in the barracks I had accidentally fell asleep on his bed drooling on his pillow. I had to be at least in the beginnings of my fourth month by then. When I woke I found him watching television. I instantly apologized. He politely accepted almost with a smile. His quiet kindness knew no bounds.
I pressed my hand against my stomach as the name was said again. I felt a trimmer in my body, but something wasn’t quite there yet. It was close, but not the name I felt like you wanted.
Other names where thrown out. None were right or even worth remembering. All Except for one.
“Shyla. Name the baby Shyla.”
“What, what name did you say?”
“Shyla.” She was a young Polyponesian/Philippian woman from Hawaii who had married and been physically separated from her husband. Each was sent to separate duty stations. He was a white sergeant back in Hawaii if I recall correctly while she was stationed in Germany with us. That’s all I remember about her.
I pressed my hand against my stomach again. This time it was right. I could feel you agree with the name. Something about it sent rings of throughout me. I felt like I had become a wind charm and I liked it.
“Where did you get the name?”
“It was supposed to be the name of my baby. I carried her for four months and she died.”
There was a hush that fell on the room after she said that. I looked her in the eyes. “I would be honored to name my daughter after yours.”
If you are wondering where was your father in all this he had already angrily stormed out the room thirty minutes prior. I buried the heartache of his reclusiveness over cynicism. Anything concerning him brought up acid on my tongue. As he stormed out I made sure he knew I was talking about him. “He’s so fucking aloof.”
Once the chatter surrounding the definition of the word “aloof” came and went the laughter at my precise measurement of his distant attitude loudly ensued.
He was all alone. I had made sure of it.
It was Tiffany though who suggested the “h” be placed at the end of your name. She was paranoid about naming you after the dead. I obliged her superstition.