Who Are You?

By Suzanne Allen


If you want to change your name, you have
to change your friends too. People who know you,
see you, need you to be one thing, have a hard time
calling you another. They need something
to hold onto, something to set their clocks by, some
way to remember where
in their little black books they put you.
They need something from you that,
probably, you can’t give them. They might ask
for the spelling of your new name, but have a hard
time remembering it when they introduce you
to other people. They will stammer, explain who
you used to be as if this
memory were more true than you, standing there
in the foyer, waiting for them to correct themselves.
They will tell stories about your last husband
or your next one, your old car, the time
you drove off with your skirt hanging out,
dragging in the street. They might even remember
the colors—the orange and magenta flowers
or the shiny black paint job that they could see
themselves in when you parked at their curb. But
in general, they will have a hard time
remembering. You will have to remind
yourself that you are not who they remember,
that you probably
never were, and that the whole friendship need not
be written off as an illusion. It was only a time
in your life when you were more like them
than you are now. And it made everyone happy
to believe, for a little while, that they
knew you, when in fact, they only
knew you when.

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