A Story Once by Another Name, Now Just as Effective? [Flash Fiction]

 

He says so much, writes so much . . . he forgets so much. Who is he? You ask again. I am he as well as I am I as well as I am we or you, the mirror appears again in recollection.

How often do I refer to me as He? But what about this courage of Oedipus thing? He used to ask the same question of himself in the mirror every morning, sometimes addressing himself as he, sometimes as you . . . who she is, he has asked too before, but no questioning now. He wonders who she is but doesn’t take the time to further his inquiry–he wonders and that’s all of it, no more, just wonder without question without answer. He no longer asks, hasn’t for a long time. He hasn’t asked why not for slightly less. He is who he is, he says. He has said this for some time. He has not cared much about explaining for almost as long.

What does it mean to say as he does that he is who he is–what he is, another reasoning? I agree. I do the same. I have done the same for longer than he has. Anyone you imagine has wondered about being and not being, to be this or to be that as opposed to not being anything at all, not to be, period, completely nothing, he used to say. What his name is, he used to insist, could not be more irrelevant, unless he had a name like Ishmael, which you could call him, he used to say, just as he would also say, no, there’s no reason to call me Ishmael, or call me Hamlet, or to call me Electra or Orestes or anyone else you might think of calling me. Yes, men can be Electra without there being any gender identification issues.

Why can’t I also be Gertrude or Rosalind or Medea or Clytemnestra? Every woman he has known has been either Dido, or Magdalena, or Clytemnestra, or Electra, Penelope, Medea, Phaedra, Helen, Antigone, Viola, Juliet, Rosalind, Desdemona, Laura, Beatrice, Isolde, Guinevere, Gertrude, Ophelia, Eve, Lilith, Isis, Mardou Fox, La Maga. et cetera, et cetera, all together all at once and none at all ever at the same time . . . Barbara, Helen, Alice, Maureen, Patty, Lucy, Maria, Margarita, whom else, when else, where else . . . Santa Cecelia, Santa Rosalia, Santa Teresa D’Avila. He used to say, I am Hamlet; he did, he said he was Hamlet, but then he would also say he was MacBeth, or that he was Lear. He often referred to other selves he housed; he said everyone housed in his Self-other selves. Call me Lear, he said; or call me Narcissus, or call me Aeneas, or Orestes, or Theseus, or Odysseus–yes, he said he would like it if you called him Odysseus, but you could just as easily call him Tom or Mr. Jones, or Heathcliff, or Don Quixote, most assuredly Sancho, Mr. Panza to whom would it be relevant to call him Mr. Panza. Is there a line anywhere in Cervantes that calls Sancho Panza—yes, Mr. Panza? I don’t remember. Nonetheless, he has no name? I am who I am even if I forget who I have been, no?

He could be so many. The world is a stage. Each of us does play many parts . . . also anonymous. Virginia had said that the history of Anonymous in literature was the history of Woman’s Literature. If he is anonymous, then he is the history of Women’s literature? What if what he said were from the mouth of John Doe. What if you called him John Doe. Yes, call him John Doe. John Doe is not really anonymous, is he? Men share anonymity with women; not always identical in all points, but similar enough for it to be a shared human experience. He said what he said when he said it how he said why he said it, and only he knows–could I know now what I knew then if the past is not past but what is it? All time timeless not here but where.

The name tag John Doe on the body at the morgue bestows some identity on the otherwise anonymous male corpse. It is a name. It’s just the name given to all males who have no name, or have a name except it is unknown. He is unknown in the way we mean to be known. He is mostly unknown to himself, how could he be otherwise to anyone else who is not him? What is in a name? Any name associated with anything says what about what it names.

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