mmediately after receiving her from her parents, Mallegra's grandmother changed Mallegra's name to Sandra.
In the night, thirty-seven years later, Sandra thought of Mallegra as
she was trying to get through the kitchen door, having awakened,
suffered an hour's insomnia, and gone down to the refridgerator to stand
and eat. On the way, she was stopped, trying to squeeze her girth
through the extra-wide kitchen door. It was while she was squeezing
that she thought of Mallegra. She contemplated it as if it were a name
written in dimly glowing letters on the linoleum floor, which she could
see but not touch.
We don't really lose names, she thought. My maiden name, for example.
Stills. Or really, she thought, Mallegra is my maiden name, Stills is my
strumpet name, Maxe is my married name, and Sandra is my pseudonym. All
these things coincide within me as I grow fatter and fatter.
She paused, wedged in and pleasantly lonely, listening to her husband's
musical, breathy snore. Sometimes she thought that when she slept, she
entered his dreams, and that was the strange place she found herself in
whenever she had insomnia--inside the Hades of Ron Maxe's dreams. Here
I am, she thought, a zeppelin pressing against the kitchen door,
tight-packed with gaseous wraiths. She thought how tight-packed they
must be; how many wraiths does it take to make a 5'4" woman weigh four
She pushed, and then stood still a moment, one breast in the kitchen and
one breast out. Buttered toast, she thought.
No, she considered, contradicting herself. Names are outside us.
Inside we have no names at all, no names at all. Names are for other
people. I have no fundamental name. She reviewed what she knew of all
the people she knew and decided that it was unlikely that any of them
had a fundamental name, if she herself did not.
First published: May 1997