Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 13

M. Brett Gaffney | 13

M. Brett Gaffney

Naming Those You've Never Met

The mechanic takes off his shirt and you blush because his chest is pale and it reminds you of hours spent with bodies on slabs. It’s been six months since you left the university but you still carry them with you, the countless cadavers. Especially Johnny. You named him Johnny. John Doe. The smell of soap and blood fills your nose even here.

You’re here to get the oil changed in your car and he says it’ll take awhile. They don’t have the right brand in stock. So you wait in the cramped office, beside the garage. The floor is cluttered with old tires and parts you’ll never be able to name. You hate doing things like this. The little errands. You hate interacting with strangers, especially the nice ones. The ones with names you know you’ll remember. Like this guy: he looks like he works here and he’s sitting beside you, telling you his life story, but he’s hard to understand because his words slur from some southern drawl. Johnny was from Maine and he didn’t talk.

The guy’s name is Ray and after ten minutes of listening, that’s all you really know. That and he’s got a wife. She went to Golden Sun Nursing Home so he can’t eat those sandwiches anymore. That’s what he says but you’re not sure what it means. What sandwiches? And why can’t he eat them? What’s wrong with his wife? Does she know his name or did she start calling him Charlie months ago? Charlie because that’s what you imagine her brother’s name to be. She confused her husband with her brother. You don’t even know her but this is what you do. You create lives for them even if you don’t want to. Johnny had one kid and a fetish for slasher flicks. His ex never knew about Olivia. He named his daughter Olivia. She was twelve when he died in the motorcycle accident and you cut out his liver on your second day in class.

You took the one with no name because you thought he’d be quiet, because you thought this time you could dissect something that wouldn’t reveal a story, that didn’t ooze photographs and handmade quilts and days spent filing for divorce. You wish you could stop, it’s a problem, a misfiring in your brain. The counselor called it something you can’t remember now. What you can remember is the day Olivia was born, before the nasty settlements and custody battles. Johnny pressed his face against the glass, peering in at the little thing swaddled in a pink blanket. Everything then was bright and hopeful.