“I hid a black hole underneath my tongue,
and let my name sit in it for so long,
I forgot to say it.”
An Egyptian girl I spoke to after jummah prayers today was fascinated by my name. A native Arabic speaker, she shared with me that my (real) name (when pronounced literally) is often interchangeable with najjah, which means saved, secure and yes, salvation.
I have warred with my name for as long as I can remember – that it’s spelled this way, but pronounced differently by the family (and what I recognize as my true and given name). To be honest, it just sounds so strange regardless how it is pronounced. I’ve argued and debated with other people even more, believe it or not, about my name. On so many occasions, I’ve had smart alecks come up to me and insist I am pronouncing it all wrong, that it is spelled this way and therefore it must be pronounced as such. How could I possibly be a Jane, because where in my name is there a Jane? Frankly, I will call myself a Stacy if I want to, dammit – why is this someone else’s problem?
She went on to give an example, trying to describe a scenario when my name is commonly put into practice. When one is in danger and calling for help, she explained, the word that is shouted aloud as a cry and plea – the word is my name. It is any form of it, she had said because the Arabic grammar or syllabus are supposedly interchangeable. They carry the same meaning, even if they’re pronounced differently.
I stayed silent for a second upon hearing that. If she is correct, then my name is basically akin to saying, “Save me.”
Exactly a week ago I wrote about wishing that salvation isn’t the meaning behind my name. I had wished, as I did over and over for so many years, that I hadn’t been branded and defined for life by something I never signed up for. Today I thought, it all makes sense. It is like it all makes sense now, the roles that I play – the whys and hows.
Maybe some things, truly, sincerely, deeply – one is born with; one does not become.
Maybe that’s just it; no secrets, ill intentions, and handicap. Maybe it is simply that I am meant to be my knight in shining armor. Maybe my parents knew it from the minute they first held me in their arms. Maybe the thought came about that first time they carried me and felt the sturdiness in my form. Maybe their firm grip on me had been my first exposure to what I now understand as security, and that has embedded itself within me, growing roots of its own so I can return it at times of need. Maybe they had exchanged looks with each other upon seeing my tiny form, possibly reddened face with a shock of black hair, and had said to each other knowingly, “This one knows to hold her own.”
Thank you for my name.
Disclaimer: This beautiful poetry is the work of the amazing Yasmin at rustyvoices.