First and Middle Name

He came in earlier than expected. I wasn't ready. I welcomed his early visit with a stupid half smile. We looked at each other for a few moments before risk uttering a word that would make us uncomfortable after that silence. His tall, full frame didn't match the thin face on the photograph on the website of the Ourinhos Plastic Surgery Association. Still, he had that same smile—ah, that crooked persuasive smile—trying to convince everybody that beauty is everything.

“The white shoes...” he finally said, looking at a certain spot on my left eyebrow. I waited for him to finish his comment, but the rest of it never came. There was only that silence and my silly smile.

“That's why they call me Jacinto!” I tried, clumsily. He already knew my story by heart. I had repeated it several times by email, chat, and text messages sent at the end of the day. “I learned with time.”

“You've learned that wearing and tearing the soles of your shoes is an art that doesn't require only good shoes, but specifically white shoes.”

“How does it go then? Have you already learned my answer when someone asks me about the white shoes?” Actually, I wasn't surprised by the fact that he had memorized my weird ways, since I had already emailed him about it so many times.

“I assume that you can't take it anymore when people talk about your shoes or call you Jacinto, right?”

“Actually, I got used to the nickname. They all call me Jacinto now. Nobody knows my real name.”

“Our name.”

Yeah, we had the exact same name: Reynaldo Augusto Costa. By the way, the fact that we shared the same name was the very reason why he was coming into my apartment for the first time, looking at some spot on my eyebrows, and mentioning my white shows.

§§§

One thing is certain: We all have secrets. No matter how small, there's always a secret there, very close to what forces us to say, “How are you doing?” every time we greet each other. There must always be a secret in disguise, poking at our fingertips. I was also nursing my secret, which definitely didn't make me any different from anyone else. However, I must admit that the consequences of my innocent secret almost compromised my sanity.

At first, it was just a thing. Only a few of my friends call me by name. I was only known as Jacinto because of the white shoes that made my feet feel comfortable and carried my smooth walk. I was nicknamed after Jacinto Figueira Jr., the guy that used to have that show called “The Man in White Shoes.” Then it was shortened to “Jacinto,” and everybody started calling me that. Maybe that is why I felt the need to have an Internet login using my real name. Maybe that is also why I got used to googling “Reynaldo Augusto Costa” every day.

Every night, at 8:47 pm, I would type my full name on the Google search bar. It's an unusual name, especially with the combination of first and middle name: Reynaldo Augusto. I would only find it on the sites I used to visit, as well as on the list of results for the exams I took while aspiring for a position in a public office, or when someone had collected my signature for some cause when I was in a hurry. Those were my own footsteps. That was what I was really tracking. I never got tired of googling myself. Sometimes I would use quotes, other times I would leave them out, or I'd only use the initials. The different combinations turned me into that vast universe of possibilities. My research would go on into the night and I wouldn't get tired of it.

Well, it's true that the following day I could barely wake up to go to work, but I was worth more present than the name that only a few were aware of. Few, very few people knew me by those three names that would come together as I typed it. Every night, I'd find myself and lose myself in the Google results page after chicken-pecking on the keyboard. Reynaldo Augusto Costa—oh, how much I liked logging in. That was me, in binary code. That was me, my own name. That was me before I was born. It actually became an addiction, something to do well into the night.

That early morning, however, I really got lost when I found a site that didn't have much about me. It was a website about plastic surgery. It was the site for the Ourinhos Plastic Surgery Association, something I had never heard of. At first, I thought the site was strange, but it had come up as the result of a search using my name in quotes. I typed my full name in quotes again, hoping that the page had been found because of something I mistyped, but that was not the case. Among the search results, that site was the one shining the brightest. It's almost as if it were taunting me. I visited the site and saw my full name, Reynaldo Augusto Costa, as the caption of a picture of a plastic surgeon. Actually, the face of the skinny doctor was all that I could see.

He looked thirty-five, at most. Small dark eyes under two bushy eyebrows, framed by the thick black rim of his glasses, which were supported by a parrot nose—both the eyes and the nose were disproportionate to the thin face. He didn't have a well-balanced face, but smiled a persuasive smile, as if he were trying to convince those who saw him that beauty was everything. I studied the site the entire night. I clicked every link it had to offer. I went through all possible addresses, but ended up going back to the doctor's picture over twenty times—I confess I stopped counting after the twentieth time. The last few times I looked at the picture, the surgeon started to look less ugly to me. Actually, he looked handsome and the face went well with the three names that defined him. I became obsessed by it: Going back to the picture, seeing the beauty in it, associating it with my name. I, he, we. Before I was born. The beginning of my end.

§§§

When someone says “Have a good day” to me, I hold on to that greeting as if it were a sincere wish. A promise. A forecast for how my day will be. How lucky of me! Good, this way I always thank them from the bottom of my heart for these wishes that repeats themselves every morning, even though people barely comprehend the dimension of my thanking them and just rush past me uttering a quick, “You're welcome.” When I was leaving for work that day, I held on so eagerly to the automatic “Good morning” from a neighbor that I frightened him to the point that he stopped the elevator on the next floor.

“This is not the ground floor... This is the ninth floor,” I tried to tell him, but the neighbor didn't answer me. Only his good-morning wishes and I remained in the elevator.

That would be a good day indeed, I was certain of that. I had woken up in good spirits. Besides, he had accepted my friend request on Facebook. I had sent him so many emails, all in vain, but then he finally accepted my invitation. He didn't know we shared the same name, since I had invited him using my Jacinto profile. Nor was he aware of my obsession, about the times I had called his office by mistake, and all those late nights I googled him, spying him over the Internet. No, he didn't  know of any of it. I wasn't even aware of myself anymore. I couldn't recognize myself in me.

On that same day, holding on to my neighbor's “Goog morning,” I logged into Facebook from my office and came out to him as his namesake. That was the right moment. I couldn't keep the secret in any longer. I needed to free myself from that which was consuming me and mixing things up inside so passionately. However, when I got to my office, I had a surprise. A man named Reynaldo Augusto had come looking for me very early in the day.

“He just called you again. I didn't know your name was Reynaldo! I always thought your name was Jacinto,” the secretary repeated, handing me a piece of paper with his number scribbled down, along with his first and middle name, which were just like mine.

I took a deep breath, dialed the eight digits, and waited.

“Hello?”

“Hi, my name is Reynaldo Augusto.” It had been such a long time since I had spoken my two names in public, I gasped out of satisfaction. “I was told you called looking for me here at the office.”

...

“Hello?”

“Sorry. It's sort of a long story... In a nutshell, I've received a letter from a store there in São Paulo about a check that bounced. I barely go to São Paulo and thought it was a funny thing, to say the least... Then I found out there was another Reynaldo Augusto Costa who lives in São Paulo. I also found out where he worked. I called twice already. It was funny that they took some time to know it was you. They thought your name was Jacinto.

“Go figure! Such a different name and there are two of us, with the same name. Jacinto is my nickname.”

“How come?”

“Everybody knows me here by my nickname: Jacinto.”

“Funny...” everything seemed funny to him. He spoke with a deep voice and pregnant pauses, trying to make something funny sound strange, almost a tragedy.

Bit by bit, we introduced ourselves and went past the subject of having the same name. Later, I would tell him about the Facebook request and the friendship that would come out of that phone call. We went on writing to each other by email, chatting online, and sending text messages to each other at the end of the day. Until, one day, we finally agreed to have him visit me at my apartment as soon as he came to São Paulo.

On the agreed date, I cleaned up the apartment and got ready. I even put on some cologne. The clock showed 6:50 pm. He would arrive in less than two hours. I anxiously waited for him, looking at his picture on the Internet. That pair of dark eyes and the half-smile. They were enough to persuade me that beauty was a necessary evil.

VERA ROSI was born in Ourinhos City, State of São Paulo, on April 1st, 1976. She is a writer and journalist, has a Master's in Literature and Literary Criticism and a PhD in Communications and Semiotics, both with the Pontifical Campinas University (PUC). 

She has written for the Portal Cronópios as well as Língua Portuguesa and Zunái magazines. She is the author of “Mind the Gap,” published by Editora Patuá. 

To read more on her work, visit her blog Palimpsesto.


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