What happens when we go nameless

☑ a·non·y·mous \ə-ˈnä-nə-məs\

Not identified by name; of unknown name.
Having no outstanding, individual, or unusual features; unremarkable or impersonal.
Synonyms: nameless—unidentified—unnamed

☑ I am an organ donor. I became a donor in 2000. Over 120,000  people are currently in need of an organ transplant. Thousands die every year waiting for the perfect match. When I was thirteen, my father told me he was going to donate his body when he died. I asked him not to. I told him it would be weird if his heart was in someone else. He told me I would never even know what parts of him they used so it didn’t matter. And it doesn’t.

Phil Lesh, the bass player for the Grateful Dead, required a liver transplant in 1998 as a result of chronic hepatitis C. Since the transplant, he has performed a “donor rap” at every concert, urging concertgoers to let their friends and loved ones know they want to be an organ donor.

☑ Sometimes my sister has one-night stands. After she comes home between 4:30 AM and 6 AM, she groans, takes Tylenol, showers (sometimes), and goes to work. I text her later when I know her headache has subsided.

Me: Who were u w last night?

Sister: I dnt knw.

☑ I don’t know his name. I remember a quilt. It had a white border. It had squares. Yarn. Hard yarn. It must have been washed. A lot. It scratched against my cheek. It smelled like gasoline. I remember thinking it must have been in his trunk. I imagined it burning. Burning with me in it. His palm was against my other cheek. His middle finger pushed into my right eye socket. I don’t remember that hurting. He was heavy. The hospital counted my bruises and wrote it on a chart. I don’t remember the number, but I’d like to think there were just seven. Seven is my favorite number. The biggest bruise was just above my collarbone. That was the first place he made contact. Knocking the air out of me. I named that bruise Altarf, after the brightest star in the constellation Cancer. My friends laughed when they visited me in the hospital. I remember being upset that they didn’t ask what the name meant. For once, I didn’t want to tell them what it was; I wanted them to ask. But they didn’t. I understand now why they wouldn’t, but at the time, I probably would have healed sooner if they had just asked me.

☑ “The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive) robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life. In a sense, they took away the individual’s own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one. His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never really existed.” —Hannah Arendt

☑ In 2003, my first husband was arrested for vandalism, possession of burglary tools, possession of a graffiti instrument, and (he was also carrying cocaine) intent to sell. He had just finished tagging the inside of a federal building. Although he used the tag Anonymous, he was booked under his born name.

☑ Did Shakespeare write the plays published under his name? The film Anonymous would like you to believe he didn’t. It would like you to accept that Shakespeare, the son of a glove maker, was an illiterate opportunist.

☑ The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, dedicated to service members whose remains are unable to be identified. The monument is protected at all times by an armed guard; every hour (twice an hour in summer), there is an elaborate changing of the guard ceremony. Currently, three teams of Tomb Guards work on a rotation—24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 96 hours off.

Go Ask Alice is a novel about a teenage girl who spirals into drug addiction. It is the first book that ever spoke to me. It was relatable, beautiful, and tragic. It also was a punch to the heart. The author was nameless. I had a new best friend, a new soul mate, a new favorite novelist, and I didn’t know her name. It was everyone and no one at the same second, and that scared me. It still does.

☑ On September 7, 1996, rapper Tupac Shakur was shot in a drive-by. Six days later, he died. The shooter has never been identified; perhaps there was more than one shooter. Tupac himself had several identities. Both personally and professionally, he struggled intensely with identity. He referred to himself as 2Pac as well as Makaveli. Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.” In interviews, Tupac stated that he was often inspired by the works of Shakespeare. He drew connections between the plots of Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet and his own tragedies, hardships, and familial pain. In act 4, scene 5 of Hamlet, Ophelia tells the king, “[W]e know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

☑ In tenth grade, Amy P. shoved my best friend, Tom, against a locker, held his throat, and screamed into his face that he was “nothing but a faggot.” I snuck out of my house at midnight and walked two miles to her dark, sleeping house. On her blue Datsun, by the keyhole on the trunk, I carved the word homophobe with a box cutter I found in my father’s toolshed. Within six months, it began to rust, and the b started to look more like an n. My friend Carie told me Amy lost her virginity to Lyle in the Homophone Mobile. Today, Amy is a single mom to four children. Carie was my second female sexual experience. Lyle is gay—always has been.

☑ The first known sightings of the hacker group began in 2003. It has been credited with attacking hate groups, those that cyberbully, as well as national governments. The group’s mascot is Guy Fawkes, a man who attempted to blow up the House of Lords in 1605. Their motto is, “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” In 2012, Time magazine asked readers to vote for the year’s most influential person. They chose Anonymous. The editors of Time, however, held their own vote, and in the final ranking, Anonymous was at # 36, far behind Tim Tebow, Rihanna, and Jeremy Lin.

☑ If I had to pick between Batman and Superman: Batman. No question.

☑ At the end of our second date, J. asked me to drive him to his AA meeting. I broke up with him not long after. J. was—I guess, is—gay, but he didn’t know it at the time. I had to tell him. He thanked me later. But on the way to AA that day, he asked me to pick up Paul, his friend and fellow alcoholic. A month later, Paul was living in a tent on my lawn. Thirteen years later, he is still one of my best friends though he is no longer sober. J. is still sober.

☑ N.N. stands for nomen nescio, meaning “name unknown.” From the Latin nomen, “name,” and nescio, “I do not know,” the phrase literally means “I do not know the name.”

☑ I have been sober for 5,302 days. I stopped going to meetings when I was twenty-two. At that point, I had been sober nearly five years. I was the youngest member in both the Tuesday night group at the Methodist Church of Livingston and the Friday night group in the Activities Room at the Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, New York.

☑ Common soldiers in the British Army are generically named Tommy Atkins or, often, just Tommy. German soldiers would call out to “Tommy” during battle to trick the British soldiers into revealing their locations. Kipling wrote a poem, “Tommy,” from the point of view of a Tommy Atkins. The speaker of the poem points out the way he’s disregarded by society until he’s needed for battle: “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’ / But it’s ‘Saviour of ’is country’ when the guns begin to shoot.” Tommy Atkins is also a variety of mango.

☑ The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was started in Tennessee in 1865 by six former Confederate soldiers. There are currently active chapters of the KKK in forty-one states, and an estimated five thousand to eight thousand members in all. The modern Ku Klux Klan has been classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Members typically wear white robes and hoods to hide their identities. Originally, the masks were intended to hide Klansmen’s identities from their victims; later, however, the KKK argued (successfully) in court that members marching in public need the masks because they fear harassment or punishment from those who don’t agree with their beliefs and actions. “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority,” the Supreme Court has ruled. “I swear to the Lord / I still can’t see / Why Democracy means / Everybody but me,” the poet Langston Hughes has written.

☑ Are you Jewish? Do you want to earn some cash? Become an anonymous egg donor.

Private Search for Jewish Egg Donor — Up to $15,000
A loving professional couple struggling with the heartache of infertility is in search of a Jewish woman interested in becoming an anonymous egg donor. I am carrying out this search as a professional third party (not the recipient or an agency), so both egg donor and recipient’s privacy will be guaranteed.

The couple is hoping to find a Jewish woman between the ages of 20-28 who is warm, responsible, healthy, non-smoking, and attending college or a college graduate. The donation will take place at a highly reputable fertility clinic located on the East Coast.

Compensation up to $15,000 will be offered to the right donor. If you feel you may be a match please contact me at XXXX. All inquiries will receive a response. My clients thank you from the bottom of their hearts for considering

☑ Googling the word anonymous brings back 60 million results.

Googling anonymous + definition brings back 84.1 million results.

Googling anonymous + definition + Merriam Webster dictionary brings back 157 thousand results. (Heck yes, Google, I’m figuring you out!)

Googling the word earthworms brings back 1.15 million results. (I got bored with anonymous.)

☑ In middle school, my friend Suzanne and I would get high late at night and sneak the cordless phone into my room. These were the days before caller ID, before *69, before cell phones. Well, I’m certain there were cell phones, but they were something I had only ever seen a doctor have. We just had pagers, if we had anything. And by “we,” I don’t mean me. I never had a pager. I didn’t even get a cell phone until I was twenty-five. Anyway, Suzanne and I would prank call people. Depending on our mood, when someone picked up, we asked how their day was or if they needed a bedtime story to get to sleep. Sometimes, we would make orgasm noises or demand to know why the person had called us. It was incredibly gratifying, silly, and harmless. They didn’t know us; we didn’t know them. Win. I moved out of my parents’ house when I was seventeen. I left a few months after my father died. Within days, my mother began receiving prank calls. It happened almost every night: around 9 PM, someone would call and breathe heavily into the phone. Occasionally, the person would clear his (or her?) throat or sigh, but my mother, during my many collect calls home, told me the caller never spoke to her. My mother, who was fragile at the time, having lost both her mate and daughter in a six-month period, believed that this caller was my father. After about three weeks of getting the phone calls, she began to tell me, “Your father called last night.” I stopped calling her to check in not long after that. I didn’t want to hear her say it anymore. I came home for Thanksgiving about six months later, and after she and I ate alone, in silence, she told me the calls had stopped and she was glad for that; it meant he was finally able to let her go.

About the Author

Jacqueline Kirkpatrick

Jacqueline Kirkpatrick lives in Albany, New York. Her work has appeared in Nailed, South85 Journal, and Burningword. She is also an editor at Pine Hills Review.

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