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My Name

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For an English assignment in which we had to compile photos to go alongside a vignette that we wrote about our names.

My vignette is as follows:

In Italian, my name means “mine.” It means simple, short. It means Not. Strong. Enough. It is like a disappointed whisper. An almost black shade of blue. Angry fingers plucking on a double bass string. My name doesn’t belong to me – it sounds like I belong to someone else. “You’re mine, Mia.”

My parents didn’t name me after anyone. The story goes that it got stuck in my mother’s head, repeating over and over like a helpless rubber duckie slamming against the wall of a merciless wave pool on full blast. Now it slams into the walls of my mind, reminding me of how short I must be.

But when I think of the name Mimi, I hear the coos of a swaddled newborn. The soft landing of a monarch butterfly on a blossom, neither ostentatious nor plain, but alluring, nonetheless. The flutter of pale pink ribbons weaving through silky French braids.

Mimi would be a jazz singer in a Prohibition speakeasy; the kind of girl who I must have envied in a past life. The kind of girl who could pull off a slinky dress with rows of swaying beads, and kohl around her eyes. The kind of girl who is no one’s backup on stage. A femme fatale, captured only in a faded sepia photograph that rests on my grandmother’s marble vanity.

When I was smaller, strangers would pronounce Mia wrong and call out “Maya.” It’s not that I don’t like that name, but it’s not my name, and other kids used to taunt me for it and I never understood why. But it made me feel unsafe – out of control, caught up in a whirlwind someone else conjured to send me spinning to the ground. So before my thirteenth birthday, I turned the other cheek and moved to another district, where I left Mia behind and became Mimi. But I never went back to Mia because I was afraid of that name and I don’t want to be afraid of myself any more. I just want to be like the sanguine girl from the speakeasy. I just want to be Mimi.


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