Author's Note: due to personal beliefs i do not capitalize my name or the pronoun 'i'. i am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. Enjoy.

My Better 'Less Sad' Name

i share my name with:

  • 1 novel about a power hungry fiancé
  • 6 different saints
  • 3 Shakespearean characters
  • 1 pope (now dead)
  • the soviet designer of rocket engines
  • 1 store that sells radar detectors
  • and a holiday

As it turns out, valentine is a very common name.

That’s ok. i should know. i picked it myself. valentine, val, valentine. It just rolls off your tongue. valentine, val, val, valentine. The name is minty green with a red streak at the bottom flecked with white that barely touches the surface like tiny snowflakes. It’s dainty. Important. Courageous. A name to be proud of.

Apparently it is supposed to be pronounced va-lawn-TEEN. However that sounds too French, too rich, too much for a little girl in the suburbs with three parents, three cats, and a snake. i pronounce it like VAL-ən-tien. Yes, that’s better. Unfortunately, it’s only pronounced that way for men, apparently. That’s also ok. i’ve never been any good at following directions.

People love to say that valentine isn’t my real name just because i choose it myself. i beg to differ. My name is just as real as anyone else’s. In fact there are quite a few names that are far less real than mine. There is a girl in North Carolina that legally renamed herself to Cutout i am just a little confused as to why.

i’m not sure that my parents understand that i need this name, the one i chose myself, because the name that they gave is too old and fussy and sad. The name that they gave me makes me sad like some yarn in the rain, or the woman that spends all her time in the hospital because she is convinced she has an illness or something else that’s terrible. That’s why i need a new one. i don’t want to live with a name that makes me sad.

i like my name. i hope you like it too.

Number 472 That’s a Nice Place i Swear

i live in an old victorian, full of nooks and crannies, so old that during winter, all the cold comes in. It is always cold, cold, cold.

The house is number 472, which i never could remember when i was young. i’ve lived here since i was a kid. i’ve been here longer than the upstairs neighbors, the downstairs neighbors, and the landlords. My family has always been here, my family, my ma and me. We live in the slave’s quarters. “Indentured servants,” my ma calls them. “It’s not nice to call them slaves.” i think she minds because her family was indentured servants too. i think she minds because she wants me to know that we were still one tier above slavery. Not that it matters now. That was a long time ago.

It’s a nice place to live, i swear, big yard (that the landlord owns), chickens (that the landlord owns), green barn (that the landlord owns), and the woods. The woods that aren’t technically ours or the landlord’s or anyone's, but that’s ok. No one checks back there for anything. No one checks back there at all. There’s a stream that flows to the Assabet. It makes for good swimming in the summer, but once during winter, the winter that i lost it, the winter where i didn’t want to be alone anymore, i walked into the forest, slowly, as to not disturb the snow, and slowly i removed my coat, my boots, my hat, and scarf, and gloves, and sat down in the stream. The stream that is good swimming in the summer. The stream in the forest behind the house that is always so cold, so cold. The stream in the forest where no one checks at all.

There’s Nothing Wrong With You

“There’s nothing wrong with you.” The more i hear that the more i begin to think that there is something wrong with me. No one wants to tell the crazy kid that they’re whacked. When i showed up at the hospital drunk off of my own pain i heard that probably a thousand times. That there was nothing wrong with me. But there was something wrong with me, that’s pretty evident, because people don’t have to leave school to go to the hospital in the middle of class because they are convinced that they aren’t safe and that they are scared and that they haven’t slept in days because when they sleep it’s nothing but nightmares and they haven’t been eating and they can’t stop shaking. I’m pretty sure that that person has something wrong with them. That person is me and i’m so tired. i want to go home. Let me go home.

Commandment #9 and Plastic Eggs

There’s those displays for Easter at the drug marts. They cram all the bunnies and Easter eggs and chocolate candies between the foot cream and decongestants and nail clippers. As a little kid it's like walking to a whole new store coated in pastels and cardboard cutouts. Even the older people that work there don't look so sad. It’s hard to be sad when it’s Easter. During one particular Easter when i was about five i was so joyful skipping down the aisles of colorful eggs and toys singing a made-up song about how Jesus was coming back. In religious education we had been learning about Easter and i hadn't really gotten my head around the idea that the son of God wasn't like the Easter Bunny and showed up every year.

As i was skipping around, i saw it. A plastic egg. Better than all the other eggs. A beautiful robin's egg blue color, and i wanted it. My dad was a few aisles to my right and i knew even then that he hated junk. He hated things with no purpose. He wouldn’t have liked that egg. So i did what any reasonable five year old would do and slowly slipped the egg into one of the pockets my pink Easter dress. Unfortunately i wasn’t smart enough to realize that it made quite a sizable bump in my dress pocket. However, my dad did notice when we were approaching the man that was going to bag up dad’s prescription. He looked down at me and i knew he was so disappointed. He shook his head and reached down into the pocket of my pretty Easter dress and handed my pretty Easter egg over to the cashier. i knew i had done something wrong, because he said, “Would you put this back? I don't know where she got it.” He didn't sound angry but i could feel the angry on him like a thick fog. i was scared.

When we got back to the car he was very quiet. He was deathly still until we entered the house. Deathly Still. He knelt down and held me by the shoulders and told me never to do anything like that again. Then he said it louder and louder still and he wouldn’t stop being louder and louder and louder and louder and louder and louder and it was too long and too loud and my ears begin to hurt and i begin to cry and i was so scared because i was small and couldn't understand how a tiny Easter egg could cause so much trouble.

Loving Yourself Is The Greatest Revenge Of All

Imagine, after all of this has past val by, she is okay. Sitting on an ugly green couch by the window thinking about nothing in particular. She is okay. You can see her doze off, but not because she didn’t sleep last night like all those nights now long ago, instead she sleeps simply because she can. She loves herself and loves her hair and her clothes and fat rolls. She is happy. She is happy with the mediocre life she lives because someone’s mediocre is another person's dream, and even though she lives in an apartment and sleeps on a cot and has no definite goals, she is happy because she knows that everything, even the tiny apartment, the run down honda in the driveway, the pile of dishes in the sink, and the unfinished novel on her desktop, is worth living for.

Thank you for reading my short collection of vignettes. i plan on writing more in the future, and continuing this story. Have a wonderful day.

Created By
val mlcak


Created with images by danielrmccarthy - "Hospital bed #1"

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