By Kent Coloma © 2011
My favorite Beatles song is Norwegian Wood. I’d always liked it, but then I heard the song that one night at the UCLA party where we ran into Mike Fortner quite unexpectedly. His name isn’t really Mike. It’s David. His older sister was there too, and I can’t remember her name for some reason, even though she was one of those older girls that was always very sexy and memorable and unattainable, because girls never date their younger brother’s friends in the same way Victoria’s Secret models don’t date regular humans. Hers was and old fashioned name, 1920s or so, but she was calling herself something different that night at UCLA, something more feminine.
It’s weird I can’t remember her name. That’s one skill I have, though it wasn’t always so. I’d meet people and wouldn’t listen or I was drunk or I just didn’t care what their parents called ‘em. Now I’m really good and like to call people by name when I know they’ve forgotten mine, which is a dickish little move, but if I could change they could too. My parents named me “Edward,” but nobody ever calls me that, except bill collectors who call on the phone. They think they’re being clever sometimes and say, “Hey, is Eddie home?” but nobody ever calls me that, either. Marlo, from “The Wire,” says “My name is my name!” He’s lucky that way.
“Sorry,” I say when the credit card people call. “He doesn’t live here anymore.” It’s a short-term solution. ”No, I don’t have a forwarding address.” Sometimes, I tell them there might be an Edward or an Ed or a Ted or a Neddy, but I’m not sure since the number they have reached belongs to a commune of sorts, lots of people hanging around, coming and going, lots of people without names or with made-up names. I live alone and drink Jameson with one ice cube.
John, Paul, George and Ringo. Always in that order. First name basis. Hierarchical ranking. We had climbed into an upstairs room via the roof, via the window and Norwegian Wood was just starting to play. “I once had a girl or should I say she once had me.” There were speakers mounted in the four corners of the room and I fell into a beanbag. Mike Fortner. Here! We called him “Mike” because a high school English teacher mistakenly called him that more than once. It was an easy class, independent study mostly, and we sat in the back and sang Simon and Garfunkel songs or went to the cafeteria for chocolate milk and sugar cookies.
I once asked my mother if I could change my name to Jesus.
I used to quiz my friends and they all wanted to change their name at one point in their youth. I have a stage name now. It’s not Jesus. The usual Hollywood pseudonym. My friends and I used to intentionally mispronounce “pseudo,” like “suede-oh,” for our own amusement. I call them Don and Brett. Always in that order. Scott wasn’t there that night, the night we were really high and listened to Norwegian Wood in a strange room you entered via a window, but if he was there, I would have said Don, Brett and Scott.
There are names you can’t use anymore for your children. O.J. Adolph. Yoko. Judas.
Norwegian Wood was originally called This Bird Has Flown, which is what John Lennon ultimately decided to use as a sub-title. He wrote the song about a brief affair he once had and tried to make the lyrics as opaque as possible so his wife wouldn’t know. I closed my eyes and the song massaged me from the four speakers mounted in the corner of the room. The older Fortner sister—I remember the younger sister’s name, Catherine—poked her head in and saw us all laying about and shook her head as she closed the door.
I was in a play once and my name was Joel in the play. I’ve always liked that name. It’s strong and close to ‘Joe’ which is a good name, a common name that people recognize and you don’t have to say it four times for them to get it. But it’s “Joel” and different and every time I meet someone with that name, I envy them, even though the play was terrible. I thought I was okay in it, but my phone isn’t ringing much these days, except for outsourced operators calling for Edward, so I guess not.
After the song was over we weren’t really sure what to do and we didn’t do anything, except maybe smoke another joint, until later when that guy from Don’s dorm got too familiar with some girl and she had her boyfriend come on over to wipe the smirk of the guy’s face with his elbow first and then his fist. We kind of stepped in to stop it, but not really because the guy from Don’s dorm spit when he talked and couldn’t hold his liquor, so when he got thrown out of the party we walked the other direction.
When I was little, my Mom’s friend asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, “Famous.” Oh, you want to be rich and famous, she said, and I said no, just famous and I practiced signing my autograph, which is full of flourish and decidedly feminine in a loopy, non-angular sort of way. I write it still, sometimes, when I’m drinking Jameson with one ice cube and I call you on the phone to see how you’ve been.
Kent Coloma is a writer from just outside of Los Angeles, CA.