The Naming

The Naming

November 07, 2022 1 Comment

The Naming

by Sarah Damoff

 

 

 

When I hear about Adam naming the beasts, I chew my fingernails down to stubs. Sea sponge. Naming’s the job of parent or scientist—those who hold those without language. Trilobite. I’m not a namer; I’m a woman who lost my life. Part of it, anyway. Senior year of high school is black as a closed mouth. Jellyfish. Maryann rings my doorbell with her elbow, a casserole dish in oven-mitt hands. Word must’ve spread that my stepdad died. Bear. I peel a thank-you from my tongue but say people shouldn’t go to trouble—he was old and sick and ready. Mama and I were with him at the end. That’s good, Maryann says. Yes good, I nod. Tortoise. When he was still lucid, we made offerings of love and memory: the trip to the coast and when I beat him in chess and how Buddy returned to us after two days gone. Vulture. He reminded me about my Honda maintenance, and I said don’t worry, you taught me well. Mama and I took his last days in shifts. Snail. After language left him, I asked questions: Why didn’t you help with my misplaced year? How come dread zipped up my thighs when my college boyfriend used your shampoo? Why did I reflexively kick at the gynecologist from inside my papery gown? Emu. Did any of the first beasts resist their names? Did Adam grow weary of his endless task? Did lazy, wrong names get doled out? After the man and woman left the garden for the desert, did they have a lover’s spat over what to name a camel? I put Maryann’s slightly burnt casserole in my freezer and drive the Honda out to his grave. Horse. It’s a humble headstone: Scott Maynard, and dates. The only father I knew. I sit cross-legged and rake my fingers through the fresh swell of dirt. Gnat. No earthly idea, he said, why ya can’t remember senior year. Mama shrugged. Straight A’s, they said, memories with friends. Scott bought me the Honda and named it a good year and that, clearly, was that. Elephant. You should forget about it, were his words. I obviously have, were mine. Albatross. He said I didn’t need to see some hokey hundred-buck-an-hour therapist, so I didn’t. I should have, though—I can’t let men close (not that I told him that). It’s the whisper-thin dread in the thighs. Lion. I lose Scott incrementally: scent, laugh, eye color. His drift runs parallel with my memory gain: prom, college acceptance letters, Christmas break. I pry that year open like the jaw of a corpse, and I do not stop until darkness eats me. Mammoth. What of the beasts yet to be named? Tiger. I visit the cemetery every year on Scott’s birthday. The ninth year, I bring no flower and a breathing memory. Owl. I am old now, or old enough anyway. The gray sky hovers close as sin, thunder rolling like the clearing of its throat. I’ve found my memory and lost my mind. Wolf. I bend to trace his stone-etched name with animal hands. Rain begins to lash us. It’s the wrong name, I tell him, straightening out my spine, it wasn’t a good year and you knew it. Snake. I speak it barefoot on an underground of a thousand ears. Rape. There are times when a beast needs a woman to name it. 

 

 

 

 

 

_______________  

Portrait of Sarah Damoff

Sarah Damoff has written for Open Global Rights; contributed to A War on My Body (DiAngelo Publications, 2022); and co-authored The Gospel Advent Book (Lucid Books, 2018). Her debut novel, The Bright Letters, is forthcoming (She Writes Press, 2024).



1 Response

Elise Tegegne
Elise Tegegne

November 17, 2022

Brilliantly done—this gave me chills. Thank you.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up. We don't allow comments that are disrespectful or personally attack our blog writers.


Also in The Waking

On the Endangered List
On the Endangered List

November 04, 2022 1 Comment

Still, she remembers cradling that tiger of a beetle in their sunny, grassy backyard as the sounds of her parents arguing drove through the kitchen windows. She never saw such an insect again.

Read More

Go
Go

September 26, 2022

His idea is for the train to go into the hills and slow in the woods, and for the boy who’s been lost in the woods to see it, board it, and for the train to go full steam ahead back to town to reunite the boy with his lonely and shaken father.

Read More

On the River Trail
On the River Trail

September 23, 2022

Cal and I never figured out a system for who would tuck in behind the other as we approached other cyclists, always fumbled at the last minute with our brakes squealing and gears snagging, tires cutting zigzags across one another as we struggled for balance when moving so slowly, indecisively.

Read More