Long story short, I have a lot of time on my hands right now. I have been on a fair amount of tinder dates and the biggest take away is that people have the most amazing and interesting stories. I decided I would fabricate a character and weave parts of his story directly from stories of some of the men that I have met. Meet Abri, a fictional character, an ode to some of these men and their stories. I may continue these odes or this particular story, for now I am just following my mind where it leads me.
They named him Abri because he was born in the month of April and his father’s name is Abraham. Each of his siblings had names that were fashioned from the months they were born in and from one of the names of their parents. For example, his oldest sister Auphine was born in August and borrowed her ending from their mother’s name, Josephine. Then there was Marjo, whom was born in March and because his father always wanted another son but instead had a third daughter born in February she was named, Fabe, as his father often went by Abe.
Abri was the only son and with his father’s lengthy absences due to being a working musician that played bars and clubs wherever he could get a gig, he was often the only male presence in his home. A house in which he had to fight for, and tactfully plan for, optimal bathroom time. Marjo, who had just turned nineteen and was in her second semester of community college was often up and at the door promptly at 6:45 am. There were particular boys in college that Marjo was entertaining as potentional boos and she paid special attention to her eyebrows and painted eyeliner wings, a process which took time. Sometimes Abri would enter the bathroom for a long shower at 6:40 am if he was feeling rather combative or if she had angered him the night before. Nothing was sacred. He would emerge from the bathroom at 7:00 am feeling “so fresh and so clean, clean” and smug as all hell as he strolled past a pouting Marjo who would have to rush her makeup routine. Auphine on the other hand, being twenty years old and now having an adult job that started promptly at 8:30 am showered the night before and entered the bathroom around 7:30 to brush her teeth and smooth out her final details that she had arranged in her bedroom. Fabe was the youngest and at eight years old she still had to be pulled out bed by their mother.
Abri had entered into his sixteenth year and had finally started paying attention to all the styling tips his sisters had given him over the years. He didn’t make blatant rapid changes to his appearance but rather embarked on a gradual and slow evolution. First, he grew his hair out and got the thick black hair cut just so, with extra length on the top. This part of his Abri 2.0 plan took the longest but he was patient. After his hair was cut and he learned what ratio of pomade to hair to use, he started wearing cologne. Nothing too overpowering and only a light spray that he walked through and never sprayed directly on himself. He learned from his sisters complaining about men soaked in Axe body spray that a strong scent was a definite turn off and ill-advised for mating. He had a part time job over the summer and used his money to buy what his sisters called “timeless wardrobe staples” that could be layered and used in multiple “looks”. He was very deliberate and timed this so that he could walk back into school at the eleventh grade looking fresh as hell. Really the whole transition took six months and it wasn’t until the first day of school that his mom looked at him and told him how good he looked.
“How handsome my son is! My boy is all grown now. Remember, I didn’t raise you to be a heartbreaker. You be good to those girls out there Abri,” she said as she stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek.
He was still thinking about getting his ears pierced but his sisters often referred to these types as “fuckboys”. Abri asked himself every time he imagined getting his ears pierced, do I really want to be a fuckboy?
He was unsure of his answer.
Three years before this transition he was a puberty-entering-identity-crisis-in-real-time-mess and not capable of any of the changes he had been able to meticulously plan for himself. His name was Abri on paper because his mom had decided that all of their children would be named in the same manner. Abraham on the other hand, had always wanted to name his son Miles, after Miles Davis.
The story goes that when Abraham was a boy he fell in love with the music of Miles Davis. When he was a teenager he met, and was mentored by, a local musician who had met Miles Davis and inherited a pair of aquamarine coloured sunglasses from the jazz phenomenon. Mentored is a soft word, it was more like Abraham latched on to the man and milked him for every Miles story he had as if each word could bring him that much closer to holding some of the Miles magic himself. Eventually, the musician gave Abraham the pair of sunglasses after his first live performance. For years he wore the sunglasses at every performance he had until he retired them to keep them in good shape. The sunglasses exist in a box tucked away in his closet to this day. A family heirloom Abri has only seen and held once under the supervision of his father.
When he had a son and held him in his arms, he looked at Josephine who sat in the bed with a slick sheen of sweat across her forehead and said, “Miles will be his name”.
Josephine, who had already decided on a naming method would not be swayed and his birth certificate was filled out with the first name Abri. However, his father whom is just as stubborn over things he has decided are important refused to call the boy Abri. Abraham went as far as introducing his sisters to him as Miles, the new baby brother. Soon enough everyone called him Miles. The neighbours called him Miles, his grandmother he saw four times a year called him Miles and even his mom had resorted to calling him Miles.
On his first day of kindergarten he eagerly awaited his name to be called but did not hear it come out of the soft spoken teacher’s mouth.
“Abri?” she called, scanning the faces of the children.
Miles looked around for this kid named Abri who had the last name as him, but no one came forward.
“Abri?” this time she was looking directly at him.
“My name is Miles Johnson,” he said sheepishly as all the kids stared in his direction.
“No, it says here your name is Abri Johnson. Is your mom Josephine?”
Miles, or Abri, or whoever he was, nodded his head.
“Okay it is settled, your name is Abri in this classroom because it is what your documents said,” the teacher said and went on to talk about school etiquette.
Abri drowned her out and withdrew into himself, how could he not be Miles? If he thought he knew things about himself like the fact that he liked to eat his pizza backwards because the crust was his favourite part, or that his favourite colour was yellow, or his cat’s name was Jackson… then maybe he was all wrong? Maybe none of these things were true. Maybe that stuff was all true for Miles, but who was Abri and what did he like?
He was a boy transitioning. A boy in between names.
After finding out this unsettling fact in class and confronting his mother about it she began to call him Abri and the name Miles never crossed her lips again. It was as if Miles had vanished from the lips of his primary caretaker. Woosh. Gone. He would never hear her call him, Miles baby, ever again and this left an unfulfilled yearning in his heart that would follow him into adulthood. His dad however, still called him Miles. His sisters flip flopped between the names depending on their mood or the situation as if to summon different personalities and emotions from him. He was a boy who was summoned by his name and not before.
This resulted in a lot of anxiety that he kept bottled in for years until he started having panic attacks at the age of twelve. He couldn’t understand who he was or even what he was supposed to be. His mother and his father had very different expectations for the boy who inhabited each name. He felt he had to be much cooler and fearless as the boy named Miles. Abri on the other hand followed the rules and was respectful and maybe even a little timid.
When the anxiety started to rob Abri of his sleep and follow him to school, he found the spaces he was in began to wrap around him, constricting his movement and his breath. He would stay really, really still until the panic passed and he felt like he could move around the world again. One day at the library when he was riding out a panic attack he found a book on origami and checked it out as if the book would mask the real reason he was in the library.
Abri learned how to fold origami cranes and because of his small and deliberate hands, he was quite good at it right away. Instead of letting the panic paralyze his every movement he chose to make small and concise movements until the anxiety left the room and floated on to its next victim. He folded cranes in his bedroom, at the kitchen table, on the school bus, in class when the teacher wasn’t looking, and sometimes even in the bathroom stall. He kept every single crane he folded and within the span of a month he had a room filled with a thousand paper cranes.
With enough slow and delicate movements and spending time with himself, he decided it was time he only had one name and made the declaration at the dinner table surrounded by his family.
“Miles, pass me that chicken will ya?” his dad said.
“Abri,” he corrected his dad.
“What?” his dad said quizzically.
“Abri, my name is Abri. Call me by my name,” he said with the kind of resolve and confidence Miles would say it with. He braced for a fight but instead his dad threw his head back and laughed.
“Well would you listen to him, Josephine? Alright, Abri. Pass me that chicken,” his dad said.
And just like that, the years of agonizing over who he should be came to an abrupt ending over a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy. That night in bed, when he would normally fold six cranes straight, Abri crawled into his blankets and slept soundly beside the name that was always meant to be his. He had arrived to himself.