Short story performed as a duologue at a Bar Wotever spoken word night in 2013.
You should never have a name that starts with a O. You’re just asking for people to moan. Take my mum, she’ll go ‘Ohhh-zan, what’d you do that for?’ or ‘Ohhhh-zan why don’t you pick up after yourself?’ Fucks sakes. I want a name that no one can be disrespecting, and one that looks wicked when you graf it somewhere.
Writing Ozanne on the desk looks like you’re trying to cheat on your French homework. I’m not French, not even a quarter, but it’s my mum’s favourite cuisine and she was this a French kick back in the 90s – probably trying to impress my dad so’s he’d stay. Imagine the midwife, me in her arms, turning to him and saying ‘C’est Francais, how sophisticated’ even though I’d be all screaming and covered in blood and shit. Well it didn’t work. He left. And here I am stuck with this butters name.
I’d sit there in class writing my name on my rough workbook again and again, experimenting with different types of bubble writing. I’d cross hatch a section of each letter to make them look squeaky like balloons and dangle the string to the corners. Or I’d do a ye olde font, one you’d see in a castle, and I’d do shadowing with my metallic pen to make it look like armour. But it still looked shit.
I tried doing my name like a logo. I thought about being called Oz and writing the z all small and sunken like the symbol for Oxygen. But then James Masters saw it said ‘what, is your family so poor even your draft workbook is sponsored by a phone company?’ James Masters is a dick and I told him to go fuck himself but out came the Tipp Ex anyway. Now it looks like my workbook has AIDS.
I kept thinking it’s because of that fucking letter O that my workbook had crusty circles on it. The Z I didn’t mind so much. Even with a layer of white daubed over it and cracking, like Chantelle Blackwood’s foundation, I liked the look of it. A swoosh and a tick. All fast and slick like a new pair of trainers. And the more I stared the more I thought Z might just be my favourite letter ever. The rest are shit though. And like mum says, if something’s shit: get rid. You’re better off. But I’ll keep the Z. I got my best Sharpie out and squeaked the letters in the last bits of blue cover space: Z-e-d, Z-e-d, and the pen squeaked yes. And I thought that’s it. Z. A new name.
Zed is late for his session again. A full thirty minutes. At least he’s bothered to arrive at all, unlike my other appointments this morning. Still, in their absence I went on the milk run, treated myself to a scratchcard and won a tenner. Guess it really is easier to win the lottery than get a teenager out of bed before noon.
We enter the Yellow Room and sit on the tired blue sofas. The scratchy fabric sticks to my tights and seems determined to ladder them. It’s freezing in here but Zed sits with his hoodie up in our sessions whatever the weather so doesn’t seem to notice. Thankfully the clinic is full of kid’s paintings in brightly coloured frames, which warms the room a little. Without them the whole building would just be quiet corridors constantly interrupted by the slamming of badly fitted doors.
The majority of the pictures are handprints, colourful shapes, houses with dogs outside, what you’d usually expect when a local primary gets their kids to paint pictures for a charitable cause. But the one in this room is a swirl of letters that looks like the word twat. I wonder if anyone else has noticed it. I wonder if Zed has noticed it. He avoids my eyes and fixes on it every session.
We talk about how things have been going since we last met. I say we talk, it’s more that I probe and he gives a range of one word responses and grunts until I hit a nerve. How are you today? Silence. How’re things at home? Shrug. How’s school going? Shit. He’s annoyed because a few of the teachers are refusing to call him Zed. As a result he’s refusing to attend. I’ve already written to Mr Reynolds, who seems to single him out in particular, asking that he respect his wishes and refer to him as Zed and use he/his/him. I’ve explained that it’s important people who are exploring or transitioning their gender identity have support from professionals involved in their care as they’re pretty much open to abuse from all other corners. Still we’re hit with this ‘legally we’re obliged to call her Ozanne, it’s on the birth certificate’ nonsense. Or worse ‘if it’s born female, it should use the female changing rooms.’ Any old saying bandied about to excuse prejudice. It makes my blood boil. I may actually have to go down there and arrange a training day for the lot of them. Which means spending hours tinkering with bloody Powerpoint. I hate Powerpoint with a passion. All its corporate backgrounds and its swooshing animations. Just because the words “Workstation Safety Plus!” are moving does not make them more interesting. Unless of course they’re written in Comic Sans.
Now names that begin with a V, they’re something else. Next to a Z, a V is my favourite letter in the alphabet. I mean, they’re pretty similar if you tilt your head to the left. I love the noise my pen makes as it writes a V: down up, down up, t-ick t-ick. All positive and shit. Like when your homework comes back and you got everything right, there’s red Vs break-dancing all over it to celebrate, or a team of red ninjas high kicking the shit out of my GCSEs.
Lately I have been tagging Vs all over my draft workbook. Yeah I’m back in school. Kirsten, my therapist, went up the school and taught Mr Reynolds and them others to ‘low that Zed shit. In your face Mr Reynolds. Your grey, speccy, face and your brown Oxfam shirts. He’s a blatant paedo, swear down.
In maths we’ve started studying complex equations. And I keep thinking about all them letters adding, subtracting and multiplying with each other. A Z plus a V where V equals Vicky. Yeah, her name is Vicky. She’s well fit. We met at the LGBT youth group where Kirsten referred me. Sometimes when she’s bored during the meeting bit she draws her name on her jeans with a biro and puts a heart as the dot of the i. But that’s a girls tag. I like to draw her name with a arrow pointing off the top and a tail coming off the bottom like a dragon. Then I put a star where the dot of the i should be.
Last week I took my rough workbook out of my bag to show her but my face went all hot and I got shook. This week I’m going to sneak into the girls’ loos and graffiti the hand dryer. That way, whichever toilet she uses she’ll have to see it.
I have just returned from annual leave to a mess. A big family crisis of a mess. Whilst I was happily tanning myself on the golden beaches of the Costa del Sol, Zed was sneaking girls into his mum’s house and, it seems, forgetting to lock the door.
Mum has been on the phone to me four times this morning threatening to put him into care. So when I finally grab the first coffee of the day and sit down to an inbox stuffed with emails from concerned colleagues, the phone rings again. It transpires that Ms Reid is less irate at Zed’s ‘messing around with girls’ and more distressed that ‘she’s gone and shaved off all her lovely hair’.
While I was applying suntan in creamy squiggles, Zed was in a Peckham hair shop opting for a grade two cut, emblazoned with large swooshing lines. And according to mum the lines aren’t a random embellishment, if only, they’re the letters of the sequestered girl’s name. Fancy having ‘Vicky’ plastered all over your head. Though the more I think about it, it’s quite romantic really. Once I’m finally off the phone and mum is suitably placated – yes they can attend an emergency appointment this afternoon – I look down at a Post-It note I’ve been doodling on throughout the conversation. It has Vs and Zs sparking all over it, the i’s all dotted with hearts.