To Name Such a Thing
A Short Story by Scott Warfe
Written using the suggestion "Call one thing another’s name long enough, it will answer."
Originally featured on 12-15-2010
As part of our series "The Benefit of Doubt: Stories Written to Explore Domestic Violence and Abuse"

I’m not abusive, or anything. But, the other night, I just let my emotions get the better of me.

My girlfriend Lana had gone out to a party with two of the trashiest girls you could imagine: Clarisse and Stephanie. She promised to call and check in with me, but she didn’t. It was close to midnight, and I was just sitting in my room feeling like an idiot because I let her go out by herself. All I could think about was her grinding up on some college dude while Clarisse and Stephanie egged her on. Those two girls hated me, which was fine. I could give a fuck about them. I just didn’t want them to contaminate Lana. The thought of it all drove me insane. Once midnight rolled around, I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I told my mom that I was taking her car.

“Hey, mom, where are the keys?”

“Con, it is past midnight. What could you possibly need the keys for?”

“I just need the keys, mom.”

“For what, Con?”

“For god’s sake, mom. Just give me the keys goddamn already.”

“No, you’re not going out, not this late.”

I love my mother to death, and I would never want to hurt her. But, she was being so goddamn aggravating. She always knows just when to push my buttons.

“What do you fucking care, mom?” I shouted.

“Because I am your mother.”

“It is not like you ever gave a shit before. You can’t just start pretending that you’re some caring, mother Theresa type, you know. It doesn’t work that way.”

When I said it, I knew I didn’t really mean it, but she was just staring at me with this bankrupt look on her face that infuriated the hell out of me. I mean, I was already feeling depressed and everything. This was only making it worse. She was just trying to provoke me, and it was working. I don’t know what happened next, but I guess I figured I’d give her what she was asking for. If she wasn’t going to give me her keys, I was going to take them from her. So, I did. The thing is I immediately regretted it because I felt like my goddamn father. I hate that feeling.

I haven’t seen or spoken to my father in seven years. The last time I saw him was in the rear view mirror of my grandfather’s truck. I watched as my father did nothing, just stare at the car with a look on his face that said “I could give a fuck.” I haven’t heard from him since, unless you count the time he sent me a birthday gift: a nice gesture and all, except for the fact that it wasn’t my birthday.

The real goddamn horrible part is that I was named after him. I don’t let anybody call me by that name. Most people call me Con, short for Connor. But, sometimes they let “Connor” slip. It’s like salt in an open wound.

I’m not a monster, or anything. It was probably just the tension that had been building up since I had found some guy’s number in Lana’s purse. She said that it was just some old guy that was stalking her in the grocery store and that it had been in her purse since before I had met her. Either way, I thought she couldn’t just be taking numbers from random guys. That is exactly the kind of stuff that Clarisse and Stephanie did. And, I don’t want people thinking that my girlfriend is a slut, at least not while she is with me.

So, when she didn’t call that night, I just went crazy. I couldn’t believe that she thought so little of our relationship to throw it away by hanging around with the two loosest girls at our school, that she could have thought so little of me to humiliate me at a party I couldn’t go to. I just kept thinking about that dude’s number, about how maybe he wasn’t some old guy from the grocery store, and about how maybe he was some frat dude who just wants to fuck her so that he can brag about it all his friends. The more I thought about it, the more my skin crawled. I needed to go find her, to catch her in a lie, to make her feel what I was feeling.

“Give me the goddamn keys, mom.”

“Con, you are not going out.”

“Mom,” I shouted, “Give me those goddamn keys, or else.”

“Do not raise your voice to me, Con.”

“Then give me the fucking keys, or I swear to God.”

“Swear to God, what, Connor?” she asked. “What are you gonna do?”

The last time I heard her say that name I was ten years old. My father was in a drunken rage, screaming at her because I had broken my arm playing Spiderman in the kitchen.

“What did you call me?”

“Connor,” she replied. “That’s your name.”

At that point, it was no longer a name. It was an accusation that came out like gasps of air, as though saying it was knocking the wind out of her. I couldn’t believe she said it. I wasn’t my goddamn father, and I would never be him, not in a million years. The thought of it was suffocating.

“Don’t fucking call me that, mom. And, give me the goddamn keys already, or I am seriously going to take them from you.”

“Go ahead, Connor.”

The more she pushed the name from her lips, the more I felt pushed, the more I needed to get out of the house.

“If you want to, Connor, then go ahead,” she repeated.

I really don’t know what happened next. I had had enough. I just remember her lying on the ground, crying about what I had done. But, I don’t think it was that bad. I was just trying to get the keys, to get the fuck out of there. I mean, whatever happened wasn’t on purpose. It couldn’t have been. That is something my dad would have done. She was goddamn asking for it anyway.

While she was on the floor, she threw the keys at me. I took them and started to leave. When I got to the door, I heard her say something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget:

“Call one thing another's name long enough, it will answer.”

I asked her what that was supposed to mean, but she didn’t respond; she just looked at me like I was somebody else.

Read More By Scott Warfe

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