tfw is a mini personal essay series I’m try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings and experiences we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?
“Kyle,” a co-worker says. “Did you send that email?” Your ears bend to the voice and you try to remember which email is being asked about. You check a few tabs and some notes: you have no idea what’s being asked. You look up, a sweat forming on the brow, and go to speak but realize that said co-worker was continuing the conversation, with another Kyle entirely. You go back to work.
“Welcome to the show, Kyle,” you hear. You look around. No one is speaking except a television. “Kyle, now,” the talk continues. No one is speaking in the room. “Thank you, Kyle,” the television says. You turn the television off.
“Kyle?” a barista calls. You look over. You just ordered. That can’t be yours. You walk up and ask. “Is that a tea for Kyle?” The barista looks confused. “Oh: I said ‘Miles,'” the barista smiles and turns their head to the crowd. “Order for Miles.” They look back to you. “I’m sure your order will be out shortly. We’ll call your name.”
“Send me the Kyle,” you hear in the library. You turn around. Who said that? Send who where? You start to pull yourself out of your chair but can’t find who was speaking so you resume staring at your computer. “Where’s the Kyle?” That’s a weird way of saying that. You take out your ear buds and poke your head around the space. “There’s the file,” a librarian says. They put some papers in a folder and file them away. You sit back down and turn your music up louder.
“I love your Kyle,” you hear at a party. Your boyfriend is standing next to you. Who would say that? You aren’t an accessory. Odd. “Such a cool Kyle,” you hear later. You like the way that sounds but that’s still a bit odd. You turn away from your conversation to find two people petting what each other is wearing. “Where did you get this shirt?” a woman asks, massaging a top. “I just love the style.” You turn back to your conversation.
Someone says “Claw Hill” but you hear your name.
Someone says “Cable” but you hear your name.
Someone says “Kale” but you hear your name.
Are you going deaf? Are you sonically challenged? You’re constantly deciphering sounds—I’ll, Trial, Missi Pyle—parsing homonyms from your name. There’s a constant stream of sounds and mumbling voices and, in the tangle of things, you hear your name. You laugh at your dog trying to parse similar noises for his name until you find yourself in public doing the same, trying to understand if someone is saying “Kyle” or “Crocodile.”
Maybe everyone is saying your name. Maybe this is the subplot on an upcoming episode of the show you star in, the accessory to your Truman Syndrome. Maybe you are in demand and you don’t know it, your name being a cultural currency unto itself.
Or maybe you just need to listen closer and watch, as the namers will come to you. Or maybe respond to everything, embracing the mania of sound confusion like a modern Samuel. Perhaps you have the sound equivalent of a lisp, where words spread apart until they rearrange themselves as your name?
Maybe you just need to listen closer. Maybe that’s it.