The Naming of Alejandro Puelma

(This is thanks to my husband, Alejandro, for leaving his name in the comments section below!)

“Boy, come with me,” says your father, his hand outstretched like you’re still eight. You put your violin down, slip off your bed, and ignore his hand. Walk in front of him, leading the way like you’re thirty and not thirteen. Like you’ve been leading him for years. Because you have.

Down the hallway, the candlelight flickers as you pass. The gait of your father is slow, shuffled. It only makes you stand taller; walk stronger. Grow older. Like you hold the power to. In a way, you do. When your father abandoned the family for years, you took his place. You filled his shoes. You. Mom was inconsolable, forcing you to grow older. At ten, you became a man. And you’ve never forgotten that day.

Cold. Dark. In the early morning, voices stir you awake. In the stillness of your bedroom, you overhear father and mom yelling. Then a door slamming. And your mom crying. From that moment forward, when you stepped inside her room, and stroked her shaking back, you were never the same.

Today, then, is just a formality. Your Naming ceremony, unlike so many who have gone before you, compares nothing to the reality of days before. The Reader may define you, but you’ve already defined yourself. Still, you walk towards her. Sit in the living room, where only five other faces stare back at you–your mom, father, brother, grandmother, and cousin. The Reader, hunched, wrinkled, and gaunt, circles you at first, eyes avoiding your glances. Until, they lock with yours.

She reaches into a small pouch around her waist, producing a quill and piece of parchment, and for a few breathless seconds, lets the quill tip swim across the paper. Ink forms letters you can’t yet see. You almost don’t need to see. Confidence of who you are seeps through you.

Finally, she holds out the parchment. No one yet, not even the Reader knows what your Naming has revealed. Until you grasp the paper in your hands. You breathe deep; stare directly into your mom’s eyes.

Then speak.

“Alejandro Puelma. Defender.

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