My Name

I don’t like the way my dad says my name.

Six letters. Two syllables, one falling right after the other. Unstressed. Stressed. Unstressed. Stressed.

When strangers get this simple rhythm wrong, putting the stress on the first syllable instead of on the second—I instinctively distrust them.

But my dad.

My dad.

He speaks my name like a rebuke, both syllables harsh in his mouth, like he is spitting them out, his voice an unnatural growl. Each part distinct, separate.

I don’t like the way my dad says my name.

Last year, something finally gave way. Overcome by pain, I tell my dad that I am hurt and I am angry. He writes back. He tells me that I am full of hate. That I am full of bitterness. That I am full of rage.

I understand his meaning: I am ugly, on the inside. He sees through me, sees past the pain to the ugliness at my core.

I hold this truth.

Until one day, I am at a trendy bar in downtown LA, and in the blue light of the fish tanks, I listen to the man I have been seeing for three months tell me how he feels about me. He says that I am his type and his type is a “beautiful mind.” I laugh.

But in his words, I hear more than just Russell Crowe and his room full of crazy. I hear the echo of my name. I think about the two syllables. Two Chinese characters. Together, they translate to “Beautiful Spirit.”

My dad. He named me. Before I was born.

He called me beautiful. Beautiful, on the inside.