One of my evil nieces sent me one of those evil e-cards for New Year's. I didn't bother to "open" it until just now, and as expected it was loud. It was a big smiley face with a party hat, and streamers all around. Very festive. And the first thing she wrote in the message was: "Did u find a girl friend if so whats here name?" She's nine and a half. She also demanded to know what I got for Christmas, of course. I didn't want to admit to the lump of coal (Santa has been reading my Metro op-eds, apparently) so I made something up.
I wrote her back:
"Thanks for the e-card. It sure was LOUD.
"You asked if I had found a girlfriend. Did someone tell you I had lost one? Usually you can go to the girlfriend lost-and-found, and if you have I.D. and can tell them what she looked like (approximately), they can find her in the back somewhere. They file them under hair color, I think. I've just been putting it off, I guess.
"My friend who is a psychologist told me that when someone asks you a question, usually they want you to ask them the same question back, so: did YOU find a girlfriend?..."
This particular niece has been obsessed with my finding a girlfriend since she was four, by the way. It's the first thing we ever had a serious discussion about, in fact. In those days it wasn't "have you found one," it was "where is she?" Like I had her bound and gagged in the trunk of my car.
I recall telling her then that my girlfriend had died in a terrible conflagration on the off-shore oil rig where we had met and consummated our love. But only after having suffered fourth degree burns over 98% of her body. Somehow, though she looked like a giant beggin-strip bacon-flavored dog treat (I mean, after the accident), her beautiful flaxen hair had survived the hellish flames with ne'er a single singed split-end. Oh, how I loved those tresses. I could lose myself forever in her braids.
But because it was the Evil Doctor Hybrid who had destroyed our little off-shore paradise, and I was the only one of the entire crew to escape unscathed, due to my Olympic-grade swimming skills, and my ability to speak dolphin, it was my duty to go after the Evil Doctor, exact my revenge, and save the world for Big Oil. I had to leave my forever love behind, alas, with only a lock of her flaxen hair and my memories of our passionate lovemaking under the stars in the middle of the gulf on our rig to sustain me.
My niece wanted to see the hair, of course.
Well, see, that's the thing, I told her. Later, when I caught up with him, Evil Doctor Hybrid nearly had me skinned, and I escaped with nothing but my skin. Sometimes you have to leave what you love behind.
What was her name? She wanted to know. Kids always ask those nettlesome questions you never expect.
Um, she was called... "She Who Has No Name," I told her. She was Indian, see. Native American, I mean. That's a translation. In her language it was, um, "Steve." But names are really irrelevant, aren't they? I mean, it's just something for people to call you, but what's in a name? We are all ultimately the great "I am," all unnameable, aren't we?
She agreed we were. And it's not like four year olds are easily convinced.
So anyway, she has been pestering me about it ever since.