Mrs. Goldshep walked down the aisles of the fourth-grade classroom, handing out the test forms to each kid that she passed. "Remember, you need to put your full, real name on these. Even if everyone calls you 'Tommy,' you still need to put Thomas. I'm going to come by and check because this is very important." She would start the speech over again a few seconds after she finished.
I couldn't help but feel that she aimed her repetition at me, at least in part. Earlier on in the year, I began insisting that everyone call me "Michael." It was easy enough for Mrs. Goldshep to catch on, but the other kids in the class had known me as "Joseph" and "Joey" for the past couple grades. Whenever anyone had the nerve to call me by my old name, I refused to acknowledge them until they corrected their oh-so-heinous mistake.
She didn't have to worry about me, though: I understood a full week earlier, the first time she told us. "Blah blah blah … standardized test … blah blah blah … real name … blah blah blah … very important for records." Got it.
When my test sheet slid onto my desk, I filled out the name fields as directed:
First/Given Name: Joseph
Middle Initial: E
Last/Family Name: Wilkinson III
I figured that it would be important to note that I was "the third" and not senior or junior. If not, it at least made it easier for me to stomach putting my legal name in the fields.
Mrs. Goldshep finished passing out the tests and came to my desk. She looked down at the name fields and said, "How many times did I say you needed to put your full, real name on this test?"
I thought she was asking for a numerical answer that I didn't have. "A lot."
"Do you think that might mean that it's important?"
"Then why did you write in 'E' for your middle initial? Your middle name is 'Michael.' Are you really so stupid that you don't even know your own middle name?"
Everyone was looking at me, staring at me, laughing at me. I wanted to tell Mrs. Goldshep that she was wrong, that my middle name was 'Edwin,' not 'Michael.' I wanted to tell her that I wouldn't have chosen the name 'Michael' if it was any part of my legal name. I wanted to tell her that my legal name was all the proof that I needed that God hated me: why else would he make me the son of a pedophile? I wanted to scream it all in her face. But more, I wanted to curl up in a dark corner away from everyone's laughter and pointing.
Instead, I erased the 'E' and wrote 'M.' As she walked back to her desk, I thought, "I hope you get hit by a truck." It was the most violent thought I could remember having toward anyone up to that point, and I still don't know why it was so specific.
From behind her desk, she told the class to begin the test. Mine was the only name she had checked.