What's in a Name?

By: Vic Kepner

The first name I was ever given
A symbol of my mother’s overbearing need to go her way or no way
Her way had no meaning
It was simply a name she thought was pretty
And pretty was more important than memorializing my dad’s time in the Army
It was always pretty insignificant to me
Other kids had names built from centuries of family history
Syllables carved out of their ancestors’ tongues
But I was just
Madeline was a girl who had been carved to perfection
Out of all her family’s imperfections
Who was built on a history of failure
And told she had no choice but to succeed
As the curses of her ancestors’ tongues tickled her feet
Madeline died at 11
When her older sister decided Earth wasn’t meant for her
And wanted to try out Heaven
Madeline then realized that there was no such thing as pretty
No way to carve happiness out of tragedies 
The name Madeline means tower
And boy, do towers make a big mess when they finally crumble
So at 13, she decided to start going by
The second name I was ever given
It represented one of my dad’s many attempts to create a legacy
He could be proud of
He wanted to name me after the V Corps.
An Army corps of which he was pretty high up in
That he was proud to serve
That was higher up on his list of things to protect
Than his first biological kid
I guess I was another corpse he left behind
Another civilian casualty in his War on Parenting
Another plane of the desert he left distraught and broken
Took all I had in the name of the United States
And called it a victory
My mother was another one of his five marital conquests
And I was his first victory
His first legacy
His first biological child
And when he felt like this war was getting boring
Too easy to win battles when his opponent was a child’s feelings
He placed biological warfare in my tear ducts
And basked in the glory of abandoning broken homes
All in the name of patriotism 
I learned very quickly this name was not for me
There’s no pleasure in being on the other side of a US Victory
So I turned fifteen, I began to go by 
Three letters were all I needed to get my point across
It was short just like me
And that one syllable word lets people know that 
I have things to do and places to be
Vic was a name given to me when I found my chosen family
When I finally chose who I wanted to be
It was the first time I was something more than my parents’ failed legacies
I was me.
Carved out of trauma through years of therapy
My therapist put on her helmet and took a war on depression
Bombing me with meds to balance the chemicals my brain couldn’t handle
She lashed out on my ancestors’ tongues
Whipping them away from the person I was meant to be.
Vic means conqueror.
And boy, am I conquering
Took the rubble from all my broken buildings
And made my own damn legacy
I am not my mother’s sketchy history
Nor am I one of my dad’s victories
I am the book of promises my ancestors hid decades hoping none of my rotten family members would find it
I am the new horizon my nieces and nephews will too when their present is getting too dark
I am the conqueror of my family’s bad luck
I am Vic.
And that’s enough.