b r a n d i    w e l l s

from A Study on Jeremies


My name was Jeremy but my parents changed it when I was seven. They said it was a mistake. Did they mean me, did they mean I was the mistake, my body a mistake, a thing not formed as intended? Intention is everything. My body a thing that ran away, that took off with itself, perhaps in love with itself, but they told me to be shamed, to hide the body, to force the body into shapes it could not hold. I would hold my body and hold it and still it would not yield. My flesh is unyielding. They said they never named me Jeremy. Here they lacked intention. They lacked responsibility, accountability. But they had shame. They kept their shame in baskets. It overflowed and there were more baskets. They heaped it up out back and threw a tarp over it. Two tarps, ten tarps, tarps taped together and expansive. It became a collage. I hated that it was there. I hated that I knew it was there and they knew I knew. They didn't let me play out there. They told me to stay inside, told me there were giant unsafe holes in the backyard that I might fall into, it was not safe for someone my shape. My shape. Did they feel safe? Was I an object of safety? Wasn't I large? Wasn't I growing? Wasn't I everything? Weren't they nothing? Weren't they small and feeble and struggling and terrified? Weren't they shaking, weren't their bodies exhausted from incessant trembling? They said they got home and my name wasn't Jeremy, but later they got a copy of the birth certificate and saw that Jeremy was my legal name. My mother said it was funny at first and they figured, why bother changing it, so they started calling me Jeremy, just to try it out, to see how it felt. It went on for years. I remember being Jeremy, remember teachers or daycare providers calling out my name. I remember raising my hand and calling out, here! But my mother said being Jeremy became too much of a hassle. People always shouting. People asking questions. The things you have to do with a Jeremy. She shook her head. I wasn't Jeremy after a while she said.

But I don't remember that part. I don't remember anything bad from being a Jeremy. You aren't really a Jeremy, my parents tell me, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure if they can just decide I'm not after I had a document that said I was. I can't say I'm twelve feet tall and be taller. My legs don't respond to this. My bones don't grow and muscle doesn't twine around the bone and propel me toward the sky. Saying a thing doesn't make it so.


I told a lover about my accidental and reversed naming. I didn't say how my body used to be or how it might be now. Jeremy, I told her. Spelled exactly like that, I said. I told my lover the story and my lover didn't say anything. My lover clothed her body, covering herself. She hid the way her body worked so I couldn't measure her body by my honest body. She didn't cover only her body that day. It was more. It was something I can't explain. After that we were lovers for a while, but there was a space between us. I wanted to wrap my hands around this space but I couldn't. I couldn't touch the space. I couldn't lay my hand on it. I touched what I could of her, what was physical, what could be shaped under my hands, but it wasn't really anything, and always she cringed before she settled into my touch, even if I touched her slowly. Even if I crept my body at her. Even if I told her, I am going to touch you now, and slowly. Sometimes I approached with my hands behind my back and she would kiss me softly. But this lover couldn't be made to talk about it. The space grew if I mentioned it. The lover cringed more, cringed harder, cringed down the hall and out the door, cringed into the street, cringed on the phone, cringed in texts and emails. I cannot think this lover's name without a certain pang. A name can have this effect on a person. She was the last lover I attempted, because her loss struck me so.



BRANDI WELLS is the author of This Boring Apocalypse (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and Please Don't Be Upset (Tiny Hardcore Press). Her writing appears in Denver Quarterly, Mid-American Review, Sycamore Review, Paper Darts, Chicago Review and other journals. She is pursuing her PhD in creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California and has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama.

in issue sixteen

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