We live in an old Victorian home. The home’s old bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, etc have been quartered off to form apartments. The entrance of the home is as it was back in its hey day – a carpeted foyer leading to a long, winding up staircase with sturdy white banisters. In front of the staircase is a wooden drawing table, under a gilt-framed mirror. There is a basket on the table. That is where all of the residents of the building receive their mail.
I’ve been rifling through this basket for the past two weeks, looking for anything sent to me. In doing so, I can’t help but learn the names of my neighbors. There are about 10 of us as far as I can tell; a mix of Polish, me, and Irish. Such lovely, lyrical Irish names there are, the surnames starting with “O”s, the given names sprinkled with double consonants, strings of vowels, and unfamiliar dipthongs like”mh” and “bh”. I want to say them out loud – names like poetry themselves – but worry that if I do, I’ll pronounce them badly and be laughed at by Sean or, worse, be caught mumbling them like a prayer just as someone else comes to get their mail.
“Hi, is it Meadhbh at Number 10?” they might say. “I’m Seoirse at Number 11. I’ve been meaning to tell you that I like your morning music mix.”
The morning music coming from Number 10 would have been Celine Dion and James Blunt so there was no way I could possibly pretend to be Aoife. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I’m not her.”
“But you’re holding her ESB bill.”
“Oh, that. Ha ha. I thought it was mine. Darn dim lighting! Can’t see a thing.”
“Ah. Is it Aine at Number 8, then?”
“Er, no, I’m not.”
“Oh. Which one is it, then?”
“I’m … eh… Aoife at Number 15.”
“Aoife at Number 15?”
“And you thought Meadhbh’s ESB bill was yours?”
I’m Aoife – nice to meet you. But you can call me Snoopy.