What is a good “N” word that is easy to decipher as the “N” word, y’know when you’re spelling it out for someone on the phone?
I don’t know if anyone else has ever suffered from this, but I always get flummoxed when it comes to the “N” word.
Due to the social conditioning and heft embodied in the “N word,” I can’t help but think of the actual “N word” whenever I’m trying to come up with a word that is easy for the party on the other line to discern.
I had an incident today, where I was in the middle of spelling out a word, and I was like, “‘N’ as in… ” and I thought of Nigeria, and I loathed myself for being so predictable. Then I thought of “nail,” which sounded too close to “mail,” and thus accomplished nothing to distinguish an “N” word from an “M” word.
And then I thought of “Nordstrom,” which was like gah… ’cause in my OCD mind, I wanted to come up with a non-name of something. “Norway” and “Nagasaki” occurred to me as well. And then I thought of “nonstop,” but figured I could do better… ugh… then I came up with “naked,” which was also a loaded word… god I hate myself…
Finally the party on hold was like, “Nancy.”
The phone call ended shortly thereafter, but I still felt hung up by this n-ignmatic conundrum, plunging me into a rabbit hole that ended with “Nintendo,” “Ninja Turtle,” and “nothing.” The phonetic alphabet also ascribes “November.”
It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this. I get asked this more than anything else, but it never gets easier.
I try not to show it, my anxiety, as I say, “All of my life.”
“Well, let me tell you this much,” she says with a look of surprise, before winking, “I don’t detect any accent.”
This too, I’m told all the time. Somewhere between the relief and paranoia, I mutter my thanks.
That’s what her license plate says, but in all caps.
Everybody has a pet name and hers is maus.
I never ask her about her german pet name, even though it’s on her license plate. I’d rather not go there. Things are hyped up as it is. There’s no need to galvanize any more energy to the fact by probing into something as privy as a pet name. With anybody else, it would mean nothing, but it’s different with sky, because she dresses in stockings and miniskirts in the snow.
“In other words,” I go, “she’s unparagoned.”
And my dentist goes, “She sounds high-maintenance.”
“Anyway,” I go, “she’s married.”
And my dentist goes, “Her husband must be exhausted.”
We embrace goodbye, before I hand her the bag of Ketchup Garden, and she gets inside her car. The headlights flash and the window rolls down, and sky goes, “If I don’t hear back from you by christmas, then merry christmas.”
“And if I don’t hear back from you by christmas,” I go, “then merry christmas.”
And she pulls ahead, turning away her license plate, pixelating into the night.