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You know, for most of my life I had been pronouncing my last name wrong. Odd, isn’t it? I suppose it would have been if my father had, just once, taken 10 seconds to sit me down and help me enunciate I wouldn’t be writing this right now. But so is life. None of us get perfect parents.
Some less than others.
In high school, I told my mother I wanted to change my last name. She looked at me and just shook her head in sadness and told me I could do that if I wanted when I turned 18. I used to think it was because she thought I was just spouting my usual teenage angst and that, eventually, I would change my mind. But in retrospect, I think she reacted that way because she was sad that she had put her son in a position of wanting to do everything he could to distance himself from his sociopathic monster of a father.
My mother apologized countless times over the years for putting me in the position I was in. For allowing him into my life. For not giving me the childhood she believed I deserved. But what’s funny is that, despite all the sexual and emotional abuse, I still look back on my childhood as one of the greatest times of my life.
As you can see, I never changed my name. I turned 18 and my friends would ask why I didn’t make good on my promise and I would shrug and say that life got busy and I didn’t know how to go about it - but the truth is, as I got older I realized I never wanted to change it.
Changing my last name would have simply been a symbolic gesture. A childish act of saying, “No, fuck YOU. See, I never loved you anyway, you jerk.” And I could do that just fine with my writing. But see, I wanted to keep it as a permanent reminder. So I could walk around with the scar. Every time I sign a credit card. Every time I had my license to a door man. Every time I stuff one of my books into an envelope. And every speaking I have ever finished with, “My name is Christopher Gutierrez, and you are free to leave.” I say it and it reminds me of the life I lived despite the name and legacy that awful man left to me.
Because I am not him.
So I will use the only thing he gave me and prove to the word that I am not.