This once happened to me:
A senior in college, I was in Bailey-Howe library at UVM, “working” on a paper on Moby Dick. Yes, I was an English major but no, I had not exactly READ Moby Dick. I don’t think that anyone, with the possible exception of my mother, actually READS Moby Dick. I read the sparknotes. I thought about the symbolism. I got an A on the paper. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I sat in the library, staring at my computer, my notebooks open and balancing in the tiny space of table that was serving as my desk, my cell phone rang. I breathed a sigh of relief for the solid distraction from writing that this might provide. Who could it be? My boyfriend? No, no. The number was “Restricted,” and I whispered “fuck THIS” – I was immediately sure that it was the damn Red Cross again. They’d been calling me daily ever since I gave blood earlier in the semester. Giving blood had been alright (free crackers, some time to lay down), but for the whole week afterwards I’d felt exhausted, as if someone had LITERALLY drained a pint of blood from my body, so I definitely wasn’t planning to ever do it again.
(this was around the time when I was taking pictures of myself and posting them on facebook, because I thought that was something that was ok to do. Here is one which represents my feelings about the Red Cross).
As such, I’d been ignoring the calls. But on this particular day, I decided the time had come to stand up for myself.
“Hello,” I answered, short and annoyed.
“Um, Jahna?” came a tentative voice.
Now, I’m used to people mispronouncing my name, and generally I’m a real pushover about it. Such as:
“Hi, I’m Jana.”
“You got it!”
(What follows is a relationship built on this lie, culminating in the day, months later, when someone else addresses me correctly in the presence of this new friend, and I have to admit in a really high-pitched voice “no yeah, she’s right, it’s Jana, but it’s really not a big deal!” The new friend then feels like an idiot for having called me Jane this whole time, AND loses all respect for me for having let them. FOOLPROOF).
However, on this particular day, the combination of my frustration with Herman Melville and my general anger at the Red Cross for bein such a dick pushed me over the edge. “It’s Jana,” I nearly yelled. “JANA. Just like Anna, but with a J.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. This is Emily, your mother’s friend, she asked me to call you to discuss a career in publishing…”
AHHHHH. WHAAAT. Ok. I panicked. I backpedaled. I spoke really fast.
“Oh, my god, hi! I’m so sorry I was so rude. I thought that you were the Red Cross.”
“Not that the Red Cross is bad, of course I support the Red Cross, it’s just that they call me a lot.”
“Anyway, I’d love to hear about your career?”
To her credit, Emily managed to stumble through a few minutes of career-related talk, but I’m pretty sure I failed to impress her.
Meanwhile, I still get calls from the Red Cross.
Catherine: At some point we will need to share a good 99% of the pictures Jana used to take of herself. I recall stumbling upon like, 500 on her computer one day and being EXTREMELY taken aback. I didn’t understand why they were taken and why, once taken, they had not immediately been erased. I’m grateful for the one shown in this post for its value it sharing truly how intense and special Jana used to (and sort of continues to) be.
I suppose this is also as good a time as any to mention that the first time I met Jana, I pronounced her name “John-uh”, like a girl from school growing up who was the only other person I’d ever seen with the name. I pronounced her name incorrectly for months, I believe, before SOMEONE ELSE told me I was saying it wrong. That’s just how close we were and how terrified she was of me.