Picture this totally boring scene: I’m standing in a long line at the campus bookstore my freshman year of college, waiting to sell back some of my textbooks. There is some conversation going on in front of me (I remember someone explaining that they were on “double secret probation”) (I know) and I’m eavesdropping because I have no choice. Suddenly I hear someone say, Hey, Reyna! And as I turn to look at this stranger, I feel an actual shock as I realize that he is actually talking to someone else in the line. Why do I remember this moment vividly, so vividly that I can even recall the line from “Animal House” that was referenced seconds before? Because it is the only time this has ever happened to me. Think about it. This was the only time in my entire life where I heard my name being called and the person calling it was not talking to me.
It’s not like I never knew people with my name before. There’s always someone telling me that they know someone named Reyna (I’m spelling it the way I do, but no one ever does) and I know I met at least one briefly. It’s not such an unusual name, but it’s unusual enough that I am never randomly with someone else who happens to have the same name as me.
Except that once actually I was, but I didn’t even know it. There is a biodynamic farm not too far from where I live (and where, for a time, my ex-husband worked in the bakery). The real draw of this farm, as far as my kids were concerned, were the cows and pigs (Let’s go see the cows and pigs, I used to say, on a day when I really needed something to do with my girls, and also wanted delicious yogurt from the farm store). On the particular day I’m remembering, I was only with my older daughter, as her sister had not been born yet, but already the ritual of the cows and pigs was a regular part of our lives. When we went over to the stalls where the calves were kept, there was a woman there about my age with a little girl, about the age of my daughter.
As often happens with parents and young children, we started talking to each other, while we were also talking to our kids about the calves. As I recall, the mother looked a bit like Catherine Keener, which I have to say would make me like someone instantly. And so I did. But she turned out to be really cool and interesting anyway, and we kept a nice conversation going for a while, until finally she left for the farm store and my daughter and I stayed a bit longer to look at the calves.
Eventually it was time to buy the yogurt and those delicious apple turnover thingies that they made in the farm store. When I entered the store, I ran into my friend Kate and she said, “Oh, were you just at the cows and pigs?” I told her was. And she said, “Did you meet Reyna?” Turns out the cool Catherine Keener-looking woman who I had so enjoyed talking to was also named Reyna! (Probably not the same spelling, but still!) But we had never mentioned our names. And sadly, I never saw her again. As I recall, she lived a lot further south, but came up to the area to take a music class with her daughter and I think that’s how Kate knew her. And then the music class ended and she never came back.
I have thought of this often: the fact that I was once enjoying a conversation with a total stranger and that at some point one of us might have said something like, I’m Reyna, by the way. And the other one of us, realizing something kind of amazing was happening, would have said, What? What did you say?? Instead, this remarkable opportunity passed us by. I never got to have a friend with the same name as me, which is, I guess, not the worst thing in the world. In fact, that always seemed strange to me, talking to someone with the same name, but I think when you have a particularly popular name you just get used to knowing lots of people with the same name. Not me, though. And really, it’s just that missed opportunity that I think of when I think of that day (and seeing Catherine Keener in a movie will often bring it back). How funny that we never even bothered to introduce ourselves.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that something like this will never happen to me again. I mean, jeez, only once in my life did I ever hear my name being called out when the person calling it was not calling me. But I’m not really sorry about that. I like being the only Reyna I know, even though, as with most people, I don’t exactly identify with my name. But if I hear someone calling it, I’m going to turn around. And chances are, that person will be calling me.