Monday, January 18, 2010

my friend Bill

Like the former U.S. president, Harry S. Truman, my friend William B. McKechnie's middle initial didn't stand for anything. It was just a middle initial. "Rich people," he told me on several occasions when I expressed my incredulousness, "can afford middle names. We never could."

Bill's father and grandfather had had the same name, so Bill was actually "William B. McKechnie III," a moniker with a well-heeled ring despite any lack of loose change.

Truth to tell, I never did quite believe Bill, which may have said more about me than it did about him. But since we were good friends and since he's now dead, I find myself forced to take his words to the bank ... as gospel.

An integral part of what seems to have meaning (his name) had no meaning whatsoever. Interesting. Tantalizing. And a minor matter: Bill was just my friend.

Maybe all language -- all names -- is a luxury item ... reserved for the safe and secure, the ones who have time to imagine and distance and elevate.

Buddhists say "enlightenment," Christians say "God," Muslims say "Mohamed" ... the luxury items of their persuasions. Anyone might go to great lengths to shore up what they take seriously, to swath their 'middle initials' in brocade when all the time ...

Bill was just my friend.

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