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although my name was never carl and throughout my youth i never believed it to be so, when i heard some middle-aged woman implore "carl" to be present to her side i couldn't refrain from turning my head. i caught her eye and she said, "there you are, dear. the kids are getting restless and the store's about to close. let's head home." and so i walked towards the woman, three children in tow, and led them towards the exit, and all the while a silent protest of "but my name's not carl" floated just out of the reach of my mouth.

"i forgot where we parked."

she remembered and took me to the dark green cadillac.

"not feeling well tonight."

and she drove us home and the kids were quiet just like good little boys and girls should be. rain slipped off the glass that separated me from the outside. i imagined tracing my real name in the steam our breathing had created but i couldn't even recall what it was. the night was turning into a drunken maid's orgy and the two-story house we pulled into offered much relief to my scattered mind.

climbed the stairs, went to sleep.

at work the next morning, they all insisted on calling me carl. i didn't know what to say. so i said nothing.

i'm trapped in some stranger's life, though held only by vocal restraints. not resisting the temptation to tell them i'm not this carl, not this father, husband, co-worker would ruin them all. i do it for their sake--i remain silent and sane.

when i die someday, i pray only that they put my correct name on the gravestone. then perhaps carl won't be so frightened of his reality and he'll come back to take my vacant space, his rightful place.

perhaps i should have never stopped when i heard someone holler, "carl," but kept walking on, a misnomer for eternity.

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