Margo Rife ~ To Name and be Named 

There exists a deeply root­ed need to name and to be named. Since ancient times, humans have felt com­pelled to name things. At age three, I named my stuffed tiger Sheetha. At five, I named my black-haired doll with amber eyes Diarrhea. Not know­ing it’s mean­ing, I thought it a love­ly sound­ing name, but the neigh­bor­hood girls stopped play­ing with me.

When I dropped out of col­lege, I bought a gray rusty Honda Civic that I named The Velveteen Rabbit. I cried when it died and had to be towed away. A man on a motor­cy­cle pulled up, dried my tears, and offered me a ride. I named him Dare because he was ready to take on any­thing. We decid­ed to take on mar­riage and then par­ent­hood. I gave birth to a baby boy and we bap­tized him with two Jewish names. On Jonah Adam’s sev­enth birth­day, he and Dare both died when the motor­cy­cle hit a sandy patch and then a cypress tree.

According to the ancients, to tame some­thing you must name it. I named my pain Dolores. She only spoke in her native lan­guage, but I was a quick learn­er. Living in the Hollywood Hills, I lis­tened to her anguish rise on the Santa Anna winds. Lamentar la per­di­da. Lament the loss. Dolores and I cried into the hills, but she remained untamed.

I read a book The Name of the Wind where wiz­ards call the wind by name and it trans­ports them to a mag­i­cal place. Every night I called a name from atop my Hollywood Hills. I start­ed with Mariah—the wind is not called Mariah.

I became a writer to ban­ish my pain. My favorite part was nam­ing my char­ac­ters: Lyla, Jerome, Maggie, Mrs. Hoppy, Kara, Rupert. I nev­er fin­ished one sto­ry, but I picked per­fect names and it brought healing.

Like Adam in Genesis 2:20, I gave names to all the birds of the sky, and all the wild ani­mals includ­ing the fer­al cats. While I pet­ted the kit­ten Catarina, the wind came call­ing again, but I didn’t try to name it. Instead, it called my name. “Clarissa.” The “s” was slight­ly hissed. I looked down the canyon and saw Dare. I fol­lowed the fer­al cats as they ran to greet him.


Margo Rife is a play­wright, fic­tion writer and pod­cast­er. She prefers small word count so is drawn to mono­logues, micro/flash, and novel­las-in-flash. Her short dra­mat­ic writ­ing has been staged in NYC, NC and Chicago.  Her fic­tion work has been pub­lished by Outré Review, Blink Ink, Idle Ink, The Wrong Coat Anthology, Trembling with Fear and else­where. Margo’s novel­la-in-flash Snowbirds was devel­oped in a Meg Pokrass Workshop. The pod­cast she edits is pro­duced at the LaGrange Library. Twitter: @rife_margo