The Man Who Shares Your Name: A Short Story

The sun was shining onto the glass buildings, even though it was after eight o’clock. My T-shirt stuck to my sweaty body. Uptight tourists in were inspecting me up and down, suspecting that I was going to jump them, or rape them, or both. 

It was just another typical Seattle summer night. 

Everyone around me had somewhere to go. Maybe it was to their hotels, to a hip new restaurant, or maybe to the airport, to escape this city.

But I had nowhere to go. I hadn’t had anywhere to go in years. 

Suddenly, my junky piece of metal known as a cell phone echoed from the bottom of my ragged tote bag. I had no clue that thing was even working.

I picked up without hesitation, even though I had no idea who was calling. I guess that’s the thing about having nothing: you don’t have anyone to worry about. 

“Tim.” A familiar voice greeted me. 

“Hey, Connor!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t talked to you for a few weeks now, how is everything?” 

“Janine’s in labor.”

I almost dropped my phone. “Wait, since when?”

“Like 25 minutes ago!” he exclaimed. “Come to the hospital!” 

“Yeah, yeah, of course!” I said with happiness. “I’ll be at the hospital in 20 minutes!”

“Alright, see you!”

“I can’t believe I’m going to be an uncle!” With that, I hung up. 

The formerly judgmental tourists were now grinning. I guess the miracle of life just does that to people.

I ran down the streets from excitement and fear of missing any moment of this occasion. 

I finally reached the Swedish Hospital and Medical Center. But when I saw people parking their cars, my excitement dissipated.

I did not like going to normal people places. I stayed in the homeless places: alleys, parks, and church shelters. Everything else seemed off limits.

I also remembered that day four years ago, when Connor found me in our living room, passed out from an overdose. It was during his third date with Janine, and they had taken me here to this hospital. 

After that near-death experience, Connor had drawn the line. He was tired of putting his life on hold to take me to the hospital and hide my ecstasy. He had banished me from his apartment and fired me from his law firm. My own brother had turned on me.

Since that incident, we hadn’t talked so much. When it got cold, he’d invite me to stay in his apartment, but I could always detect annoyance in his tone, as if he was being forced to, not that he wanted to.

Inside the large, modern lobby, there was an air of sadness and tension.

Children holding “Get Better, Mommy” signs mustered fake smiles. Nervous parents stood about, hoping their kid survived that car crash. Elderly people held bouquets of flowers, ready to savor their friendships before they had to relinquish them. 

There is a common saying among optimists and privileged people: “it could be worse.” 

I never found truth in that saying, because I had always had it the worst. But as I listened to the tears and whispers in the lobby, I started to understand what that phrase really meant.

I eventually made it to the hospital room. Connor was grasping Janine’s hand when I walked in.

“Hey, Tim,” he greeted me. “Thanks for coming.”

“Anytime!” I replied with excitement. “I want to see my nephew as soon as he pops out!”

“Gross,” my brother said with a sigh. “Even though you’re 26, you have the sense of humor of a 16 year old.”

“It’s the weed talking,” I said honestly, watching him and Janine exchange awkward glances.

As the night passed by, the baby was still not out. But Janine was in pain, so that had to mean something.

At around 2 a.m. I got bored, so I made my way to the 24-hour hospital gift shop. 

While I was there, I noticed the most adorable stuffed dog. I checked the price tag, which read $15.

All of the sudden, I was faced with a dilemma. Should I spend the money on the E pills I was supposed to pick up the next day, or the toy for my nephew?

In that moment, I felt a catharsis within me. I was going to be an uncle. I was going to be an influence for a little boy. I couldn’t be a junkie and an influence simultaneously.

I brought the stuffed dog up to the cashier and put my damp fives on the desk. I knew that this moment was the end of my twisted life. 

Right when I reached the room, I saw Connor’s familiar, anxious expression. 

“The baby’s coming!” he exclaimed as he struggled to put on his scrubs. 

My heart began to beat with excitement.

At 2:37 in the morning, my nephew, Timothy Matthew Denney, came into this world.

“Connor.” I approached my brother. “You named the baby after me.”

“Yeah.” A smile appeared on his tired face.

That was all I needed to know that he forgave me. 

After the baby was cleaned up, I was able to see him and hold him.

He was beautiful, with his dark skin and his closed eyes.

“Hey, there!” I said, even though I did not expect him to respond. “We have the same name! Did you know that?”

He let out a couple of little noises, but his eyes were still shut. 

“I have something to say to you, kid. Please do not make any wrong decisions. Stay with your family. Don’t turn on anyone, or yourself. Whatever you do, try your best not to be like the man who shares your name. Promise me?”

In that moment, his eyes opened up.

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