My famous father’s name is Steve, so I assume that’s why I’m Stephanie. Like, my mother convinced herself this halfway named-after-him name would get him giving a shit? Like, oh gosh, maybe he won’t notice I’m a not Boy, Junior, which is maybe the child he’d want. How do I know? Because I found the old paternity paperwork and because he said so right in court. In so many words. In these words: “I did not have a significant relationship with this child’s mother. I am sorry this child’s mother is dead, your honor, but I will not take custody of this child.” His accountant pays the bills I rack up by being alive. That’s his and my bond, along with a chart and one significant sentence on a DNA test. If a famous man doesn’t want a child at all, not one bit, I am the exact proof that ramming her with a glorified girly version of his famous name won’t force uncaring into caring.
Jase’s dad and mom love him, even if according to him they don’t. I see love, the lines in his mom’s face smoothing when he lumbers into the kitchen and drinks her almond milk out of the carton or when his dad drives up and he’s on the phone but he smiles exactly the instant he sees Jase even if he’s in the middle of an important, lawyerly sentence. They’re afraid of Jase maybe, because he is prickly and strange, like a rare animal burrowed deep into the Australian outback, but their fear doesn’t mean they can’t also love him. Until I met Jase, I thought fear might crowd out the other emotions.
I’m not afraid of anything.
Take that, Steve!
That day when Jase wanted me to call him Old Spice, the first nickname he assigned himself, he also said, Tell me that you love me.
We were standing outside math class, waiting for the bell to ring before we’d have to go in for absolute sure. We were both good at math, but we both hated it—or he did, so I did, too. So logical and cold, he complained.
I’m not saying that here, I said.
Later? Later when?
He looked down at that giant Mickey Mouse watch we’d found in a thrift store last week and bought for five dollars. This is when he was still wearing it on his wrist though it couldn’t keep up with the real time. This is before he smashed it with a hammer out on his back patio and left the teeny-tiny, smashed-up pieces out there to see if ants would carry them away (which, no). Give me a time, he said, a specific time. Still staring at that watch.
I’m not doing that, I said.