I feel something close to pleasure when someone I am speaking with for the first time, someone who has known me for a while but with whom I have never spoken, calls me Akintunde. My name has appeared as Akin everywhere between leaving secondary school and leaving the university. Before then, in the spaces for names on my school notebooks – the place where most people whose early teenage years were in the pre-email, pre-social-media era with me had their names most imprinted – I wrote my surname, Aiki, first. So, for many years of my life, I lost my name to my family name. Oddly, this phenomenon, the temporal but prolonged losing of first names to the family name, would happen to the three siblings after me, all boys; only the girl would be spared.
A girl has her own name.
My salvation would first come from my immediate sibling. I suspect in an attempt to dampen the effects of the years of Big Brother I might have forcefully dangled over his head, he had distilled my name into two letters: AK.
I suddenly lost my “Booda Akin” privilege name in the space of less than a year. In the luxury of clarity derived from slowing down moments and zooming in and out of instances that retrospection affords, I realize it was not so sudden. And if it was, it came with signs. When he newly became aware he had an elder brother, my brother would say Booda Akin like a fervent prayer – careful, thoughtful and clear. In the year of collapsing my name, he spoke it like a short but unpleasant business: to be hurriedly executed and forgotten. The new appellation caught on fast with what might as well have been the effect of a discovery that had stared everyone in the face for a long time and when someone ‘discovered’ it, everyone had experienced an “oh!” moment.
A lover whom I met shortly after my new nomenclature, had after several attempts at finding a special name for me, resigned to calling me AK. For a long while, it would appear I was not to be called sweets, honey, sugar, and other names the writer, Olubunmi Familoni, referred to as “names that caused diabetes” (paraphrased) by a lover.
Another lover would call me my first name the way I was named. After she began calling my first name in full, it became important to me that Akintunde was different from Akin and certainly different from AK. Suddenly, my first name was the sound of love. I introduced myself to new acquaintances as Akintunde. In doing that, I inadvertently had a demography of friends and acquaintances. Before and After Her; the former called me anything but Akintunde.
A name that was as old as I was had become new. I became involved and active on social media space at about the same time she began calling me Akintunde. I made friends who were fascinated by my surname and what it meant but who preferred to call me by my first name. And it caught on.
I consider it a small good thing to have been rechristened by loved ones; one a recusant sibling and the other, a transiting lover.
Because it is hard to break intangible attachments, severe memories or cleanly partition them like two Germanies, hurt, on occasions, steal into the small moments of elation of hearing an affectionate “Akintunde”. It is like the half-smile responses should come with postcards that say whoever it had been that had ended my last love relationship, I have been the one burdened with the shock. Or so, I like to think. That sometimes, like Otosirieze Obi-Young wrote about Nnaemeka in A Tenderer Blessing, “…the agony of being unloved grew not out of unrequited affection…, not even out of tormenting memories, but from the simple bewilderment, the sheer shock that even we, special as we are, could be unloved.”
Recently, I am noticing a trend, one in which I am being referred to as ‘Tunde in first time conversations. It is a name that has snaked in and out of my life but has never stuck. This time though, it is gaining steady prominence. If this catches on like the previous two rechristenings had, I will find some satisfaction in its organic emergence which unlike its fashioned predecessors would certainly not be tied around someone’s agenda. Because that I am also a ‘Tunde – a re; an again – is after all, not such a bad thing.