I have a nickname now. Iʼve never had a nickname, but these people have decided that I should have one.
Maybe if I was better at softball. Or if I had a regular set of friends. Or even one good friend, I might have a nickname by now. In fact, my companions were surprised when I told them I donʼt have one. It took a few campfire marshmallows to convince them that Iʼve always just been me.
But Iʼm not me anymore. Now Iʼm “Freeway.” Itʼs not a cool nickname like “Butch” or “Ace” or “Duke;” but it is a nickname all the same. And because it was given to me, rather than self-applied, it carries more weight, more validity than any of those names ironed onto the backs of the Highland Lakes Softball League jerseys.
As darkness squeezed in around us, the fish grilled, and we segued from dessert to dinner. I held back my emotions, knowing that these people who were strangers just days ago have decided that I am not only worthy of keeping, but naming. Iʼve never thought of myself as a feral dog, but I have to wonder if they feel the same way when someone takes them in, gives them food, speaks to them in soft tones, and actually cares that they exist. Itʼs an unfamiliar feeling.
Named so, “Because you just do things your own way,” I am told. It sounds vaguely flower-child, but Iʼm not the hippie of the group. Iʼm just me. And at this time, for this trip, with these people, I am Freeway.