I’d like a soy chai latte, please.
A shake of my ignorant head.
The young man explains.
Marker pen raised above paper cup: What’s your name, sir?
Next time, a different Starbucks: what’s your name sir?
Sure, Bob. Won’t be long.
Bob loiters and in truth it is not long before he is drinking the curiously tolerable blend of sugar, sugar, sugar, spices and soy.
My name has always been plastic.
I keep at home a newspaper cutting from ‘The Murrumbidgee Irrigator’ of early January 1946, announcing the birth of Yvonne and Myer Goldenberg’s second child: ‘Myer and Yvonne Goldenberg are delighted to welcome their second child, Adrian. Brother to Dennis.’
Friends flocked to the Leeton District Hospital to congratulate Myer and Yvonne and to commiserate with Adrian. Horrible name, they said to my parents. Do you really hate him that much?
Ben and Ethel visited, bringing their four-year old boy, Howard. Mum looked at Dad, Dad looked at Mum and Adrian became Howard.
I got used to Howard. The softness in Mum’s voice as she spoke the name, the pride in Dad’s, convinced me Howard was good. I used it for a long time.
I came to Melbourne, became an adult and learned to drink coffee. I patronised Universita Café where a short, round young waitress named Theresa asked me my name.
OK John, I’ll bring your cappuccino to your table.
She did, John drank and the coffee was excellent.
John patronised the Universita for twenty years.
One day I bumped into a man there whom I knew. (I had his baby son’s foreskin at home, but that is another story.)
We sat down.
Theresa brought our coffees. Handing me my cappuccino, she said, There you are John.
Zev said, Who’s John? This is Howard.
Theresa looked confused. Mortified actually.
I never had the heart to return to the Universita.
I reverted to Howard for a further score of years. And remained Howard. Until I broached the threshold of Starbucks.