Katherine was my great-grandmother’s name. My parents chose it because she passed away while my mother was pregnant with me, although I would have been named Addison after some other relative if I’d turned out to be a boy. I like to think I dodged a bullet there. My mother adores names, but she said she had a hard time with boys’ names that went with Winchester. So many syllables, so many sounds. My brother Elliot was almost named Parker, but apparently the repeated er just didn’t sound right.
I love the sound of my name — the soft th sound, the hard K, the crisp ine that finishes it off. It took a long time for me to appreciate that sort of regal sound of my own name. When I was little, I couldn’t even say the th right. Katerine. Everyone in school called me Katie, at least up until sixth grade when I started telling my teachers that Katherine was fine. Since then everyone, except for my father, calls me Katherine.
Will’s the only one who calls me Kate. It’s a thing of his — his way of claiming ownership on some part of my identity, regardless of whether or not he actually has any stake to it. He never asked, but he never would anyway. It took me a while to notice, then one day I realized we’d gone from Tyler’s friend Katherine to Katherine to just Kate. I asked him once if I could call him Bill, or Willie, or Liam — he just laughed. When pushed, he said he’d never respond to Bill or Liam, but if I ever called him Willie, he’d kick my ass. He wouldn’t dare.
And I hate how I love the way he says it. Casual, light, glancing — “hey Kate, I’m outside” and “oh c’mon Kate.” He holds my name on the roof of his mouth, like he might add the ie I’d expect from grade school friends, or like he might spin it into some elaborate nickname. But no, it’s just Kate — then an exhale. Kate — breathe out. “Kate, come take a shot.” It’s his leash on me, whether I realized it or not. “Kiss me, Kate.” That one said while drunk. “I love you Kate.” That one never said.
(written somewhat with the chapter “My Name” from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros in mind)