Ergo Ego

by Paul Hostovsky

Paul Hostovsky makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter. He has won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, and has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Website:

It came to him in the shower where he got all his best ideas. He was thinking about himself. He was thinking about other people thinking good things about him. Which always made him feel good, happy even.

Ego is a source of happiness, he thought to himself as he rinsed the conditioner out of his hair and stood a little longer under the jetting streams, thinking about the possibilities. Then he smiled to himself as he stepped out of the shower, the same self he couldn’t quite see in the fogged-up mirror, which he wiped clean with a corner of the towel, then padded over to the laptop in the kitchen, his wet footprints evaporating as he searched for Ego on the baby-names website. Nothing between Egbert and Egon. Hmm.

But he couldn’t help noticing that December, January, and February–sources of happiness for people who love winter–were popular, non-gendered names.

“What would it take,” he asked his wife – the bulging bowl of her belly obliquely reflecting the salad bowl in which she was tossing their lunch –“for Ego to make the cut? Think self-esteem, self-worth, self-love, ergo a source of happiness, the kind of happiness you’d want to name a child after.”

She stopped tossing, gave him a withering look. It withered the lettuce, the lunch, the whole family tree, all the way down to the little blossom curled up inside her. “It would take what linguists call a semantic change,” she said, “which could take a few hundred years. But not in a million years would I name a child of mine Ego. What is the matter with you? Are you out of your tree?”

“OK,” he said. “Forget it. It was just a thought.”

A not entirely unworthy one, he said to himself.

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