Nakanaide is the name I was given. It is the one word that defines my existence: it is my word. Like every word, it has meaning. One that I have to live by, that I have to realise. I want people to say, “your name fits you.” I want them to mean those words. I want them to keep saying those words. I don’t want to disappoint my existence.

On an afternoon missing even the wind, with the sun in full burn, was when I first realised my name. A friend from another temple had come to visit. We were placed in a chamber together, forced to sit on our knees. We were surrounded by candles and were not allowed to move until each had extinguished itself. The shimmering haze of heat was the only thing that ever moved even an inch. We both knew this was necessary. The screaming men of our temples said that to appease the alien creature known as God, we had to endure it. I have been told God lives 15,000,000 light-years away, sleeping inside of a dying star in the M83 galaxy. The burn scars on my head and the trouble I have walking were given meaning by this God. I do not know what God means, but to me the word means bad news.

My friend always brought an abandoned fish tank along with him. It once contained a pet as well. He placed it on his lap and allowed his tears to fall into the tank. On our eighteenth time inside the chamber, my friend simply stood up. Sad water spilled into the chamber and did not wait for the candles to extinguish themselves. The screaming men burst into the room and took my friend away. I did not want to disappoint, so I did not cry. We had never once spoken, but I had given my friend the name Saiken, which means ‘bond’.

I remember another time I lived by my name. I had been gifted a pet for a birthday. It was small and frail, and I loved it for those qualities. It would lick my face whenever it was happy or when I was sad. During the day, we would play in the woods near our house and stay away from that building for as long as our hungered stomachs allowed it. During meals, I held it dearly as the cacophonies crashed down on me. In the evenings, we would stay huddled and hidden and shivered together until day arrived. We did not sleep. The stomping on wooden floorboards and the angered voices of those who did not love kept us awake.

It was in the leafless season that we escaped into the forest again. The sounds of snow trampled underfoot gave both it and I a sense of joy. Our one-sided snowball fights and games of hide-and-seek had given meaning to the snow. I was very good at hide-and-seek and was always able to reunite with my dear pet, no matter how well it managed to hide. The last place I would ever find it was inside of a hunter’s camp, on a spit roast. I did not want to disappoint, so I did not cry. I had named it Hatenaku, which means ‘forever and ever’.

I once loved a woman. She took me away from the screaming men and the candle room. She carried me on her back to the first house I would call a home. A house does not have to be a home; my first house was not. To me, home means warmth. The woman taught me how to read, she taught me how to write, she taught me how to talk. She taught me about the words in the world and how each word has meaning. She told me her name was Hakuchuumu, which means ‘daydream’.

It did not take long for the screaming men to find us. Hakuchuumu spoke to me: “Do not cry,” and so I did not. I asked her the meaning of those last words, raising my voice like the lost child I was. All she did was smile, a word that still means nothing to me. The screaming men took me away from my first home and brought me back to my first house.

Nakanaide is the name I was given. It means ‘do not cry’.