Genesis Two

By John Vanderslice

I was born Rosa Carlotta Silvana Grisanti, but in the mid-Eighties, I legally changed my name to Eve. No middle or last name. Just Eve. She was the mother of the human race, after all, and I was a childless thirty-three year old still hoping to meet a man I might like enough to not mind him proposing, so I could say yes, so we could get married so I could go in the babymaking business before I reached thirty-five, that infamous dreaded midpoint when my eggs would expire, as my mother constantly reminded. I wanted it all: the themed nursery, the yacht sized stroller, one of those newfangled minivans, a brick house in some neighborhood where the streets are named after foliage or seventeenth century English poets. Everything not like my own upbringing in a single bedroom tenement apartment in south Boston where the toilet was rusty, and the cabinet doors kept falling off, and our next door neighbors screamed murder at each other night and day, where my father delivered milk for a living, and my mother, when she wasn’t dogging my baby sister and I, cleaned houses in Belmont and Brookline for a few bucks a job.

Changing my name was an act of will, of independence, of self-determination; an effort through which I might eliminate all that had formed me and substitute someone else, with someone else’s future. Rosa Carlotta Silvana Grisanti might be too tall. She might have a big nose and a forehead the size of the Sears tower. She might have 2E feet but hips only as wide as a parking meter. She might have a father threatened with Hodgkins, a sister who was a moron, second hand furniture mauled by her cat, and unrealized aspirations to law school. But Eve was someone else completely: an original; a spotless, unblemished beginning, rich with unfixed possibility. That side of paradise.

“Why Eve?” my sister asked me. We were doing lunch — her suggestion — about a week after I formalized the change.

“It’s protean,” I said.

Angie’s eyes fogged. Her mouth opened. I could see a nut-sized wad of grayed Juicy Fruit she held in her back teeth. With her index finger she twirled the wavy black hair she used so often to garner illiterate male attention.

“That’s why,” I said.

“Oh,” she said and started chewing her gum again. “Mom is pissed at you, you know.”

I shrugged. “Let her.”

“No. I mean really.”

“I know what you mean.”

I should probably admit that my mother was the single biggest reason for altering my name. If I could do anything to punish the woman, I would. What better way than to divorce my name from hers? If I found a man it would be as Eve, not Rosa Grisanti. If I had a child, it would be Eve’s child, not Rosa Grisanti’s. And not Vedetta Grisanti’s grandchild. After all, this was the same woman who, during my second year of college, drove me to a behavioral conditioning center in Medford without telling me why. She only said “Don’t worry, we’ll pay.” A doctor with a wispy moustache, turgid sea gray eyes, and Eric Clapton bell bottoms attached electrodes to my head and held up picture after picture of naked women striking centerfold poses. He kept glancing at a machine next to him as it coughed up a printout. After a minute, he raised an eyebrow.

I ripped the electrodes off my head and charged to the waiting room.

“Mom,” I shouted, “you think I’m a lesbian?”

“Shhh. Darling. Shhh. She waved her palms. Not here.”

“Damn right, not here. Are you crazy?”

“I just love you, darling. I love you. Ti voglio bene.” Her olive skin burned an actual red, hot as tears; her face was nothing but creases.

“But you do think I’m a lesbian?”

“You play basketball, Rosa.”


“And you enjoy it.”


“And you have no boyfriend. You’ve never had a boyfriend.”

“I’ve had dates!”

“I just want to make sure I have a grandbaby, un nipotino. You understand, darling.”

“I’m in college, mother.”

“When I was your age I was pregnant already. With you.”

“You weren’t in college.”

“So being a college woman means you are too good to produce children?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You implied it, Rosa.”

Somehow the question of how she decided I was a lesbian and why she thought it was her right to smuggle me to a perverted psychologist’s chamber of tortures got lost during her fit of self-involved moaning. That, in a nutshell, is my relationship with my mother. Meanwhile, Angie, who at the time of my name change and our subsequent lunch together, was living with a guy and so not into producing children that she’d had one abortion already, caught no flak. It didn’t help my offended sense of justice that all this was too typical.

“Mom wants to know why,” Angie said, “so be ready.” She picked up her empty water glass, took in a mouthful of ice, and started chewing, even as she held on to the Juicy Fruit.

“Did she tell you to set up this lunch?”

Angie glanced away. I kept my eyes on her, and my question, too.

“Maybe,” she said.

I sat back and let out a theatrical sigh. I made my shoulders droop. Actually, I wasn’t surprised at all.

“What business is it of yours to act as her secret agent?”

“None, really.”

“So why do you?”

She paused. She spread her arms.

“I don’t know. Maybe I like it?”

Her face was blank as dough. There was no sense trying to hold Angie accountable.

“Tell mom my new name carries a lot less baggage than my old one.”

Alarm passed across her eyes like headlights against a bedroom wall.

“I don’t think you want me to tell her that.”

“All right,” I said, “just tell her to call me.”

“No, mother. I don’t want you to set me up.”

We’d gotten past her outrage and were onto what really mattered: matchmaking.

“He’s a dentist.”


“And he’s divorced.”

“That’s a plus?”

“At least you know he’s not gay.”

“Jesus Christ. Kind of a sore point.”

“And I don’t think there are kids involved.”

“Maybe he’s infertile.”


“No, I don’t think that’s it.”

Of course she wouldn’t.

“But maybe you should ask him,” she said.


“On your date.”

“I’m not going on any date.”

“Why not? Do you have a boyfriend, Rosa?”


Dio mio.”

“That’s my name. Get used to it.”

“But why Eve, darling? She’s not even real. She’s a character.”

“It’s protean.”


“Oh,” she said.

“You better tell him my real name, mother. Tell him my name is Eve. Tell him if he calls me Rosa one time, I’m not going out with him. I’m never even speaking to him again. Do you understand?”

I heard only silence, then a bothered stream of air.

“Do you understand, mother?”

Ti capisco!” she cried, as if I’d stabbed her with a kitchen knife.


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