My name is Lou, short for Loser. I can prove it if you don’t believe me: My birth certificate lists me as one Loser Wilkins— six pounds, eleven ounces, buck naked and as ugly as an anglerfish. Few people know my full name, otherwise they'd think that I suffered from depression or whatever the politically correct term is nowadays. For some reason, introducing yourself as “Loser” makes someone wonder why you think that way about yourself. On the bright side, though, bullies are nonexistent since my name does all the work for them. It takes away their sense of power and control and makes the whole ordeal much less satisfying. Bullies hate that.
With a name like Loser it seems that there is no point in trying. At times I feel like my life has already been laid out in front of me. I often picture myself sitting in my humble, spacious cardboard box in an alley, begging for change with a porcelain cup. Why couldn’t I be named something like Alexander, “defender of mankind?” Instead, I am destined to become what my name implies: a loser. Thanks a lot, mom and dad.
Since I was younger, I pretty much grew up alone. I never knew friendship and my extended family consisted of my grandparents and some uncles and aunts that lived hundreds of miles away. I felt more tolerated by my parents than loved. From my childhood to my adult years, not much has changed. I am still short, weak, and skinny. I don't contribute much to society and to the world in general. I suppose that's why I was named Loser. My life is nothing more than a simple existence.
A pointless existence.
“Hey, buddy, you okay there?” It took me a while to process where the voice was coming from. I lifted my head slowly. My brain was still foggy from last night’s hangover. Tonight was set to be a repeat, the second show of my “Wallow in Self Pity” tour. I rubbed my eyes vigorously as I tried to get my eyes to focus. The silhouette of the bartender materialized in front of me. He was still looking at me, probably wondering when he’d need to kick me out and call the drunk bus to take me home.
When I felt somewhat stable, I bumbled through a response, “Super duper, officer!” I smiled at my own stupidity.
“Buddy, you need to take it easy. I’m cutting you off.” He finished cleaning his glass and turned to tend to another patron.
“Oh, don’t do that, gorgeous. I’m not drunk. I’m just buzzed,” I said as he walked away, but he didn’t stop. Fine, be that way. I slammed down my shot glass and looked off to my side. I felt the anger start coursing through my veins like venom. It took every ounce of my willpower to resist throwing the shot glass at the wall and watch it shatter into a million pieces. I was sure I’d be inclined to beat the next person who dared speak to me. I hated being cut-off. No one had the right to tell me how much alcohol I could put into my body.
“Hey, hothead. Why don’t you cool it a little bit?”
I snapped my neck to my left. There was a young redhead sitting on the barstool next to me. For some reason she seemed out of place. I mean, it's not that beautiful women don’t exist in bars, but there was no way that she could have been there to drink her life's problems, much less choose the stool next to me. “Listen, lady, why don’t you mind your own business.”
She didn’t even flinch. Instead, she smiled, “I would if my business were any interesting.”
“And mine is? Please just go away and leave me alone.”
“I can leave you be, but I'm not moving.”
I looked away from the woman and switched my attention to the last beer I was allowed to have. Liquor before beer, you're in the clear. I took a deep sip, letting the flavors flow around my mouth before swallowing. The woman was still next to me. It felt like her eyes were still focused on me as if I would try to run away at any moment. I could tell that she wasn’t going to be easy to get rid of. She was true to her word, that was certain.
“Do you normally stare people down until they talk to you?” I asked incredulously.
“Not really. Most people don’t make a big deal about it. Most people go to bars looking for a safe place to escape from life’s problems, to talk it over.”
“There’s really nothing to talk about it. I honestly just want to be left alone.”
“Why don’t you want to talk to me?”
“Because there’s nothing you can do.”
There was no point in fighting. I straightened my back and turned to face her. Her face seemed clearer from the last time I looked at her. She was beautiful. I could make out her details better now. She had long red hair that streamed down in silky strands past her shoulder blades. Her face was dotted with freckles and she had dimples sharp enough to cut through butter. Everything lit up when she flashed her white smile. My god, she was a knockout. She really did seem out of place here. There was an innocence about her that didn’t mesh with the dingy, dark atmosphere of the bar that we were in.
She was friendly enough. I didn’t understand why she cared so much about me and my problems. I argued that there were only two options: either talk to her or leave, and I had no intention of leaving. Leaving would mean going home. Going home would mean going to bed and sleeping. Sleeping meant waking up and going through hell tomorrow all over again. I had to delay the inevitable as long as possible.
“If I tell you, will you finally leave me alone?”
She smiled again. I became uncomfortable in certain places. “Will you tell me the truth?”
“Go ahead, then.”
“What’s your name?”
“Angela. And I suppose your name isn’t hothead?”
“No. My name is Lou.”
“Nice to meet you, Lou.”
She returned a puzzled look. “Why do you guess?”
“Because I’m a no one. My life is going nowhere.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s all in my name.”
“What does your name have anything to do with it?”
“I’m a loser.” I looked hard into her eyes, trying to prove that I wasn’t joking.
“You’re a loser? And this is true, why? How?”
“It’s true because I am one. My full name is Loser. I just go by Lou.”
“Are you serious?” I could tell she wasn’t quite buying this by the way she squinted her eyes in my direction.
“No, I’m being sarcastic,” I said…sarcastically.
“You promised me—“
“Yes, I’m serious. My birth certificate says my name is Loser Wilkins. I am literally a loser. It’s in my name...it is my name.”
“Well, there’s no doubt that that’s an," she struggled to find the right word, "interesting name, but do you really think that makes you a loser?”
“I don’t think. I know.”
“And that’s your problem.”
“My problem is that I know?”
“Not at all. The problem is you’ve been calling yourself a loser. You’re the one who’s making this a reality for yourself. I mean, if I woke up every morning and said that I was an awful, worthless human being, I’d probably act that way and fulfill my self-made prophecies. Your brain doesn’t like to be wrong, so it justifies what you think is right.”
“That’s not true. There’s power in a name. It gives you identity and everyone’s name has a special meaning. Why do you think baby name lists are so popular?”
“Easy, people are delirious. You’d be amazed by the number of people who believe that if they name their kid Jesus that their child will be able to do miracles.”
“This is different.”
“Is it though? Do you like to tell yourself that you’re a ‘loser’?”
“I just embraced my destiny.”
“Right. Your destiny is to be a loser just because your parents thought they were being clever by naming you ‘Loser.’ That’s an airtight argument you got there. I give up.” She emphatically flung her hands up in defeat to emphasize her point.
I didn't have an answer for her so I raised an eyebrow at her. That should be good enough. After a moment, she added, “Answer me this.” She leaned in closer to me. “What is something you’re good at? And don’t say drinking."
I thought about this, but nothing came to mind. I dug deep to try and find something to say. Failing to think of anything, I just said the first thing that popped into my head, “I don’t really know. I’d say I’m pretty decent at parallel parking.”
“That’s awesome! I can’t even park in a straight line.”
“But that’s nothing.”’
“I beg to differ. Not everyone can parallel park well at all. The point is that you said something positive about yourself. Now say something else, maybe name something that you like.”
“I do like a smoothie.” The thought of a strawberry-banana smoothie filled me with happiness. Insert smily face!
“Brilliant! Tell yourself that you make the best damn smoothies on this side of the globe.”
“I highly doubt—“
“That’s just it. You don’t get to doubt any more. You don’t get to compare yourself to others anymore. Life is too short to be someone else other than yourself...unless you can be Batman. People may hate you for being yourself but be yourself anyway.” She leaned in closer and put her hand on my shoulder. “You can never bring yourself down. That will never work. You have a lot to be happy about and thankful for. Don’t let yourself be defined by a book or by another person. Define yourself and make yourself awesome.”
“I appreciate your confidence in me, but I’m no winner. Look at me. Even if my name were no indication, I still reek of failure.”
Angela looked at me silently for a moment. I noticed a sly smile creep across her plush red lips when she said, “Well, Lou, you’re a winner in my book. You just have to believe it yourself.”