My name’s Lucie–no, not with a ‘y’. I’ve been correcting that all my life, ever since my name was no longer vocables I heard and responded to like a little domestic animal (here, puss, puss) and I learnt to draw these tones and half-tones as a series of outlines: L,U,C,I,E. This insistence has nothing to do with identity. The so-called search for identity bores me. I know who I am. You know well enough who you are: every ridge in a toenail, every thought you keep private, every opinion you express is your form of life and your responsibility. I correct the spelling because I’m a lawyer and I’m accustomed to precision in language; in legal documents the displacement of a comma can change the intention expressed in a sentence and lead to new litigation. It’s a habit, my pedantry; as a matter of fact, in this instance it simply perpetuates another orthographic inaccuracy: I’m named for my father’s Italian grandmother, and the correct Italian form of the name is Lucia. This had no significance for me until I saw her name on her tomb: LUCIE.
I’ve just been on holiday in Italy with my father. My mother died a few months ago; it was one of those journeys taken after the death of a wife when the male who has survived sees the daughter as the clone woman who, taken out of present time and place to the past and another country, will protect him from the proximity of death and restore him to the domain of life. (I only hope my father has understood that this was one-off, temporary, a gift from me.) I let him believe it was the other way round: he was restoring something to me by taking me to the village where, for him, I had my origin. He spent the first five years of his life dumped by poor parents in the care of that grandmother, and although he then emigrated to Africa with them and never returned, his attachment to her seems never to have been replaced. By his mother, or anyone else; long after, hers was the name he gave to his daughter.
He has been to Europe so many times–with my mother, almost every year.