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2 Short Stories: What’s in a Nickname? 40 Days and Nights

I love reading and writing. I came to writing late in life and discovered a world where I feel like a fish in the water.

short-stories-whats-in-a-nickname-40-days-and-nights

What’s in a Nickname?

“Hey Lola!” I was out to lunch with my co-workers, when I bumped into an old friend who used to call me ‘Lola’. This was my childhood nickname.

My nickname caught the interest of one of my co-workers. “You’ve got to tell us why she called you Lola,” she said.

“My parents fought when I was born over what name to give me. My mom wanted to call me Lola because she liked The Blue Angel film. My dad wanted to call me by another name since the name ‘Lola’ gave the impression of an irresponsible person. My parents reached a compromise where I would be called Lola only by my family, relatives, and close friends,” I said.

“Do you know what The Blue Angel film was about?”

“The Blue Angel is a 1930 tragic-comedy film directed by Josef von Sternberg, in which Marlene Dietrich starred as Lola. The film was about a high school professor in a small German town who falls in love with a young cabaret artist, and the cost of his relationship with her.

“The piece is about the humiliation of Professor Immanuel Rath. He was a respected high school teacher who one day seized a postcard that one of his students circulated in class. The postcard was of Lola, a dancer at a local nightclub. One night, professor Rath visited the club to scold any student he might catch there. He saw Lola perform on stage and fell deeply in love with her. He married her and went on the road with her. Several years later, he returned to his hometown and played a small role in Lola’s stage show. In the play, he was the comic actor of a magician who made eggs from the professor's nose and cracked them on his head.”[i]

“That’s really humiliating. What do you think is the origin of the name Lola?”

“It’s Spanish and means sorrow or pain. From the British Charlotte, it means ‘free man’. From the Latin ‘Laura’, it means Laurel,” I said

“I read once a book about names that gives a different meaning to your nickname. The letter ‘L’ is connected to love, laughter, and learning. Lola has two of the L letters. You are meant to enjoy life, living and learning,” she said. “Was your childhood sorrowful?”

“It wasn’t particularly happy.” I wasn’t going to talk to a colleague about my childhood stories and what should and should not have happened.

“What are your memories of when people called you by your nickname?” she said.

Memories flooded my mind. Memories carry emotions with them and the emotions I have that are linked to the name Lola are not what I want to carry with me.

The ‘love, laughter, and learning’ that my colleague talked about came after I ditched my nickname and started thinking, feeling, and acting like an adult.

short-stories-whats-in-a-nickname-40-days-and-nights

40 Days and 40 Nights

“So, what are you giving up for Lent this year?” said Mary my colleague.

“What’s that?” I said.

“You’re a catholic, aren’t you? Lent is a religious ritual in the Christian liturgical calendar that starts on Ash Wednesday and ends the night before Easter Sunday.”

“My parents were, but I’m not a practising Christian.” I had completely forgotten about this Christian rite.

Christian believers prepare for Easter by praying, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repenting of sins, almsgiving, and simple living and self-denial.

“Come on; let’s both of us give up the same thing this year and compare notes. We will do the whole 40 days and 40 nights,” Mary said.

“What do you have in mind?” I asked.

“What’s the one thing that is difficult for you to give up for 40 days and 40 nights?”

“Chocolate, cream and sugar. What about you?”

“I don’t like sugar or chocolate. This is easy for me. No, I must give up something that I would really find it hard. How about stop movie-binging and eating meat?”

“Both at the same time?”

“Yes.”

“I have an idea. We give up different things each week until Easter night,” I said. “This is what I propose. We stop watching movies or television programs in the first week. No alcohol, sugar, cream, or chocolate in the second week. We shower with only chilly water in the third week. We give up control of the remote control in the fourth week. No carnal pleasure of any kind in the final days until the night before Easter Sunday.”

She agreed to follow my proposed program and suggested that whatever we give up in one week, we return to it in moderation after that. We also agreed to compare notes every Saturday and to be honest about our successes and failures.

The night before Easter came and found me looking forward to a night of movie watching, binge eating and a chocolate mousse cake.

At seven o’clock in the evening, the doorbell rang. Mary was at the door and had a big box of what looked like a cake in one hand and a bottle in the other hand. We ate until we were full and toasted our successes and failures.

What ruined it for us was noticing with sadness that our Lent program of a 40-day healthy lifestyle spoiled us. We no longer wanted to go back to the way we used to live before the start of the Lent.

short-stories-whats-in-a-nickname-40-days-and-nights

[i] Roger Ebert a film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-blue-angel-2001

© 2021 Liliane Najm

Comments

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 24, 2021:

Very interesting. Both of them.

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