When my wife gave birth, I held our newborn baby girl at the hospital and named her Ron Loewinsohn.
My wife said, “No fucking way are you naming this baby Ron Loewinsohn. Her name is Jennifer.”
“Her name is Ron Loewinsohn,” I said, smiling into the baby’s squinted face.
“What kind of name is ‘Ron Loewinsohn’ for a little girl?”
“We’ll call her Ronnie.”
“You need psychiatric help,” my wife said. “This Ron Loewinsohn thing has gone too far already. First the dog… Then the cat…”
Ron Loewinsohn was my favorite poet.
“Can’t you give me this one thing?” I shouted. “Jesus Christ, all I’m asking is for Ron Loewinsohn to be a part of this family.”
My wife started screaming. I couldn’t take it and handed Ron Loewinsohn back to her, then left the room to cool off in the hallway. When I shoved open the door it hit my father-in-law in the face. He was crouched with his ear against the door.
Straightening, he fixed his overcoat with no embarrassment and looked into my eyes. “She’s right,” he said. “Over my cold, dead body will I let you name my granddaughter Ron Loewinsohn.”
His face softened and he put a concerned hand on my shoulder, feeling sorry for me. “You know, Pete, we all have our dreams in life. But don’t you think this thing has gotten out of hand? This Ron Loewinsohn business?”
He meant my fascination with Ron Loewinsohn, who was a member of the Beat Generation in 1950s San Francisco. For reasons I can’t explain, I’d started naming all the people in my life “Ron Loewinsohn.” I’d lost all my friends by calling them Ron Loewinsohn. “Put Ron on the phone.”
Gradually I’d started calling my colleagues Ron Loewinsohn, too. Walking past Ken Osborne on a Monday morning I’d call out, “Hey, Ron, how was your weekend?” I e-mailed Julie Sloane in Sales: “Hey Ron, can I get the GFE numbers from last quarter?” I gave Jonathan Lin a back slap in the men’s room and said, “What’s up, Ron?”
My boss called me in about it, steepling his fingers but I was too good at my job to get fired, so people solved the problem by avoiding me and falling silent when I entered the room. Big deal. If I was crazy to them, to me they were doubly crazy for not recognizing the brilliance of Ron Loewinsohn and accepting a Ron Loewinsohn reality.
“Listen, I know what you’re going through. You’ve been under a lot of stress,” my father-in-law said. “Why don’t you see someone?”
“I’m fine, Ron,” I said, taking his shoulder. “Really.”
He sighed, shook his head and went into the hospital room. I stood there in the hallway clenching my fists and thinking how little Ronnie would spend her whole life corrupted by bastards like my father-in-law who didn’t believe in Ron Loewinsohn. My wife too – planting little Ronnie in front of a TV without ever introducing her to Ron Loewinsohn’s work, washing all beauty from her life, destroying us both.
I shoved open the door and burst into the hospital room. My wife and father-in-law, who was holding Ron Loewinsohn, both turned and looked at me in surprise. I grabbed little Ronnie out of his filthy hands and carried her bawling out of the room, with my father-in-the law picking up the phone and calling security.
Next thing I was sprinting down the white hallway with Ron Loewinsohn in my arms passing the receptionist who slammed down the phone and shouted to the two security men by the sliding door.
Security yelled into their walkie-talkies and chased me down the stairwell. I turned and turned two flights ahead of them to make it down to the hospital parking lot so I could escape this life forever with Ron Loewinsohn. We would drive across the country and start over in San Francisco.
When I reached the parking lot, I stumbled over to my car, a ‘91 Ron Loewinsohn, unlocked it with the baby cradled in one arm and was about to place her inside when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and it was Ron Loewinsohn.
I couldn’t believe it. There he was, with his spongy mustache and combed hair grinning at me. “Let me have the baby, Pete.”
I handed little Ronnie to Ron Loewinsohn, overjoyed by his presence. In turn, he handed the baby to a worried-looking nurse who hurried inside as if the air were toxic. It was just me and Ron.
“Come on, Pete,” he said gently. “Let’s go for a drive.”
Ron wrapped his arm around my shoulders and we walked across the lot to a parked white van. “I know a place down the street where we can get a couple of watermelons,” I said. Watermelons was my favorite Ron Loewinsohn poem.
Ron nodded and patted me on the back.
When we arrived at the van there were two men in white waiting for us with legs apart and hands positioned to hold an energy field and that’s when I realized Ron Loewinsohn wasn’t Ron Loewinsohn at all.
I didn’t say anything. When I was seated, the van drove off with the man I’d confused for Ron Loewinsohn holding up his hand farewell in the parking lot, growing smaller and smaller as I watched him through the rear window. After a couple blocks, reality returned to me and I began to miss my wife and daughter. I began to miss a lot of things. I sort of wished I hadn’t started this Ron Loewinsohn business.
“Hey,” I called to the driver. “Who are you people? Where are you taking me?” I sat forward and worked my joined wrists up the small of my back so the cuffs wouldn’t dig into my flesh.
The driver looked at me in the rear-view mirror. “We’re going to San Francisco, buddy. I thought you knew.”
I squinted. “Ron?”
He nodded. “It’s me, old buddy.”
Jay Gershwin has had work appear in Bartleby Snopes, Monkey Puzzle, Fractured West and Red Fez.