His first name was Firstname and his surname was Surname. He was a disciple of academic trans-philosopher and uber-thinker Dieter Schlemp. Schlemp had advised that everyone unburden themselves of all cultural, ethnic and genealogical identification. That was why Firstname had changed his name. His new name was, in and of itself, an interrogation of identity. 'What is a name?' asked his name. And that question brought with it another question - 'what is a person?' Firstname was going to find out. Schlemp would be proud of him and regret never replying to any of Firstname's tweets or following him back.
Firstname worked nights. He awoke at dusk and went to bed at dawn. His was a twilight life of empty roads and half-lit streetlights. He and his colleagues were like vampires. Vampires that worked in a depot, moving boxes about. No one knew what was in the boxes. No one had the energy to care. They just yawned and lifted the things and carried them from one place to another. Firstname put his ear to one of the boxes once and could have sworn he heard the sea.
At work Firstname was referred to as Justin, his first name before he changed it to Firstname. He asked his colleagues to call him Firstname and they said 'sure thing Justin' and never did. They didn't mean any harm by it, they just couldn't get used to the name change. They didn't treat his decision as odd or anything. They didn't make fun of him. They were too tired for that.
Firstname was disappointed at the lack of discussion his name change had inspired. No one seemed to care. They were indifferent. People are indifferent to everything. The Universe is indifferent. Schlemp didn't even respond to Firstname's constant tweeting. 'Is this what it is to be a person?'
One night in the depot, Firstname dropped a box and it opened. A seashell fell out. Firstname asked his boss about it. Firstname's boss told him that the seashells were ornamental. 'People put them on their mantelpieces and use them as paperweights and all that shit', said Firstname's boss. Firstname's boss told him that he could take home a defective seashell if he liked. There was a bucket of chipped seashells under the stairwell. Firstname took two. He took them home and attached them to an adjustable metal arch and wore them like headphones. He used them instead of an MP3. He walked around hearing the sea all the time. He preferred it to music. It was less contrived. No one commented on the seashell headphones but this didn't surprise Firstname. By now, he was used to people not noticing things. They were preoccupied. They had work to do. They had bills to pay. They were sleepy. Firstname was sleepy too but the sound of the sea let him dream. He doubted anyone he worked with dreamed. The closest thing they had to dreams were modest ambitions, like the hope for a raise or something. Firstname didn't judge them harshly for this. They didn't judge him and he wouldn't judge them. That seemed fair. They were all just doing their own thing, which was the same thing. Firstname was doing it too but at least he was wondering what exactly it was they were all doing while he did it.
'If you wonder don't expect anyone else to care that you wonder', said Dieter Schlemp in a recent lecture that Firstname discovered on Youtube. 'If you force people to wonder they will resent it. They will resent you and they will resent wonder itself as a distraction. If we must wonder we must wonder in private. Wondering is a secret pastime for the few and we should remain aware that it is no more than that. There is no honour in wondering, in fact there is probably dishonour. Wondering does not make you better than anyone else. Wondering is ultimately unimportant. There is little to be gained from it in practical terms. To most, wondering is an irrelevance and they are right. Wondering is extraneous. Wondering is about as important as the whirring sound a clockwork toy makes as it walks from one end of the room to the other before winding down and stopping completely.'
Firstname was shocked to hear this. He held Schlemp in such high regard. He considered him an existential paradigm buster. 'Existential Paradigm Buster', that's what the blurb said on the back of Schlemp's book Derrida Does the Dishes: Domesticity Deconstructed, published by Anosognosic Books, 2011. Now it was revealed that Schlemp didn't agree with this accolade. The man himself considered himself to be a lesser man, whatever a 'man' was. Schlemp had wondered about wondering until he had arrived at the conclusion that it was a waste of time to wonder. Schlemp looked exhausted these days and he seemed intent on alienating his acolytes. 'I do it for the money', he said at the conclusion of his lecture before leaving the stage to a confused and hesitant cricket match applause. Firstname suddenly felt a fool for changing his name. He decided that he would change it back to Justin. He wouldn't even have to ask anyone at work to call him by his original name again because they had never stopped.
Firstname collected up all the books he had by Schlemp and left them in a plastic sack outside a charity shop. He felt betrayed. He felt he had been abandoned by the leader of his expedition as he was halfway across an antarctic plain. 'What a prick', Firstname often thought as he eschewed the ways of a wonderer and resumed earning and simply living and hopefully having a bit of a laugh at weekends. He kept the seashell headphones though. He couldn't bring himself to part with them. He decided not to wonder why this was, just as the people who sent away for seashells to place on their mantelpieces and use as paperweights didn't wonder why they did what they did. For the briefest moment, Firstname found himself wondering why they did what they did but then he reminded himself to stop wondering and he did stop wondering and he no longer wondered as he listened to the sound of the sea.