Ol' What's-her-name

"I'm so sane, it's driving me crazy..."

~Falling For The First Time, written by Steven Page & Ed Robertson, performed by Barenaked Ladies


A month or so ago, I was lying awake with a bout* of insomnia, and somehow my mind wandered to the girl who sat behind me in Mrs. Ryan's seventh grade English class. I could remember quite a few things about her. She had gorgeous, curly red hair and an outsized personality with a sharp edge to it. She seemed more worldly than most of the rest of the kids in that small Pennsylvania town. I remembered that her parents were divorced and that one of them lived in Pennsylvania and the other in Alaska. She spent a year with one and then a year with the other. I remembered that she had told me these details of her life, but couldn't quite remember the circumstances under which she had shared them since we weren't really friends. I don't remember ever having a conversation with Wendy outside that classroom, for example. Don't remember who her friends were or where in town she lived.

Not remembering those things really didn't bother me. What bothered me to an absurd, and perhaps even unhealthy degree, was not remembering her last name. I knew it started with a "K," which was maybe worse than not knowing anything at all.

I started listing "K" names in my head: Kennedy, Kilgore, Klinger, Klein, King...no, no, no, no, no.

I tried to distract myself by thinking about other things, but the "K" names kept worming their way into my thoughts: Kenneth, Karloff, Kenickie. ("A hickey from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card: 'when you care enough to send the very best.'" my mind helpfully offered.)

I tried to gently talk my mind into going to sleep. Offering it a soothing song, a backwards count from a hundred, a couple of other things that occasionally work. No luck. Things had gone from absurd to much more so: Kinesthesia, Kinkiness, Kibbutz.

At this point, it became clear that my brain was not going to let this go so I moved on to trying to think of how I would be able to figure out what Wendy's last name was--not just ever, but right now, tonight (or, really, early this morning).

Facebook, of course. But how would I be able to find her without knowing her name? Maybe she was FB friends with one of the two people from that school that I am friends with. Maybe she still had her maiden name listed. Maybe I was completely insane for contemplating getting out of bed at 3:17 in the morning to try to figure out the last name of a girl I barely knew thirty years ago who I had no intention of contacting under any circumstances.

Maybe. But I wasn't going to get any sleep without trying. And so I did. And she was not friends with either of my friends, but she was friends with one of my friends' friends.

And her name was Wendy Kinton. And, at last, I slept.

*I do not actually suffer bouts of insomnia. A bout would seem to imply that it is an exception rather than the rule. What is actually going on is insomnia interspersed with bouts of sleep.

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