My nickname is my full name, including the pretentious middle initial. This is what very close friends call me. Not “Lightning” or “Caveman” or “Starbuck” or “Captain Inappropriate.”
Okay, sometimes, “Captain Inappropriate.”
Like most nicknames, I didn’t choose it for myself.
Our campus pastor was an amazing man who remembered everyone’s name despite knowing hundreds of students. He called me “young Jason.” Pastor was amazing in other ways. Whether you were at every Bible study or hadn’t seen him in months, you felt like he was your best friend. Because he actually was.
Pastor spoke the high speech. Not as an elitist, but as an erudite who cannot help sharing the intricate wonders he sees. If you tell him something cool, Pastor will say, “Oh how glorious!” Or, “Oh, what a delight!” And he will clap his hands. He is educated warmth personified.
Like most heroes, we emulated him. We spoke the high speech, to him and amongst ourselves.
In those days, I always wore khakis, half-joking, half-serious. The joke is from Baseketball. Characters portrayed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone conclude:
First we get the khakis! Then we get the chicks!
Ever since my eight weeks in the army (which is another story and shall be told another time), I’d felt out of uniform unless I was somehow dressed up. I thought it took discipline to wear khakis every day, and I hoped the ladies might fancy a disciplined lad.
Part of my ensemble was etiquette. I’d say, “Greetings!” instead of, “Suuup, duuude.” Or “YOYOYOYO!” Okay, I’d say any of those things, really, but the point is I brought a sense of gravitas to my posse. I always introduced myself as, “Jason R. Peters.” That’s my byline, the name I wanted people to remember.
An older boy in a capella choir (whose name eludes me) emulated the Pastor more than most. He dressed alike. He made the high speech his native tongue. He greeted me brightly with:
“It’s Jason R. Peters!”
The boy was a protege of the Pastor, who updated his mental database with the new listing, and as I said, Pastor knows hundreds of students.
Among them were ELY and Carrie, who in those years might have discussed Carrie’s crush on me. Which prompted their friend Anna to ask, “Who is Jason R. Peters? And why do we care about his middle initial?”
My transformation was complete.
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