The Jeff Identity
My name is Kevin. That information is essential to this story. I once believed I was always a Kevin, but now I’m unsure. It started on my wedding day, “Do you, Corina, take Jeff as your lawfully wedded husband?” and has continued for 30 years: A bartender who may have met me once, “It’s Jeff, right?” or a reference to my presence at some event, “I saw Jeff at the thing last night.” It’s happened enough to feel like a pattern or conspiracy. My name is almost always substituted with Jeff, rarely Ken or Keith, which would make more sense.
I was walking in the park recently when an older gentleman strolling toward me passed me on my left. As we were shoulder to shoulder, he said with disdain, “Hi Jeff!” as if he were angry that I didn’t recognize and greet him first. I turned around to see if he was talking to me or on a call. I saw no phone and no headphones. He said nothing more and never turned back. I made one more loop around the park to recreate the encounter, but it wasn’t to be. I thought I saw him in the distance, but he faded into the horizon. Maybe he was a mirage or a ghost, the ghost of those who call others Jeff.
This encounter was different. It was the first time I was referred to as Jeff by someone I’d never met, ghost or not. Was it a message? A sign from beyond? The last hint of an attempted 30-year correction? His anger because I have yet to comply? Do I ignore it and go on pretending I’m someone I’m not? Or do I open my mind, heart, and identity to the fate before me?