There was a girl — let’s call her “Amy” — who was in a few classes of mine at university.
And though I will never know how it happened …
… somehow, Amy got the idea my name was “Andrew”.
It probably started innocently:
One day, someone called an “Andrew” in our presence …
… and perhaps I just happened to turn toward that person at that moment.
And that was the moment Amy secretly concluded I was called “Andrew”.
Not that I knew it, of course. I didn’t speak to her that much.
She wasn’t a friend. Not really even an acquaintance. Just kind of a classmate.
So the next time she saw me a few weeks later — and said, “Hey, Andrew” …
… well, what was I supposed to say?
And like a coward, I just … smiled. And said “Hey!”
That did it.
From that day on, to her I was “Andrew”.
And her confidence with that name grew by the day:
Week 1: “Um … Andrew, wasn’t it?”
Week 2: “Good morning, Andrew!”
Week 4: “Andrew, can you have a look at this?”
Week 7: “Huh? Tim — did I just hear you call Andrew ‘Daniel’? How embarrassing!”
Each time, the shame of my lie got worse and worse.
Yet at the same time, the humiliation of correcting her also got bigger … so I just shut up.
This carried on for an entire semester.
But then, mercifully …
That year I ended up dropping out of that course … and never saw her again.
And thus, my double existence as “Andrew” was finally over.
… or so I thought.
Fast forward three years.
I’m standing in Perth Airport.
I’m standing in Perth Airport because I’m going on a trip:
A trip to New York City.
I am very excited.
I take my place in the line at the boarding gate.
And then I hear a voice …
My blood runs cold.
My head snaps around—
I see her.
It’s … Amy.
You have got to be kidding me.
My eyes go wide in terror as my mouth contorts into a nervous fake smile:
“Uh … Amy! Fancy seeing YOU here! On the exact same flight as me! Today! Right … now! Of ALL THINGS that could have happened!”
(I’m trying desperately to keep the smile from turning into a crazed expression as I curse fate under my breath.)
She walks up to me and smiles. “Andrew! So good to see you! It’s been ages!”
Her eyes flit down to the open passport in my hand. “Hey, is that your—“
“NOTHING,” I snap, yanking my hand away. “It’s … nothing.”
She looks at me suspiciously.
“Your passport is nothing?”
I realise how stupid this sounds.
“Oh, haha … I mean … I just have a really bad photo,” I lie.
The queue steps forward and so do we.
And then it dawns on me:
Just a few metres in front of me is the lady who will check my ticket.
When she does, she’ll greet me by name … and my name will flash in big green letters on the screen.
My secret will be revealed.
Poor Amy will be humiliated.
And she’ll HATE me for not having told her the truth all these years.
She’d start crying, I imagine.
“How could you DO this to me, An— DANIEL?!?” she’d scream, through sobs.
“Is there anything WRONG here, sir?” two burly security guards would ask, as we cause a commotion at the boarding gate.
Guards would be radioed.
I’d be captured by the police … miss my flight … and be forced to explain my horrible mistake.
And this will all happen in approximately thirty seconds.
The crowd shuffles forward again. A conveyor belt trundling toward the jaws of shame.
“I, uh … hey, I think I forgot my bag!” I say.
Amy raises an eyebrow. “You mean that one on your shoulder?”
I pat my shoulder. “Oh … yeah! Haha. That one. I guess I didn’t lose it after all.”
The line moves forward again.
“So what are you going there for? Just a holiday?” Amy asks me casually.
I’m not listening — my eyes are darting around in search of an escape.
“Um … oh yeah, me too,” I say. “Hey, I think I really need to go to the bathroom.”
“We’re, like, two minutes from the plane,” says a bewildered Amy.
“But I really need to GO,” I hiss in mock desperation.
(Well, not really mock desperation. I’m desperate, just not for THAT.)
“It might be a bit late for that … just wait a minute,” says Amy, pointing me to the front of the line.
We’re just a couple metres now.
“Please have your passports and boarding passes out and ready,” calls out a cheerful attendant just steps away from me.
Whimpering, I pull mine out.
“Oh hey, where are you sitting?” asks Amy, leaning over to check my boarding pass.
“DON’T LOOK AT THAT!!!” I cry, ripping it away from her.
Amy just stares at me, wondering what on earth has gotten into me.
“I mean … I think … somewhere at the front!” I say.
And then I realise … we’re already at the head of the queue.
“May I see your boarding pass, sir?” says the attendant in front of me.
I just stand there.
“… your boarding pass, sir?” repeats the attendant.
She stands with her hand out.
Amy nudges me.
With trembling hands, I pull out my boarding pass and bring it forward.
The attendant takes it.
Her hands move toward the scanner.
Amy gazes casually at the screen where my name will flash in all its shameful fulness.
And then, the moment I’ve been dreading comes—