My parents named me Bruce Willis, but I don’t think they like his movies. I’m not sure they knew what they were doing. Bruce Willis, the star and hero. But I’m not even close to that.
The name does nothing to prevent bullies from jabbing sharpened pencils into my stomach or hawking loogies into my milk cartons. Bullies know nothing of the real Bruce Willis, the guy who saved his wife’s company from heavily armed thugs in his bare feet.
But my teachers know and laugh about it. Too bad my grades do not benefit from my association with a guy who won a couple Emmys and donates time and money to foster care programs.
Bruce Willis wasn’t held back a grade. Bruce Willis doesn’t have trouble saying three-syllable words. Bruce Willis didn’t get a detention when he wrote, “Now I have a machine gun, ho-ho-ho.” But I did. Me, the impostor Bruce Willis, scribbling it on a math test I barely passed.
My parents don’t watch movies, so they don’t understand. They wonder where I get this stuff, all these lines I hear Bruce Willis say and then repeat. They also wonder why I have no friends. Well, that’s easy to answer. I have mom’s cheeks and dad’s eyebrows and grandpa’s nose. But I have Bruce Willis’ name. It’s the one thing that matters.
I’ve seen all of his movies. When Bruce Willis saves the day, I am there along with him, the hero. When Bruce Willis kisses the girl, I kiss the girl, too, and feel it in my heart. When Bruce Willis saves earth from an asteroid, I share in his sacrifice and know warmth I never thought possible.
Last week I shaved my head like the real Bruce Willis, but no girls like me like they do the real Bruce Willis. Dad says I look like a sick boy, a boy who is about to die. Sometimes dad understands.
School holds a ceremony the day I pass the eighth grade and can finally move on to high school. I am older than all the students, but I’m still smaller and weaker. The principal announces my name in front of all the other students and their parents. For a second, I am like the real Bruce Willis, people I don’t know looking at me and clapping. But really I think the looking and clapping is for the real Bruce Willis, not for me, the fake one.
I spend the summer between eighth and ninth grade in the basement. The real Bruce Willis spends it with his family, probably in New York or Los Angeles. Maybe he cooks them lunch or listens to one of his kids play the piano. Bruce Willis, the singer and musician. Bruce Willis is many people all rolled into one, and I am nothing all rolled into nobody. But nothing lasts forever. One day they’ll forget about the real Bruce Willis. And I’ll be there, ready to take his spot.
Ryan P. Kennedy eats shit and dies.