A Name Like a Flying Cheesecake by Christy Tending

I like the providence of names. Move a letter here or there, or leave them as they were, and they come to mean a whole new person. The name itself takes on a new life: wearing its old coat with a new brooch or a fresh lining. It sits in restaurants the old name never knew, watches sunsets like they’re the first. My name came from Christa. Or Krista. I’m not sure which. But Christa or Krista was a German friend of my mom’s, whom mom met when she was living in a VW camper somewhere along a highway between somewhere in Switzerland and somewhere in Germany, who can say, it was the 70’s. I only have one story about Krista or Christa, and I turn it over in the palm of my hand like a coin I found in the pocket of the old coat of my name. For decades now, I have worn it and turned it over, until the cuffs are threadbare, and the coin is smooth with use. 

But the story is like this. One day, Krista’s friend baked her a cheesecake—her favorite—but she had no other way to get it home, so she secretly packed the cheesecake into the shelf underneath the back windshield of her husband’s precious BMW, the one in which no food was allowed, the one that meant more to him than his own life, and when he hit the brakes, you know what happened next. The cheesecake launched itself from its cardboard box face first into the inside of the front windshield of the beloved BMW.

I don’t know how that story ends, whether he yelled or laughed, but either way, Krista died in childbirth some time later. I think about the stories her overly serious husband told their daughter about her mother. I wonder whether the little girl, who is all grown up, knows about the cheesecake. I wonder about the fun she might have had at the expense of her father’s BMW. I don’t know how that story ends, either. 

But I think about my name, not so many letters removed, and sometimes I imagine my name as the flying cheesecake, caught midair on the Autobahn, in the slice of a moment before it becomes a punchline. I imagine looking at the dessert against the glass in gaping-mouthed shock, and doing the only sensible thing one can—before I dissolve into laughter. I swipe my finger through the creamy cheesecake filling, with the warmth of Madagascar vanilla and a breath of lemon zest, and lift it to my tongue. I taste the sweetness of my namesake and the tang of my birthright.

Biography: Christy Tending (she/they) is an activist, writer, and mama living in Oakland, California. Their first book, High Priestess of the Apocalypse, is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in 2024. You can learn more about their work at christytending.com or follow Christy on Twitter @christytending.

Image: unsplash.com