Tom is a name.

It is also a word. It is a sound. It is vibration brought on by vocal cords brought on by consciousness. It is an amorphous concept that assumes new definition every time it is uttered or contemplated. It is the name my parents gave to me. It is the container in which I am placed. Mommy and daddy made sexy. They made love and their love made me. My existence is the product of the love and entanglement of two beings. The penis went in and I came out, nine months later. When I came out, they placed me in the container of my name. Tom.

A name is a curse, a crutch, and a blessing. A name gives you shape. Without a name, you are shapeless. Shapelessness brings freedom. There are fewer restraints. Fewer expectations are imposed upon you. This increases the field of potential, which can be as liberating as it can be chaotic and terrifying.

Pulling in the reigns entails restraint, but it also means safety, or at least the illusion of safety. Letting go of the reigns entails freedom and the ability to go anywhere, but it also decreases predictability. A name is a way of reigning an individual toward the qualities and aspects associated with the name. Because the attributes of a name can be subtle, it may seem that they are not there.

To make a more overt example, imagine a child called Shitface. Now imagine their sibling is named Angel Holy-Holly Goodness. Because these names have more apparent attributes, it can be easier to recognize the presence of their influence.

Every individual will respond in their own way to the attributes imposed upon them by their name. The qualities of the name may possess one person while another person with the same name may resist the name’s qualities and, consequently, become an inversion of the name’s likeness. One child named Shitface may end up being a total shitface because he has been imprisoned by his name. Another child named Shitface may end up being a pleasant, magnanimous person, precisely because the name caused the person to deliberately distance himself from its adverse qualities.

With names like Sally, Jim, Carl, or Liz, the attributes are less obvious, but they are present nonetheless. Each time the name is cast upon its taker, each time a friend, parent, or lover calls out your name, the shape of the name is imposed upon you. You are cast into the mold created by your name. The constraints of a name have more influence on some than on others, but I have not yet met a person untouched by the nudging fingers of their name.

Life and love were the first gifts my parents gave to me. The name came later.

There are many phenomena being exchanged during love-making. It’s not just the sharing of feelings and the swapping of bodily fluids. It’s the continuation of an eternal ancestry. From grandfather Big Bang to the single-celled organisms and down to the happy family of homo sapiens. A family and its members never die, so long as its children continue to propagate. Sex is the family’s means to eternity. Sex is how your family is going to live and love—or hate—forever. Sex is how your mom, your dad, your grandparents, your great-great-great-grandparents and all the rest are going to live forever. Forever may not be achieved, but it is the goal. It is the goal of any family whose butts are still humping to the beat of their hearts. Be they animated by lust, love, or a bit of both, the dancing of reproductive organs is the family’s face seeking to evade the erosion of time.

When your father and mother laid together, when he came in her and a thing called you was conceived, it was not only your father’s cum that left his body and leapt to your mother’s egg, your house. The cum was the carrier. Inside of each of your father’s seeds were all of his ancestors. Inside of your mother’s egg were all of her ancestors. So long as the offspring live, ancestors never die. They continue to live within the bodies of their children.

Your mother’s boozing, your father’s distant heart, your parents’ love, their grace, their inspiration, their depression, their passion, it’s all inside of you. Your grandma’s donkey laugh hee-haws in your belly. Your grandpa’s sliding tongue and slippery words jostle along the bumps of your gums.

The families of your past hold hands or slash wrists in the living womb called You. Each of the them take up house in the area that suits them best. Even the ones that wish to die never can. A part of each one is swept along into the dust and dirt of the dawning generations.

My mother rests in my pancreas. On Sundays, she prays to the future that I may find a lover. She prays that the world will never change.

My father rests in my belly. Mostly, he sleeps. His legs could walk but he believes they are broken. When he wakes, he crawls from wall to wall and claws at the sides of my stomach with fingers that have no nails. His eyes wish to see but the lids stay closed. In his head, his brain could be bright but it’s swimming in mud.

My mother’s mother lives in my heart. She rides naked on the backs of deer and beasts whose chests are boisterous.

My mother’s father lives in my left hand. When the fingers are open, he tugs at them to force a fist.

My father’s father laughs in my eyeballs.

My father’s mother cries in my throat.

The rest of the ancestors, the great-grandparents and beyond, they’re in here, inside me, but they’re smaller, quieter. Their voices have grown tired but are renewed with the birthing of each new generation.

At the moment of coitus, when the family detects the possibility of imminent conception, they congregate in the seed or egg of the body. They crouch waiting for the child that may come to be. They cross fingers and swell up with hope for the chance of continuing the beat of the family’s drum. Each baby is a savior to the family hoping to stave off death for a few more decades.

When one family’s egg meets the seed of another, their hands fall upon the child taking form. The babe is kneaded like clay by the hands of their history. The lies, the truths, and the ways of the past come before the child to show him the world as they know it. The child finds these families entering his body as it blossoms into being. The baby exits the womb and the family within him screams delighted at the breath of new air received by new lungs.

In the child’s outer world, mommy and daddy hold him and hug him.

In the child’s inner world, they hide in his skin, his organs, his sex and his heart.

Inside of the body, the family of the past creates the life of the future.

The family forever.