Everyone, meet Nikolas Biggi.
“Nikolas Bi—Big…” the teacher stumbled over the letters as she tried to call roll.
BG! I thought to myself. The letter B. And the letter G. Why was it so hard?
“Biggi,” I said, giving her a two-fingered salute.
Biggi. What a last name. A final “up yours” from my dad before he walked out on my mom and me when I was nine and ran off with Sue Ellen, the bleach-blonde waitress from the Tasty-Freeze. Apparently, she really knew how to dip a cone…
The last time I heard from my dad was two months after my 14th birthday. He sent me a shaving kit and a soccer ball which was the only thing in my life he’d ever gotten right. I had more body hair than any kid south of Jersey. I liked to think of it as proof positive when it came to nature’s cruel sense of humor.
My dad was also kind enough to scar my genes with a perpetually-tangled mop of curly hair that looked more like it belonged to Doc from Back to the Future than a kid living in rural Georgia, a set of eyebrows that would put Groucho Marx to shame, and the ability to say the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong moment.
Comparatively, if Joe Jonas and Adrian Grenier had a love child, it was me … I had the guybrows to prove it.
Nikolas was a nod from my mother whose parents immigrated to the States from Greece via beer cooler through Cuba. I had her freaky-blue eyes, inability to understand algebra, and tendency to mismanage time. And at the age of twelve, I could grow a full-blown beard which, oddly enough, was also a trait inherited from her.
As if my life didn’t scream socially well-adjusted, when I was thirteen, my YaYa with her gnarly arthritis and malfunctioning hearing-aid begrudgingly joined our American household. She could say about two words in English, both of which got me smacked when I repeated them at mass the following Sunday. The language barrier sucked most days … well, except the time she tried to inform me about puberty. At least, I think that’s what she was talking about. There was a lot of questionable gesturing and foreboding pointing going on. We haven’t really made eye contact since that day.