He never knew why.
Maybe because of the limp. Maybe the stringy blond hair. Who knew anymore? Kids say the darnedest things, and all that.
So Noodle it was.
He joined the Navy. They overlooked the limp, desperate, he guessed, for sailors. They shaved his head, for which he thanked them.
He lived on an aircraft carrier, a giant city on the sea. He filled vending machines for twelve hours a day. Off duty, he learned to smoke and stare at overhead conduits and tune out the noise of the other men.
He made one friend. One.
He told no one about his name. They all called him Rayburn, if they called him anything at all.
During an extended leave, his friend invited him to stay at another guy's apartment. They were three Navy guys, stuck in a second floor craphole in San Diego.
Friday morning, he woke to the sound of thumping. Thuds. Laughter. Strain. He shouldn't be able to hear it. He tunes out every noise on the ship. Why would this wake him?
He stumbles into the living room where the other two guys are wrestling. Wrestling. On the living room floor. Are they drunk? It's five in the morning.
"Stop it," he says.
"Tell me that to my face, Rayburn," one of them replies, slamming the other to the floor. The whole place rattles.
There's a banging on the door. An urgent knocking.
He opens it. It's a girl. A woman. She's, well, gorgeous. Her eyes are blue, bluer than, yes, the Mediterranean. He's speechless.
"Will you guys knock it off?"
She's wrapped in a flannel robe. She's tired. She's angry. She's beautiful.
"Oh, sorry," he says.
The other two guys rush to the door. "Yeah, we're sorry. Real sorry."
She nods, begins to walk away.
"Hey," one of the other guys says, "You wanna come in?"
She stops. Faces them. "No," she says, smiling. "Actually, I want to kill you."
They laugh. They smack each other on the back and head toward the refrigerator.
She looks at him. He watches her pad down the hall.
"Sorry," he says again.
She stops, turns, looks at him.
"I don't really know them," he says. It just comes spilling out. "I tried to stop them. I don't really understand them. I guess they're used to being on a big, noisy ship."
She blinks, shoves her hands into the pockets of her robe.
"Well, they've ruined my morning."
"I know," he says. He walks into the hall. "Can I buy you a cup of coffee to make up for their idiocy?"
She stares at him. "What's your name?"
"Noodle," he blurts out, unthinking.
He nods again.
She shakes her head. Says nothing, It feels like ten thousand years go by.
"Yeah," she says. "You can buy me a cup of coffee. And then we're gonna come back upstairs and kill those guys."
He closes the door behind him.