Then one day, as suddenly as Akhneton had entered my life, he left. A few weeks later – 10 years ago today – Mark David Gerson was reborn in that same Arizona courthouse, this time not as "Mark," but as "Mark David."
Today, on the 10th anniversary of the legal birth of my "Mark David" persona, I share the story behind my name change, in this excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir.
I was driving along California’s Pacific Coast Highway in early January 2005 when suddenly, as I had experienced with “Mark” seven-and-a-half years earlier, the name Aq'naton no longer fit. [I had changed the spelling from Akhneton to Aq'naton a few years earlier.] I swerved into the next pullout and, shaken, stared at the ocean, steel-gray on this overcast day. If I wasn’t Aq’naton, who was I? Was I David again? Mark? Neither felt right.
“What about ‘Mark David,’” my friend Martha suggested, rapidly calculating its numerological significance.
I repeated it a few times. Mark David. Mark David. Mark David. It felt odd, an unusual compound name that seemed to stumble out of my mouth rather than trip easily off my tongue. Still, “Mark David” felt more right than a return to Mark, David or Aq'naton, so I adopted it...and once again reintroduced myself, somewhat anxiously, to the world.
A few days later, I drove back to the Camp Verde courthouse, to the scene of that first legal name change. In Arizona at the time, name-changes did not require legal notices in a newspaper. They involved a summary hearing before a judge. The first time, in 1998, my court appearance took place a few weeks after I handed in the paperwork, in a session filled with uncontested divorces and other quick-gavel decisions. This time, I was only passing through Sedona with no plans to stay beyond the next few days.
“I’ll be traveling,” I told the clerk when she offered possible court dates weeks out. “Are there no other options?”
“Hang on a sec,” she said, and disappeared into a back room. Five minutes later she reemerged. “Can you be back here in two hours?”
She grinned. “I found a judge who will give you a private hearing.”
Three hours later I was in Division Six of the Superior Court of Arizona. “Why are you changing your name?” the judge asked.
I told him Aq’naton had been a pen name and that I now wanted all my affairs back in my birth name. It was the simplest piece of a larger truth.
He scribbled something on his pad.
“Are you changing your name to avoid debts or to hide from creditors?”
He scribbled something else on his pad, signed the name-change order and passed it to the clerk. She stamped it.
It was 11:11 on January 27, 2005. Six years and eight months to the day after Akhneton Yoseyva had been legally created in this same building, he ceased to exist. Mark David Gerson had been reborn.
Adapted from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir © Mark David Gerson