Today my name is Kelly.
I check out of the motel and pay in cash the way Dad taught me. On the way out of town, I stop at a diner and order an omelette and a cup of coffee.
While waiting for my food, I go to the bathroom to wash my hands. I always feel the need to wash off yesterday. Yesterday I was Miranda. I scrub at her with soap and hot water until she peels off into the sink. The last bits of Miranda swirl down the drain as I turn off the water and dry my hands on my pants.
Shortly after I return to my table, the waitress brings my meal. Her name tag says "Tina." As I eat, I imagine the waitress picking her name out of a bucket of name tags. What made her reach for that one? Why did she decide to wear "Tina" today?
I pay for the food and leave.
Most people picture California as a place with lots of palm trees, beaches, and movie stars. I've been to California loads of times and never seen any of those things. To me, California is a giant hiding place for the dying. There's so many places to stash people while you make them scream. If you want privacy, choose a shack in the desert to go about your business. If the classic mafia look is more your style, a warehouse in Los Angeles is just as effective.
I remember coming to California when I was younger, right after Ma died. Dad said he had work to do on a ranch. He went into the barn with some men and told me to wait outside, not to go near the barn at all. I watched the horses for a while and kicked some rocks around in the dirt. That's when the screaming started. Eventually I found myself around the back of the barn. The wood paneling on the outside had warped and was coming loose in a few places. I peered between a gap in the boards and watched as Dad worked. He cut the screaming man so much that the dirt beneath him was soaked in blood. I didn't know there could be so much blood in a person. Something about the whole situation didn't seem quite right, as if I were watching Dad do some dirty thing. I ran back to the car, not out of fear, but because I didn't want Dad to know that I'd been peeking at him. When he was done working, we left the ranch right away. Dad asked me if I was able to pet any of the horses. I said "yes," lying just like I did when he asked me if I remembered doing anything with Ma.
I don't know what part of California I was in when that happened, I just know it was California. I think I'd like to go back to that ranch some day, maybe pet the horses this time. Today I'm on my way to another ranch in California, probably similar to the one from my childhood.
Songs on the radio start and finish, a DJ announces the next set, then some ads come on. Suddenly, I'm sitting in the car at a ranch in California. I get my tools out of the trunk and out of the corner of my eye, I see a man come out of the barn to meet me. I'm no longer Kelly, I'm my father. The little girl waiting in the passenger seat of the car is Kelly. I tell her not to worry, that I'll be back for her soon, that she shouldn't go near the barn. She will, of course, and she'll peek through the gaps in the boards and see the bleeding man. I'll see the bleeding man too.
This is the thing that I've prepared my whole life for. This is my duty, my calling, my being. I am my father, and Kelly, and everyone else in every place I have ever been.
Tomorrow, I think I'll be Tina.