The Troubling Journey of a Name in the U.S.

For NSZ.

Thanks for helping me find myself.

I.

August 18, 2016.

First Name?

-Doménica.

How do you spell it?

-D. O. M. E. N. I. C. A.

Middle Initial?

-M.

Last Name?

-Montaño Moncayo

How do you spell that?

-M. O. N. T. A. Ñ. O

-M. O. N. T. A. N. O

As in Montana the State with an O in the end instead?

-Yes??

Sweet!

-and the rest is M. O. N. C. A. Y. O.

Okay. What’s your full middle name young lady?

-Michelle.

Welcome to the United States of America, you are now Michelle Montano.

1.

I had just arrived,

when they

translated me

into English.

Michelle,

they translated,

and I,

didn’t understand.

Montano,

they translated

And weirdly,

it felt safe.

Doménica

was too hard,

the “ñ”

too foreign,

and Moncayo,

my mother’s

last name,

too long.

Michelle

Montano

they translated,

and it

didn’t sound

so bad,

in their

mouths.

Michelle

Montano

they translated,

And I

became that,

that I hated my mom

to call me,

when she was mad.

It

hurt

me.

But,

I let them

translate me

because

in this country

Michelle

Montano

was safer

than

Doménica

Michelle

Montaño

Moncayo.

III.

Michelle, never spelled

her name for others,

only for

herself.

What’s your name?

People asked her,

Doménica

Michelle.

Oh nice! they said

How exciting are

familiar

names.

Of course! everything

is nice when you don’t

have to make any

sacrifice.

Michelle, yes!

what a wonderful name!

It only hurts

her.

In public or with friends,

Michelle only

spoke

English.

Spanish, used to

hide in her mind

like a dark

secret.

Abandoned, desolate

she left her soul.

Her heart, her

self.

Michelle, flowed like water

in their tongues.

And burned like acid in

hers.

Michelle was a liar,

who told lies.

Michelle, was a

lie.

But lies sometimes are better

than truths. They are easier to say,

and they keep us

safe.

IV.

Doménica Michelle Montaño Moncayo was born on June 1st, 1997 in that place, where the Earth divides in halves, and yet doesn’t collapse. It was a Sunday. Doménica means Sunday. Her mom says it was a Friday. She was never good at math.

Her mom named her Doménica because sonaba bonito. What a great reason! And because there was this Ecuadorian journalist whose name was Doménica and everyone loved. Doménica also wants to be a journalist.

Doménica loves her name. Unless her mother screams it from downstairs because she is running late. Doménica is original. It feels special. Unique. Yet, weirdly enough nobody really calls her Doménica. Almost never.

In Ecuador everyone has a nickname. Doménica never calls any of her friends by their actual names. They are Vane, Yadi, Emi, Chiqui, Coso, Zambra, Mabe, and so on. Nicknames are a sign of love. And so, she has a nickname too: Dome.

That is /d̪oˈme/. Not /dōm/ like dome. And it’s spelled Dome. Not Domé, like most people do in the U.S.. Domé, in Spanish is the past perfect simple of “domar” which literally means “to tame.” So when people say domé, they are literally saying that they tamed something or someone. That’s quite an unusual way of calling someone. Dome with no accents is fine.

And she likes it because it reminds her of her patria—of that little country in the middle of the globe that she calls home. And she mostly likes it because Dome is herself, and she is untranslatable and does not need an English version.

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