There are four of us at my usual laundry place, not counting the two women behind the counter. I can’t tell what the guy wearing the motorcycle helmet is doing. Mainly, he’s just in my way as I try to place my dirty pants in a basket to be weighed.

The two girls, though, are engaged in a conversation about the (fake?) fur thing that they’re holding in a plastic bag.

While simultaneously writing down how much my pants weigh, one of the women behind the counter is explaining that either the fur thing can’t go in a washing machine or that it wasn’t put in a washing machine. I can’t tell which because Indonesian has a lack of tenses that makes it very hard for me to pin down people’s true meanings.

“Kira,” the woman says, looking over at me expectantly.

“Yes,” I say.

At my senior fellow’s advice, I’ve started giving the laundry people a fake name. Zoë, I’ve learned, is hard both for people to spell and for people to pronounce, so after some thought I picked the name Kyra to use, at least with the laundry people.

I first became enamored with the name Kyra somewhere around sixth grade when I was also at the peak of my obsession with Russia. It later became the name of a very important character in one of my stories and was the first name I thought of that would be easy to spell in Indonesian.

“Kira-kira,” the woman says with a grin, demonstrating exactly why I’d picked the name—it’s already a word.

True, the first time I said my name was half of the word approximately, I got a strange look, but there were no questions about spelling or pronunciation.


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