The only people who call it ‘Cali’ are from someplace else.

by Alexis Rhone Fancher

I want to pinpoint the moment it all went south.

1. My sister blames her ex’s bad genes.
Sometimes she blames the media.

2. When Anna was 12 we sat in the dark in Van Nuys,
watched Thelma & Louise self-ignite.

Brad Pitt’s the perfect man,
my niece said more than once.

Headstrong, even then.

3. We only went to that church for a year, my sister cried,
after Anna’s abuse was laid bare.

The reverend looked like a young Brad Pitt,
introduced by the Pentecostal neighbor
as a godly man, but which god?

The reverend was far too beautiful;
Anna, such easy prey.

4. Futile to press charges, my sister said,
doubting the testimony of her muddled girl, the publicity.

5. My sister moved everyone to Georgia.

No one told her how cold it got in the South.

She could not know Anna would self-destruct,
grow dizzy in rehab’s revolving door;

the reverend’s defilement a living thing.

6. The last time I saw Anna,
she was wearing a T-shirt with the Golden State
stretched like an open wound across her length,
screaming CALI in lurid yellow.