The motel manager was unnervingly chipper when I checked in, a shine in his eye that could have been religion or drugs. Now he’s walking the perimeter of the parking lot at midnight, staring straight ahead and making perfect ninety-degree turns. I close the blinds. I think about praying, but I don’t know how. Instead I fall asleep thinking about the origin of the word hotel until I become convinced it is a portmanteau of home and tele. A distant home.

In the morning, billboards along Interstate 90 tell me that God owes us nothing, love is an action verb, and the key to forgiveness was hung on the cross. I drive with the windows down, thinking about forgiveness and my fifth-grade teacher. I wanted to play the saxophone, but she said my hands were too small. She made me play the violin, and I was terrible. At our Christmas recital, she told me just to pretend my bow was touching the strings. Her name was Mrs. Fiddler.

The towns in South Dakota have solid names like Reliance, Interior, and Alliance. A sign near a rest area says hundreds of victims of smallpox are buried nearby. Inside the travel plaza, giant flatscreens teach us the history of random celebrities. (Julianne Moore’s maiden name was Smith.) I wander the parking lot looking for my car, exchanging looks with a woman wearing a sweater that says, “I’m not bossy; I just get everything I want.” I stare at the electrified gates of golf courses named after slain tribes. I speed past a dozen military planes propped on concrete blocks like offerings to the machine gods.