Tame the Coyotes
Rocio was invisible because she wished to be invisible. It was that easy. She disappeared into nothing. Not even a ghost or a trickle of rainwater before it gets sent back into the atmosphere.
She lived in a small town overrun by the color brown. Sepia houses. Cedar roads. Pecan trees with no leaves. Thick cracked dirt in backyards. She dreamt of the town turning into a giant pile of dust. Fire ants could take over. Colonize without remorse. The ants could transform the dusty town into a monarchy. No outsiders would think to ask any questions. The town had splotches of color because of Catholicism. Floral shrines to La Virgen de Guadalupe and San Miguel decorated the sides of tan homes. Jesus and his cross hung in gold on the front door of every home.
Rocio’s body grew with intensity. One moment, she was taller than her mother. A giant above both of her abuelas. Another moment, her hair grew past her hips. She grew hair on her upper lip, under her arms, on her knuckles. Her hips had constant bruises from corners she never suspected could betray her. Anger overcame her when older men tried to touch her long hair or question her about her age. Her answers switched from “too young for you” and “none of your god damn business.” Queerness was a constant. She knew by the way she quivered as she clenched her fists when a beautiful being walked past her and left behind their salty musk. She found attraction in crooked noses and big brown eyes with long eyelashes.
Every Sunday, in the stuffy church, the priest rubbed at his brow, begging the women not to give into lust. The church was packed with all of the women in town. It was an excuse for them to dress in colorful two-piece suits and lush veils. The lust lesson was repeated to them every week because of the two women who ran away together. The priest called them lesbian renegades. Rocio knew the two women would never return and she was happy for them. The women kneeled and prayed in silence.
Invisibility came as an impulse to live in peace from the eyes of men, even if for an hour. As an invisible entity, Rocio shed her clothes, climbed the naked trees of her brown town and listened in on the neighborhood gossip. The women spoke about divinity and sensuality. Divinity was unreachable and with that they’d be untouchable. Two of the women said they could do it, the others admitted they needed to feel the warmth of another body next to them. In her invisible state, Rocio watched the sun turn her town into a golden city. Short rectangles glistening in dust. When the sun set, it was as though the town disappeared.
Rocio woke up in her bed, no longer invisible. She sat on different pecan tree branches and waved at the women in the neighborhood as they passed by. She told them if they wished to be invisible, they could pleasure themselves for as long and as hard as they wanted. Invisible women aren’t seen or heard. Many of the women rushed past her. Some looked her in the eye and said thank you.
After the golden hour, she wished to be invisible and so she was. She sneaked toward every house in town looking into windows. Many of the women were missing. She wondered how many women she walked past, but saw nothing and felt nothing. In celebration, she masturbated in the middle of town, next to the statue of a man with a missing face. No one knows how he got there, but he couldn’t watch her if he tried. She looked into outer space and softened. She came and saw an exploding star behind her eyes. She saw purples, pinks, yellows, all a shimmer in the pools of her eye.
Every night, Rocio checked the neighborhoods. More and more women went missing. Everyone showed up in the morning, so there was nothing to be alarmed about. It tickled her to see more and more women gone after sunset. The men in their lives wandered into bars at night and sometimes into the bigger city, and they never questioned the quiet.
On the seventh night of the disappearances, the women could be heard. Howls and screams and cackles. Frightened men with sleep residue on their eyes woke up to the thunderous sounds.
In the morning, the men called for a town meeting next to the faceless statue. They started teams of two. They assigned patrols at the edge of the town. Their objective was to tame the coyotes. Rocio followed one of the teams in the dark on their first night of patrolling. They were quiet behind white bandanas and tan clothes. They discussed shooting first, asking questions later. Then, they talked about Sunday’s football game.
Rocio ran back into town and wished herself visible. She found something to wear and tore it off of a clothesline. Men walked past her and asked her why she was out so late. She ignored them and continued running until she got home. She locked the door behind her and knew what was coming next. The howls. They happened again. The cackles. The screaming. The moaning. Rocio changed into black tights and a black dress. She covered her face with black lace and a black baseball cap. She wandered into the street listening for the screaming. It surrounded her. Once the booming sound stopped, Rocio exhaled.
On the fourth night of the screams, Rocio heard gunshots in the distance. Her stomach dropped. She couldn’t breathe. Vertigo hit and she fell to the ground. A wounded woman emerged in the morning. Her name was Elena. In her belly, bullets settled in. Rocio went to the funeral with hot tears lining her face. All of the women attending wore red gowns they sewed for each other over the course of invisibility. They prayed for Elena and lit a white candle for her. Rocio left her rosary behind for Elena to have in the afterlife.
After the burial, Rocio asked all of the women to meet in the center of town. They toppled the faceless man and dumped him into an empty field with pale yellow grass. They whispered to each other. They didn’t want to tell the men the truth. They were afraid the machistas would try and coopt invisibility and use it in the ways men like them warp anything beautiful. They picked a safe house. They chose Doña Guadalupe’s house. They assigned shifts. They dug shallow holes in the backyard of the new safe house. Doña Guadalupe knew a thing or two about silence. She allowed the women into her home. She was delighted in the company and the chisme. The women cooked for each other. They bathed each other if they couldn’t do it on their own. They read in silence until it was time to stand on guard. What looked like seven graves in the back of the house, were filled in with rose petals and lavender. Magnolia oil and lotus oil coated the invisible women. They hid in their temporary beds.
When it was time for the howls to erupt, Rocio and the women stood around the parameter of the house in their red gowns. When the men with guns passed by, the women claimed to hear nothing. The women became so good at lying, the men started to question whether they heard anything at all.
Rios de la Luz is a queer xicana and chapina living in El Paso. She is the author of The Pulse Between Dimensions and The Desert (Ladybox Books, 2015) and the novella Itzá (Broken River Books, 2017). Her work has been featured in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Luna Luna Magazine, Corporeal Clamor, Entropy, Broadly, The Fem Lit Magazine, World Literature Today and St. Sucia.