Coyote Woman

BY BERNIE NGUYEN

Published September 15, 2004

I write, she told me, on thin runners of foolscap that bleed
paper cuts at the edges. Her fingers were stained with ink and the
brilliance of the raspberries she crushed before placing them in
her mouth.

Marcela Sanchez wrote about Mexico — adobe huts and red
dirt, corn tortillas and fantastic sunlight that dripped from the
sky. She had been born in Seattle, the daughter of an accountant
and a homemaker. Her younger brother, Eduardo, grew up to be a
flamenco guitarist and married a Japanese secretary who expressed
her wild side with red silk lingerie. Suko Miyazuko — well,
Suko Sanchez — was an excellent salsa dancer who gave birth
to triplets. They were named Maria, Yuki, and Teresa.

I eat ketchup packets on stale toast, she said, with the
capers of moonlight streaming before me, leading to the next block
and the end of the world. Have you ever felt Spanish tile on your
bare ass? Of course not, but I have, when the sheets are too warm
and I sleep naked on the balcony.

She lived in the remains of the Sierra Hotel, once beautiful
but now grimy, like an ancient whore too tired to turn tricks
anymore. It was an eye-opening experience, Marcela informed me.
Imagine living like the squatters in Nogales, selling gum and
beaded necklaces and dreaming of a house in the arms of a giant
cactus. I live like a coyote, she said.

During the interview she puffed weed she’d bought off
the street and rolled in discarded lotto tickets. Her brown eyes
were glazed, but direct, and I would have bet my last dime that she
knew exactly everything she was saying.

I live like a coyote, she said, and licked her fingers.
Aren’t you jealous?

That night I slept and dreamt of saguaro women, running along
the mesa with tortilla aprons and bright red clay buttons, big
blooms of palo verde hair burned against the backdrop of a setting
sun. The air hot, the ground beginning to cool. The chunks of
barrel cactus and adobe stepping-stones across an ocean of
sand.

Somewhere, beneath a slippery curtain of distant rain, a
coyote howled and I woke up, my face pressed into the beige sheets
and one arm flung to the side, fingers outstretched as if to touch
that line of purple that ran over the desert as the moon rose and
the stars began to shine.

Coyote woman. Coyote life. I lay and stared at the ceiling,
wondered how she felt when she woke nude, baptized by the dew on
the red tiles.

Coyote woman.

When the interview was published she sent me a tiny cactus
baby in a clay pot, gravel around its base like a swarm of fire
ants. I put it on the windowsill and watched it at sunset, seeing
the silhouette against the sky and somehow, somehow, hearing coyote
music beneath the hum of city traffic. Coyote woman singing, coyote
woman dancing, coyote woman feet streaked with blood and fingers
filled with prickly pear, coyote woman teeth and eyes and lashes
trembling with dew and coyote tail and scorpion sting.

Yes, Marcela. I’m jealous.