Muñeca lived in a doll house with brick-painted walls thin enough to be pierced by bullets or a fist. Hands moved her from corner to chair to bed, but Muñeca never complained. At least she had the night. Nights where she lay with a stitched mouth on sticker tiles watching the Luna dance across her window, waiting for the luz to blind her glass eyes.
She had pillow flesh that gave way to any finger’s touch. Her body did not need a spine because a spine could be crushed, and she found it was easier to heal if she learned to cave beneath weight.
There were boys who would steal her from the dollhouse, place her next to soldiers saying she’s the esposa and her husband is at war and the hole they carved was home. And the boys would bang boom shoot green men against each other, splashing her with dirt that never reached her eyes.
Her cheeks were Mother’s lipstick smudged into drawn circles. Mother always said quédate joven because youth was a gift that bought her time. Hairy hands rarely craved something so doll-like. But the cheeks like rosas didn’t always work.
Sometimes calloused hands would come and cinch her waist with a ribbon, puff balls of algodón beneath her dress, walk her around saying Missus I like your vestido, missus come with me to dinner tonight, missus you seem so much older than you are. And even then, Muñeca tried to embrace the dress up game.
Muñeca’s hair was made of thick yarn black as the nights she was flipped upside down. The yarn was a pillow for her tired head. She tried to remember it was easier being soft. The open wall of her doll house reminded her of this. It was always easier being soft beneath sour breath and smoky hands.
But one day Mother came and lifted her away. And Mother’s eyes were not glass because glass didn’t make oceans of tears. Her soft hands lifted her and carried her outside beneath the Sol and placed her on burning plastic black where she smelled rotten potato and diaper air.
Here she waited. But she saw stars. Saw full moon light that didn’t blind her but made the smells easier to bear than the Sol’s boiling heat.
Then one morning a man came. Wearing night sky clothing with a stitched word HACHIROU, and the man said My what a beautiful doll. And she was afraid of his calloused hands. But the man had gentle fingers and he said I cannot throw you out. Not with eyes like a moonless night. And the man bent down and carved a hole like the one the boys called home. He said Do not be afraid. And he placed her inside and covered the hole with handfuls of dirt, and Muñeca remembered, finally, what it was like to sleep.
Valorie K. Ruiz is a Xicana writer fascinated by language and the magic it evokes. She is an MFA Candidate at San Diego State University where she works with Poetry International. Outside of her poetic work, she enjoys exploring digital literature and can be found working on her Twine game (Brujerías) or making galaxy gato-themed websites in her spare time.
Cover Photo by Yu-Chan Chen