Rocio y Rocio y Rocio

Rocio abuela and Rocio nieta saw the movement outside the window at the same time. Something flew by fast and almost hit the glass. Here the City windows were glass and you could see through them. This summer, because la situacion estaba muy mal, abuela had to bring Roci back to the City right away because the facistas in Coral threw rocks at the shutters of Rocio abuela's wooden front windows in the middle of the night. They painted "comunistas" in red letters on the outside of abuela's rooming house. Back in the City last night Rocio nieta woke up shaking at midnight from hearing the sound of splintering wood in her dreams, even in the cozy bed she shared with Mami. That was because los facistas had kept throwing rocks for several nights and Mami's sister Tia Mila, who never liked to leave her room, had started walking the wide hall of Casa Rocio all night long. No matter how much Abuela Rocio and Tia Rocio and Tia Jesusa sang to Tia Mila and soothed her with tilo Tia Mila wouldn't even get in bed.
On the third night of rock throwing Tia Mila disappeared and the next day when Roci came back from playing in the plaza with Tia Rocio, who was only 12 years old, she found Abuela and Tia Jesusa crying in each other's arms on the small sofa at the end of the long hallway, beyond their kitchen and just before the dining room, where the women watched telenovelas at night. The actual living room of the house, in the front, had been made into a room for huespedes long before Roci was born.
Later Roci and Tia Rocio dried dishes and listened to Tia Jesusa and abuela in the kitchen, "Mila was always tan nerviosa. But I never dreamed que se iba a tirar al rio." Roci wasn't supposed to know why Tia Mila was nerviosa but she knew. Last summer after the rebeldes avalanched the Guacabon Bridge the Guardias had taken her novio Emilio. They had been Mila and Milo. Next day they had taken Mila too. At the cuartel they put her into a cell and after she'd been there a few hours they brought her a horrigying red mass she finally realized was Milo's eyeball. At first she hadn't known what it was. They killed Milo. His body was never returned to the family and had never been found. "Los facistas la desahuciaron de su propia vida." Roci had never heard her abuela cry, not like that. It was a wail that sounded like it came from outside of her body, from the world. "Los facistas me mataron a mi hija."
The day after Tia Mila se tiro al rio abuela Rocio and little Roci took the Coral Ferry back home to the City, to the apartment of Tio Sereno, abuela's twin, who had taken Mami Luisa in when she got pregnant with Roci. Roci watched Mami Luisa and Tio Sereno sitting around the kitchen yelling at abuela for cremating Tia Mila. She wished she dared ask what cremating was and in that very moment figured out her abuela Rocio and her twin had been given the same name. "Oye abuela, rocio and sereno both mean dew, verdad?" Abuela picked her up, set her on her lap, and hugged her hard.
The night before they left Coral Roci heard abuela and the tias talking late at night, after the telenovela. "Maybe if they find out I'm gone the facistas will stop pelting the house with rocks before all our huespedes move out." Or that's what Rocio nieta pieced together by spying on all those mujeres. Before they sat her down at breakfast and told her that she would be going to the City with her abuela Roci already knew it. Why did the mujeres think she couldn't hear them?

When the thing moved past the glass window of the kitchen in the apartment where her Tio abuelo Sereno let Roci and her mother Luisa live, Roci and abuela ran to see. Here in the City, in Tio Sereno's small apartment at the back of a tall building, the windows were made of glass and you could see through them. In Coral you had to pry open the shutters, or unlatch the doors, and then peer out through the iron bars, if you wanted to see outside. In Coral the movement at the windows had been bricks wrapped in brown wrapping paper with the word COMUNISTAS in big red letters.
In the City the movement at the window had been an enormous brown feathered bird with a humped back. Abuela and Roci looked out. They saw the big bird swoop and perch on top of one of the cars in the parking lot four flights below. "What is that?" Young Rocio pointed to a red mass dangling from the bird's white beak. "Un halcon comiendose una rata. That red mess is what's left of the rat, its bloody spine."Rocio nieta gazed up at the brown narrow face of her grandmother and its crown of gray braids. "Metafora de que, abuela?" For abuela everything was a metaphor.
Rocio vieja looked at Rocio joven. The world was always trying to teach humans big lessons. Many people had said abuela and nieta had the same face, six decades apart. She didn't see herself in her grandchild. "What do you think, Roci? Metaphor of what?" The girl's smile transformed her face and there it was, the same wide grin of the elder. "Claro abuela, it's the empire, the vile City, and that bloody spine of a rat is us, Isla Karaya."

That night, the very night of the Isla Karaya election, a hurricane hit the island, out of season, with very little warning. The facistas and the comunistas were running a very close race and now both parties were demanding that the election be stopped. Neither party wanted to accept the results, even before the race was called. Tio Sereno kept the Karayan opposition online station on day and night and from what Roci could see, there were more comunistas than facistas showing up at the polls, but still, everyone was waiting for the current Governor to shut down an election in which almost everyone had to stay home, behind their hurricane shuttered windows. But the man did nothing. "La constitucion dice que no." The election proceeded although very few were willing to face the chaos of 100 mile winds and eight foot waves to go vote.
Next morning Roci awoke to loud crying from Abuela. "Ganamos. Ganamos las elecciones." So these were tears from joy. Abuela was in her pink chenille house coat, and her Karayan straw flip flops, and stood over Tio Sereno's two burners, boiling milk for their café con leche. Tio Sereno sat at the green formica table in the middle of the small kitchen, leaning on his elbows, with his dark narrow face, very similar to his twin sister's although of course they were not identical, cupped in his hands, inches from the screen of his laptop. "But don't you see with so few votes it won't matter? We have no mandate. No sirve pa' na'." Abuela walked to the table with the sauce pan and poured hot milk into the two inches of black coffee at the bottom of Tio Sereno's cup. "Nuestro mandato somos las masas. What do we care about the election. Our mandate is the masses. Our mandate is us." She got on the phone to the Partido. The Coalition was rallied. It was always at the ready, poised to move.
A few hours later Sereno, Rocio abuela, Rocio nieta, and Mami Luisa were on the back of a pick-up truck that the police allowed them to drive into Moon Park. It had been turned into a stage and speakers and singers and poets were lined up. They had been speaking for several hours. We are the Mandate, was the slogan. Karayans and City supporters filled Moon Park all the way into the two avenues above and below it, and into the narrower streets flanking the park.
Tio Sereno said, "Que hable la nina." Roci stood between them, dressed in her Cadetes del Pico uniforme de gala, white shirt, black pants, a red and green tie, and red beret. Abuela had run to the Party office to buy this uniform for her in a hurry. She looked down at the girl. Roci nodded. "Cuando?" Abuela spoke to someone Roci couldn't see, close to the mike. "Not after this man, but after the next one." Roci stood very still, looking at the people, looking at the speakers. The man spoke of the hurricane, its name had been Flor, and he said it was a sign, the hurricane was named after the Madre de la Patria, Flor Beltran. The next speaker was a woman. Even from behind she recognized it was Violeta Silva, the actress in the telenovelas Mami and Abuela and Tia Mila, que en paz descanse, watched at night when they thought Roci was asleep.
"Y ahora, que nos hable nuestro futuro."
Little Roci walked to the mike and Violeta herself adjusted the microphone to her height. Roci looked into the greenish eyes of the tall, thin actress. To be on tv you needed to look like her, but to speak a las masas, it was good to look like Roci, long black braided hair, dark brown skin.
She looked down at a sea of people and for one second she was afraid, but then she caught the eye of a young girl, close to her age, on the front row, and she felt their minds connect, and then she felt her mind connect with every mind there. It was strange, but it always happened when she spoke to a big group and she had done this many times, since she was five years old, when Abuela asked her to speak for the first time on Flor Beltran day in Palenque. That time, after she was done, Abuela had said. "You are a natural." She didn't exactly know what that meant. She knew all humans were naturals, like birds.
"You won't believe what I saw yesterday. I saw a big bird, and it had a red mass hanging from its mouth, dangling as it flew. And it stopped on the roof of a car on a parking lot downstairs from my Tio's apartment. My abuela said it was a hawk. She asked me, metafora de que? What is it a metaphor for? And I said, it's a metaphor for el Imperio, for the City. And the rat is us. Unless we decide we are not the rat. We have the power, not the City hawk, and its rigged elections. Nosotros, unidos, mandamos, por eso somos el mandato." Roci stopped. "Por culpa del imperio y los facistas, mi Tia Mila se murio. Se suicido pero porque primero ellos la mataron. Le sacaron los ojos a su novio. Como el halcon. Por eso nuestro mandato tiene que ser de amor. We are the mandate. The city is the hawk of hate. And we are the mandate of love."
That night Abuela Rocio decided Roci was old enough to watch the telenovela with her and Sereno while Luisa was at community college. They sat snuggled on Tio Sereno's narrow couch, in the kitchen, against the wall. The small tv was moved from the shelf onto the green formica table. Roci sat between Sereno and Abuela, curled up against her grandmother. Sereno propped his legs on one of the kitchen chairs. This was the third time her abuela was watching Esclavo Libre. Violeta Silva was hiding a Cimarron in her fancy rich lady bedroom. During the next to last commercial break Abuela Rocio stroked Roci's hair, and looked at her brother. "Ahora si, Sereno, tomorrow Roci and I can get on the ferry back to Karaya. Se acabo el exilio."