August 11, 2000


THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES

ChapterXI

By Jeannine Diego

 

Sal's body jolted involuntarily when he heard the knocking, and his heart forgot its rhythm, switching from The Carpenters to Mozart. Hoping to tame its erratic tempo by the time he reached the front door, Sal tried to match deep, deliberate breaths with the pace of his steps. Jesus, Sal, pull yourself together- it's only Geri, commanded his dignity. But his body insisted on embarrassing Sal, so that he was forced to reach for the doorknob with an uncooperative, tremulous hand.

"Hey," enounced Geri, as she sauntered in, "Have you got something to sip on, or should I go and get something from next door?"

Sal searched for a casual response to fit Geri's disposition, but he knew that even a Sure, I've got something - what are you up for? would be an open admission of having planned on and for her visit. It was enough that his `sudden' acquisition of an immoderate selection of beverages would give him away, regardless. Fearful that his voice might quiver to the beat of his still-racing pulse at the utterance of any sentence of more than a couple words, Sal opted for the monosyllabic, "Yeah."

"Yeah, you've got, or yeah, I should get?" exhorted Geri. The question itself and the flatness of her tone made Sal blush at the notion of his ineptitude. "Yeah, I've got," he retorted.

"Great. So, let's see what," said Geri, as she escorted Sal into his own kitchen. He opened the cupboard where he'd arranged and rearranged the bottles several times over the last few days. He turned to Geri, who eyed the display, smiling and pressing her teeth against her bottom lip. Oh, great, Sal detected, she's flattered.

"Hmm… I think I'll have a… hmm… oh, look! Martini! You remember that one summer, that we would sit out on the porch and have Martinis? Wow… practically every Friday night, remember?" Geri squealed. Of course I do, Sal wished he could say, why do you think I got it? Instead, he replied as coolly as he could, "There are some olives in the fridge."

"Oh, wonderful!"

Still grinning, Geri opened the refrigerator door and leaned in to look for the jar of her favorite olives which she suspected Sal had procured.

"Sal! I can't believe you actually got these! You know, it's been years since the supermarket around here's stocked them. I actually thought they'd stopped making them! Wow… I can't believe it!," she lied, as she grabbed one and popped it in her mouth, practically skipping back into the living room, jar in hand.

Sal grabbed the necessary utensils and followed Geri to the couch.

"So, what's up with Mohandes?" Geri chirped as Sal finished pouring and handed her one of the glasses.

He was glad to finally have a response that would rescue him from this recent abashment session, and volunteered, "Well, as it turns out, his story gets more and more bizarre. I mean, this guy just… I arranged the postcards according to date. So, kind of trying to piece it all together, I read the first few. They're sixteen in total." He sipped and continued proudly, "It seems he left India with the intention of arriving to the U.S. If my calculations are correct, it took him something like eight months to make it there, or… well, here!"

"You're kidding!" exclaimed a wide-eyed Geri.

Sal was relieved and went on as smugly as he could feign, "Yeah, well anyway… I still haven't made the connection between that and the postcard about the movie and all that, but, now that you're here, maybe we can…"

"Oh, my God… yes! Let's read the others!" Geri interjected, "Or, wait… I have a better idea. We'll just read a few today, to keep the suspense going. What do you think?"

"Sure," smiled Sal. He picked the stack of postcards up from the side table next to the couch, and separated the ones he'd read. "So, these… well, I'll just brief you on what we already know about this Mohandes guy. Okay, so we know he's left India and he writes to Sarita from Paris where he's supposed to meet up with a group of Pakistanis and other people I think also from India. All guys. This is in March of ninety-four. It seems he spends about a month there, and that's when he meets this Italian guy, this agent, who's supposed to get him and these other guys, fake passports and visas. So, then they go to Rome for that. It's now April. That's when things start getting weird."

"Tell, tell!" Geri had slipped her shoes off and then sat cross-legged on the couch, with both hands wrapped around the Martini glass.

"Okay, so… they go to Rome and meet with this agent who's, by the way, also promised them a place to stay. It turns out the agent meets with them, takes their money and then disappears for a few days, so these guys have got nowhere to stay, right?"

"Mm-hmm. Go on."

"So they sleep out on the street or in some park. Then, the agent guy shows up again, and Mohandes threatens to kill him if he doesn't get them a place to stay…"

"No way!"

"Yeah, so what happens is that this guy gets him a room in what sounded to me like a hostile or something like that, but only for him. I mean, only Mohandes gets a place to sleep. Not his friends. So, then… listen to this… he needs extra cash, right? Cuz it seems that the money they've given this agent only covers part of the deal, or something. So, he hooks up somehow with this Italian woman. Wealthy. She pays him to sleep with her occasionally."

"No way!" repeated Geri.

"Yup. So, that's what he's doing for money. But he uses most of the money to feed himself and his friends, which are still sleeping around town, on benches or something, I guess."

"Sal! Are you making this up? This is so… I mean, it's so exciting! Then what, then what?"

"Well, that's where we've left off. That's all I know, other than that one postcard he sent from the Bahamas. Still haven't made that connection."

"Read the next one, read the next one!" Geri squealed. Sal took another postcard, slipped off his own shoes and sat back on the couch, smiling at himself.

 

...to be continued…….

 

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Rainbow Chronicles is a sponsored project of inSITE2000, a non-profit arts organization operating in both San Diego and Tijuana. The Chronicles will be published in La Prensa San Diego for 19 weeks. For information on the project visit www.insite2000.org.)

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