August 18, 2000
THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES
By Jeannine Diego
Sal was lying flat on his back, with his arms crossed behind his head. Tomorrow he'd make some pasta. Or, maybe some calmari. It had been years since he'd cooked something that required anything more than adding water to some mixture from a box. He contemplated, imagined, considered and reconsidered. What was it that she liked? She probably would want something light. What if she had a sudden change of plans and couldn't make it at the last minute? She had assured him she had the evening free. But, then maybe she'd be too tired after spending over two weeks at that conference in Dallas. Or, maybe she at which moment had she stopped being Geri and become the "she" in Sal's thoughts? Had Sal become the "he" in Geri's thoughts? Sal caught himself grinning with expectation at the prospect. Embarrassed, he continued scrolling through his mental roster of dinner options. Ah! That's it, he thought, I'll make shrimp with tamarind sauce. Whispering to himself, he listed the ingredients he'd need. Shrimp, garlic- lots of it, tamarind sauce, onions, maybe throw in some sliced almonds oh, and a nice serving dish- the one he'd had, had been shattered years ago and he'd never bothered to get another one. He'd have to go to that place downtown, he thought. I'll take the car no, it's impossible to find parking there rather, I'll take the trolley over to Fifth and C and walk from there. Sal stood, grabbed his wallet and headed for the door.
Once inside, Sal realized he'd taken the trolley no more than a few times. Being surrounded by people within a confined space had always made Sal somewhat uncomfortable. A few feet away from him, a strikingly tall woman dangled from one of the metal poles, moving about it as if unaware of her size. She was practically swinging, forcing people to disperse, forming an invisible circle around herself. She seemed to be charging up against the air, shouting in a rhythmic pattern. It wasn't clear whether anyone specific was the object of her slander. Passengers stared at the windows, focusing intently, hoping that something on the other side of the glass would catch their eye. Sal was relieved to see his stop coming up, and quickly lined up behind a couple others standing in front of the doors. As he stepped out, he could still hear her frenetic protest: yeah, look at-chou I'm looking at-chou you just sittn' there talkin' like you can't see me I know you can see me I sure can see you yeah, look at-chou!
As he walked away from the station and in the direction of the market, Sal scanned the area as if for the first time. It occurred to him that downtown San Diego had undergone some kind of transformation since he'd last been there several years before. Something was strangely off. There was something suspiciously tidy about it. The buildings were picture-perfect, almost two-dimensional. People seemed to all be walking in the same direction, in pairs or in threesomes, uniformly strolling along at a weekender pace. Then there were others; those who seemed like they'd been accidentally inserted into the coloring-book scenario. There was something about them; either they hurried too much or stayed put for too long. Their clothes were mismatched, their faces more asymmetrical than most. Something about their gaze, thought Sal. It was the staring, the directness of it, the contrast of that gaze with the fleeting glances of the rest. Sal examined these faces, wondering which team he belonged to. Did he also seem superimposed, or did he blend successfully into the beige landscape? Sal spotted the market from a distance and walked toward it in a hurry.
"Sal! This is wonderful!"
Geri was happy and Sal was happy to be embarrassed.
"How was your conference?"
"Well, you know how those things are, Sal. Boring. But nevermind that. This, I mean this is amazing. I can't believe it."
"Yeah, well. You know how those things are."
They both laughed and it felt good to laugh together. Still smiling, Sal grabbed the bottle of Pinot Noir and poured them both a glass. They eased into the chairs which Sal had arranged around the kitchen table turned dining-room table. He'd thought about candles, but the notion seemed a bit precipitated at the time. Now, he wished he'd gotten them, although he knew to attribute this newfound self-confidence to the glass of wine he'd sneaked prior to Geri's arrival, as a preventive measure to avoid the fumbling of words and the racing of the heart. He'd have to be cautious with what he said, and more so with the amount of wine he'd consume that night.
Sal was struggling for topics, feeling that he should say just about anything to prevent the growth of an iceberg he sensed was starting to form in the room. "You know, today I went downtown. It's changed something awful," he blurted, immediately regretting the paltriness of his comment.
"You did? Oh. So, what happened?"
"Nothing. Should something have happened?"
"Well, why'd you go there?"
"Just to pick up some stuff."
"Oh, okay. So, you didn't um you went to pick up some stuff?"
"Yeah, why? I didn't what?"
"Nothing, nothing. Pay no mind. I'm not making sense, huh? Probably I'm just a bit tired, that's all. So, it's changed? When was the last time you were there?"
"I don't know, maybe ten years ago, or so. I can't really remember."
"Mm-hmm? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Just mm-hmm. Sal! Why are you being so suspicious?"
"I'm not being suspicious. I just think you're I don't know." Sal wasn't sure what he was trying to say. He wasn't sure what he was feeling, but something was off, just like earlier that day in downtown San Diego. He just couldn't put his finger on it, and he didn't want to make an issue of it. He quickly skipped over into another subject, "So, we got another video this afternoon. How do you feel about watching it after dinner?"
...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.)