June 2, 2000
by Jeannine Diego
It looked different this time. An unrecognizable place. His left hand reached out to feel around for his eyeglasses, while his eyes remained fixed upon horizontal bands of gold, pink, yellow and purple. Ah, here they are. Glasses now in place, the stripes of color separated into tiny crisp dots and lines. It was some kind of palace on water. He ignored the crack in the left lens which made a piece of both the palace and the water break off and float away from the rest of the picture. He lowered his chin to his chest, and pulled the postcard away, then bringing it closer, as people with glasses often do, searching for the most sincere distance. From beneath the now sharp palace, peered those familiar round blue letters, swollen with contemptible joy at their nakedness before him. He never wore his glasses to look at the phone bill. Disgusted by this intrusion, he quickly removed his broken old friends from his nose, and flipped the postcard over on its written side. Same signature as always.
He tossed it gently over into the near-empty shoe box that rested in its usual spot a few feet away from the kitchen table where he sat. Next to it was another box, a miniature version, only this one was stuffed with mail. Size 4. His eyes anchored themselves to the smaller box, even as his head moved in a slow, slight shake. He was thinking about Lauren. He was recounting the day he brought that box home. In it, were many skipped lunches, hours of overtime, and a pair of canvas Nikes that Santa had forgotten. He was wondering if she remembered.
Absently, he read and reread his own handwriting on the shoe box. "Sarita Bengali." The faded letters were barely noticeable now, having succumbed over time to the triumphant check-mark logo printed on the box, over which he had scribbled with a black marker.
Time had softened his pride and muddled his memory. Did he order her out of the house, or did she defy his supplications for her to stay? It was no longer clear whether it had been his dignity or his love for her that argued with Lauren on that day. Maybe she was the reason why he couldn't bring himself to throw out the shoe box with eleven years worth of mail for Sarita. Why did he continue to collect the misdirected mail of a stranger, someone he'd never known, and most likely would never meet? One child's shoebox full of mail, and another almost empty. This last box read "Payless Shoesource." He'd never bothered to write Sarita's name on this, his own shoe box. He once counted Sarita's mail, maybe five years ago. He'd never opened a single envelope, never read so much as a postcard, beyond the signature or return address. He often considered the absurdity of this fact. Something to do with his upbringing, he supposed.
The invariably startling alarm on his wristwatch reminded him of himself and of the time. Hurriedly, he continued to sort through the mail, dividing it into piles: bills to pay, junkmail, bills he couldn't pay. Lastly, there was that one strange package, devoid of mailing or return addresses. A videotape and some papers in a clear plastic bag. Was it for Sarita? For him? He shook it around a bit, as if doing so would disclose the contents of the tape.
Lauren, he thought. What if it's from Lauren?
..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 e-mail email@example.com)