June 9, 2000
by Jeannine Diego
It was late afternoon again. He dreaded the sight of that translucent celestial sphere, threatening to turn solid white. It held the promise of darkness and none of the charm, romanticism or beauty alleged by songs and poems. As night fell, so did the weight of the absence that, with the years, had settled comfortably onto his shoulders. It was easier to ignore in the daylight.
The ritualistic pursuit to drown out the silence began. He put some water to boil and walked around the house flipping all the light switches to "on." He turned on the TV, grabbed the paper and systematically opened it up to the obituary section. There was really nothing morbid about this peculiar habit. It had started shortly after Lauren left. He was younger then, he thought; younger and too intransigent to give in to the urge to call up everyone he knew to inquire about his daughter's whereabouts, to explain that she'd gotten pregnant, that she'd left, that he'd failed as a father. Instead, he'd resorted to sporadic anonymous phone calls to hospitals and, finally, to looking through obituaries. As the years came and went, his pride subsided and his shame increased, making it more and more difficult to reestablish contact with friends he'd avoided. Eventually, he took to reading the lists of the deceased, as someone would look through the social pages, scanning for familiar names. Lauren's was always the first name he'd look for. Today he was once again relieved. No "Hyde, Lauren (1974)..." He wondered if his own "Hyde, Salomon (1933)..." would appear on those very pages before he ever saw his daughter again. Would she feel shock? Remorse? Indifference? Would she even come across the obituary? She may not even be living in San Diego, for all he knew. Tijuana, maybe. He remembered driving there on more than one occasion to look for her, cruising down a wide avenue framed by an endless succession of bars and sidewalks filled with children pretending adulthood. He remembered combing the streets with his best friend, Frank. "There she is! See? Over there, with that boy. Sal! Sal, listen to me... you go easy on her, okay, Compadre? Otherwise, one day you're gonna come home and you ain't gonna find her... especially if she's in love with that paisano. We're pretty hard to resist, you know." Sal could still laugh at the notion back then.
From the day Lauren ran off with Franks's paisano, Sal was never the same again. He was never the same with Frank. "What's the matter with you, Sal? You see me and you see that kid, don't you? All of us. All the same kind, huh? I had you all wrong. All these years ...no, no, on second thought... I don't think I had you all wrong. But you do have it all wrong, Sal. I'll tell you what, though. You call me the day you find my compadre again, okay?" He missed Frank.
He closed the paper. He wished he could close his mind. He was tired. Tired of the parade of sour memories that chased him. They remained with him, stubborn as the chronic ulcer that sat at the base of his stomach which he knew he'd brought upon himself after years of a bad diet he still refused to relinquish. But all he could do was focus on the pain.
Sick with and of his own self-pity, Sal threw himself backward onto his bed, stabbing his side with the sharp edge of an object. Recoiling, he sat back up, remembering then the videotape he'd left lying on the bed earlier that day. Reaching for it with one hand and for his glasses with the other, he eyed the card accompanying the tape that had mysteriously arrived to his doorstep. Printed onto the card were the words "Colonia Guerrero-Castle Park." No postage. No addresses. No names. Colonia Guerrero. Tijuana. What was it? Lauren? No, Frank! Frank? He just couldn't bring himself to open it. He'd spent so many years running from... everything. From the past, from the present that got mixed up with the past, from the future that would make this present another past he'd later be fighting to forget. Sal stared at the tape for a good two minutes. It just wasn't time yet. And besides, the teapot was whistling.
..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.)