June 23, 2000
THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES
By Jeannine Diego
He'd awakened feeling a slight tinge of paranoia. Sal held the videotape in his hands and stared at it for answers. It was unwrapped. Had he really done what he'd done, seen what he'd seen, felt what he'd felt in the middle of the night? Had it all been a dream? It was the kind of morning that brought those questions to mind. Sal loathed those mornings, the mornings when everything comes floating back up to the surface of one's mind; things otherwise entertained by the mechanics of daily life. It was like having to put your eyeglasses on when you'd prefer to transit through the day without them, somehow convinced that an unclear perception wouldn't register as a clear memory. He didn't like the feeling of what he was feeling.
Sal put the tape down gently, not altogether convinced of his movements. Everything seemed silent, except for a cacophony of voices in the distance, mostly female. Some celebratory thing, it sounded like. He looked over his glasses to the wall calendar he'd received along with a pizza he'd ordered sometime last week. June 18th. Printed onto the square assigned to the day, a creepy little figure announced some important holiday. Leaning closer toward the calendar, he realized the figure was a braided child holding out a floral bouquet. Father's Day.
Ripping his eyes away from the insidious illustration, Sal glanced over toward the shoebox neighboring the kitchen table. It had been a few days since he'd last received mail for Sarita Bengali, hadn't it? Yes, he thought, answering himself, a long time since. Quick. Desperately attempting to find an occupation that would disengage his mind from the visual assault on his conscience, he reached over to the box and slid two fingers in between the tiny slits created by the dozens of envelopes and postcards. Father's Day. The pain had quickly matured into a giant lump in his throat. Quick. He picked out a postcard at random. Quick. The lump had ripened, threatening tears. He read, fast, fast:
Sorry that it has been such a long time since I sent to you a letter. I have a lot to tell you but I am also writing only for you to know that I am still alive. I am again in the Bahamas. It is still very difficult. But maybe there is some other person that can help. I called your friend many times but he does not answer my phone call. It is OK. I will keep trying. It is very expensive to call so it is not so easy. My friend knows a man that can maybe help me and maybe we will meet him in here in two or three days. It was a very bad trip to the United States because of the rain and we never arrived. They took away our passports. Some other men did not make it but I did and I am fine. I only lost some weight but I am OK besides that. I hope I will write to you maybe the next time from Miami. I hope you are fine.
Sal felt that something had been broken. Eleven years of safeguarding the mail of a perfect stranger, sheltering it from the menace of his own curiosity. He'd broken it; the invisible membrane that protected someone else's privacy. The irony was that he'd constructed this fortress himself, day after day and year after year; laying brick after brick of absurd tenets and unquestioned principles. Maybe they weren't bricks at all, but rather sticks; tiny toothpicks as fragile as his conviction to protect this woman's mail now seemed. And yet, nothing had happened as a result. Nothing had changed. No thunder in the sky to acknowledge his wrongdoing, to mark his abrupt metamorphosis from honorable pillar to meddlesome weasel. All at once, his throat and chest issued an extraneous sound that originated in an unknown place within his being, causing his entire body to move in slight, rhythmic jerks. Sal laughed and continued laughing, and went on laughing outloud.
.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.)