June 30, 2000
THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES
By Jeannine Diego
Sal remembered once hearing something about dreams transpiring in real time. That couldn't be true. He'd only been asleep for a couple of hours, and his dream seemed to have encompassed much more than that. After reading the postcard and once the laughter had subsided, he'd collapsed onto the living room couch. Two and a half hours of daytime lost to Sleep, the emissary that came upon Sal to collect on years of emotional evasion.
Now, he remained on his back and contemplated the badly-painted ceiling, the different shades of which he'd come to know so well, plotting out the chronology of his dream: He's walking down a wide avenue. The sun is so bright, he can barely see on account of the glare on the lenses of his eyeglasses. He removes them, but rather than entering a haze of undefined shapes and colors, he gains entry to a perfectly-delineated, crisp landscape. The place looks like a movie set, with facades extending far beyond the actual height of the buildings behind them, some of which are crowned with three-dimensional signs that stretch out over the sidewalks, competing with one another and warping the perspective. It's quiet. The sidewalks on either side of the avenue are desolate, but he has a sense that the would-be pedestrians are all crowded inside the buildings, hiding. He's in a hurry, although his pace is excruciatingly slow. He moves in a gradual, rhythmic hobble. As he passes the side streets, he stiffens into a forward glance, attempting to go unnoticed by avoiding eye contact with the shadowy mobs that populate these streets, and which strangely never spill out onto the main avenue. He's searching for something. He stops upon a kind of reservoir or swamp. A series of tree trunks are perched on the water, leafless and hunched over. They're dark as coal and seem as if they've been burnt. They're twisted into unlikely shapes, dramatically varying in width along their length, with short branches that curl in toward the trunk. The closer he moves toward the trees, the more the bark seems to acquire a furry appearance. The odd formations appear to be moving slightly. He turns to his left, intending to comment on his observation with Frank, who is all of a sudden seated next to him in the back seat of a car. Sal communicates to him that these must be prehistoric creatures sitting in the swamp. Frank doesn't respond, but rather Lauren, who sits in the driver's seat. She disagrees with Sal, alleging that they are merely trees. Sal insists that they drive up closer toward the swamp, so that they can see that these are in fact animals and not trees. The discussion continues as the car moves closer in the direction of the water. As they approach, Frank and Lauren go on conferring about the trees, while Sal is trying to make out the identity of the person in the front passenger seat. He can't recognize the hair of the person sitting diagonally from him, whose face he can't see. It's an abundant black mane, pulled back into a tight ponytail held by a tortoise-shell hair thing. A figure motioning alongside the car causes Sal to turn his head to the back left window. Frank is no longer seated next to him. Sal looks past the empty seat to the figure outside. It's a ancient-looking woman. She's naked. He can only see her from the waist up. Her breasts sag over her pleated stomach. Her thin gray hair extends past her midriff. She's trying to tell Sal something. She's trying to warn him. Her voice is muffled behind the sealed window. Sal uses his hands to lift himself up from the seat and away from the woman. The lines on her face become more pronounced as she tries harder to communicate with him from behind the glass. Sal is afraid. He turns away, and then looks back to where she'd been, only to find her seated next to him. Terrorized, Sal tries desperately to figure out what she's saying. Her voice sounds just as faint, her words as indiscernible as before, even though she's then seated only a few inches from him. Panicked and mute, Sal looks away from the old woman and turns to the front passenger seat for help. The passenger is now facing him, staring straight at him, silent and unperturbed. It's Lauren's mother. He stares back, frightened; confused as to why she's there, in the car, if she's dead. He's disappointed in himself, disconcerted as to why he hadn't recognized Mary before. They hadn't spent enough time together, he thinks. That's why. From behind the driver's seat, he hears Lauren laughing at his thoughts. Fear then becomes anger. Irate, Sal flees the car and runs and runs for what seems like hours, until he finds himself once again upon the avenue from the beginning of his dream, only this time he's running. It's nighttime. The darkness makes him forget his anger and replaces it with newfound dread. He's looking for Lauren, but not the Lauren from the car, he thinks. The sidewalks are now filled with people and the buildings are empty, abandoned except for the lights emanating from the overgrown signs above them. He turns his head to a voice that speaks to him from behind, someone who's running with him. There's no one there. Sal falls abruptly to the ground, having tripped over himself. He awakes to find himself lying on his living room couch. Across from him, barely visible, is a man seated on a chair. The man's face is obscured by the contrasting light behind him. He's speaking to Sal in a kind of melodious way that sounds somewhat like a children's bedtime story. He knows this person, but can't remember from where. Hurriedly, Sal reaches for his eyeglasses he'd stuffed into his shirt pocket and, without extending the legs, places them over his eyes. That was when he woke up.
That's it? There must be something more, Sal thought, only he couldn't remember it. If only he could finish the dream. He sat up from the couch, anxious to figure out the meaning of all this, eager to recount his dream to someone someone. But there was no one.
.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.)