November 3, 2000


THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES
Chapter XXI
By Jeannine Diego

A single thump on the door broke the stillness and decelerated the otherwise unrelenting stampede of Sal's thoughts.

"Who is it?"

It was the first time in three days that Sal had heard his own voice. It was small and abbreviated like a timid parenthesis.

There was no answer. He cleared his throat and repeated:

"Who is it?"

Sal drew close to the door, pressing his ear against the cold wood. Silence. He stood there for a few minutes, in part hoping that something or someone on the other side would rescue his sanity, in part fearful that it might be Geri. She was someone else now to Sal. The person he'd known and trusted all those years now seemed remote, unfamiliar. Geri felt as distant to him now as Lauren had once felt. He had spent sleepless hours recounting moments, actions, words, each one of which now seemed to acquire a million possible meanings.

He lifted his ear off of the door and turned the knob. Peeking through a slight crack, he could see there was no one. Taking a step back, he shut the door. As he turned to walk away, a flicker of an image stopped Sal in his tracks. Had he seen something on the doormat? He opened the door once again and immediately recognized the object on the floor in front of the door. It was another videotape. He leaned over stuck half an arm out to retrieve it. Good, he thought, a distraction.

Unwrapping the tape, Sal headed to the bedroom. Popping it into the VCR, he surveyed the spot in front of the bed where he and Geri had watched the last video. It was like being in the presence of a ghost. The two people that had convened in that space just a few weeks before and the aura surrounding them had somehow changed irreversibly. The Sal that had once occupied that spot seemed strangely distant to the Sal that gazed upon it now, yet the experience was too recent for the two to disconnect entirely. Sal strained to find the unperturbed emptiness, the unassuming gap between the bed and the television set that was there before Geri had resurfaced in his life. All he could see now was a humiliating, stubborn imprint of an all too fresh memory. The thought made him ill.

Grabbing the remote control and a pillow, he pressed "play" and stretched out on the bed. Upon displaying the title "The Red Fabric or the Other One," the video continued with a succession of images depicting a series of people in different settings, exchanging red fabrics. Simultaneously, alternating voices spoke over the images. Sal recognized some of the voices and all of the faces from previous videos. A tall, young man who appeared in all of the segments blindfolded the familiar personalities with the red pieces of fabric. Once blindfolded, a kind of interview took place between the young man and his diverse counterparts. They spoke about what they saw through the blindfold, then about sharing, then about gifts, about personal spaces and about being in other people's spaces. Sal wondered if the people in this and previous videos were actors. He questioned why any "real" person would accede to being blindfolded and asked such personal questions. He couldn't understand why they were being blindfolded. It seemed unfair. There were moments in which what they said seemed believable to Sal, and yet the self-assuredness with which some spoke made him doubt. A final segment featured a healthy-looking middle-aged man sitting cross-legged on a bed. Still blindfolded, the man expressed his concern with the idea of claiming something as one's reason for living. Sal pondered the thought. His own reasons for living seemed to be in a state of constant transmutation. It seemed to him, in fact, that the only thing that tied these reasons together was a their ultimate destiny. A chronic syndrome, as Sal saw it: the very act of naming or identifying that which gave a purpose to his life would systematically occasion its destruction. When all of a sudden, the letters on the screen announced that this had been "the last video you will receive," Sal realized that he had missed the last few minutes of the video. He pressed "rewind" and tried to find the point where he'd left off before getting carried away by his own negativity. The man in the blindfold reappeared and went on saying that, in a country where there are false idols on every corner, no one ever really knows what his or her reason for living is. Rolling credits and acknowledgements followed and concluded the video.

Sal thought about Mohandes. What could push a man to undergo that kind of travesty and continue, despite everything? What reasons did he have? Were they unchanging? Did he have "false" reasons? Could false reasons motivate someone just as much as real ones, perhaps even more so? Sal hadn't read any more of Sarita's postcards. He glanced over toward the night table where he'd deposited the unread postcards. Sal stared at them, wondering if there was any point to reading them, if doing so had just been a way of proving to Geri that he wasn't a self-righteous, fearful old fool. Maybe he'd wanted to prove it to himself. He picked up the small stack and turned them over to their written side.

October 19th, 1994...

Dear Sarita,

I am with William in a city in the North of Mexico. It is called Mexicali. There is a man who will help us walk to America from here. He told me that Mexicali is a name made from the two words Mexico and California. California is on the other side and that is where we will go walking. The city in America that is on the other side of Mexicali is called Calexico. It is also a name mande from the two words. It is strange. We are here with one more man from India. He is from Surat. Also with us are three Chinese and eight Mexicans. We are going to go with a woman that will take us from the border to Los Angeles with the movie stars. I joke to William that if I do not become a movie star in Los Angeles, then maybe I go to New York with him. Sarita, it is very dangerous to go to America like this. I hope that I make it with no troubles. I hope that Kushi is looking to me from where he is and he will help me.

Love, Mohandes

 

October 26th, 1994

Dear Sarita,

Kushi has been with me. I am in New York. William and me cried together on the airplane to New York. My cousin Habad took us from the airport and he is helping us to find work. I am so happy. That is all I can think right now.

Love, Mohandes

 

March 15th, 2000

Dear Sarita,

Today it is six years that I left Jaipur to come to America. Today when I was driving the taxi I meet a man who is a television producer from Delhi and he asked me how I came to New York. When I told him the story he was very excited and he wants to make a movie about it! Can you believe it, Sarita? Life is very strange. I might go to India for that very soon. Do you want to be a movie star? Maybe you can be in the movie. Sarita, today is a very strange and important day for me. I hope that you are good.

Love, Mohandes

 

Sal put the postcards down and wiped away the slow tear that finally dared to roll down his cheek. He wondered if this would be the end of Mohandes' story. Sal thought about how different Mohandes was from him. He picked up his usual section of the newspaper, which he'd left on the bed earlier that day. He could almost hear Geri's playful ridicule of his obscure habit. The thought provoked an involuntary chuckle which halted abruptly when he came across a painfully familiar name: Francisco Quintana, Sr. (1935-2000). It was Frank. Sal couldn't continue reading. Everything around him appeared to glow in a brilliant, blinding white. He picked up the phone and felt around for the keys, dialing from tactile memory.

"Hello, Geri?"

...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.)

Return to the Frontpage