October 20, 2000
THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES
By Jeannine Diego
He'd spent so much time fidgeting with the lock, he'd forgotten his misgivings about opening the shed. Sal struggled with the door and finally yanked it open, pulling it toward himself. Flakes of rust precipitated onto his hair, clothes, and adjacent lawn. Shaking them off, Sal peered into the six-by-six-by-six receptacle of useless objects and ominous memories. Mazes within impossible mazes stared back at Sal, challenging his resolve to rid himself of everything without hesitation, daring him to lift a layer without succumbing to his own cowardice. The more he stared, the more the textures, colors and shapes contained in the pleated aluminum Pandora's box seemed to acquire an organic appearance, as if looking straight back at Sal with beckoning contempt. He glared back. I could very well just close it right back up, and leave all this crap right where it is, where it's been for all these years... I could just call some garbage company and have them pick it right up off the ground, shed and all, and it would be gone... finished... taken far away to a huge dumpster, where it wouldn't mean anything to anybody... just garbage amidst other people's garbage... that's right, plain garbage like all the rest... I haven't looked through any of this for years... haven't needed to... why should I now? Resentment quickly amassed within Sal's stomach, piling up like lava inside a volcano. He felt nauseous. He closed his eyes as a droplet of cold sweat streamed down his left temple. He wiped it off and grabbed his belly, trying to control the sudden spasms that made him dizzy. Cautiously, he stepped back and searched with his free hand for something to sit on. He finally eased onto the nearest surface, a small mountain of boxes and loose items he'd meant to put inside the already stuffed shed. He looked down and contemplated the pile. More stuff... why am I keeping all this stuff? I should just get rid of it... all of it. Sensing that the pile wouldn't hold his weight for long, Sal got up and dragged himself over to the rickety chair on his porch, upon which he let fall his full weight. He felt much heavier than usual and he couldn't tell if it was his body or his soul that had put on the extra pounds. Maybe I'm just getting too old for this kind of thing. And anyway, Spring cleaning in October... who ever heard of it? There must a reason why people to do this in the Spring and not in the Fall.
He'd been sweeping, wiping, wrapping, boxing and unboxing all morning. He'd figured he ought to keep himself occupied, so as not to spend every waking moment recalling the scene from a couple weeks back. His mind couldn't erase the image of Geri's grin when he'd kissed her. He still wasn't sure what that grin had meant. She hadn't kissed him back. She'd simply sat there next to him, grinning and staring down at the postcard. Sal had wanted to disappear, but more that that he had wanted for Geri to kiss him back, or at least to say something, to acknowledge something. Instead, they had both sat in silence for what seemed to be an eternity, until Geri had finally blurted something or other about the postcard. Sal's throat had then emanated something between a chuckle and a "yeah," not really in response to or knowing what she had said. A longer silence then followed, whereupon Geri had excused herself saying something about the time and about some phone call she either had to make or receive, and then she'd left. The one time they'd spoken on the phone after that, both Sal and Geri had avoided mentioning the incident. They'd resorted to brief and inconsequential exchanges interrupted by short, angst-filled silences and hurried updates about Mohandes and his ever-failing attempts to reach his destination.
It would be another two weeks before he'd see Geri again, and he just couldn't bare that much more time of chronic remembrance. That morning, Sal had taken the resolute decision to put an end to the internal and perpetual cycle of questioning, supposing, regretting and hoping, which would bring on ehnanced episodes of regrets, suppositions, questions, and so on. It had occurred to him that he was very likely kidding himself, that Geri couldn't possibly be attracted to a neurotic, insecure, self-absorbed hermit; traits which only seemed to increase the more he thought about what had happened between them.
Sal moved back and forth on the old chair, which rocked with him thanks to its age and not its anatomy. He wondered what Frank would say about all this if he was around. Sal thought back on the evenings he had once spent together with his best friend on this very same porch, philosophizing and talking nonsense under bluer skies. "Hey, Compadre, when are you and Geri gonna get together, huh? You know something? I really don't know what she sees in a fool like you, but it must be something I sure don't...," he used to joke, "...`cuz if you ask me, it's pretty obvious you've both got it bad for each other, and well... don't let Margarita hear me saying this... but Geri's a pretty nice-looking girl, and well you... you're already starting to look pretty shabby. I'd do something quick if I was you, you know, before you start looking any worse! Ándele, Compa, what are you waiting for?" Sal wished Frank was around. He would see just how wrong he'd been. Geri had stuck around for Lauren's sake, he thought, not for his.
Just then, Sal heard the front gate creak.
"Hi," Geri's voice sailed through the air, reaching the porch and permeating Sal's ears, his nostrils, his pores. He couldn't believe it.
"Hey," she repeated, with her usual nonchalance, closing the gate behind her.
"What are you doing here?" exclaimed Sal.
"What do you mean `what am I doing here'?"
"Well, you're supposed to be in L.A., aren't you?"
"Yeah, well. I came back early."
"Why? What happened? Is everything okay?"
"Sure it is."
"So... So, I'm back."
"Yup...," said Geri, as she climbed onto the porch and gave Sal a soft `hello' kiss on the cheek, "...the course is done." She assembled herself casually on the smaller canvas stool next to Sal, whose head was reeling as much from the shock of seeing her as from the unexpected kiss.
"Done?" Sal finally brought himself to say.
"Done. I told you it was a short course, didn't I?"
"Yeah... yeah, you did. I just... I thought it was... I thought you were supposed to come back in two weeks," Sal stuttered hopelessly.
It's that grin again, thought Sal, what on earth does that grin mean? Geri had raised one foot onto the stool and was smiling, looking down toward her sandal, picking rather nervously at the sole. Sal had to come up with something, and fast.
"So...." he started, not quite knowing what would follow, "...so...," he continued, knowing then that nothing would follow. He felt his stomach cramp up again, along with a cold wind that swept through his body, provoking an ever-so-slight and oh-so-involuntary jitter.
"Are you okay?" asked Geri.
"Yeah, fine. A little cold. Aren't you cold?"
"No. Not at all, actually. Are you sure you're okay? You look kind of pale. How long have you been sitting out here?"
"Not long. I... no, not that long."
"Oh, my God!" squealed Geri, straightening up to get a better look at the open shed, "Look at all those things! Wow. It's been... I haven't... What are you planning to do with all that stuff?"
"Oh, that. Well, I was doing a little house cleaning, and I brought some things out to put in the shed, but, well, as you can see, I think I've got to get rid of some others first," Sal laughed almost anemically, still shaking.
"Hmm...," started Geri, slouching back into her chair, "I, um... What's in there?"
"Honestly? I don't even want to know. I just can't even think of going through it all."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. What if... Maybe I could go through it for you? Or... no, forget it. Never mind, better you look through it. I mean, I wouldn't know what you'd want to keep, or throw out, or anything. And, besides, it's your personal stuff. Nah, better you do it."
"Believe me, it's not something I really want to have to do. I'd be more than happy for you to do it."
"Really. But why on earth would you want to?"
"I don't know, there might be something in there for... I mean, something I may just want," said Geri, laughing a strange laugh, "No, but really, maybe there's some good stuff. Plus, if you don't feel like you're up to it, I'd be more than happy to give you a hand."
"Yeah, really. I've got an idea," said Geri, putting the palms of her hands together, "I'll start going through it and you can make us lunch."
"Great idea. Perfect," agreed Sal, as he got up from his chair, "I'll have to go and get some things for lunch, though."
"What are you in the mood for?"
"Whatever," said Geri, leaping up out of her chair and heading toward the shed, "Something... warm. You look like you need something warm."
Her voice trailed off with her, and Sal smiled at her, then at himself, fumbling through his pockets for the car keys. "I'll be back in a bit," he announced.
"Yeah," hollered Geri, her voice already buried beneath the clutter in the shed.
...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.)