September 8, 2000
THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES
By Jeannine Diego
"Hi, Sal. It's me." "Geri?" Sal asked, knowing full well it was.
"How are you?"
"Good, good. How's L.A.?"
"Fine. I'm calling you from a friend's place. There's no phone in my apartment yet."
"So, you got a place?"
"Yeah. Well, just temporarily. I'm not sure I'll stay there. We'll see."
"How's the new job?"
"Maybe I'll come up to see you?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Sal. I'll be back this coming weekend."
"I'm only kidding," Sal lied.
"So," Sal searched, "your job's okay?"
"Yeah. I'd really rather not get into it. So much to absorb all at once, you know? I'm kind of exhausted."
"You wanna call me back tomorrow, or whenever, when you're feeling a little less a little better?"
"No, no. I'm fine. I just don't want to get into the whole job thing right now. Tell me how's Mohandes?"
"Mohandes? He's pretty much where we left off."
"I'll tell you what. Why don't I go have a shower and "
"Sure, sure. No problem. We'll talk tomorrow. I understand you're ," Sal interrupted.
"You didn't let me finish," Geri interjected.
"I'll go have a shower, pour myself a Martini, and call you back. That'll give you time to pour yourself one and grab the postcards. We'll pretend I'm there, and we'll have a little Mohandes session. What do you think?"
Geri hung up before Sal could swallow the giddy chuckle caught in his throat, and respond with the dignity commensurate with his age. With a stubborn smile still glued to his face, Sal pulled a glass out from his recently-acquired art deco bar. He'd been hoping to share its debut with Geri, but he supposed this would do just as well. Three weeks had gone by since he'd last seen her and since her unexpected announcement. "So, did I tell you? I got this teaching job at UCLA. It's one of those short summer courses. I figured the extra money could come in handy." No, she hadn't mentioned it, he'd replied, more flabbergasted than he'd wished. She'd be coming into San Diego every few weeks, she'd explained, but she wasn't quite sure how often. Great, he'd lied, it would do her good to get away for a while. She'd broken the news to him on the same night they'd watched the video.
That night, they'd started out sitting on the edge of Sal's bed, like two well-behaved children, ready for a lesson from their televised schoolteacher. The video had begun with a series of people speaking about things they'd lost. Sal had been relieved at the brevity of the segment, allowing the knot in his throat to dislodge itself just in time. The video continued, portraying Kees, a Dutch man of about Sal's age, in a quest for a painted house. Dodging back and forth between Tijuana and San Diego, the man had gone from person to person in his search, coming across a bizarre house in the shape of a woman and another covered with pieces of tile and broken bottles. At that point, Sal and Geri moved over onto a patch of floor in front of the bed. A third segment had featured conversations with people speaking about things that they would take with them if their houses burnt down. Geri had joked about Sal taking Sarita´s shoebox, and he´d teased Geri about taking her collection of Martini glasses. The video had lasted more than half an hour, when a sweet, round-faced woman appeared on the screen, saying "my father" in Spanish as she wiped the tears away from her eyes. Unprepared for the scene, Sal´s heart had then heaved and fallen to the pit of his stomach. All he could think about from that moment on was Lauren. Lost within himself, scene after scene swam across his mind, beneath the watery film that had covered his eyes. Even when the video had finally reached its end, Sal´s movie continued. So immersed had he been , that Geri´s embrace had gone completely unnoticed. Without a word, she had then taken his hand and softly disengaged his cramped fingers from around the remote control to turn the TV off. That was when she announced her departure, abruptly shaking Sal out of his trance. She´s looking for a way to get away from me, Sal had immediately assumed, she feels pity and I´m bringing her down, that´s it. Or, worse yet, she knows I´m falling in love with her, and she´s escaping because of course she doesn´t feel the same way. A myriad of paranoias had run through his body then, just like now as he recalled that night. But she called, so she´s not running. Is she? Maybe she really is, maybe she´s just having fun at my expense. She said she´s got no phone. Maybe she does and she just doesn´t want me calling her. Calling... she´ll be calling any minute. Get a hold of...
Sal hurried over to the ringing phone, feeling a strange cross of disdain for Geri and an immense desire to hear her voice.
"Hello," Sal´s greeting was flat, caught somewhere in the junction of his emotional paradox.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah. Fine. So. Got the Martini, got the postcards.
"Got my Martini, got you on the other line. Got all I need."
Geri had a way of making Sal feel just as good as she could make him feel bad. He wasn´t so sure how he felt about this new-found vulnerability, but for now, her words injected him with optimism. "So," he sighed, "where did we leave off?"
"Well. Let´s see. Mohandes is in Rome, prostituting himself I think, right?"
"Right. Remember what happens next?"
"He has to make a lot of money fast, for all the fake paperwork, and so..."
"Oh, yeah. Now, I remember. He´s got a brother-in-law somewhere..."
"Two brothers-in-law. One in Germany, one in Switzerland. So, he says these are his two options in terms of work. Or quick money, I suppose. So, then he tries going by train from Rome to Switzerland and the conductor detains him because of something to do with his visa."
"Right, and then the conductor guy doesn´t have him arrested but he tells him to try crossing illegally rather than by train."
"Exactly. So he tries to cross over to Switzerland illegally, he doesn´t say exactly how, but he´s sent back when he reaches the border. Same with Germany. So his plan is to visit consulates in Italy, to see which country will give him a visa. And that´s where we left off."
"Okay, okay. Don´t keep me in suspense, Sal. Just read!"
"Alright, Geri. Just take a sip from your Martini, there, and relax. We´ll get there. Just hold on a sec. Let me uh... let me refill my glass..."
"Just kidding. Okay, here goes. This postcard is dated July twelfth, so that means he´s been trying now for about five months to get to the U.S. And I suppose the postcard is from Greece, or at least that´s what it looks like. Can´t read Greek, so you´ll have to forgive me. I can´t tell you exactly where in Greece this is, but..."
"Okay, okay. E-hem... Dear Sarita. I write now from Athens. It is a beautiful city. I get visa from Greek embassy in Italy. Very funny thing happened. I asked for a visa for three days. I tell the people there that I have a relative that has disappeared in Greece and that I have to look for him. I ask for a visa for three days and they give me a visa for one month. Maybe I stay in Greece. That is just a joke. I stay only for one month. I have a cousin here and he gave me work for now. It is a warehouse that is his. I write you again from Rome. I hope you are fine... Mohandes."
"You want more?"
"Of course I do."
"Okay, just one more. You´ll have to call me back for the rest."
"Hmm. This one´s dated August seventeenth and it looks like we´re back in Rome, ladies and gentlemen. Sarita. Hmm. No dear. Just Sarita. Sarita, Back in Rome. In a hurry. Had meeting with agent to give him all the money. He gets for me a British passport. In the first days of September I take a train to Milan. In Milan I take plane to Mexico..."
"That´s what the man says. Please, no interruptions," Sal joked, "In Milan I take plane to Mexico and I can give money to customs in Mexico so that I can stay in the country for a little while. Then, I go to Bahamas and a boat from Bahamas to Miami with some friends. I write you soon... Mohandes."
"Wow. What a... I mean, this guy! Poor guy."
"And you know what happens next, right?"
"Well, he never makes it to Miami."
"How do you know?"
"It´s all in the cards, my dear. That was one of the ones I read before. It seems there was some problem with the boat and they get sent back to the Bahamas. Those who didn´t perish, anyway."
"Nope. Stay tuned. We´ll have more, coming up next week."
"I´ll see you then."
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.)