September 15, 2000


THE RAINBOW CHRONICLES

Chapter XV

By Jeannine Diego

"I haven't looked at these in years."

The photographs seemed different. Or maybe it was Sal who had changed. Or maybe it was Geri's presence that made everything appear atypical. Geri's eyes had none of the resentment, none of the grief, none of the regret that did Sal's. She flipped through the snapshots with all of the excitement, all of the mischief, all of the fondness that was absent in Sal. But he could touch those things through her. Lauren was in almost every picture. So was Lauren's mother. Although her disappearance, her image and her person felt so very far from Sal, Lauren's wasn't. It was like Lauren was more present now than ever. Sal considered the notion that perhaps Geri made him feel closer to Lauren somehow, that maybe what he actually saw in Geri was Lauren, or the memory of Lauren. Ironically, the three of them had spent more time together than had Sal with Lauren and her mother.

Geri put the photos down and crossed her arms behind her head, yawning as she stretched backwards.

"You tired?" asked Sal, hoping for a negative response.

"Kind of. It's okay. Let's..."

"You want to see the video?" urged Sal, hoping he could entice Geri enough to keep her from leaving.

"Okay."

They puttered over to the bedroom and put the new tape in. It was another of the anonymous videos they were both receiving. Without so much as a word, they eased into what had inadverdently become a strangely familiar position on the floor in front of the bed. Remote control in hand, Geri pressed > and the VCR obeyed. After displaying the customary credits, the video portrayed a woman dressed in shades of pink and red, standing by the roadside holding a sign with a painted arrow and letters that read: going South into San Diego. A take from within what seemed like a traveling car followed, shifting from side to side along the highway. The same woman then appeared, accompanied by a tall, thin man, as they both picked objects up from the ground. A still shot displayed the items they had collected. It was an assortment of rocks, twigs and other unidentifiable effects. A segment similar to the first showed the same woman, holding up a sign that said: going North into Tijuana. Subsequently, another roadside shot, only this time of what Sal deduced was Tijuana, emerged. Next, the two protagonists appeared together again, seated on the ground in an area covered with dry grass, and seemed to engage in a picnic. The entire video had been silent up until that point, when at last a final segment announced Jen, the next "visitor." A text scrolled vertically across the screen, while a track from the Velvet Underground played over it.

When the video reached its end, Geri and Sal glanced over at each other almost simultaneously.

"What was that about?" asked Sal.

"Well, I'm sure it was about something, Sal. I mean, maybe we don't understand it, but it was about something."

"What?"

"Well...," contrived Geri, "...a link, maybe, between Tijuana and San Diego?"

"Are you asking me, or that's your conclusion?"

"It's neither a question nor a statement. Just a supposition."

"What is it you're teaching over at UCLA?"

"Theory."

"Ah-ha."

"Ah-ha?"

"So, that's your theory?"

"Sal! The fact that I teach theory doesn't mean that I go through life theorizing. I do happen to have solid opinions, you know."

"Like?"

"Don't be difficult, Sal."

"I'm not trying to be difficult. Really... I'm not."

"So, what's your point?"

"My point? Hmm... let's see. What's my point. Well, what's your theory _sorry- your opinion about me?"

"You, huh?"

"Yeah, I mean, for example."

"I think you've got a lot of issues you need to work through. I think... um... I think... you..."

"Which issues?" Sal wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer, but he was curious to know Geri's opinion of him.

"Well, racism for one."

"Racism?!"

"Don't get me wrong, Sal..."

"Well, Geri. I mean, that's a pretty harsh accusation."

"It's not an accusation, only a theory," replied Geri jokingly, trying to ease the blow.

"You see?"

"Look, Sal," she said, more seriously than Sal hoped, "I'm not trying to put you on the spot, or anything, but you asked, so I'm trying to be honest with you. I think you're great, really..."

Sal didn't like the sound of that disclaimer. It was unlike Geri to look away while she spoke, and that made Sal nervous.

"But," Geri continued, "I think you changed. Over the last few years, I mean. With Francisco, for example."

"Francisco?"

"Frank, Sal. Don't tell me you've forgotten about Frank, I mean you guys used to spend every waking moment tog..."

"Yes, yes. I know," interrupted Sal, flustered, "No, I haven't forgotten about Frank."

"I know you haven't, Sal. That's my point. It hurt him a lot when you distanced yourself from him."

"I distanced myself from everyone."

"Sal," scorned Geri, "don't play dumb with me. Give me a little credit, okay? I know exactly why you distanced yourself from everyone. And I also happen to know why you distanced yourself from Frank. And he also knew why, which is why he let it happen. You treated him like he was responsible for what happened with Lauren, as if he was that boy, as if every Mexican was that boy. Interchangeable personalities, if you will."

"Geri," started Sal, without knowing precisely what he was about to say, only he wanted to find a way to change her mind, or better yet, to change the subject, "I... I just couldn't deal with it back then, you understand?" Saying that did neither, and he knew it.

"And what about now?"

Sal hadn't any excuses left. Not that he had any to begin with, he thought.

"What about now, Sal?" Geri insisted, "I bet you've never... you know what?"

"What?"

"That videotape."

"What about it?"

"The Norths, the Souths, Sal. That's the point. You can't live your life horizontally. You go nowhere that way. You know what I mean?"

"Not really," stated Sal. He truly didn´t.

"Sal. Norths and Souths. Think about it. Maybe ´horizontal´ isn´t the right term. It´s a question of mobility, of exchange, of transcending a kind of mark that´s been determined by someone else, something else, and we learn to recognize it, even if we don´t altogether understand it. And it limits us. Think about Mohandes. Here´s a guy who spent how many months, risked how many things, trying to go to a North, to a promise or a dream that he doesn´t even know is there for sure. And you... you wanna know what I really think?"

No, I really don´t, Sal wanted to scream.

Despite Sal´s silent plea, Geri went on, "I think your life is filled with those signs, those Norths and Souths and you´ve got them so present, that you only move in this really confined space, you´re not willing to cross over. And you wanna know something else?"

"Do I?"

"Probably not, but I´ll tell you anyway. I think you made Lauren so aware of those signs, I mean you tried so hard to make them as visible for her as they are to you, that she had no choice but to see where they would lead. She had to move, Sal. She had to see what it was like past South."

"That´s your theory."

"It´s my opinion

 

…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.)

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