July 28, 2000


Chapter IX

By Jeannine Diego

"Good, good… sorry it took me so long to answer. I was… the doorknob on my bathroom door is a bit temperamental. I keep meaning to fix it, but…"

"Have you been getting some videotapes lately?" interrupted Geri. She'd never been one to beat around the bush.

"Videotape? Uh… well," as he spoke, Sal examined Geri's face for signs of incredulity, trying to gauge the degree to which he could dodge the question.

"Didn't you get one today? I thought I saw you picking something up off the ground by your door."

"Uh, I think so. Is it that what it is? A videotape? I didn't open it. I mean… did you get it, too? Did you get the same video?"

"Well, I don't know if it's the same, Sal. That's why I came by, to ask if you'd seen it," Geri insisted from behind a fretful, cross-armed stance. A smile escaped Sal, as he recognized his neighbor's characteristic impatience, more familiar to him than the lines which had settled upon her face since the last time he'd seen her up close.

"Sal, I'm not kidding!"

Sal pressed his lips together, attempting to control his amusement, as Geri went on, "I've gotten two. The first one almost a month back. I got one again today. Supposedly, it's part of some art thing. Well? Did you or didn't you?"

"Did I what?"

"Did you get the videos? And quit smirking!"

"Sorry…," Sal gulped deliberately, trying to appear solemn, the difficulty of which increased each time Geri wriggled and fretted, shifting her body weight from leg to leg. "Sorry. I, uh… if this package I picked up is what you say it is, I suppose so. Yes, I suppose I got the videos." Sal felt like a scolded child, unwilling to acknowledge the gravity of his mischief.

Geri made her way past Sal and into the living room. Sal stood by the door, turning to observe her walk, her corporeal attitude which remained that of the thirty-something-year-old he once knew, despite the body which they now occupied. Startlingly casual and self-assured as always, Geri plopped herself down on the edge of the couch. Sal remembered a six-year-old Lauren, hiding behind the very same couch whenever Geri would come around, a bit in awe of her vitality, somewhat intimidated, and mostly jealous. He laughed out loud upon recalling his young daughter's endearing scrutiny from years back, the habitual questions that would follow each one of Geri's visits: Daddy? Do you think Geri's as pretty as Mommy was? Are you gonna marry her? I think Mommy was prettier.

"What's so funny?"

Sal came back to, and smiled at the now fifty-something-year-old Geri, "Nothing. I was just… nothing. It's nice to see you."

"We are neighbors, Sal. You see me all the time."

"Right. But I mean, not like this… you know, we haven't spoken in a long time and I've…"

"So, did you see any of the videos, or not?" Geri interjected. The frank sensibility with which she excused him from having to explain and justify his self-imposed exile, was a relief to Sal. He thought it only fair to repay her with the truth. On second thought, the near-truth, he thought, "Yeah, I saw the first one. What did you think? Pretty weird, huh? Can I get you something to drink?"

"No, thanks. Well, okay. What do you have?"

Only then did Sal realize the incongruity of his suggestion. He had little to offer by way of refreshments. "Well, I have… tea and… oh, and coffee."

"Nevermind. I'm fine. So, yeah… the videos are pretty strange. At first, I thought it was one of those infommercials, you know? But then when I saw it, it was obviously something else, but I still couldn't figure it out. The whole thing seems kind of bizarre. Oh! And then the second one, the one I got today… well, you haven't seen it, but… it's got this whole, like, news segment in it -from Mexico, I guess- about that it caused some kind of scandal in Tijuana. It seems they're being distributed there, too. You've gotta see it."

"I will," lied Sal. He knew this conversation wouldn't go far and, if it did, he might feel obligated to admit to having seen the second one. But he wanted Geri to stay. He hadn't realized how much he missed conversation. He felt he needed to say something before another laugh, this time out of genuine excitement, gave him away, "Aha! You know what? I think I might have half a bottle of Scotch somewhere. How about a Scotch and soda?"

Laughing, Geri mimicked Sal, "Aha!" Sal felt himself blush, and he quickly turned in the direction of the kitchen to fetch the bottle, relieved once again to hear a faint `sure, why not' from Geri, left sitting in the living room. Once in the kitchen, he hastily grabbed two glasses, a who-knew-how-old bottle of Jim Beam that was probably still good, and practically ran back into the living room to place them on the table. "I'll get the sodas," he uttered nervously. He swept back into the kitchen, pulled a half-bottle of club soda out from the fridge and Sarita's box up from the floor, then headed back toward Geri.

"How long have you lived here, Geri?"

"Just about forever," she replied, pouring the Scotch into the glasses, "Why?"

"Well, the thing is… Did you know the person that lived here before me?"

"Can't remember. Cheers!" said Geri, holding her own glass up, as she handed his to Sal.

Sal took the glass and a sip. "Does the name Sarita Bengali ring a bell?"

Geri wrinkled her brow for a millisecond, herself taking several small sips from her glass. "Nope. No, I can't say it does. Why?"

"I've been receiving this woman's mail for… well, for a long time, and I thought maybe…," Sal held out the box for Geri to see, "…you knew of her whereabouts, that's all."

"Oh! Wow. That's a lot of mail. Have you read any of it? Let's see!" Excited as a ten-year-old child, Geri reached out for the box and pulled out a postcard, with an ease unknown to Sal. If she only knew how long it had taken him to bring himself to do what she'd just done without so much as blinking. Geri put her glass down, straightened up, held the postcard out playfully and proclaimed, "April first, nineteen ninety-four. Dear Sarita… I am writing to you from Paris. It is a beautiful city but I think I like home better. It is very cold here. I am with Shibu, William and Kushi. Also five friends from Pakistan. Good news. Tomorrow we talk to a man that will get for us passports for Europe and Italian visas. It is a lot of money that he asks for. We first have to go to Italy for that. In Italy we will work to get the rest of the money to pay him. The man promises us to go to America in an airplane from Italy if everything is O.K. with the visas. I am very excited. I hope I can see you very soon. Love, Mohandes."


….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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