Catch up here.
Author’s note: I have used hints of Pidgin English in the last three parts. There is a short conversation in this part that is completely Pidgin English. Unless you are familiar with the inflections of Pidgin English in Hawai`i, it may read slightly odd, but should still be understandable to you. There are also some words used throughout that are typical to locals in Hawai`i, but not elsewhere. “Saimin” is what most people call “ramen.” Shoyu is the local word used for soy sauce. Slippers are flip-flips.
I turn on the stereo, slide Violator by Depeche Mode into the tape player, and press the play button. The opening strains of World in My Eyes plays through the speakers. I nod along to the synthesizer’s rhythm and grab a package of dried saimin off a shelf next to my desk. I break up the noodles as I walk over to my futon and sit down. I draw my left knee to my chest and bend my right leg on the futon. I open the package, pull out a chunk of dried noodles, and pop it in my mouth. I lean my head back as I chew and close my eyes, losing myself in the music.
And the memories.
I sat on Brad’s sofa leaning back against the arm and used my slightly bent legs to hold my religion textbook open as I read. Brad, Jerry, Paul, and Philip sat at their desks in their respective rooms studying. The slow droning melody of The Cure’s Pictures of You played through Philip’s stereo in his room.
I lifted my head from reading and looked at the doorway. J.D. was dressed in a white Hawai`i Tennis t-shirt and black shorts and held on to either side of the door jamb while he leaned in and grinned at me.
I perked up at the sight. “Mid-term tomorrow.”
“We’re getting ready to watch basketball and I’m going on a beer run. Do you want to come with?”
I slammed my book shut and sat up. “Yes! I’m so sick of studying right now.”
He chuckled and stepped inside. “I thought so. I’m going to tell Paul and Philip. I’ll be right back.”
I shoved my book and notebook in my backpack and zipped it closed.
J.D. came up behind me as I washed my glass in the sink and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. He picked up my backpack and slung it over his right shoulder while I dried my hands.
I stepped around the table and he held out his left hand. I entwined the fingers my right hand with his. “See you guys later!” I called back to the bedrooms.
“BYE!” they yelled collectively.
We walked into Star Market and headed straight for the beer and passed a display of Maruchan saimin on sale.
“Do you need anything for your room while we’re here?” he asked.
“Nah. I don’t have any money on me.”
“You sure? The sale on saimin is cheap. I can cover you.” He offered as he picked out two half cases of beer and placed them in the cart.
“I’m sure. Thanks.” I looked at him slightly perplexed.
“Just trying to look out for you.” He winked and pushed the cart towards the liquor.
“Mixed drinks, too?”
“It’s for tomorrow. Some of the guys on the team are coming over. And you, if you’d like.”
“What’s on the drink menu?”
“I should have known.” I rolled my eyes jokingly.
“I make a mean Zombie, too. But everyone wants the Long Islands.”
We grabbed two bottles each of tequila, light rum, gin, vodka, triple sec, and two-liters of Coke then check out.
Mark and Dan were planted on the sofa when we walked into the apartment. Their fourth roommate, Keoki, sat in the matching chair. He had thick black hair, almond-shaped eyes, and tanned skin. His name was Hawaiian, but he was local Japanese.
“Howzit, guys.” I greeted them as I put the grocery bags on the counter.
“I’m going to put this on my bed.” He took my backpack off my shoulder. “Cold beer’s in the fridge if you want one.”
I took the bottles of liquor out of the bags and lined them up on the counter against the wall while Mark put the beer in the fridge. He handed me a cold bottle.
“Mahalos.” I walked over to the door and used the back of the doorknob to pop the cap.
“Ho, weah you wen learn dat?” Keoki asked.
“I’m resourceful.” I smirked and sat on the floor in front of the window with my knees drawn up.
“I gon’ remembah dat one.”
J.D. returned, took a bottle from the fridge, and opened it with the opener he kept on his key chain.
“Weah your girlfriend stay?” I asked him and took a drink.
“Eh, she stay studying.”
J.D. sat behind me and placed his legs on either side of me with his knees bent. His left arm slid around my shoulder and I leaned back into his chest.
Warmth washed over me and I closed my eyes for a moment to savor the feeling.
I went outside during halftime and looked down into the courtyard while resting my forearms on the railing.
A warm hand settled on my back. J.D. stepped to my right and held out two open bottles between the fingers of his right hand.
I took one. “Thanks.”
He set his bottle on the railing and enfolded me in his arms from behind. I settled into his embrace with my arms on his. We stood there the rest of halftime in stillness never feeling the need to break the comfort of it.
The next day after work, I changed into a yellow Hawaiian Island Creations t-shirt and denim shorts. I brushed my hair back into a ponytail and pulled it through a black scrunchie several times. I dug through the front pocket of my backpack and removed my meal card and ID then slid them in my back pocket. I shoved my keys in my front pocket and left for the cafeteria.
Brad, Patrick, and a few other swimmers were already seated at a table when I arrived. I grabbed a tray and went to the line for the hot food then stopped at the salad bar and fixed a quick salad with no dressing.
“What are you guys up to tonight?” I asked as I took a seat with the swimmers. I dug into the shoyu chicken and rice on my plate.
“Party at Johnson Hall,” Patrick answered. “You?”
“J.D.’s having a party at his place.”
“Come find us if you decide to come after.”
“Shoots. A or B?” I shoveled some salad into my mouth.
“A. Travis and David’s room.”
I nodded as Jerry joined us and took the open seat on my right. He leaned over and whispered, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
I looked at him incredulously. I finished chewing my salad and swallowed. “Fo’ real?” I answered quietly. “I told you, I’m not interested in going out with you. Knock it off already.”
“You’ll go on a date with me one day.”
I felt like ants were crawling under my skin. “No. I won’t.” I ate the rest of my dinner in silence.
“Laters.” I said to everyone at the table and pushed my chair back.
Burly arms wrapped around me from behind as soon as I placed my tray on the conveyor belt. I rotated my head around as far as it would go. I was met with a crazy grin with ice blue eyes and untamed bleach blond hair smelling like chlorine. “David!”
“You looked like you needed a hug.” He let go.
“Thanks.” I pivoted on my heel to face him. “Jerry’s driving me crazy.”
“Kick him in the balls. Maybe he’ll get the message.”
I snickered. “You are horrible! And that’s why I love you.” I smirked.
“You coming to the party tonight?”
“I told Patrick the guy I’m seeing is throwing a party, too.”
“If you can’t, no worries.” He pulled me in for another bear hug.
“Thanks, David. You always know when I need this.”
J.D. sat at his desk with a textbook open in front of him. The guitar solo from Time by Pink Floyd wailed through his speakers. I slipped out of my slippers and padded into the room softly. I slid my arms down his shoulders and across his chest from behind and dropped my head down.
“Hey,” he said twisting his head, sitting back in his chair, and resting his right hand on my left arm.
Our lips met softly and briefly.
I rested my chin on his shoulder. “Studying on a Friday?”
He closed the Biochemistry book. “Trying to make sure I’m caught up before the road trip.”
J.D. talked me through counting out pours for the Long Island Iced Tea as I mixed our drinks. “Good job,” he said pulling the corners of his mouth up after he took a sip.
“Where’d you learn that anyway?”
“I bartended during the break last Summer.” He set his cup on the table and sat in one of the chairs. He reached up and drew me onto his lap.
I set my cup next to his, placed my upper right arm on the back of the chair, and ran my fingers through his hair as he circled his arms around my waist. He toyed with my ring as we sat listening to Pink Floyd.
Paul and Philip arrived with four of the guys from the team. J.D. made drinks while I stood by the table and I handed them out. I kept myself busy talking to Max, a well-built Australian with dark hair just a bit longer than a buzz cut and bright blue eyes. He sported a navy linen button down shirt and khaki shorts.
J.D. handed me a fresh drink in the living room half an hour later. Someone put in Boom Crash Opera. Onion Skin poured through the apartment as the volume rose. Everyone started dancing. I used my knees to bounce to the beat and rocked side to side with my right hand on his shoulder and cup held high in the air. J.D. mirrored my movement with his left hand on my waist and the other holding his drink in front of him.
“Shit!” I exclaimed as he walked me back to my dorm after everyone left. “I forgot about David’s party.”
“Do you want to go?”
“Do you mind?”
“Not at all.”
We dropped my backpack off at my room and walked to David’s room in Johnson Hall. All the swimmers were still there and Orange Crush by R.E.M. blared over the speakers.
“Ari!” David wrapped me up into a bear hug.
“We’re just stopping by.” I shouted over the music. I introduced David to J.D. and made my way around to the say hi to the rest of the swimmers.
“You made it!” Patrick bellowed when I reached him and Brad.
“Barely! J.D. was walking me back when I remembered.”
J.D. joined us, slipped his arm around my shoulder, and kissed the top of my head.
“You ready to go?” I asked as I wrapped my arm around his waist.
“Only if you are. We can stay as long as you want.”
“You sure?” I gave him an inquisitive look.
“You just spent an entire night with my friends. I can spend time with yours.”
We talked with Brad and Patrick for a while before I hugged them goodbye.
“You look so much happier,” Brad commented as I hugged him.
“I feel happier.”
“Thanks,” I said to J.D. as we walked back to my dorm with an arm around each other.
“Ari, being together is about both of us. It’s not fair to either of us to lose ourselves.”
“That is why I still go to Brad’s when I want to get out of my room and study.”
“Most people go to Hamilton Library.”
“Yeah. Well, you know I’m not most people and the library doesn’t have music.”
“Unless you take your Walkman,” he teased.
“The library doesn’t have you dropping in because you know where to find me either.”
“That would be a much longer walk to find you.”
We stopped in front of my dorm and J.D. slipped his other arm around me. I rested my free hand on his bicep. He bent over and kissed my lips lightly then rested his forehead on mine.
I crumpled up the empty plastic saimin package and tossed it in the trash can under my desk.
What are you going to do, Ari?