Catch up on Parts 1 through 11 here.
Note: This part is a little heavier on the Pidgin English because of the setting. Pidgin English was formed in Hawai`i as a means of communication for the plantation workers from different countries. The immigrants who settled on Moloka`i all came to work the plantations so it is heavily used on the island even to this day. I have tried to keep the bits of foreign language you would normally hear out of the dialogue. Haole is Hawaiian for “foreigner.” Colloquially it is used to refer to Caucasians. Stink eye is akin to “evil eye.”
The ocean ranges in colors from turquoise close to shore to cerulean to cobalt to sapphire as the ocean deepens. Tide pools surrounded by porous black rock are below us and the beach is deserted.
We stand at the edge of the Kalua Koi golf course bordering Maké Horse, my favorite beach. I lead J.D. around the perimeter of the course to the well-worn trail into the cove.
We lay out a quilt. I drop my backpack on one corner and J.D. sets the cooler on another corner. I remove towels from the backpack, tossing one to J.D. and we arrange them side by side. I pull off my blue striped scoopneck tee, revealing my red bandeau bikini top and leave my black women’s board shorts on then lay prone on the towel. J.D takes off his grey Hawai`i Tennis shirt and settles next to me on his back.
“I could get used to this,” he says serenely.
“Maybe you will if you do your residency here.” I grin. “It’s bliss.”
“Why don’t you come home more often?”
“It’s either pay tuition or come home. I think UH likes getting their money before I start classes.”
“Schools are weird like that,” he plays along.
“You’re going to be speaking Pidgin while we’re here, yeah?”
“I hope you remember your Pidgin.”
“That’s okay. They’ll tease you ‘cause you haole anyway.”
“Oh joy,” he says sarcastically.
“You’re really a minority now.” I giggle.
“Thanks a lot.”
Sand falls on my back. “James!” I shriek as I push myself up swiftly.
He is sniggering with his hand over his mouth. I grab a handful of sand and dump it on his torso. He sits up and grabs more with his left hand. I get my feet under me and escape to the water. J.D. is on my heels and seizes me around my waist from behind when I’m knee deep in the ocean, flipping us around as a wave crests then launches us backwards into it.
I take in a breath before the water closes around me. J.D. releases me and I float to the surface while being pulled to shore by the current. I break the surface as I drift back towards the horizon and wipe my face. J.D. is nearby clearing his eyes.
“You okay?” I inch closer.
“Yeah.” He sends salty water towards me with a rapid push of his palm.
I turn my head away and the droplets slap the side of my head. I propel myself at him and push him underwater by his head. He takes hold of my legs and uses his feet to spring up then flings me back first towards open water. I throw my arms overhead and arch my back. I slice into the water and glide several yards before coming up for air.
J.D. is swimming for me while I scissor kick and cut my hands through the water back and forth. The ripple of a forming wave lifts me up and brings me down with it.
“I was hoping for some flailing,” he says with mock disappointment.
“I grew up with my uncles throwing me in here. Call it self-preservation.” A roguish grin spreads across my face. “How are you at body surfing?”
“Uhm…not as good as you.”
“We go!” I call and swim for the breaking waves.
I exit the bathroom into the small living area of the lower portion of my grandparent’s split-level house while towel drying my hair. Duran Duran plays through the stereo.
And when the lights of hope
Are fading quickly then look to me
I’ll be your homing angel
I’ll be in your head.
J.D. lies face down on one of the twin beds in the bedroom, his arms crossed under his head.
“Your turn,” I announce.
“Thanks,” he says rolling to face me.
“You could’ve used the bathroom upstairs.”
“Yeah, but your grandparents are up there,” he says nervously.
“They’re harmless. Lolo would’ve told you stories about when he was our age and Lola would’ve tried to force feed you because you’re too skinny.”
“See, you missed out,” I joke.
He takes hold of my waist and pulls me down next to him. “We should go to the beach more often.”
“That will be hard when you’re back in school.”
“When I’m home, I mean. Today was fun.”
“Today’s not over,” I remind him. I spring up, twirl my towel between my hands then snap it at him.
“Hey!” He sits up.
“Get in the shower or you’re going to see a side of Lola you won’t like if we aren’t ready for dinner when she is.”
He stands and draws me to him. “If she’s like you when you’re angry, I’m going.”
“Worse.” I curl the right side of my mouth up into a half-grin.
He gives me a quick kiss and runs off. I go back out to the living area and change tapes to The Eagles while I finish drying my hair.
Oh, I did some damage
I know it’s true
Didn’t know I was so lonely
Till I found you
Lolo lectures J.D. during dinner about not distracting me from my studies because I’m the first girl in the family to finish college. I snigger all the way through because I’m not the receiving end for the first time in years. Lola bites her lips between her teeth and smacks my arm. J.D. glares at me periodically until Lolo finishes. J.D. is respectful and assures Lolo that he has his own studies to worry about, too.
“Lolo,” I say walking to his chair. “We going Uncle Jimmy’s, yeah?” I place a hand on his shoulder and kiss him on the cheek.
“No stay out late,” he states firmly.
“Drive safe,” my grandmother tells me.
“Yes, Lola.” I kiss her cheek, too.
We walk onto Uncle Jimmy’s driveway five minutes later with our fingers interlaced.
“Cuz!” eight year-old Makana exclaims from the carport dumping the cards in her hand on the table in front of her and jumping up from her white plastic chair.
“Howzit!” I call back.
She runs over, throws her arms around me then steps back and I introduce her to J.D. “Howzit!” she kisses his cheek and wraps him up in her arms.
“Howzit,” he greets and hugs her back.
“Uncle!” I yell through the window.
“Ho! Ari!” a booming voice yells in return.
Uncle Jimmy, Auntie Bernie, and Maile come outside for introductions.
“Mike, Lori, them stay coming,” Uncle informs us. “Beers and sodas are in the cooler.” He points to the back of the carport.
“Shoots.” I retrieve two bottles and hand one to J.D.
“Have a sat, Ari,” Makana pats the seat to her right.
I sit in the seat and J.D. takes the chair on my right. Five year-old Maile climbs into my lap and eyes J.D. with uncertainty.
Aunties, uncles, and cousins arrive with hot bread in hand. I make introductions and my cousins run off to play inside and take one of the loaves with them. My aunties and uncles sit around the table and we explain to J.D. how to play Spoons.
“So I just need four-of-a-kind?”
“Yeah, but watch the spoons. If someone else gets it first, spoons start disappearing,” I elaborate as I tear a piece of the round French style loaf dissected lengthwise and smeared with butter, jelly, and cinnamon. “If you don’t have a spoon in the end, you lose.”
“’Kay. Get ‘um.”
Uncle Jimmy deals the first hand. We pass cards to our left wordlessly with only the snapping and slamming of cards being picked up and discarded to be heard. Auntie Nia is the first to sneak a spoon, but keeps passing cards. I sneak a spoon after discarding to Uncle Mike. I pick up the card J.D. passes to me and set it next to Uncle Mike. The rest of them sneak spoons and still pass cards. All the spoons are gone and J.D. has no idea until he reaches for one after getting four-of-a-kind.
“What?” he asks perplexed at the absence of spoons in the middle of the table.
We roar with laughter.
“Told you for pay attention,” I tease with a gleam in my eye.
“You’re lucky I’m secure enough to lose to you,” he sneers playfully.
“I wouldn’t be with you if you weren’t.” I lean over and peck his jaw while he shuffles the deck.
We go a few more rounds until we are talking story instead of playing.
“Ari, remember when we used to sneak out of the house when you was little?” Uncle Jimmy asks nostalgically.
“Yeah,” I grin as memories flood back. “That beaded curtain in the hall was a pain.”
“An’ den Mike would lock us all out sometimes,” Uncle Jimmy says giving Uncle Mike stink eye.
“Nah! I nevah!” he denies adamantly.
“Yes!” Auntie Lori jumps in pointing at him. “You used to get mad at us while Mom and Dad were working and lock us out ALL DAY!”
Uncle Glen and Auntie Nia laugh hysterically.
“You wouldn’t even let me in, Uncle,” I remind him and pout.
“J.D., when you go back?” Auntie Lori asks.
“Next weekend,” he answers.
“How come so soon?” Auntie Nia questions.
“Forty-eight weeks of hands-on learning in the different fields.”
We move out to the yard with our chairs and the uncles bring out the guitars. We start calling out requests before they are done tuning.
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind.H
The kids hear the music and join us. Maile scrambles into my lap again. Makana jumps in J.D.’s lap. Derek decides there is room in my lap for one more. Shay, Eli, and Rodney sit with my aunties.
The phone rings sometime later. Auntie Bernie goes in for it.
“Was Dad,” she tells me when she returns. “I told him you’d be a couple more hours.”
“Never fails,” I sigh.
“I don’t know why he worries. He knows you stay with us. We’re not far.”
“Maybe he’s afraid I’ll run off, too.”
“Look, Mommy!” Derek points to the sky and turns to Auntie Lori.
We all look up in time to see a meteor streak silver across the night sky. My cousins lay down in the grass to watch, heads touching. “Come, Ari,” Daniel beckons.
I rise and grab J.D.’s hand. We lay down with my cousins, our heads touching theirs. Billions of tiny sparkling pinpoints stare back at us.
“They feel so close,” J.D. whispers in awe.
“I know, yeah? Like you can reach out and grab a handful.”
Another meteor leaves a light trail in its wake. My cousins squeal with delight. J.D. squeezes my hand and brushes his lips on my temple.
The door bursts open and I cower in the dark corner. A shadowy figure enters then closes the door behind him. I wrap my arms around my legs and bury my head in my knees as he makes his way to me. A hand grabs my upper arms and heaves me to my feet.
“Leave me alone!”
“Shut up,” the sinister voice commands.
I bite my lips together and whimper. He pins me against the wall.
I bolt upright, screaming, breathing heavy and heart pounding against my ribcage.
J.D. tosses his quilt aside, flies out of bed, and sits next to me facing me. “I’m here, babes. It’s okay.” He enfolds me in his arms, rocking back and forth and making long strokes down my back.
I rest my head on his shoulder and slip my arms around his chest. My breathing evens out.
“Want to tell me about it?” he asks.
“It might help if you talked about it,” he encourages.
I pause then replay the nightmare for him. I let out a long yawn when I finish.
“Come on, let me tuck you in.” He shifts his legs to stand.
I hold on to him, “Stay. Please?”
“It’s a twin bed, babes.”
“We can push them together,” I suggest.
J.D. turns on the light and I move the small table between the beds out of the way. J.D. pushes the beds together and we adjust the sheets and quilts. I climb in exhausted.
“Close the light,” I tell him.
He looks at me quizzically.
“Close the light,” I repeat, too tired to realize he doesn’t understand.
“Oh!” He flicks the light switch down then crawls in with me, drawing me against his chest.
“You never talk about your parents. Do you miss them?”
“Sometimes. I’m used to them being gone though. They don’t like coming back and I never liked visiting because I had no one to play with,” I state plainly. “I had Lolo and Lola, my aunties and uncles, and all the other relatives their ages looking out for me. I had the whole village raising me.”
He nuzzles my neck. “I enjoyed tonight.”
“That’s night life on a rural island for you.”
“Your cousins didn’t even turn on the TV when they were inside by themselves,” he says amazed.
“Who needs to be entertained when you can entertain yourself?”
“I wish I had had some of that growing up.”
“We always want what we don’t have.”
“Not true. I have you and still want you.” He skims his lips against my right shoulder.
I shift around to face him in the dark. “You know how to flatter a girl.”
“Just you, babes.”
©Debi Smith, 2013