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h [electronic resource] /
by Shawn Alff.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
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Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of South Florida, 2010.
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ABSTRACT: Haole Shawn Alff ABSTRACT Just after midnight on a chilly April night in 2005, the author finds himself homeless in Hawaii, searching for a place to sleep. The account that follows is the true story of a young man's misadventures on the road as he attempts to reconcile his wanderlust with a need for order and security. This work of creative nonfiction reconstructs the first half of the summer the narrator spent wandering Hawaii. Specifically, this section concentrates on the author's experiences on the island of Oahu. There, the narrator, who constantly changes his name, is stuck at a crossroads; he is torn between his desires for the woman and the life he left in Texas and his need for exploration. At first he drifts along the road eating beef jerky sandwiches, ducking beer bottles flung at him by locals, and camping illegally in public parks. Eventually he finds work and belonging at a new age surf shop on the North Shore, but this stagnant environment only reinforces his desire to wander. After nearly drowning in a surfing accident and being threatened by the owner of the board he destroys, the narrator returns to the road where he has encounters with a military man, Mormons, fellow transients, the police, and a chicken fighter who tries to seduce him. Eventually he leaves Oahu for the island of Kauai. There he finds hope and friendship among the bohemians living communally on organic farms. However, his resolve to live a freewheeling lifestyle is ultimately tested one night by a band of drug runners who confront him on a deserted beach. This master's thesis celebrates the tradition of the great American road story. While the narrator retraces the footsteps of many who have set out on the open road, his personal account and voice reflect the modern values and cultural forces that lead many of his generation to wander America in search of something more.
Advisor: Ira Sukrungruang, M.F.A.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Haole by Shawn Alff A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Ira Sukrungruang M.F.A John Henry Fleming Ph.D Karen Brown Gonzalez Ph.D Date of Approval: April 15 2010 Keywords: Creative, Hawaii, Homeless, Nonfiction, Story, True Copyright 2010, Shawn Alff
i Table of Contents Haole Abstract iii Introduction 1 C hapter One 7 Chapter Two 10 Ch apter Three 14 Chapter Four 26 Chapter Five 34 Chapter Six 49 C hapter Seven 63 C hapter Eight 74 Chapter Nine 84 Chapter Ten 91 C hapter Eleven 102 Chapter Twelve 110 Ch ap ter Thirteen 114 Ch apter Fourteen 115 Ch apter Fifteen 134
ii C hapter Sixteen 146 Cha pter Seventeen 154 Ch apter Eighteen 158 Ch apter Nineteen 171 Chapter T wenty 173 Chap ter Twenty One 189 Chap ter Twenty Two 1 91 Chapt er Twenty Three 194 Chapt er Twenty Four 197 Chapt er Twenty Five 210
iii Haole Shawn Alff ABSTRACT Just after midnight on a chilly April night in 2005, the author finds himself homeless in Hawaii, searching for a place to sleep. The account that follows is the true s wanderlust with a need for order and security. This work of creative nonfiction reconstructs the first half of the summer the narrator spent wandering Hawaii. Ther e, the narrator, who constantly changes his name, is stuck at a crossroads; he is torn between his desires for the woman and the life he left in Texas and his need for exploration. At first he drifts along the road eating beef jerky sandwiches, ducking bee r bottles flung at him by locals, and camping illegally in public parks. Eventually he finds work and belonging at a new age surf shop on the North Shore, but this stagnant environment only reinforces his desire to wander. After nearly drowning in a surfin g accident and being threatened by the owner of the board he destroys, the narrator returns to the road where he has encounters with a military man, Mormons, fellow transients, the police, and a chicken fighter who tries to seduce him. Eventually he leaves Oahu for the island of Kauai. There he finds hope and friendship among the bohemians living communally on organic farms. However, his resolve to live a freewheeling lifestyle is
iv ultimately tested one night by a band of drug runners who confront him on a d eserted beach. This While the narrator retraces the footsteps of many who have set out on the open road, his personal account and voice reflect the modern values and cultural forces that lead many of his generation to wander America in search of something more.
1 Introduction The call of the wild has been replaced by the call of the open road. Young Americans now look to the road the same way previous generations turned toward the wilderness for the answers and desires they could not satiate in civilized life. As long as young adults have answered this call to wander into the unknown, accounts of their journeys have been celebrated. In fact, a physical journey is the model of a standard story structure. It contains a definite beginning and end. The protagonist has a clear motive to keep moving. And change occurs if only in the physical setting. A story is a journey, as both are much more about the experience rather than the destination. As a nation of immigrants, America is a fertile setting for journey narratives. We are the des cendants of people in search of something more. We are a country of seekers with eyes tilted toward the gold mirage on the Western meridian. Stories of adventures along the road are an expression of the American dream, embodying the pursuit of happiness. T hese stories celebrate the unending journey of self discovery. Very few settings are more conducive to the unfolding of this dream than the boundless American circulatory sy stem, pumping with new life. By definition, an American road story is a clich. Narrators travel down worn pulse of a generation can be measured by the unique visions narrators sees along the road.
2 These stories are not culture shock narratives which force characters to cope with foreign Haole hat celebrates the tradition of American road stories in the brutal paradise of Hawaii. While countless examples exist of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Jack On The Road Briefly examining these works and a few contemporary examples will help explain my stylistic decisions and will help highlight areas that need work in order to make this thesis marketable. When setting out for Hawaii, I began my journey with the assumption that each choice limits the possible outcomes. As you grow up, the infinite possibilities present to children are quickly reduced by life events and decisions. After graduating college, I was still af raid to make any substantial choices in regards to my future; I was afraid a single misstep could potentially trap me in an unfulfilling existence. However, a common theme in many road stories is the idea that every choice accelerates your journey. Each fo rk in the road brings you to more crossroads, more options. An infinite number of routes can lead to the same destination. This optimistic spirit of infinite possibilities, the idea that something better lies just beyond the next rise, is best exemplified in American literature diverges from the restricting rules of poetry, opening up the genre to boundless potential. mages, people, and places. The only common thread between these is that they exist on the American road. He
3 embraces the idea that all things are part of the whole and all are good. Whitman was not the first to promote this idea, but he does best represent the spark and hope that drives young men down the road in search of something more. The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn further progresses this theme. This road story unfolds on the most American of rivers, the Mississippi, which serves as th e main thruway through the heart of the nation. This well traveled commerce route slices through a wide cross section of the country, exposing Finn and Jim to various aspects of the American experience as they float down river in search of freedom and adve the story has nothing to do with the climax. In fact, the ending delves into the childish absurdity Twain employed in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Instead, Huckleberr wise interpretations of this country. Jack K erouac On the Road is an adult version of Huckleberry Finn and the most experiences hitchhiking, walking, and driving across country with the entertaining and hopelessly enthusiastic antihero, Neal Cassidy. This book embodies all elements of a road story. On the Road has very little discernable plot. It is never certain what exactly motivates the narrator to go on these trips or what is at stake. Kerouac simply roves ld scenes. As evidence of this work to the screen. It does not follow a conventional story arc with rising action and
4 a decisive climax. The destinations are always trivia l, constantly shifting between restless need to hit the road and head across the country in search of something more. The narrative engine is entirely fueled by the chemi cally amplified voice of an optimistic young writer hungry for experiences. Kerouac does not explore new physical terrain. He sticks to the road. However, he finds new life between the cracks of American cities. Similarly, while there are innumerable trav Haole overlooked in these vacation handbooks. Haole Hawaii or backpacking. In travel writing and historical fiction, o experience is important, it is not always the main focus. James A. M ichener fiction, Hawaii exemplifies the type of research driven i nformation many readers crave. Alaska Texas and Space Hawaii features subplots, but the main concern is relating information about the region in an entertaining manner. Readers want to be entertained and educated. If Haole a travel memoir, it needs to be grounded in much more historical, cultural, and natural background information about Hawaii and backpacking. In fact, because this book lacks a wealth of dramatic events and covers a limited region and time, research will do much to amplify the narrative.
5 Haole fiction piece in which my character searches for an adventure he can then use to write a profitable screenplay. My decision to abandon this conve ntion was reinforced in a workshop when a graduate student who teaches creative writing for film majors said this is the most common clich among film students. While I largely abandoned this as a structure, the theme of wanting to lead a life worth tellin g almost entirely fantasies conceived in terms of clich movie scenes. Also, several r eflections of pop culture. While removing this element sped up the narrative, it also left a hole in explaining to the road. However, modern readers expect an author to articulate a universe of ideas into a condensed message that can easily be digested and understood. A specific motive is essential for convincing the audience to understand and sympathize with my This will also help relate what is at stake as well as dictate what elements to cut or emphasize. Nonfiction is afforded some grace in compensating for a lack of dramatic action with reflection and background details, but memoirs still must rely on a central plot and story arc. Plot is on e of the most difficult things to incorporate into a work of nonfiction. Life does not unfold according to conventional storylines. However, nonfiction writers are put to the task of finding a suitable narrative structure. The ultimate flaw of many travel memoirs is that writers invest in a story before they know if their journey will
6 contain enough dramatic action to constitute a book. Despite premeditation, travel pieces necessarily create rising action as the travelers and readers get more invested in th e trip and its completion. Also, an arduous journey cannot help but change the traveler. A travel may utilize an intellectual or emotional climax, I am still searching fo r the event that best demonstrates this change and a way to articulate this transformation. As with describing my motivation behind the journey, there is no single answer. Once I decide on this element, it will influence what is highlighted and cut through out the narrative. The journey of writing a road story is just as significant as the journey itself. Examining the significance of my actions and what motivated me will change me as much as the actual experience. This is the joy of writing; it is an exped ition of self discovery. At the end of a long work, the writer emerges from the wilderness of words a different person.
7 Chapter One Me, sweat streaked, sleep starved, raw, running toward a neon dawn blooming over the black hill country. Knotted oaks and spiked cedars push me off the gravel shoulder, to charge head on down the unlit two lane into oncoming headlights. Tires sizzle and hi gh beams widen, whiting out the terrain. I brace against the consuming flash then run on into the unadjusted dark. The limestone drainage ditch yields underfoot as I hurdle prickly pears and imagined rattlesnakes. The remains of overfed and under hunted de er lie scattered along the ditch, feeding the first blooms of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Commuters speed from gated communities ornamented with windmills and ing as anything but a spook seeking shelter from the day. In the cool of spring, the heat that chars this country from May through November is forgotten. My troubles, eased by exhaustion, give way to flights of fantasy, grandiose visions of a horseless cow boy, a boy, me, drifting down that rural road. Here is the sum of my all American childhood. Here, my boyhood dreams were forged against the ironwood terrain, and here they will remain as a phantom roving the rolling plains an unborn outlaw abandoned to th e modern west. * She, Anezka, a name, an anesthetic numbing the lips with repetition. I untangle her naked limbs from a comforter where she sleeps unconscious of my absence. Her
8 pupils bounce beneath her eyes lids, dreaming my death aside the road if not from a careening car then from an overanxious and caffeinated heart. It was she who convinced me I would go dumb with exposure if I set out across Texas on foot. And, it was she who persuaded me to travel someplace tropical with a constant beach to keep me cool and clean the kind of setting that illustrates her She grips my sweaty wrist while I kick the contents of her overnight bag into a sweat and morning breath. I slip into the shower then scrub my weak enamel and receding gums. Excessive sweat and poor oral hygiene are clear signs of transience, and both are family traits. I thrust into her at a speed that mimics my running pace and cl ose my eyes to contain the sensation. An image repeats of Anezka sputtering out from beneath me like a moments with a muted climax and a fading conscious of what it feels like to be with her. romantic comedy we ever watch, and every romantic moment I attempt to orchestrate. Still naked, she sits in unmade sheets, watching me towel off again before I pull on pants that unzip at the knees, a tight nylon t shirt, and running shoes. She refuses to understand why my brother bought this pack for my college receive rolling luggage from him the same set my brother received for corporate trips.
9 * Us, dissolving in the swirl of ticket travelers dropped off and picked up, filtered in and out of the automatic doors by whistle bl asts and preset warnings about idling in the that warp my face. I nod to a desert soldier in pixilated fatigues, no older than me, hunched beneath a pack, gripping his sobbing child of a wife. Anezka has always had a gift for sentimentality.
10 Chapter Two The convulsions of the 737 conferring with the runway shake me awake. Midnight vacuum cleaners absorb the tiki torch music serenading the abandoned terminals. I follow the communion of budget travelers, the mission group uniformed in loose athletic gear an d the family clearing crusted sleep from their eyes, arguing over plastic leis to new arrivals. the receiving line with my head bowed. * still manage to sleep su ccessfully under freeways or in all night laundry mats. The only thing required is surrender, or an empty plastic bottle of Rebel Yell. No sooner do I lie beneath merging overpasses than my skin crawls with ants. I dance around like a back alley schizophre nic, slapping at my synthetic clothes and failing to restrain my frenzied yelps. None of the travel websites I searched advertised that along with sunbathing, round climate is ideal for insects.
11 I settle for a c lean sheet of concrete shielded from a main road by hedges dotted. Across the adjoined parking lot, a side street offers motorists a perfect view of me looking like a lumpy pile of refuse. I realize then how useless my rain resistant mummy sack is for slee ping in public. It serves only as a vinyl body bag. A chill works through my dual rain coats. I force my head steady against my pack and concentrate on a halo of insects searching for god in the street lamp. Across the * Transient lights herd shadows across my eyelids. The screech of breaks scales the dormant distance. I wait for a crash that never comes. The city stirs. Fear forces my eyes open in sleep. My body convulses in attempt to wake. Anezka found me in this state once while I dozed on her floor, eyes wide and body quaking. She thought I was having a seizure, and maybe I was. Some epileptics claim they experience god during grand mal fits. In my convulsions, dark fi gures loom over my paralyzed form. Headlights draw near. Siren screams climb the concrete landscape. I snap upright. Not ten minutes have passed. This cycle repeats every quarter hour, ending with a frill necked lizard inches from my neck, hissing. I wake, unsure if the reptile was imagined or an extra abandoned after the filming of Jurassic Park on Oahu.
12 A trash man stares at me as he unchains the dumpster. I cinch my pack to leave. I consider the possibilities. I should say something dramatic, something like, haole * closed fast food restaurant draw me near. Early Sunday mornings before mass, I used to follow my father to closed fast food joints. My tiny hands fit between the grates beneath drive through windows, exhuming loose change. An evaporated milk shake and what looks like hardened frosting covers the cement picnic table. Insects gather around the dried excess. A tune fills my mouth like saliva. With no one to witness my lapse of sanity, my voice grows. I sing like my mother sang each year after my tenth birthday, when I decided, partly becaus patience jumps in pitch like hers did each time her wooden spoon popped my wrist, silencing my sobbing with song. Like the woman I left behind, my mother refu sed to let me pity the situations I chose for myself.
13 Today, I am twenty three.
14 Chapter Three Slumber faced hotel employees unload from buses and trudge silently down streets named with stuttering vowels like parodies of Hawaiian words: Nohonani, Lilioukalani, Paoakalani Clean floral shirts and pressed white pants give them the look of ticket take rs at a Hawaiian theme park. High rise condos and hotels prolong dawn in their skyward competition for views of Waikiki beach. Vacationing joggers and morning surfers lugging long boards trickle toward the surf. Business men wearing tucked in polo shirts a nd crisp straw hats displaying golf course insignias flip through newspapers outside franchise coffee shops. Older couples crowd benches before the beach is spoiled by the beautifully young. Japanese tourists march with precision, arms behind their backs, and expensive cameras dangling from their necks as they bend to read municipal plaques. Bums congregate in a gazebo designated for weddings, dressed like waterlogged tourists: bent visors advertising Oahu, tattered yet trendy surf shirts, flip flops duct t aped together, and all missing at least one essential piece of clothing. Waves unfurl in long, from the necks of Hawaiian royalty, Christian saints, surf icons, and Mohit Ghandi immortalized in bronze statues. Soon, with the modern advances of climate change, these seaside prophets will wade into the ocean to watch the towers of Honolulu bow to the next great flood already lapping at the seawall. For graduation, my p arents gave me a pocket sized Bible, thinking that as long as
15 day from the f ace of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive * My first memory of the ocean is as a toddler running naked on the beach hand in hand with a nameless blonde girl, giggling pointing as the waves washed over our feet, then receded, pulled the sand out from under our toes, beckoning us to follow, and we did only for the next wave to break over us, tumble us in the sand, send us squealing back to stretched towels, only to dry off and do it all again. * My continental breakfast consists of beef jerky wrapped in generic wheat bread. My hunger, and the rising heat, saps my energy. I stalk tourists down Kalakaua Avenue and slip behind a family into a locked hotel gate. Specimens of Hawaiian vegetation flourish beyond the chains that line the pathway. Grandiose rugs and columns divide breezeways leading through strings of unoccupied living room sets, which look like modern art interpretations of still life paintings. Newspapers cover the circular pink, padded seats in the hotel lobby, absorbing the frustrations of guests waiting to check in and out. On a postcard featuring the Royal Hawaiian, a coral colored castle, I indulge in melodrama and wri te: I smell you in each whiff of coconut suntan oil and see you in the glaze of salt water pooling in backs arched over candy colored beach towels. I catch your gaze behind the movie star shades and celebrity magazines that conceal the flaws of
16 faces that by side with steroid hulks sporting sleeves of splotchy tattoos, backwards caps, scruffy facial hair, and shaved chests. With each imperfect comparison, my memory of you is effaced, and facsimile of your soft cheeks and reptile eyes. Walking like he has a pineapple shoved up his ass, the maitre d prances behind his desk and riffles through the drawers. Perhaps I can make it as a con artist after all, maybe slip head first beside the pool and demand a free room. Then again, an island probably sized tube over me I return to my postcard. He hovers over me, clearing hi s throat. I fold the paper under my arm and hoist my pack. * Banyan trees sprout like storybook fortresses from the groomed grass of Kapiolani Park. Children cling to the gothic limbs, defendin g their living castles,
17 launching sticks like spears and swinging from vines stretching to set new roots. In an elevated gazebo, geriatrics in plastic grass skirts test new hips and walkers, writhing to slow Hawaiian dances. A barefoot girl named Joy stand s memorialized in bronze atop a black boulder. A fresh flower sits in her outstretched hand and a purple and white lei hangs over her smooth chest. I polish her foot, removing the grime. For me, Joy is a Hawaiian reincarnation of Alice in Wonderland a fea rless child wandering alone through this island. The cartoon version of Alice was the first girl I dreamed of as a boy. She lured me to a kind of Never Wonderland island where I flew after her from tree to tree until I caught her, and she dissolved in my a rms. With a mind to chase her back to waking life, I leapt from my tree, but in losing her, I doubted myself, and so too lost my ability to fly. I fell, slamming the earth. Flightless and consumed in a canopy of shadows, I was prey to an overwhelming dark force, like a dragon. From between my knees, waiting, wanting to be eaten, to wake but instead I was stuck cowering for hours in fear of my dreams. After that first dream, I lay in bed all day with my Winnie the Pooh sheets precisely tucked around my naked form. My mother asked if I was sick. I nodded, knowing, though not why, that I was too old to be naked. This image of Alice with a tiny nose, wide eyes, and a seamless v eil of vibrant blonde hair all qualities of youth and beauty when paired with womanly curves haunted my youth, and haunts me now. They all are attributes of Anezka. Long after our satellites fall like meteors, the copper veins of the computer age corrode, and our books turn to dust, these bronze statues will stand, buried in the topsoil
18 of our downfall as our final testament to whatever creatures find our images imprinted on the aluminum plaques aboard the Pioneer spacecrafts. And when Joy is unearthed, wh at will be thought of those who let such beauty slip away? * The sun sets behind clouds to the disappointment of couples posed for pictures perfect photos that would serve as evidence that at some point, they were happy. I fill an abandoned paper cup with milk and honey at a coffee shop then sit, dunking bread slices. * Under the cover of night I infiltrate a high rise condo complex behind a woman, who is obviously intimidated by my threatening demeanor. She holds the automatic locki ng gate for all five foot nine of my sinewy stature and smiles as my hairless European American cheeks flush with embarrassment. aged man in the hot tub who keeps pushing back locks of greasy blonde hair. His name i s Gary B and mine is Chris. I slip in across from him. He explains how I need to find myself a successful woman so I can spend all day surfing. rotten I let th
19 The rain comes. In saggy swim trunks that highlight his belly and twig legs, he collects his keys and shuffles into his loafers Orange leaves circulate like gold fish. I float face down on a lungful of air, arms wrapped around my knees, with the warm light incubating m emories of summers spent floating is such pools of water, wondering how long my breath would hold. * Night winds pour down the mountains, drying my synthetic pants stained by my swim suit beneath. I lay atop a stone picnic table in Kapiolani Park. The wind overpowers my double raincoats. I brought two flimsy jackets in place of a bulky sleeping bag and a Rebel Without a Cause So ther e I lie, looking fashionably minimal, stocking cap, pants, shoes, glasses with a five year old prescription, and hands pinched under my arm pits, shaking involuntarily on a cement slab, like a voluntary human sacrifice long ago forgotten.
20 The sprinklers s hock me with reclaimed water. I tear across the park then curl under a curved palm, with my head pillowed on the raised, dirt base. Clouds sail through the midnight blue. The tennis court lights serve as a night lamp. I count the pop of tennis balls. The s creech of tires and passing lights wakes me at fifteen minute intervals. The rain never falls and insects leave me alone for the trash barrels. Dreams are colored by vigilant senses. Childhood nightmares return. I fear some simple, dark force hovering over me. I coil into myself and wake to the fleeting thought that the arms clutching me * Buses blaze by on Kalanianaole Highway, not bothering to stop at my bench. I study the miles of drainage ditch behind, and the miles to come as I lick my fingers, sucking the residue of a Washington apple that cost as much as a pineapple back home. conditioning, selection of reading resources, toilets, and water fountains of public libraries, but no one stares at you fo r dozing on your pack at a bus stop. I now appreciate why street walkers and hustlers gravitate to these public terminals that stink of sedentary life. Here, all are welcome. Scattered thoughts become circling scavengers, picking scraps from my past and p resent. Eventually, all questions funnel to one why and ultimately, all questions deliver a common answer. Free from the distractions of my mainland life, this interrogation is much more direct. Every journey requires an end point, no matter how illusionar She is the black hole in my consciousness.
21 Her anger at my departure has tipped into a kind of depraved humor. In the crackle of static silence, the mind, searching for patterns in the chaos, hears a football team worth of suitors running offensive plays in her bedroom. She is my only legitimate re ason for being here, to make her fall back in love with me, but that, as she points out, is my childhood ideals, telling me to quit being a pussy. She is my emotional edi tor, forcing me to be happy, and refusing to let me feel sorry for my decisions. Through her ridicule, with a fetish for vampires, but even then the vampires must be famous, and super strong, and given to monogamy. For her, satisfaction is something you consciously choose and construct, and which often involves BBQ, beer, and football. he r. * Lines of mansions populate the northeastern side of Diamond Head with lawns like putting greens, gilded gates, and undisturbed pools. I stare at these luxuries like a junky, searching for flaws, like a peeping tom hoping to catch a glimpse of a topless trophy wife. The only people enduring the heat are contractors and landscapers staring back at me. *
22 My feet dig into the cool sand of Waialae Beach Park as I gnaw on beef jerky sandwiches. I take strength in imagining my body becoming like jerky, tawny and hard. A truncated school bus delivers a troupe of mentally challenged adults. They scatter, bouncing happily over the sand, glancing back at their handlers when their names are yelled for acting up. One woman with a lopsided head lead s a prune of a man by the hand to poke various clumps of sand rolled detritus. They are children searching for seashells and treasure. Eventually her stick finds me. Her male companion offers a slobber stained She laughs hysterically as does the small man who crams two fingers between crooked teeth. The larger female with boyishly short hair drops her stick and drags me along with her other hand, to join her merry troop. * I stash my pack beneath a pool chair and an abandoned towel that reads Kahala Resort. The pack is more than just a physical weight. It slouches over my confidence, making it nearly impossi ble to look women in the eye. My depraved imagination compares it to the St. Christopher medallion around my neck that features an old man crossing a river with baby Jesus on his back. But, baby Jesus had superpowers and the charms of infancy. The only mag ic my pack contains is a magnifying glass and a compass from a childhood toy, both of which I brought out of obligation to my sense of adventure.
23 Despite my best seductive glances, which make me look like a sociable pervert, no wives of golf enthusiasts with fresh pedicures join me in the hot tub. Parents jerk their attract is from an idle server who sits on the pool chair next to me, spinning his cocktail tray on a He explains how he arrived in Oahu a few months ago himself. He suggests sights I should definit ely check out on a day like today while the weather is good. He draws me a map on a napkin. His manager stands cross armed behind the bar, watching. I leave, from this res ort in the postcard version of this encounter. * I want to laugh but nothing comes out. I trained for this roadside running along the rural Texas routes, trying to maintain a body fit for reality show stardom. With a last, heroic glance over my s houlder, I bolt down the narrow road. My calves glance the rock face, calling me back to my mark. I put my ear to the road like the hunted in an old western, then ri se with a half face of sweat stuck asphalt and a shit eating grin. In a flash of bravery or surrender, I jump back over the guardrail and hoof it down the road. My
24 pack pounds my spine, picking up speed, mimicking the pulse rising in my ear. The wind blast s cinch my clothes and drag me back. Breaks squeal behind, slowing to make the curve. I laugh hysterically. My shadow is cast yards ahead of me, sharpens, and contracts beneath me with exponential speed as my silhouette rushes to take cover beneath each st ep. The bleat of a horn sends a shock through me. I leap, hook a foot atop the rail and jump into the unknown beyond the road. * The only lights are pin pricks of headlights defining the road. The scalloped rock shelves offer concave crevices forme d from wind and waves powering across the Pacific in search of something to give them voice. I take shelter under an overhang where a boulder has fallen from the rock awning. I scour the rocky landscape disappearing in night. Little grows here. The wind sw eeps away the dead, leaving pliable vines and lily pads. I rip out armfuls of green and run back to my cave, stumbling on loose rock sheets that flake like croissants. I erect a tiny pyramid of vines and attempt to ignite it with crumpled postcards and h alf a can of bug juice. I huff and puff and feed more glossy prints, but even with my Hungry, my emotions are as transitory and volatile as what waits for me up the road I crave heat and my eyes need something in which to become unfocused. My exhausted muscles melt over the rock, which reverberates with waves, shaking like a coming volcano an old world lullaby rocking me to sleep. This is the
25 perfect setting for a volcanic love scene with naked bodies blending into the sun bleached going mad. Madness was trading a warm bed and a warm body for this stony sleep. For between my thighs and curl around them.
26 Chapter Four I count the days in lengths of floss, the minutes in sets of push ups, and the seconds in steps along the concrete balance beam dividing the swish of traffic from a high dive into violent water shredding the cliffs. * In the lawn of a beach par k, white cattle egrets pluck grubs like migrant workers. Beyond the beach, the world lays submerged beneath the remnants of the last great flood carrying the last echoes of the sinking world. The waves pool at this mountain top where I sit, wondering what will resurface from all that was lost beneath the water. At the park facilities I attempt conversation with the cleaning crew. The woman removes the top of a trash bin, jams down the refuse with a gloved hand, and ties the bag closed. She tips the bin over, slides out the garbage bag, and drags it to her cart. She climbs in her maintenance truck. Her coworker drives off just as a tour bus pulls into the lot. Shadows press against the tinted windows. A camera flashes, setting off a rash of bulbs echoing soundlessly from the bus windows like a drive by shooting. I
27 flinch and make a move to cover up. What am I missing? What is so special about this beach park? Am I a spectacle on the tour route? Am I beautiful, an anomaly, or an example of local wildlife? Am I invisible, or am I an abandoned piece of human waste slowly being convalesce d by the jungle? Am I a blur, soon to be cropped from the bottom of vacation photos? * hour, smiling at coming cars, holding hands out like a child balanced on railroad tracks. My hat is nowhere. I turn around. * A winding dirt trail delivers me to a metal observation deck perched on volcanic rubble. On the walk, bicyclists in sponsored spandex su its pass me, squirming in their seats like extras in a commercial for sporty tampons or hemorrhoids medicine. Behind me, the jungle stretches out on either side, requiring a machete to penetrate more than a few feet. A red light house erupts like a paintin g, the perfect setting for a midnight romance scene, the phallic tower shaking and rumbling with each burst of foaming waves, and flashes of skin caught by the twirling light. The same properties that make it perfect for a romance scene make it ideal for m urder, and for hiding a dead body that longer I stay on the road, the more my visions of love and violence blend. Is this the incarnation of jealousy, or merely a growing h unger for satisfaction?
28 My bread has begun to ferment integrating its vinegary scent with my own. I peel the lid on a can of peaches I picked up a side a trash barrel The can was likely abandoned rusted but the label is only lightly sun faded and water warped. Of all the fruit on the roadside, fallen from volunteer trees sprouting in ditches, I eat canned peaches. A Brazilian cardinal with a red cap perches on the rail. I offer the bird a sli v er. I t hop s toward the syrupy goop, then flies away uninterested Alone and desperate, any beautiful trifle is an omen. Superstition combats the unknown. * overlook. A new C adillac idles, emitting a Christian marching hymn. A veteran with white hair blown back and a tucked in Hawaiian shirt stands with hands behind his back, his car to roll into him. I had promis ed myself I would never beg, that I would starve before I asked anyone for change. For me beggars are just lazy tramps who want others to fund their addictions. Even though Texas is flooded with first generation immigrants who arrive without a cent to thei r name and no social security card, these souls find a way to survive
29 American burnouts who fill the street corners holding handmade signs instead of earning change hoisting sandwich boards. But, best intentions are quickly co mpromised with the least flicker of desperation. vision of Hawaii, or modern American, or maybe I do and that is the problem. If the role were rever sed, I doubt I would have given him a ride. * Sopping wet, I walk out of Makapuu Park after enduring a few cycles of the waves scrubbing me against the sand. Two local toughs leave the bus stop to stand in my path. with their sandals, fast food guts, and pants sagging below their asses. A beat truck pulls alongside the bus stop and collects the two men. I hold my breath as the truck ramble s passed. Something rushes by my head and is swallowed in the brush like startled wildlife darting for cover. * neighborhood associations have decided on a conspiracy to con found tourists who wander their streets. Everyone I ask gives contradictory directions of how to access the
30 I run into him two miles more, he points me back, saying I The only pedestrians who return my smile are the same mentally handicapped troupe I met days before at the beach. I walk with them for a block, wondering how long it would take the orderlies to notice me. * Is it possible to be lost when you lack a destination? * On multimillion dollar plots, houses are held together with tarp and sheet metal. Many are gutted with their viscera piled in dumpsters or beneath tarps pinned down with broken cinderblocks as the structures are remodeled or salvaged before demolition. Other homes simply display the cholesterol of life clogging carports and sheds guarded by pit bulls. Two middle aged women with boyishly short hair load a small truck with house fixtures. They agree with little argument. I make an effort to carry the heaviest of tools to they flip houses. They tell me a standard three bedroom house like this one sell s for the price of a mansion in Texas.
31 The women speed away, leavin g the garage door up and the front door open. I consider this as a potential place to sleep for the night but then I realize that the true owners may return at any moment. I start to run. * I swim out beyond the breakers, chasing a sea turtle, wa tching the animal poke its head above water then duck back into the shell of the sea, preparing to crawl back across the ocean. horseback adventures of various sets used in Ju rassic Park On the rift of dirt between road and cliff, gravel crunches under foot like joints ad between mountains cloaked in mist and the postcard seascape. I scoff at swimmers, sunbathers, road, kicking my high minded thoughts melt beneath the strain of pack and sun. I understand how some could find this place beautiful, but without someone to see it with, i *
32 The scenery becomes a collection of potential places to sleep. A chain bars the entrance to Waimanalo Bay State Park. The closed sign invites me in, promising an abandoned park void of tempting campfire smells or the sound s of happy drunks. Too tired and hungry to check my thoughts, my empty picnic table quickly becomes an altar to Anezka. I scribble a postcard about how I find myself carrying less and less, about slipping off the road and being pin wheeled by a car, as th is is a short cut home. Night comes and I retreat to the unlit bathroom. Cinderblock walls, scarred with temple for worshipping the night. In the framed sky, the wind herds dark, woolly clouds. Benches line the walls and watery waste leeks from a urinal into a drain at the center of the cement floor. The moon tints the room a midnight blue. A truck fires to life at the y pack, shaking, haunted by vigilant senses and dreams of sleeping aside the road with the roar of cars constantly coming. The cinderblock walls reverberate with the pulse of waves T he wind howls over the open top In the limbo between sleep and waking, I lie inside and out, sheltered and trapped. I clinch against my tremors, imagining being wrapped in Anezka, in her unwashed sheets and mounds of dirty clothes peppered with the crumbles of bedroom picnics. As if in a waking dream, a giant Samoan marches so undlessly into the room and stands before the urinal with his back to me. Who comes to a park restroom at four in the morning to piss when every tree is a perfect urinal? Is he a fellow squatter, a ranger, a man looking for a good time as advertised on the stall walls? Had he and his
33 friends flooded the changing room and taught me a lesson about disgracing sacred Hawaiian restrooms? He exits without zipping his fly or wa shing his hands. Was I that unnoticeable, or did he purposefully not glance at me? The wind and the crunch of leaves disguise what could be conspiratorial voices, a rifle cocking or a chain dragging across a truck bed. I lift my pack and dart into the nigh t.
34 Chapter Five The spiral slide corkscrews me down to the gravel moat beneath a rainbow colored jungle gym scuffed with black shoes and amateur graffiti. A local occupies the phones bar noise. When she finally picks up, rhythms of wind and traffic efface what patience remains in her voice. I hope the crackling connection erases the unsteadiness in min e, but Exaggerated roadside misadventures pour out of me. Promises conceive more pro mises. I Silence follows each confession, pushing me to divulge more. I was never good on the phone, always impatient to get off and get back to work. Now the only difference h all I really want to do is listen to her sing to me in the falsetto voice she uses to imitate my tone deaf singing compulsion. I want to listen to her describe how much she misses me, to demand that I
35 But I just keep telling her I love her and miss her. My sincerity degrades with each repetition. Melodrama is my only anesthesia, and its effects are losing their potency. to play this back and The hum of the receiver amplify ing silence sizzles through the line. Anezka professed her love within a month of dating me. After I doctored her blood thigh due to a high heeled streaking accident on the college streets, we rode a radio flyer wagon to the apartment pool where we skinny dipped on those nights when she still had a boyfriend across town; he lived too far away to satisfy her. Holding me then, Anezka told me she knew she would regret saying it, but she had to say it. I hesitated. That was the first and only time I saw her cr y. Anezka complains of loneliness, by which she means horni ness. When I was just that her birth control worked by neutralizing her libido. She blamed this on my lack
36 to have graphic sex with strangers that in no way mirrors the love making she detailed for me when explaining why I was an impatient lover. x? Is he politely declining to comment whenever she bitches about my inadequacies? Or are all of her new indictments against me coming here products of his persuasion? I should have agreed not to call, to just write postcards and believe she was at home, r elishing every note. I say I needed to journey to the end of adventure before I could settle down and be satisfied with sitting at a desk, staring down office walls, measuring seconds in keystrokes and coffee breaks. with me, is that righ
37 I say I need to abandon everything to see what remains. I need to be alone to understand what it means to be with her, to appreciate her, to return to those honeymoon days when all we did was sit in my apartment watching movies and old porns wit h plots a time she recalls as me being at the height of my romantic bent. I swing the phone away from my mouth, letting the wind swab the receiver. I pull the phone from my ear. A nezka is the only thing tying me to a recognizable existence. ear. *
38 Tourists occasionally pull into the deserted beach parks to use the bathroom or to snap pictures of the surf. Then they quickly speed off to see the rest of the island in time to make their dinner reservations. This girl stopped twice, once to use the bathroom then again to take a picture of something in the bathroom. I smiled at her each time, asking on She returned once more waving a cartoon map from her hotel. She pun ches my shoulder then nods aggressively when I outline the route on my laminated map. Then she digs through the rattling change and breath mints in her purse, searching for a parting gift to give me. I expect a crumpled dollar. She hands me the slip from a fortune cookie. This is like the bad setup to the kind of porn you can order at upscale hotels. I phones, albeit phones that only connect them to various deities and starships.
39 genuinely interested in hanging out with m * Translucent shopping bags filled with folded clothes litter the backseat like jellyfish. Sand has turned the black floor mats gray. The new car smell is accent ed by a only a matter of time before the two girls associate the smell with me. The driver, the one who approached me, looks and acts like the plump and entitled daughter of a fading celebrity. The passenger is the no name friend of a tan highlighting blonde facial hair. The two giggle about the digital picture Nicole took in the bathro om. No name hands back the camera. I expect the female equivalent to the changing room floor. name asks.
40 look so muc h like a crack engine or the severed heads stuffed in my pack. eyebrows. is getting far creepier. When I first introduced myself, they latched onto the fact that I was from Texas, asking if I lived on a ranch or rode a horse.
41 Nicole swi rls across oncoming traffic onto a dirt alcove occupied by two in front of the compacted compact cars as though the girls are bikini models molesting freshly waxed ho t rods. After each take they rush to the camera and grumble about how roofs for leaks. checking out the North Shore consists of scoping out the beaches with binoculars and conspicuously taking photos of breasts that could pass for flotation devi ces. If she wants to blame a body part she should start with her stomach which is slowly consuming the rest of her curves. Both girls are saving for implants. I play the gentleman and say their chests are perfect.
42 are how they came to Hawaii on a whim. They are both loaded with credit card debt, as their parents refuse to pay for such excursions, but life is about living in the moment, and mar ry the sons of rich dudes. name tells Nicole. enticing enough to masquerade as bitches. And condoning their behavior for the chance of some collateral affection or an exposed nipple. sized bag of island After I take a sunset pic ture of the girls on the North Shore with some sort of European Speedo team in the background, Nicole drives us back to Honolulu through the pineapple and banana fields of the interior. They crank the radio and open the sunroof to sing along with the lates The beautifully manufactured rhythms cause a sudden upwelling of emotion. I mumble along to the chorus, blinking away the tears. A N A N A S. This shit is bananas. B A N A N A streaming tears, thinking these emotions will last forever.
43 If I have any hope of sleeping between clean sheets a mention Anezka. major in recording new age whale songs or in teachi ng dolphins not to hump their trainers for me not to mention that Anezka entered college for marine biology as a junior when s shopping for graduate schools. I explain how Anezka wants to extract drugs from the types of marine life that animal phytoplankton. Her career plan is to become a profe ssor at a division one school in order to secure season football tickets and a perpetual harem of graduate assistants. She has no delusions about saving the planet. So long as people think they can save the world through unconditional compassion rather tha n birth control, the planet is fucked, which is why Anezka is considering studying natural products that can be developed into chemical of growing up as a single child in a household with parents involved in plotting her future, and her genuine want to work in a high paying job where she performs repetitive times I wonder what woul instilled in me a need to be loved and by legions of screaming teenage fans.
44 drive them mad with jealousy as I had hoped. My self pity fails to ignite their raging lust. Is she even real John, or are you just stalking some ahead of sights eeing traffic, swerving over the double yellow on blind passes, determined week in the hospital, with my jaw too bruised for me to explain myself while a sultry Haw *
45 Their hotel room is a cubicle perched high above paradise loaded with family packs of dried fruit, che ese crackers, and fruit candy travel food meant for long so dirty way, but in an I need to wash the sand out of my ass way. I need a shower but am afraid to bring it up. It turns name suggests I go before her because her hair treatment plan takes awhile. e topless pillow fight, but I rush through the lather process, for fear the girls are venturing into my pack to read what I wrote about them. Feeling clean and trim, I emerge in less than a minute wearing a towel. My intention is to renew their lust with m y starved musculature. They running debate on what plastic surgeries the stars have had. my chest. * Tourist shops slump in the shadows of glowing liquor stores and night club signs. The open air grills have become bars blasting Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley. Clumps of sailors i n white uniforms whistle from across the street. White guys pose in tank tops that showcase crosses tattooed over fast food fed biceps. Others lean against walls, sipping from spiked gas station fountain drinks, tracking the progress of women from behind
46 s hades. The girls photograph it all, leaving me to defuse fights with men yelling at me to control my bitches. They turn their camera to the feebler: bodies molded to benches, women selling roses folded from palm fronds, and abandoned drunks communing with telephone poles. The girls shadow an aggressive street walker in a short black dress and crinkles of Elizabeth Shue with blurry tribal band tattoos circling her upper thigh sturdy like a female cop prepared to deliver or receive a beating without missing a step in undersized high heels. The girls want to grab her enormous breasts. They snap pictures from behind, giggling each time men mistakenly think they a re so compellingly handsome that a random woman would grab them on the street and ask if they wanted to go somewhere private without expecting to get paid for it. Her hustling tactics seem too a prostitute and an unlikely suitor, where a bubble bath absolves STDs and the mental defect or drug habit that led her to the streets. The woman stares at No name says. Shue looks at me.
47 mumbles before crossing the street without checking for cars. Neither is quick enough to think of a response beyond the obvious. Before we get anywhere in the vicinity of a strip club, which the girls claim the y were kicked out of the night before, they begin complaining about their feet hurting and their stomachs aching. We wander in and out of upscale Hawaiian restaurants until they cream Sundae an d a name gets a turkey sandwich though she hates turkey. Neither finishes half her meal. They push their plates to me. e I stare at the food mashed into gelatinous piles like the bowls of scraps my taste every meal. The aerosol of butter clings to the back of my throat. I bite my lip and shake my head. * Food
48 ca howling and shattered bottles rising from the alleys. Lace curtains ripped fr om the rod will mute flesh. Chocolate covered strawberries and candles will multiply on the floor. rising thud of beat heavy rhythms. Nicole will artfully conceal hersel f in covers while No name will go full frontal. In the morning, while they still smile in sleep with faces and in calligraphy. Neither will check to see if I stol e anything. Anyone who can make love as passionately as me, who writes such a poetic note, about how we were like the three headed monster of love, only needs to steal hearts to thrive in this world. e flips on the TV and flops on the bed beside No name. * A bum sleeps under my palm tree. I find another and shiver through the night. Dreams stream by as translucent and transitory as the clouds. A landscape of wind, light, and insects grazes on my exposed strips of skin. The hiss and sputter of sprinklers chase me across the pa rk every half hour. The crescendo and decrescendo of sirens serenades me. All is as it should be.
49 Chapter Six *
50 A gelatinous Samoan in a grass skirt and reed hat pounds a drum of leather stretched over a hollow log. Tribal tattoos crisscross his chest, mixing Hawaiian words Raiders log o. The guttural boom and the constant scatter of clapping cheers on Triathlon competitors circling the street. The noise follows me down alleys cramped with kiosks full of souvenirs replica relics of an invented past: bobbling dashboard hula dolls, plastic ukuleles, and coconuts carved into gorilla faces. An animatronic fortune teller advises me to insert a dollar and follow my destiny. I use the money to catch the bus. s an Old Testament prophet obsessively muttering about the unclean, how all things maketh thee unclean, and how all unclean souls must be banished. With both our ragged packs piled between our legs, we look like the mad mailmen of the apocalypse, persistin g in old world rituals, delivering dead messages to no one. My associate tells me pocket. He makes a watching, until he turns to scan the empty bus for a more sympathetic audience. Drenched in a patchwork of ragged fashions, a native bag lady named Aunty Jolene drags on two rattling trash b ags full of crushed cans. A sludge of stale beer and syrupy soda trail the black plastic bundles.
51 hotic imitation of a priestly gesture. I leave my riding partner for a seat adjacent the driver, a middle aged Asian woman with shoulder length hair and a robust build beneath her tight uniform. Her reaction to my questions of where I should go is muted b y small, sporty shades. A version of this story surrounds every waterfall I ask locals about. Perhaps rock and hotel towe ls on their natural wonders. Were they protecting these gems for future generations? What would tourists visit hundreds of years from now? Perhaps they would travel along roped off paths behind our current roped off pathways. Synthetic bikini tops, beach b centers with detailed accounts of how the primitives used these ceremonial objects to worship falling water gods. The Hawaiian natives of the future would get tribal band
52 tattoos of the brands of our disposable culture: Coca Cola or Evian written in Old English. student rate. She lists destinations on Oahu like bus stops, and warns me not to camp on the west side where the locals do more than just th row beer bottles at white tourists. fixed on the road like an animatronic comedian. She punches the brakes even though no one has pulled the stop request chord. Stopped, she rips off a handful of transfer slips. excessive number of transfer slips.
53 ple I climb off and stand on the curb looking back up at her. I smile and so does she. I never know if middle aged women are attracted to m e or if my deceptively juvenile face activates their motherly instincts. Across an expanse of asphalt, the Polynesian Cultural Center stands like a thatch roof cathedral. Tall palms sway over effigies of Hawaiian gods scrawled into imitation rock. The gra ss is maintained well enough to serve as a putting green, as though this spot is part of an immense Hawaiian themed putt putt golf course that spans the entire island. I ted history, the hum of air conditioning, and the concoction of tourists lathered in fragrant lotions. I walk north. * Chickens and stray cats guard the abandoned pay station at the back entrance of Malaekahana State Recreational Area. Battered ca rs are scattered about the lot. Picnic tables and tents bubble up beneath streamers of light twirling through the canopy. Sand and grass sprout between pine needles and cement walkways. Campers congregate around tables overloaded with condiments and family packs of food in plastic wrap.
54 Bursts of acoustic guitars, radio blips, and laughter crackle around fires. The scent of smoked sausage flavors my jerky sandwich. Outside, the night is unavoidable, erasing the landscape and all my ambitions. At eight I b ed down on the abandoned side of the park, on a stone bench circling a charcoal pit. A thatch roof covers the structure, trapping the residue of charred meat and smoke. My headlamp illuminates the laws of Leviticus regarding the proper procedures for cutti ng and marinating animal sacrifices. These directions read like massive barbecui ng pool on shirtless summer Sundays. Rain snuffs out the fireside chatter of scattered campers. It blows sideways through the pit and drips off the thatch on my forehead. Thoughts shift to detailed blue prints for our house, a castle, raised from stones dug out of the rock shelves feet beneath the Texas topsoil. To keep warm, I do pushups a nd dips on the bench. Routine has always been my salvation, and my undoing. I invent rituals, however grand or small, to fend off the ever encroaching chaos. This compulsion is not all bad. Routine provides meaning and purpose. But, for those like my fathe r who have the compulsion to ritualize everything, these routines and superstitions become their religion, even when they rationally know better. Like all extreme personality traits, this desire is not without its virtues. Without some order, we would face the same fears afresh each day. Without stereotypes, we dead end possibilities that exist on the open road. Here, with all my basic needs stripped,
55 I crave routine, to be full, dry, and surrounded by body heat. I want to have a position, a hole to stash my things. I want to be known, to be shown around, to be liked and missed. I want to be envied by tourists and asked by vacationing women to show them around. I want to be established, however temporary, to spend my days building toward something tangible, however insignificant, instead of constructing futures from rain or the residue of what waits for me on the other side of satisfaction. As soon as my primal concerns are met, that same luxurious wanderlust will work to undo me. The inertia of the human spirit pushes us on, to hurdle through the void for no other reason than to occupy the empty space. * The same motorcycle cop cruises by. I lift my can of cold pork and beans as a a crime of the stationary. ileup along Kamehameha. Mansions clutter the sandy streets like beach vines springing up in clusters, fighting for space, all connected by a subterranean system, all copies of each other. White faces appear with more frequency beyond the glare of car windo ws rolling by. I now appreciate why skin color is one of the fundamental forms of identity. We take comfort in faces that look like ours, in the hope of finding common ground. The majority of these locals are expatriates from California who moved to Hawaii to reconnect with their spiritual, earthy side in ocean front condos the kind of people who appreciate drifters like me as cultural ambassadors. Some moved here to surf in the sixties and have made millions selling land. The younger
56 ones are the Rastafari ans, surfers, and drug dealing refugees from Malibu, living bohemian lifestyles on trust funds. They wear board shorts that cost more than all the clothes I carry and stock their pantries with organic produce purchased on an island where a generic loaf of bread cost as much as mainland buffet. I want to be one of them. I want to ride beach cruisers barefoot while balancing a thousand dollar surfboard in one hand. I want to walk tiny dogs with tough names and nod to other locals. Even the homeless here a re more attractive. Wrapped in a vibrant sarong, Aunty Jolene stands barefoot on a bus stop, joyfully preaching to me about a dead man she tongues through the Eucharist of methamphetamines, preaching the happy destruction of all human endeavors. * Reggae rhythms infused with techno beats lure me off the highway to a sturdy wooden shack with a sheet metal roof. Plywood boards advertise the vibrant hand painted names Naughty Nectar and Mocean. A pack of boys in only swim trucks chase each other around the red dirt yard, knocking over rusted beach cruiser bicycles. Aluminum tins offer the soggy remains of seaweed salad, fried taro roots, and canisters of poi looking l ike translucent Jello shots or organic lube. Patchouli oil, incense, and pot smoke waft out open air windows, mingling with shirtless surfers who pull back their dirty blonde dreadlocks, drink dark beer, and roll Natural American Spirits organic tobacco. A
57 boy sits for a henna tattoo of a multi headed deity. Women in sweat clouded bikini tops swoosh in and out. My senses are overwhelmed. My mind creates composite characters composed of the best aspects of each person. The place becomes a movie version of a featured in Playboy as opposed to hairy junkies begging in Golden Gate Park. Although imitation beatnik, looking for love, adventure, and poetic insights along the road and in coffee shops. I do not belong, but I can at least understand these fellow pretenders who find meaning in foreign religions, defunct social movements, and a sport, s urfing, with no clear objectives or rules. I slip off my pack and rest it against the shack before climbing the stairs to the shop crowded with bony bodies lacking clothes and racks of clothes lacking bodies. knee Feel it Hundred percent organic hemp. These things are flipping radical, know what I a wrestling mat, afraid the nervous drops of urine have bled through reinforced layers of underwear and spandex.
58 I wait on the porch afraid of the chaos that awaits me in the store. A similar pair of hemp pants emerges from the dim interior, s bikini zone. The bottom of her purple tank top is doubled over her surgically reinforced chest, accentuating a smooth, tan belly crinkled with lightning bolt stretch marks. I no d. ash and settles on a flower po
59 I stand grinning, unsure how to respond. Is the conversation over? I keep expecting her to fetch an application that will reveal my lack of smoothie experience, a phone, address, or social secur ity number. * For this purpose, douse your clothes in a healthy swab of organic Castile soap and scrub it against your boney body to clean both at once. Then, stand in synthetic boxer briefs, wringing excess water from your clothes. Make sure to enjoy the peppermint fresh scent of pure hemp oil. Hang each article of clothi ng to dry on the edge of a picnic table. Likely you will not have a towel because of the bulk and the mildew stench it creates in your pack. To keep warm in the chilly ocean breeze as you wait for the clothes to dry, exercise on the picnic table. If any pa rk rangers stop to observe you, just throw a few phantom punches and kicks to convince them that you are merely training for some extreme sport for which only underwear is allowed. Rest assured that no authority figure will want to deal with a wiry and jer ky homeless person in only his underwear.
60 When your clothes have dried and you are dressed for the night, scrub your feet in the beach showers. Bible enthusiasts will see this as a significant act. In reality, Jesus constantly washed his feet because of t he grubby soot covering the feet of pedestrian travelers. As a walker, you will know no greater pleasure than the sensation of fresh feet slipping into clean, dry socks. To prevent your fresh clothes from getting dirty and wrinkled, sleep on the seat of th e stone picnic table. As you lie on this pedestal as an offering to the night wind, you may shiver, which in turn keeps you awake and thinking about your hunger, the woman you left, and the wisdom of agreeing to be tied down to a job while you are trying t o lead an adventurous existence. Avoid grinding your teeth or chewing the inside of your lip. Instead, try grating your knuckles against the grainy cement. Sleep. * The wind keeps off sleep, pushing islands of gray over the moon. It must be the wi nd keeping me awake, or the leaves beneath the barrier of seaside trees that constantly crinkle with the footsteps of cats, chickens, and rats. Or the insect songs chirping like nsteady breath, the breeze ignites a rash of goose bumps and convulsions that bounce my head against my cement pillow. Barefoot, I run sprints through the empty meadow, trampling grass, expecting thorns and rocks but finding neither. My lungs strain and thoughts thin. I close my eyes s
61 * The door to Mocean and Naught Nectar is locked despite the posted operating hours: seven to seven. I head back to the road. The plywood and two by four door drags against the floor, revealing a man who looks like a model for surf wear. In only untied board shorts sagging well below where his tan line should have been, he pushes back d the pines. He stretches against a post, showcasing the full range of a body chiseled, sanded, and stained by surfing. a new ball cap manufactured to look worn. ason smacks her ass, hops down the stairs, and pounds my back as he passes.
62 appreciate the pr ophecy. icking her cigarette then walking back into the shack. I remain in the yard. Framed by the opened door, Britney pulls her t shirt over her head, and readjusts the front of her bikini top. I climb the stairs.
63 Chapter Seven and bulky register that compose Naught Nectar the smoothie counter in the back corner of Mocean. Money, or at least the idea of an endless stream of fund s, flows around the island like liquid karma, continuously replenished by each plane full of vacationers. Tourist more than hobbyists or kiosk operators stateside. Some actually subsist solely by selling fishing line necklaces, poorly painted coconuts, or massages with spiritual happy endings. on the island stunted Hawaiian cuisine. Visitors in search of authentic fast food have the option between organic smoothies and Spam musubi a brick of sushi style Spam taped to rice with dried seaweed. For my job responsibilities, Britney points to a chalkboard filled with multicolored names l ike Mellow Mango, Bitching Berry, and Tropical Tart. The ingredients consist of the frozen cubes of fruit, chocolate syrup, various types of milk, a gallon of ice cream, apple cider, honey, and a patch of wheat grass. The only button Britney knows how to w like taxes or wearing a shirt. The landlord is a ring leader in the push for Hawaiian sovereignty which apparently exempts us from state regulations.
64 Within fifteen minutes, Britney l eaves me alone in the shop. To be fair, this is the landed since college graduation. After spending my entire working career climbing the ranks of the food service i ndustry, the same week I graduated I also quit my job running food in fancy restaurant. To solidify my resolve never to work in the food industry again, I ran through the parking lot naked, covered in congealed bisque the cooks dumped on me as a going away present. * without looking at me. She immediately opens the register on the retail side of the store. She loo ks like an ex runway model with sun damage; her bronze and freckled skin matches tarnished hair that ripples over dark roots. I nod.
65 Calista set up displays of hem p jewelry, pipes, and crystals. She explains how fate brought me to their doorstep. For me, fate is just another belief that constructs order out of the universal shuffle, Malibu, which burned down just a few days ago.
66 sometimes we get things confused. Like if something is a memory or a pr She slings open the mosquito netting hanging over the futon mattress behind the register and punches the dented pillows. always wondered about psychics. How do With a ding, Calista empties her register and slams it shut. extraordinarily bad memories degraded by drugs or abuse, which makes them see the same for people on hallucinogens who forget the logical connections between thoughts and sensations, and end up seeing God miming to them in a toilet bowl. Calista storms back in with a red container half filled with gasoline for the lawnmower. She calls a friend and explains how she forgot that her battery is dead. She r hours. And I am, struggling to find the common thread between the mlange of freethinking, counterculture, and spiritual consumer goods that clutter the shop. Strings of rainbow Tibetan prayer flags bounce in the open air breeze, venting the musk of sce nted
67 incense, tobacco, candles, and pot. Hawaiian flags billow below panels of florescent lights. Reggae pumps from a dusty stereo buried beneath stacks of scratched CDs and cracked cases. The two by fours framing the walls are ornamented with wooden ma sks of ceremonies long forgotten, bamboo wind chimes, native bowls, and signed surfing posters curled at the ends. Surfboards lean in the corner, blistered with wax. Finger akes of Texas grasslands paintings that take him weeks to produce each individual blade of grass. Fresh flowers droop out of the lopsided products of introductory pottery classes. Ivy drips from cracked drink pitchers. See through summer clothes flutter li ke interpretive dancers over plywood floors painted in zebra stripes. Glass cases contain energy crystals, healing stones, and blown glass pipes. Plastic action heroes lie dead over stories and self help books marketed as eastern spiritualism. Sand collects in corners. Sunset colored throw pillows cover a bench cut from a split log and a bamboo framed sofa. Perhaps the cosmic connection between all of these items is a universal want, which manifests itself in most Americans as a need to consume. It is the same with me, but the shop contains very little that I want. Over the litanies of who begot who in the Old Testament, my gaze drifts out the trap door windows the ocean accented by a mirage glimmering on the road. * skin and hair shaped by the sun and surf. Her Christian upbringing is infused with hipster mysticism and coloring book versions of east ern spiritualism. In her New Zealand accent,
68 fund bums on the North Shore, she says. She has an impressive mound of credit card debt t ime, which is good considering she spends her entire paycheck on Mocean clothes. Her real profession is photography. Her black and white photos of Thailand in the wake of the 2004 tsunami hang from the rafters like articulate versions of the Tibetan prayer flags. Tiny white labels price them in the hundreds. Along with discovering that surfing is her life, she served as an extra on two dramatic TV shows filme d on the North Shore. One concerned the knotted romances among a group of surfers while the other followed the schizophrenic adventures of plane crash survivors lost on a tropical island. ill befriend me. * long jeans sagging passed her ass crack. She slips me the ten dollars from the tip jar and
69 you mind filling in for * bags synched around fast food trash. Plastic soldiers lie abandoned on the floor with missing l imbs and sand crusted joints. Black mold and seven empty shampoo bottles line the shower. A chest high partition divides the living room from the single bedroom. walks in just afte She dumps Sean in bed, opens the wine cooler in her pocket and clears a space on the tile floor to lie down. From the floor, she cranks the boom box and immediately fal ls asleep. The door creaks open. With her back to me, Naomi changes into threadbare nightwear and lies down on the couch opposite me. I fall asleep without effort. My dre ams are vacant, disturbed only by Britney slipping out the door. *
70 Most afternoons I run the sidewalks of the North Shore and exercise on picnic tables. I dive with swimming goggles, taking huge breaths to watch the underside of waves explode on t he three flat volcanic rocks that mitigate the surf at Three Tables Beach. Farther out, and deeper each time, I navigate the fluctuating seascape of rocks and sea urchins until a striped black and white eel grazes my arm, sending me to the surface where I gasp and gulp and drag myself to shore. Hawaii is full of snakes, they just Waikiki tourists snap sunset photos before slapping off sand, wadding towels, and piling in cars to beat traffic back to the city. The sun unfurls s pools of golden hair over the water, like bioluminescent seaweed stretching to entangle me. Most days I return to the shop, to fill in for Britney, or for an excuse to be near people. The coming night wind fills the dresses with full female forms that dan ce and fret in the light of the sun setting fire to the coastline pines. A land of coconut milk and organic honey swishes in my belly. Regulars unload stories, calling me dude and man. I nod. No one will be impressed by my road story, no matter what dista story waves last winter. They recite these adventures to remind themselves why they are here. I must learn from them, learn to be satisfied with my own story, to repeat it to myself over and over u ntil I believe it. No one, including me, wants to hear about a life in which the main not my key to finding happiness here. We glamorous want lies to put us to bed.
71 * I rush to the phone each time it rings. Bill collectors want to know when Britney off. They all want to know who I am, who is listening to them: husband, boyfriend, son. They leave complicated messages and ask me to repeat their instructions and remind me how important this communication is. Britney accepts these notes and asks if * Anezka and I had never really argued before I came here, though to listeners this enough for us to argue. With me here, this is the first time I have to work to convince her to like me and all I have are my pathetic promises and proclamations, my postcards her here t
72 Her breath seethes acr Calista walks into the shop and studies me listening to the dead line. She gives me a funny look when I set the phone on the receiver without saying good bye to anyone. * A shadow appears in the walk up window, darkening my reading of the Hebrews wandering through the desert, losing track of the seasons and years, hallucinating on manna and inventing new gods to forsake them. A girl with short blonde hair and tired eyes a tomboy version of me leans into the window, looking beyond me. with
73 This is the girl I replaced. She is my escape. She can still replace me and I can become just another bum hanging around the store. I am selfish to remain, to take her job when I know my presence here is impermanent.
74 Chapter Eight liquid faith. He comes in for coffee at least twice a day, and stays to describe the epic tays in the shop for hours, flipping through old surf magazines and petting his wispy mustache and goatee while waiting for buddies or odd jobs. Phones are rare among this sect, as residents merely meet up and go with the flow. Like all disciples of surf, Orlando wears brand name board shorts, and carries a mild scent of body funk. His surf scrubbed tan accents scattered tattoos of a Celtic knot, a shell, and a cross topped with the Star of David. His bronzed hair is beginning to dread, drooping over his la nky frame. Like Naomi, he never surfed before moving here. He originally arrived on the North Shore with the intent of becoming a professional skydiver. Now, a born again surfer, he speaks of material things like work and a home in metaphysical terms as ex isting only in the future tense. be a sure sign of spiritual and moral bankruptcy, if only I actually made money doing it.
75 Orlando blows on cold coffee he has yet to sip. Rottweiler sleeps. r tools from the bed of his black diesel truck, nearly too large to fit on the narrow Hawaiian streets. Vin sports short, sharp, black curls, a matching goatee, and big tan muscles highlighted by tattoos, like a stylized sea turtle. His business is cutting down trees that blot out ocean views. But, the futon in the back with Liam. Despite all his talk of work, Vin seems to be constantly off, telling Calista about all th e things he could fix in the shop and telling me about the pros he just surfed with or his eight year Vegas Calista dresses mannequins like life sized dolls, telling them what looks cute or what would help conceal their absence of a head.
76 year affects the feng shui. Vin says, arranging the pre circular saw and an extension cord. anyone but himself. his shoulder like climbing rope. nywhere with Orlando or to listen to an hour surfer protocol and being beaten by locals who speak about waves the way mainlanders talk about sex. ut a rack of bathing suits as he swaggers through the shop.
77 Calista collects the fallen articles and examining each for grease sta ins. Vin and Orlando study the unassembled bed frame. Out of all the favors Vin would perform for Calista, taki ng a beginner surfing is too much, unless of course the beginner is someone like long legged Naomi, who he did teach. Here, every fi fty feet of shoreline has a different name, sometimes more than one, which are absent from all maps and beach park signs. The names of surf spots constitute a
78 board, neither old nor damaged, which is covering an electrical outlet Vin needs for his Mel is something of the local shaman of surf. He divides his years between the North Shore and New Zealand, following seasonal swells. For days on end he disappears in his van, leaving his daughter Naomi to find her own bed while he camps at surf spots until the waves subside. Then he bums around the shop picking up work with people like Vin. His body is a testament to the fact that he spends more time battling swells each day than most people spend paddling through paperwork. I balance the board upright. * Waves bombard the under bite of barrier rocks that protects the coastline. The shoulder degrades into a slope of lava rocks tumbling into Waimea Bay. The beach opens like an amphitheater for sunbathers taking in the guttural symphony of gold leaf waves shattering on the rocks. Five surfers bob in the water, beyond the litany of break ers rolling in at an angle, rushing over themselves to scrub the water clean over rocks a few stories below the road.
79 From the beach the waves look as tall as my board, but manageable, not like the barreling tubes at Pipeline steamrolling the reefs just be low the surface. The giant waves come in thirty second intervals, and break into clean rolling sweeps that are scrambled on the rocks. I improvise a leash with both of my shoelaces knotted around my ankle, then paddle out in the calmer waters of the bay. Straddling my board, I bob on the backend of waves. Each pulls me closer to the breaks. One by one, the others paddle out ahead of waves, then disappear from view for thirty seconds, finally popping out to the right, into the calm bay. The water rises a nd becomes as fluid as the setting. A surfer yells to me. His meaning is consumed in the wave mounting behind me. I can turn, paddle into the rising water and rock over the co lifted onto the crest, with a front row view of the water dropping away, sliding into an incline growing ever steeper. I stop paddling. The wave rolls out from under me. I l ie on my board reconsidering the hundred yards of water separating me from shore. The next over. I have to ride it out. Fearing the wave will break on my head, I d back into its widening jaws. The water lifts me with no intention of stopping. Sea spray shatters my senses with the force of a fire hose. The board tilts forward and I pop upright. The wave becomes a vertical ramp that
80 catapulting face first into the wash. Saltwater jams my senses, muting perceptions. Hissing momentum rockets me forward. End over end. Turbulence ripples through me. My internal compass spins. I curl down into the deep dark nothing. eyes a blink. The tug of shoelaces cracks my tightly curled shell. Will the leash hold? Do I want it to hold? Can nylon slice through a joint? The strings snap, releas ing the board and me, to fend for ourselves. For the first time in my life I approach the meaning of helplessness. The rumble fades into white noise. I swim up and slurp a breath just before the following wave unloads on my head. I hurdle through the dark. Rocks. Where are the rocks? Blood swells to my nose and mouth, anticipating the impending explosion of flesh against stone. I imagine the muted snap of my spine and my ridged body going limp. I have time, time enough to envision Anezka electronically surf ing through Hawaiian headlines, thinking that this amateur idiot who got himself killed in a surfing accident sounds a lot like her idiot. When the momentum passes, I fight the need for breath, and swim sideways beneath the water. I pop up for air, then d ive again, chased by the next wave. I swim sideways, counting seconds, refusing to surface before forty. Gulping air, I dare to open my eyes. Fifty yards away, tourists stand with hands to their brows. A lifeguard poses with his giant yellow surf board, de ciding if I need rescuing. I start to wave, but catch
81 whatever price Hawaii charges for being salvaged. A local net fisherman with wavy gray hair scuttles down the slope of rocks like a crab, negotiating slippery surfaces, intuitively timing the blasts, then hops back up the incline with my board. On land, I jog toward him past my audie nce of awestruck tourists. The shoe strings drag in the sand behind me, the frayed ends collecting detritus. The knot is synched so tight my left foot is becoming purple, but I keep running. ll the pros here and Still coughing up sea froth and pouring saltwater snot, I bow to the board, which is laid out like a drown victim awaiting identification. The nose is snapped, the fins are missing, and several long tears along the Plex iglas surface give the impression of a shark attack. I shake my head. he board, making sure nothing else falls off.
82 My jaw trembles and teeth chatter as I jog down the road, trying to conceal the damage from passing cars. It would have been nice t o be pummeled on the rocks or to have at least received a few cracked ribs. Then no one could say fool to my face, and Mel rhymed couplet s and endless mantras pasted on the rusted bumpers of foreign trucks and two tone SUVs, which serve as portable surfboard racks. On the North Shore, Eddie Aikau has more signage than Jesus, who stands at the foot of the church overlooking Waimea, his hands walks through the valley of the shadow of water. Like all spiritual icons, he died for his way of li Eddie was a high school dropout working at the Dole cannery to finance his surfing lifestyle when he burst on the national scene, dominating a big wave competition at Waimea. Life was cemented when he petitioned the city council to appoint him the first paid lifeguard for the entire North Shore. His myth grew from his insistence on paddling out in greater than twenty foot swells to save overconfident surfers and white tourists like me, who he hated. According to his legend, not a single life was lost while he was on duty and the number of his saves remains unknown. In accordance with his beachside lifestyle, he
83 help crew a double hulled canoe over the 2,400 mile Polynesian migration passage between Hawaii and Tahiti The vessel sprung a leak not twelve miles off shore, for cing the passengers to cling to the capsized vessel through the night as they were pounded by trade wind waves. In the morning, Eddie insisted on paddling back for help on his surfboard. By chance the crew was rescued hours later, but, despite the largest search and rescue mission in modern Hawaiian history, Eddie remained lost. What the Polynesian Voyaging Society failed to realize when planning this of nautical technology or skill. This leap of faith was the consequence of the most fundame ntal urge of all life to fill the unknown. Humans came to populate these islands the same way coconut palms did, as the rare survivors of infinite failed attempts as a on these islands has less to do with fate than with the compulsion that drove boat after boat of pioneers to toss their lot in with the tides for no better reason than a faith in something beyond their own experience. This same restlessness infects me, co mpels me to ditch the islands, compelled by the council of old men who survived to whisper through scraggly beards that I must not stop here, that there are divine things more beautiful than words upon some elysian fields just beyond the next rise. Then again, maybe these islanders simply came from a long line of fugitives interested only in escaping their offenses.
84 Chapter Nine even got it back. I surfed with a pro there Heavy steps climb the porch. We all stare at the door. Naomi covers her mouth, eyes darting between the board and me. * Mel slaps Ziploc bags full of cold cuts on the serving board between us. A strip of pink skin defines his broad, crumpled nose. Sun struck hair storms over the constellation of freckles on his broad back. He removes two Coronas from his cargo shorts and pops both open. News travels as fast as th e swells on the islands. He had to have heard about
85 care, or maybe this was all a faade. s she arranges a sandal display. I react each time his shoulder muscles shift. He flips a blade from his pocket, slices a lime, squishes the rind in his beer, then sets the knife down between us. Was I a ghost story? Was he testing me? I brace against the counter.
86 * getti ng coffee to compliment his midmorning high. He had promised to start on the board immediately as a favor to Britney. Jason laughs as he removes the hand rolled cigarette from behind his ear and lights it with a scented candle. My plan is to tell Mel about the accident when the board is repaired. Of course this hinges on Jason actually fixing it. was talking about. Had to remind him that Vin traded him boards when Vin busted the
87 My expression is not what Jason expected for his impersonation. * At the end of my shift, I nearly stumble down the stairs when I notice Mel sitting Br itney and Calista could conceivably stop the fight for fear of Mel ruining the feng shui. I drag my pack behind, my tongue counting my teeth. I tell him the story step by step. He sto ps me to expand or repeat crucial points the details of how no one gave me permission to use the board or why I was stupid enough to go alone. Part of him, especiall y the region around his clinched fists, wants me to disagree. I shake my head. Vin stands in the door of the shop holding up an unlit joint and yelling for Mel to the
88 been able to consciously volunteer for this punishment. I was born with the gift of being able to avoid physical confrontation, to defuse most any situation by acc epting whatever offenses my opponent dresses me in. In all my backpedaling, I had yet to be shoved into action, to be pushed to a breaking point. I have always despised this about myself. int. I nod. * cut his van onto the shoulder as he nears The threat of Mel drunkenly pummeling me wanderers of the Old Testament needed a god who behaved like this, one obsession with vengeance, who trumpeted the laws o f an eye for an eye, and sacrifice as amends for enemies would be repaid for their trespasses. I start to run. On the beach, the sand slows my progress. I hop reckl essly over the scuttle like roaches into cracks. Sea spray dusts my legs and slickens the footholds. My
89 pack tips me forward then back as I leap tide pools and spillw ays. A sudden nausea, the vertigo of seeing how far I have yet to fall, collapses me. I spit pink stomach juice into the scalloped rocks then crumple atop my pack until the nausea boils over to a cold sweat. I sit with my head bent to my knees. Even if a more than a hundred yards out or to allow the waves to straighten my spine on the rocks. Still, I take comfort in imagining my body at peace with the swells, limbs filleted as I sink. Dog sized sharks will tug at me gently, my eyes half open, gazing into the depths growing darker. I will join the countless bodies that wash ashore in Hawaii each year, the tourists and Chinese fishermen defaced by the sea. Most young suicides have a demented memories have been peeled back, leaving only fragmented scraps of my childhood with whi bed, and someone to watch over me. leaving Anezka for the week, I stood barefoot on the b athroom tile of my garage apartment, naked in the glow of the bulbs bubbling out above the vanity, studying the knife she gave me our first Christmas together. It was a present for this trip. I folded the bath rug and put it atop the toilet. I tested the b lade on the crease of my forearm, but this was nothing like laying the blade flat and ripping concentric lines with the tip. It felt
90 sickly, exactly like anesthesia freezing the veins. I woke on the tile, the blade in my crumpled grip. A burst of nausea br ought me to my knees. afraid to get wet. This is no revelation. I have long known my limitations; this is just the first time I am forced to confront them. The postcar d of a volcanic spout spewing lava jerks in the wind, wanting to This is the story of a liar. I sling the card over the edge to drift limply on the surface and disseminate. On a fresh postcard I fill the space with cryptic Bible quotes that will make you laugh:
91 Chapter Ten Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. The days blend into mush. I arrive at the shop at seven to do push ups, read, and search of Britney. The alarm wails through the neighborhood like an air raid drill until braless chest in one hand. The security service charges fifty bucks each time this happens. Calista starts leaving her Rottweile r tied up on the porch instead of arming the system. One of my morning duties has become coaxing the dog out from hiding, untangling his extra long leash, and cleaning the toppled pots. The days accumulate like the translucent rice paper pages of the Old Testament, repeating stories, directions, lists of lists, and vague prophecies. I imagine an old Moses, claiming he was a Hebrew all along with a mysterious birth, d escribing how he led the slaves into the desert for freedom instead of a need to resurrect his injured pride. the stray beers left from impromptu parties that form when beac h bonfires simmer out. I
92 Flies colonize the passion fruit. The freezer is a waiting tomb, offering a few cubes of crystallized cantaloupe and loose berri es skating across the bottom. The expensive ingredients, like organic acai berries and raspberries, are the first to go. Britney has yet to figure out how to order wholesale or to buy from any number of local organic growers who sell their excess in unatte absence into substance, substituting grapefruit juice for orange juice, and watered down whole milk for skim. o be an heiress to a major hotel chain and owns the largest house on Sunset beach. She inherently understands business, even if her only career seems to have eye sockets genuinely angry that these young, beautiful women are wasting career opportunities with ephemeral lovers. have none
93 charmed life, she has few illusions that clog her reasoning. I explain that I must flir t with infidelity and loss, insecurity and jealousy, to understand what it means to love or to be happy. she doe s come in, Calista reminds me how much Britney owes her. Bill collectors call. The landlord leaves cryptic notes written in the same mood as the letters he writes to newspapers regarding Hawaiian sovereignty no w ay to establish your business as an independent venture, free from the voices and him five bucks for fixing one of her flat tires. They all want free smoothies. While I can get along with most anyone, and discovering that I genuinely hate most everyone, though mostly because they seem to be living carefree lives with few consequences. Vin wife comes in looking like an older version of Calista She tells Calista to take Vin back, that he loves her and so does his son Calista tells Britney that Liam off from his steady acting gig Britney confides in Calista that Sean how Britney eeping on her futon with Jason and not straightening up after herself.
94 Britney complains about how Naomi took her bed sheets to sleep on the beach with Orlando f ilthy van and credit card debt. repeat. I hear stories about surfing, about how many lives Waimea Bay claims each year. was knocked out of his shoes when a car careen ed off the road. Naomi tells me how she Tomorrow Orlando will take me surfing, hiking, a nd snorkeling. Tomorrow Vin will hire me to trim trees. A beach bum leans on the smoothie bar and delivers a narrative of how he has lived out of his station wagon for the past five years, collecting welfare and disability checks from a minor construction accident, but these checks just ended. Gray hair pours from his crown of baldness and white chest hair covers fried skin and a shark tooth on a gold chain.
95 He lifts his elbows from the counter. I wipe down the counter again. He first came here in the navy but dropped out after a year to grow pot. Made nearly a million but blew it all on cocaine. Now he goes to meetings. Paradise is a compromise. spoil your inheritance, or you must sacrifice your mainland ties, and not just your personal connections, to remain. So what have I sacrificed? Is my wandering across these islands of simmering lava rocks like a tribal youth walking across coals, an act that proves nothing except that we must come to appreciate and endure these useless, painful, rituals? connoisseur of electrifi ed distance crackling over the wire. Her closet door slides in the tracks and slams against the frame. The plastic laundry bind smacks the dry wall.
96 * After school, or on days their mothers wake too late to take them, Sean and Liam attendants. A fluctuating gang of eight year old boys bored with parents who just want to sit in the shop and talk for hours, play like a pack of dogs set free in a dog park. Every customer comments on the beauty and innocence of these boys when they are a considerable distance away. The boys could be child models for surf brands. Liam is a spoiled cherub with locks of dirty blonde hair puffing in every which way. Sean looks almost native with straight black hair, leather ankle bracelets, and a perpetual sw imsuit. Both live the kind of free childhoods I dreamed of as a boy, but for them the Hawaiian wilderness is not enough. They perpetually beg for video games, toys, and candy. I want to tell them to open their eyes, that they have everything they could pos sibly want, to learn to be satisfied with what they have the same things my mother told me. The boys yell as loud as the adults, use their toys as weapons, then run crying to play with it. Sean throws away a chunk of ice getting me to answer homework questions than it would take to complete assignments themselves. As a boy, these were the children I hated, the kids who cheat ed off me and made better grades, or who made the girls like them by calling the girls ugly names. When Liam and Sean do answer a question correctly, they expect me to pay them. If they
97 forget their homework, they beg. When they do scrounge enough money, t hey run to Foodland and return with beards of ice cream sandwiches. Jesus saw beauty and innocence in children. I see miniature thieves, liars, and cheats. I see myself, a selfish being stripped of any pretense of morality, spirituality, or intelligence. I blonde sand and see conve rted to binomials, flattened on a screen, and photo shopped before modern eyes can understand it. Paradise is the unreal, but then it has always been this way. * Britney becomes increasingly disillusioned every time she harvests cash from the regis ter. She assigns me busy work then stands with a cigarette dangling from her lips, watching me repaint the imperfections of a cramped Naughty Nectar sign. I finish before which is overloa pasta. Sometimes Britney returns with generic Foodland versions of the organic fruit advertised on the menu. But mostly she just tells me t
98 out of. Often she returns around two to tell me that she needs me to cover for her so she can get a henna tattoo or go to Haleiwa. When she does replace me, she makes no apologies for being late, only stares into the regi ster. In explanation, I list the supplies I purchased from Foodland. She stops offering me the money in the tip jar. Instead, she gives me trinkets like an evil eye, which I am to hang in my house to ward off evil, roving spirits. * Mel enters wear would go to that much effort.
99 * asks each time Vin pops in, searching for Mel to do some tree trimming. I suspect she just wants me out of the shop, that she thinks anyone who would continue working for Britney for free must be desperate enough to steal. I wish I could blame my cynicism Orlando went snorkeling for the first time a few days before and now wants to get his snorkel guide license. He wants to take me out. Tomorrow. But tomorrow the surf is too epic to stay on land. Serious surfers are masters of living in the moment, willing to drop everything to ride waves. You can tell how genuine Vin and Jason, start their own businesses as a means of working around the big waves. But the pure surf disciples are those who give up everything to follow swells, men like Mel who live in a constant state of flux, working menial jobs when the surf is ba d, and forsaking land for water when the waves are right.
100 I sympathize with Ulysses, stuck on the island of the Lotus eaters where his men were full and satisfied and quickly void of any ambition or thoughts of home. Life was easy, with plenty of shade and fruit. And yet, this one man forced the entire crew to leave, to brave the unknown, to perish, just so he could return to a home where the only thing of which he could be certain, was that nothing remained as he had left it. * Afternoons I w alk along the road hoping someone will recognize me from the shop. I envision rental cars full of bikini clad girls in need of directions. I wait on the rusted frame of a car that serves as a pot for immature jungle plants: a monument to the way of all hum an achievements. I wait at benches, waving buses past. black stones in the creek until I arrive at a network of paved trails ambling past labeled plants, benches, concession st ands, vending machines, and restrooms. The falls has been cleaned of excess growth and the pool is crowded with sightseers like me searching for some pristine and secluded fountain. The mountain towers behind, an unexcavated pyramid, offering sanctuary, a challenge, and distance. I walk up back roads searching for a trail that will lead to the Koolau summit ths around such obstacles the measure of American optimism, not that you necessarily choose the unexplored path,
101 as all paths have necessarily been taken, but th at you march ahead believing that there is no other way.
102 Chapter Eleven The rain clears the North Shore of tourists. Britney sends me home, explaining how she wants to have a rainy night inside, picnicking on her bed and watching old to her place through the rain, chasing hens and their last remaining chicks between alleys better to do on a weekend night. Someone pounds on the door. I freeze. Sean take s cover in the bedroom. The pounding returns. This visitor must have been waiting for me. punching through my skull. Instead, a man hides behind the stem of his golf course umb rella and enormous glasses. We both know it would take too much effort to prove me wrong. His unsteady eyes collect what they can of the cluttered apartment around my feet.
103 and out of here at all hour rehearsed. I was supposed to argue so he could call the authorities and have a documented reason to kick Britney ou t. My psychic powers foresee an eviction notice I lock the door then sit on t burial mound of toys: mutants with powers instead of deformities, superheroes in tights, kung fu animals, soldiers with weapons bigger than their bodies all characters from my youth, though amplified with toy soldier steroids. With these soldiers taking cover in the place and the childhood room I shared with my brother. Sean collides toys in imitation of love and ha te as his face is colored by the blue glow of a movie: The Beach I get Sean reenacts elaborate scenes with his action figures, blending characters and plots from the pile of movies b eside the TV stand. From what I gather, an evil plastic
104 man is trying to blow up the island of the bed. The bad guy captures my leg, then is left on my knee for me to control while Sean concentrates on the hero. His narrative voice takes on the croak of th e possessed child in The Shining a voice he uses when playing alone. As a child, adults always thought I had such a vivid imagination. They thought I actually believed I was a superhero or had invisible friends, or that I came up with the movie quotes I sp outed on repeat. As children we are forced to role play, to be actors and directors practicing for the heroic roles of adulthood. explaining the hieroglyphics on his I envy his imagination until I realize these books are versions of Mario Brothers stages. The final scene, which generally comes less than hal fway through the stapled booklets, contains the only legible phrase in the entire story: The End. He throws his book into the pile of toys. I throw off my shoes. He picks up a toy slot machine and pulls the lever endlessly like a lab rat. No matter what combination of money signs or fruit turn up, in his Shi ning
105 With each hour, Sean checks the fridge with more frequ ency, moving aside nearly empty condiments and alcohol. * The next day Sean is awake when I return from my morning run to shower. He him catch the bus. She insists on driving him. He stoops forward to conceal tear tracks on dirty cheeks. * Stoned philosophy and right ons seep through the window where Sean, Britney, wait. Warm with drink, I close my eyes and focus on the distant push of waves buffeting the night. Orlando and Naomi leave with a sleeping bag for the beach and Sean is sent to on a movie about con artists that was filmed on the North Shore. She names the locations of each scene and provides anecdotes of the various stars she met. Apparently Calista is best friends with the lead love interest, who is also an ex model. Calista ha s plenty of stories
106 TV series. Britney grew up a few doors down from the Sublime house in Long Beach, d was there when the group found out the lead singer overdosed on the eve of the release of their breakthrough album. be famous in High Scho In these moments, when all other concerns have been put to sleep, her sweetness surfaces. smokes as I flip thr watching me over her cigarette. When I laugh, she leans into me, wanting to see what is
107 My eyes explore the topography of her body, processing this revision. Her posture tightens to aid my imagination. She demonstrat es a few moves while kneeling above me on the couch. I recline. She folds her tank top over her chest. She lowers the rim of her jeans to t he white skin serving as a negative of her bikini bottoms. I empty the wine, set the jug down, then fall sideways on the couch. I shake my head, yawning a nd blinking and rolling on my stomach. She crouches next to me, her face resting on the pillow, inches from mine, I take a long, slow breath and let it go. The door opens and closes. Sean hides half behind the sarong that serves as the bedroom door. I shake my head. * Sean kneels on my stool behind the register, harvesting quarters from my tip jar.
108 He stares at me. Then, looking down, he holds his hand out, dropping a quarter in my palm like a communion wafer. Forcing him to apologize wo uld only make him feel justified in stealing from me. I throw the quarter back at him and return to sweeping the porch. I must actively remind myself that this offense is nothing compared to what I did Calista drags in a crying Liam. She h ands the boys a dollar and they dart out to buy ice cream sandwiches. one and a ready cigarette. She calls Britney. Sean and Liam got caught ordering a six year old girl to strip naked. They paid her a dollar not to tell. flood of hormones that convinces us that these wads of human putty can be molded into perfection. Innocence is lost in parents, when they realize their children are just as flawed as themselves. * I wash my socks and swimsuit beneath the shower. Strings of red dirt spiral around my forearm. I spread these articles on the backs of chairs to dry and scatter the remaining contents of my pack on the couch before repacking them. One liter jug I fill
109 with water and the other with jug wine. The door cras hes open. Sean is crying. He has pissed his swimsuit. Britney needs me to fill in for her at the shop. I stuff my pack in a hurry. suspect she wants to check my pack for st olen money stained with smoothie syrup, or to read what I wrote about her on postcards. g him naked toward the bathroom. I shrug, but she has already lost interest. Mother and son disappear in the bathroom. The shower hisses on and Sean screams. Britney yells at Sean to stop yelling. I want to showers, the freedom to lounge in Mocean, the smoothies, the people, and the bonfires but part of me thinks I need this, to disappear wi th no warning. In reality I just know
110 Chapter Twelve The remaining passion fruits have deflated and seeped ooze. Pennies and pens rattle in the register and tip jar. Half eaten, late night food and lumpy fruit cocktails clog the sink. Fruit flies have colonized the trash. I clean the entire smoothie bar, whi ch is easier now that there is little left. Then I eat a few of the baked goods from the unsold organic breads and muffins collecting mold beneath plastic wrap. I chase the sticky cake with the last of leftover beer. A country song comes on. Naomi laughs and says she has always wanted to learn to two step. I pull her close, and show her the few moves I know, maneuvering her through the racks of clothes standing like frozen dancers mething Calista straps a coconut bead bracelet on my wrist. My arm hairs jump to the sensation of her fingers tracing the fortune in the veins spiraling around my forearms. I I should be drunk more often. No, I just need to relax, and be the person who
111 that can g o wrong a person for who, the only line he remembers from the Old Testament is, * The sky darkens with storm clouds thirty minutes before closing. The effects of alcohol and food fad e. My teeth chatter as my gaze drifts out the window. Rain bounces off the road like hail. When Naomi and Calista go outside to smoke, I call Anezka from the empty I had hoped that hunger, loneliness, and fear would raise poetry from me. Instead, I repeat nonsensical versions of movie dialogue phrases that would only make sense in pop songs drowned in synthetic beats.
112 * Calista flinches when I meet her walking back inside. I hold the coconut bead bracelet out to her. slide off. Before I can think of an elliptical answer sh waves over her shoulder. the scapegoat for all that is missing, an empty register and vacant freezer. Sean and Liam
113 will learn my name as th e perpetrator, the patron saint of all things lost, missing, broken, or unknown.
114 Chapter Thirteen The dull concussion of a coconut pounds the ground. I palm the skull sized shell sloshing with milk and pull it to my side for breakfast. The palm fronds saw into the steel wool clouds. More people die each year from being struck by coconuts than lightning Still, the tree is stationary, a fixed point to curl around, a shelter from the groundskeepers and security guards roving the park on mowers and golf carts. Ants transfer from the coconut to me. In the tree the ripening coconuts clank like bamboo wind ch imes. A wash of rain sweeps in. Drops fall like meteor dust lit by moonlight. They accumulate on my face and drip down like a line of carpenter ants. The maddening aubade of birds trumpets the invisible radiance of the coming day. Five in the morning is a good time to hit the not ready to face the decision of what to do with another day. I close my eyes.
115 Chapter Fourteen Tires crunch over cropped grass and an engine rattles like a steam top. A floodlight freezes me in place. The uneven field stretches out before me to the road, hotels, and the mountains beyond. The cruiser pushes forward to block my escape. I envision the first few steps, sprinting over the open field before the sirens flip, my shadow swimming across grass through hotel suits with topless guests, leaping between balconies, throwing metal trash cans in the street, and knocking down old men a cliff with the sunlight coloring the water bursting on the rocks like confetti. g over the edge. When my body edge, feeling for a handhold.
116 My tongue counts my teeth. I knew I should have slept with a mouth guard. Fear of fractured teeth had kept me out of confrontations my entire life. I approach the light, ess prominent portion of my skull, The driver is a Hawaiian with a t ilted cap, a tight black shirt and a badge dangling from his neck like a gaudy medallion. I lean on the car, glancing between the officer and the street. I grip the rim of the car window.
117 Cop reality shows had convinced me that smalltime criminals got caught because of stupidity. Although a case could be made for our lack of cognitive skills, as a whole we were just underprepared liars. I stare dumbly. Y a reasonable question. g cell with addicts suffering from withdrawal, drunks sobering up, 18 year old army recruits with nothing to lose and full dental plans, and racist Hawaiians on both sides of the bars. But, at least in movies, jail is a badge of honor, like a stint in the military. Of course, movies never show how jail and the military cultivate the coveted thousand yard stare by making men sit around for girlfriends, and the constant th reat of spontaneous violence to numb their thoughts. And I doubt jail will provide dental hygiene utensils that are up to my standards.
118 The officer contemplates which nonlethal weapon is approved for negotiating with morons. Part of me wishes he had an idiot stick to deliver a swift punishment that would absolve my crimes. Absolution through corporal punishment. For me, waiting to be reprimanded has always been the worse punishment. ealing with these kinds of questions at five in the mind spending a night o r two in jail instead of paying a fine. It would give my day structure and purpose. I could write romantic postcards on the cardboard centers of toilet having to expla in to potential employers this infraction on my criminal record, unless the interview is for a camping store or homeless outreach program. A filthy homeless man shifts in the back of the cruiser, his greasy locks smudging the oil stains on the window. I shudder at the thought of being handcuffed to him. verification, he just makes me repeat it. Then, he asks my name. I s pell it out. He asks my birthday. I write it down.
119 become a martyr of police brutality instead of a dumb criminal. And if the electricity ha s to deal with me lying to protect a worthless, milk jug identity. I nearly laugh. He rips off the ticket, slaps the copy against my chest, and puts the car in drive. I study the ticket, keeping pace with the car. The court date is a month away another month to be stuck in Oahu, collecting tickets. *
120 D owntown beggars sle ep late, curled under soggy want ads and funny papers in been homeless for two days. His woman kicked him out because he refused to get a job In the skyscraper that is city hall, I pinball b etween floors, pointed back down carbon copy of my ticket. I end up in what looks like an empty post office. Chained pens coil on counters, and line dividers dictate t he appropriate path to justice. thirties clerk named Margaret. sta ll over her keyboard. Her computer screen wallpaper features a giant slab of concave concrete. desert.
121 round cheeks. Her entire job entails dealing with petty liars and crooks who want to She shakes her head, as if wanting to dispense her professional advice that the ave the money to conduct a pan pacific man hunt for an illegal camper, but she is sworn to keep such advice to herself no matter how seemingly obvious. I sit on the pew style bench that runs the length of the narrow room to contemplate my next move. If I North Shore, and probably accumulate more tickets. Or I can fly to another island and chance getting taken in for an outstanding warrant. If nothing else, the ticket is an excuse to fly home where I Margaret pops up from behind her desk, surprised to see me on the bench.
122 Something about my paranoia, the fact that I showed up in her office hours after the ticket was issued, plays on her sympathy. She calls friends in various departments, gossiping and relaying an increasin started hassling him like he robbed a b With each retelling, she grows more hostile. Her profession revolves around tourists and hates the cops for giving vacationers tickets that she has to sort out. Main landers are the reason her property is now worth millions, making it possible for her my dilemma. Finally, her job is living up to the claims made by trade school com mercials year and the tickets will keep coming. in Hawaii alone, backpacking around the island. She even let her Chihuahua sleep outside. exc
123 o tried to rob my jokes. If only she had been the ticketing officer, I could have told her my name was Tom Sawyer. If only more police officer s were like her, as optimistic and as ready to help as high school career counselors. Of course then our streets would be filled with lazy criminals believing they were special and that they could accomplish anything they set to inspire underachieving thieves. pecial operation that morning, actin g as glorified janitors clearing the human detritus from the park before the paying tourists woke up. She also discovers that the ticketing officer is in the habit of sleeping after his shift with his phone off a clear infraction of duty. Outside, the cloudy sky offers an eternal dusk. I stretch out on the bench for one sheltered, safe, secure, with Margaret watching over me, offering me heart shaped chocolates. Dreams are undisturbed by nightmares of giant centipedes crawling in my underwear and attempting to mate. *
124 possibly being issued for me. I shrug. * the internet for lacking a library card. From there I wand e r to a YMCA that charges the same to share a room as a rural Texas motor court does for the honeymoon suite. who is sli ghtly older than me and has even less sympathy than I for the homeless. * greeting the next morning. An oversized hibiscus flower blooms behind her ear, complimenti ng the flora of makeup coloring her smooth, Asian features. Her penchant for hyperbole is part of her
125 beauty. She has turned my absurd encounter with the cops into a day time drama, a battle between good and evil. The difficulty in locating my ticket arose because the officer borrowed a another violation of protocol. gum between perfect teeth. and the face of the reprimanded officer boiling with hate, enlivens my sense of justice. This satisfaction dissolves almost instantly. An enormous ef fort is being made to authority will test this lie. And, the last thing I need is a pissed off officer looking to get even with me. All he would have to do is show up at my hearing and enlighten the judge on the list of lies I fed him. I stretch out on the bench in attempt to assuage my fears. I wake to a female officer standing over me with a clipboard, demanding my license. She studies me against the photo as if matchi I do. She leads me to the doors of courtroom C7, then turns abruptly on me, blocking the entrance.
126 My teeth habitually grate against my time to brush, and now I struggle not to shy away from this confrontation for fear of looking like a liar. Her hard gaze tests my resolve. Working in the criminal division, she understands validating my statement, only in ensuring that I have the balls to stick to it. Huddled criminals dot the pews like bums sitting through a church service for the free soup at the conclusion. The judge is a kind faced white woman with the kind of short bobbed hair meant to sit atop the heads of chemo patients and hints of a solid bui ld beneath her black robe the hallmarks of a female politician. A mix of American and Hawaiian flags hang on panel walls. The room lacks windows to prevent people from jumping out, physically or mentally. The repentant and rebellious sit scattered about t he pews in broken tennis shoes and sloppy t shirts tucked stylish criminal. With a palm full of saliva, I flattened my hair and iron the wrinkles running the length o f my button down white dress shirt and khakis. The only thing that betrays me is the stink of my stuffed pack and shoes. A large percentage of the cases involve military men running wild off base. One was caught with a butterfly knife while two others we re busted drinking under twenty
127 one both of which are legal on military property. Two young soldiers snicker while their lawyer enters a plea of not guilty for an assault charge. The Hawaiian boy on the other side of the fight stands alone and pleads guilt not looked exactly like the teenage boys who yell at me from the back of mopeds. What looks like an old miner with a scraggly white beard and a leather hat is also charged with g to Virginia and needs an accelerated court date. The prosecutor, a short Asian woman who fills out her pressed shirt and pencil skirt with the aftereffects of business lunches, plows through hundreds of cases, demanding warrants for absent defendants the most common type of defendant. If every criminal h ad appeared, not only would the courtroom violate fire codes, but the legal system would grind to a standstill. Justice revolves around the assumption that criminals are too lazy to confront their accusers. The prosecutor reads my name as a question. S he has an abrupt name like Ms. Pow. I push through the saloon style doors and assume the position at the lectern: bent over the microphone with idle hands clasped behind my back. My body inherently knows this supplicating pose. The prosecutor stares at a d egraded photocopy of the illegible carbon copy of my ticket. For the first time all morning, she hesitates.
128 which she presides over daily. The judge asks for a recess to contemplate my case. I When the judge vanishes i nto her chambers, Ms. Pow confronts me. twisting my words against me. based on your word that this ticket is for Women generally make me nervous, but she has it down to a science. To keep my composure, I convince myself that she must counteract her lust for me through verbal violence. Of course, I again s truggle with the discomfort of answering her head on, and further feed her rage with my coffee breath. Her shark black eyes track my every hesitation. She wants a man who can hold his own against her, or maybe she just wants a submissive partner she can handcuff and humiliate. Control turns her on.
129 Ms. Pow explains the different pleas and what they mean. I nod as though I understand. She speaks w ithin inches of my face, daring me to flinch. I envision vinegary particles wafting up from my shoes and filling her tiny nostrils. I retreat into the safety of downtow n apartment. Clothes will be draped on tipped over furniture, leading to a pile of flesh nestled in throw pillows on her authentic Asian rug glowing in the orange light of a fire roaring on the fireplace plasma screen. Her body will be held in place by an intricate network of black lace secured with buttons, hooks, and wires. This scene will fade into us rolling around lavender sheets that softened the NC 17 rated violence of lust. The aggressive mood music will rise as we blend into a montage of tongues fl ickering across curves, skin red with handprints, open mouths and clinched eyelids. In the excitement, the camera will spin off our whirlwind of flesh to underwear blindfolding the miniature statue of a busty Lady Justice. The judge returns. A n officer w ith blue latex gloves escorts in a line of men looking as though they were hooked on a trotline. Clothes salvaged from thrift store dumpsters droop from drug addled frames. They are my audience, my spiritual jury, and my potential roommates if the judge re jects my stupidity plea. If only I knew how to register my objection that the prospect of going to jail for illegal camping is counterproductive; illegal camping is its own punishment. The line of crimi nals winces at her voice. They swing their arms as if playing Red Rover, waiting to call me over.
130 banter is like flirting, full of half truths and spin. The judge wants a confident defendant who knows what he wants, and how to choose his words, but who can also own up to his mistakes and beg for mercy like a man. deferred What are you doing in with a reasonable answer, at least some standard lie that sounds good and spoke to my romantic need to find something more, something beautifu l beyond my mainland petty criminals, and say, I want to learn how to be satisfied with not being an international sex symbol and glamorous underwear model. pathetic.
131 I thought the cross examinations of Court TV were fake, that judges simply call out sentences and fines the way contestants shout numbers on The Price is Right My gaze searches for something to solidify my resolve. I find a portrait of George W. Bush me into this fix, then lies will set me free. I have to be confident. Women love confident liars. s ticking up like a flag pole.
132 My eyes wander from her f ace. I try to recall which way liars look. Is it right? My right or her right? Which way do honest people look? Probably not at her stony chest. circuit her feminine intuition with telepathic visions of me pitching a tent beneath her gown. Having spent the preceding weeks with trust fund hippies, my impulse is to say land just outside the city, clearing brush and includes pampered chickens and three older men. She gazes at me, sizing me up for boots, a cowboy hat, and th I smile. How could she resist me? is a thousand dollars and thirty days That tricky bitch! She probably got off on building guys up just to pound them night sticks, handcuffs, and tasers as sexual aids.
133 I take faith in apathy, in the fact that the court is too busy with real criminals to * After paying a hefty fine, my innocence is restored. With my newfound freedom I return to a beach park. The night is haunted by voices and conspiring flashlights. I sleep beyond the groomed section of the campgrounds, in the absolute dark of the wooded can opy. Cold overpowers my jackets. The tree fall crackles with steps. I refuse to turn on my head lamp and give away my position. An ant moves across my lips. I open my mouth and swallow the scout before others follow.
134 Chapter Fifteen Like my father on Sunday mornings, and now every morning since his early coffee. Truncated, commercial versions of Hawaiian music play over frozen food resurrect article. My eyes drift to a pleasantly plump couple using plastic forks to stab pancakes and sausages soggy with syrup. The more their consumption slows, the more my mouth waters. But then they pile their empty sugar packets and wadded napkins atop their scraps and dump the trash. behind. I read the Old Testament, less interested in the stories tha n how their significance has changed over time, adapting like social DNA or a classic text formatted to fit a movie screen. I too am a palimpsest, the living text of ancestors, revised, translated, and adapted ns will be discarded, like the Gospel according to Judas. To offset his military hair cut, Sam wears loose mountain climbing clothes from the an on my table then sits. He smells of an all night beach fire.
135 At the nightly bonfires, Sam and I were often confused for our sinewy frames and short dirty blonde hair. We were sha dows sitting outside the first ring of people discussing head shop versions of chakras and the I Ching. He shoots the second sandwich across the table to my folded hands. I try to refuse but he insists then laughs at how quickly I devour the breakfast biscuit and pick over the crumbs with a wet fingertip. We pile into his car and shoot off to see his 18 year old Brazilian pot dealer, amous surfboard shaper who owns a mansion on Sunset Beach. The walls are lined with functional and ornamental surfboards standing like
136 support beams. Photos of surf contests and candid pictures of pro surfers take the place of windows on the lower floor. T he second story is devoted to a panoramic view of waves gathering from the ripples along the horizon, pushing the breeze through the open windows. The place is decorated straight out of a surf publication, and is in fact featured in several magazines stret ched open on the coffee table beneath pot flakes. covers. The two match bong hits. Paulo beco mes increasingly confused by the term The meaning is lost somewhere between his bad English and our bad Spanish. idea delights him. He tries on several pairs of stylishly dainty shoes, then gets distracted to demonstrate Brazilian jujitsu moves, which consist of Paulo falling whi le Sam wrestles too keep his opponent from smacking his head on the coffee table. Paulo disappears for thirty minutes to fill his fanny pack with snacks, then returns without his shoes or shirt, carrying a giant bowl of popcorn. I sit back and eat everythi ng Paulo brings us. * Drunk, high, and love struck over another Mocean regular, Michelle, Sam rolls a cigarette in one hand while shifting gears with the other. The car wanders over the double
137 yellow. Headlights and reflective signs materialize and vanish at increasing speeds. My pack sits on my lap like a waiting airbag. A man stands in an alcove of chest high grass glancing at us before cowering from the light. modern. Sam considers the approaching headlights. Using the wet tip of his cigarette, he traces the veins spiraling around his forearm toward the stick shift. Still do I gues s. I get these strange cravings to jab shit into my arms, as if the sensation of He curl s his right arm, lifting an invisible weight. Sam used to be homeless in New York. After that he dealt meth in San Diego until he got his head smashed by a baseball bat. A girlfriend took him in, but she had a thing for breaking glasses on his face. He kno cked her down once for that, so she dropped him off at the train station in the dead house. He drank all their liquor and smoked in the house. On the day they were ki cking him out, an army recruiter called.
138 karate, baseball, school, jobs, relationships He accelerates toward the gate at the entrance of Schof ield Barracks. A guard against the stench of wine and weed. The guard waves us in. Schofield Barracks is like a college campus absent of any aesthetic dcor besides outdated weaponry serving as statues. Groups of soldiers jog in formation. Level grass lines rows of identical homes. Rectangular buildings serve as monuments to efficiency. This fits my childhood visi on of a communist city: a gray, utilitarian world surrounded by fences and guns. remember to put on your suic loving fucks are having a gay orgy, leave my massage oils out of
139 Mo marches away, flicking us off. Sam unloads organic junk food from the refrigerator and throws it back to me. r more years. I swear that fucker would get an army We lounge chips with oatmeal flavored beer. Other than his uniforms and polished shoes, the only clothes in his closet came from Mocean. His room is bare except for a mixture of military items and new ag e paraphernalia piled in a mound on the floor. These are the sum of must decide what to take with him into civilian life. He picks through the pile and throws surplus it ems at me: a camouflage hat, fire starters, a sewing kit, socks, and some brass buttons. I stack books on his nightstand, most of which have Zen in the title. He describes trippy because it feeds back into the beginning, trapping the main charac ter in a kind of literary purgatory. I imagine the situation similar to being locked in a library after the apocalypse, eating leather bound books for nourishment. Slobbering philosophy, we
140 arrive at the drunken consensus that Zion and Babylon, heaven and hell, are here and free to do anything. He can go to college in Sweden with Michelle, or buy a sailboat. He spoke to a guy just the other day who offered to get him a I felt the exact same freedom standing in a sea of matching graduates beneath the thud of pomp and circumstance, before I confronted the questions of what I was going to do now. I doubt Sam and I are any better for choosin g the unknown than conformists like Mo. What is gained from falling out of rank to spend our nights drunkenly discussing books like, The Art of Sittin g ? Neither his war nor my college could cure us of our th wishy th is compromised by the tangles of electric wires and paved roads searching this land for new destinations. Sam flips through a leather journal The writing on the first few pages is erased by the empty white of all the following pages. He closes the book and slides it under his bed. but he would have if the situation called for it. Sam was known as the hippie in his squad. He bitched at troops for littering when patrolling the rubble of cities. He even fell in love convinced the Ir aqi patrol they were training that the cubes of meat in their lunch were chicken. When the Muslims discovered the food was ham, they all forced themselves to
141 le until a toothless Iraqi soldier stopped him, and told him that his sergeant was not a gentleman. That Sam was. This was his favorite war story. Sam only had one fatal war story. It involved his best friend, Jim, a gung ho guy who would do anything jus t to prove he was crazy. While guarding the election houses, Jim found an old pistol strung together with electrical tape and wood. A fellow soldier dared him to play Russian Roulette with it. Under penalty of court marshal, none of the troops would explai their benefits. delivering the latest update on this local who got pregnant and wants to keep the kid in ord stumbles on to th e next door. fraction of the excitement advertised on recruitment commercials, it offered scars like fired his weapon, had lived through days so regimented with through the desert, through devastation, and had returned to tell his vacant tales.
142 a Green B eret in Vietnam. When Sam was young, his old man told him stories about secret missions where five guys knocked out entire platoons. When Sam was older, the stories changed. His father told him about the time he was on leave, and fell asleep drivi ng. He woke in a hospital with who he thought was Jesus at the foot of this bed. This Jesus was just a bearded hippie handing out flowers, but at that moment he realized neither he nor the Vietnamese wanted to die. He became very anti war, as well as an LS D enthusiast. He wore pink sunglasses to drill practice, and stood in front of the officers club handing out antiwar pamphlets. The army finally busted him for selling LSD to soldiers, as this was his form of antiwar propaganda. But, he still received an h Months before, during my last semester in college, I took a 1960s American literat On the Road was on the reading list. As an English major I had marched in protests against the desert wars. My Black Arts class even took a field trip to sit in the middle of a busy intersection with fellow protestors, hopi sit there all day. Except for Kerouac, who actually supported the Vietnam War, the 60s literature focused on anti war rhetoric. The understanding was that education is sy nonymous with passivity. One of the more interesting reads was a memoir by an ex member of the radical anti war group, The Weather Underground, who, among their other nefarious deeds, bombed the Pentagon. The author admitted that he nearly joined the army until he fell in love with a woman and her group of friends who opposed the
143 war. As the 2004 presidential election was heating up that final semester, our class period often launched into conspiracy theories of what Bush would do if re elected. More than a few believed he would expand the war and reinstate the draft. Considering that I would the top of the list of potential draftees, I was quietly excited. I could never w illing sign up a choice. I would draw peace signs on my helmet and bitch about how futile the war was while spraying automatic fire at masked enemies. I would come back with tattoos of my teeth got kicked in, the government would replace them, and keep replacing them for the rest of my life. But I was no soldier. I was a homeles s kid, hiding from the night in the room of a veteran who was younger than me. trapp ed marching in step with so many physically fit men, fighting for a small pool of hippie. The only thing I know about rel ationships, is that when it comes to love, ideals and sense are the first to be forsaken. *
144 Sam lies across the width of his bed, head pillowed on t he wall, his tan t shirt tucked into baggy, cargo pants bunched around his boots. The smoke from a hand rolled cigarette unfurls in ribbons, catching the rising sun passing through a window sticker that ayer flags flutter between the curtain frames, releasing their prayers with each gust of air conditioning. Sam strums rudimentary blues riffs on an acoustic guitar. With each stroke, dust swirls into the stream of window light. He is scheduled to guard a t wo ton locked box within two sets of barbed wire, inside a secured military base, for eight hours. The box contains flat screen TVs. When he leaves, I straighten his room for inspections, though he insists that he wants to fail inspections for once, just to see what happens. The rest of the day I work out, read, and finish the six light beers Mo left for me. Outside, rain clouds turn the world gray. Droplets cling to the window. My departure time is pushed back. on the screen. ually about to
145 instructor bursts through the door with Sam behind him. The world outside. Am I going to find I heft my pack and walk to the door. livid expression is sarcastic or genuine. From half a block away I can still hear the officer yelling about faggots, albeit clean faggots.
146 Chapter Sixteen A corroded sign points up the summit trail and down to a stream pool. The babble of water lures me to water tric kling over round stones and collecting in swirling pools. I follow the creek up stream, shimmying over slick boulders. The pool above the first is filled by a five foot waterfall. The next is fed by a one story waterslide. A flat stone sits beside the wate r, looking like the perfect place to camp, save for the impending mudslides. I soak in the pool, dancing on the mossy rocks and kicking lobster sized prawns. A yellow rope laces through the threads of white water tumbling down the rocks. I take faith in th e nylon skiing rope and climb with the water pouring over me. At the top is a pond fed by water oozing down the sheer face of a three story stone wall, looking like clear lava pulsing from the mountain peak. Ripples continually fan out from the falls, push of a fountain of youth as I could hope for. Miles from anyone, I float facedown, listening to the water gurgle and the mountain shift. The gray sky chills my exposed ba ck. I think of Texas, of holding a rung of barbed wire fence for Anezka to crawl under as we sneak down to a private swimming hole vacant due to an impending summer thunder storm. We sit in the meadow, drinking cherry cokes spiked with bourbon. She assault s me with soggy blackberries. I chase her through waist high grass erupting with grasshoppers and birds until we both jump into the cold, silent water.
147 Somewhere beneath the click of rocks and the water replenishing itself, I hear others. A cannonball blast erupts from the pool below, followed by a splash of voices. If n owhere to run. I lean over the edge of my little paradise. A blonde muscular boy climbs the rope followed by several girls in single piece bathing suits and shorts cut from sweat pants. He thanks me for giving him a hand up. His name is Jon. Mine is Walt. He leaps into the garden pool with all his clothes on, followed by his harem of giggling girls. Jon invites me back down the rock ledge. He wants to show me something. A few pools below where the t rail meets the stream, the creek funnels over a ledge into a hot tub sized pool a few stories down. back to that same Texas swi mming hole, leaping from titanic cypress trees into the shadow of a creek below. The water thunders into silence. I fizzle to the surface. Jon and I are instant playground friends challenging each other with daredevil tricks. We take turns jumping, alway s upping the stakes with twists and flips. The thrill of falling into the unknown, those few seconds of floating free of everything, between
148 childhood obsession with flight when I repeatedly leaped off roofs with cardboard wings. braving the wild alone. And, I c an always return the next day to sit alone on the mountain and meditate on the virtues of loneliness. The girls visiting from BYU lag behind. A cute, older redhead named Amy, who lives on Oahu walks ahead with Jon and me. Jon just completed two years of m ission work in Cambodia, of which all he remembers is sitting in airplanes, buses, hotel lobbies, and restaurants. He describes how Cambodians are a mix of Hindus and Buddhists. He never really und enough to figure out the holes and fill in the real answers.
149 than I have questions. We wait for the visiting girls to catch up in a bluff with a single tree shading the blonde grass. Jon lists all the names of the plants he learned while working at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. He picks pink fruit from thin, so ft wood plants and hands us Amy and I sit in the bow of the tree that twists over the path. Our feet dangle from the branch. I spit the seeds into a handkerchief to mail home, until Amy starts spitting her seeds at me and I have to fire back. city bus. It took the same tim time than I
150 a stoic pilgrim sojourning in the mou ntains to commune with God. But, this is what strangers do, they meet and talk about grand philosophies. Lovers and friends know you too well to let any of this bullshit fly. All of the supposedly great adventurers must have been good talkers first, like O dysseus, changing the memory of even the men who were with him into believing they battled Cyclopes and sea monsters. These men had plenty of time to invent good stories, to fill the mundane with vivid details, to find some true connection in a brief encou nter between two aging kids sitting in a tree on the top of a mountain. f I fold and unfold the handkerchief, rubbing the globs of fruit from the seeds. She looks back up the trail. The
151 than she expects. * Col lege students collect behind the Polynesian Cultural Centre. Hawaiian music pushes out the backdoors. Guys and girls wear long skirts beneath blue or red button up shirts. I keep expecting a choreographed dance fight and musical number to burst out. I expect him to search for my name on the list. Instead, he merely jots it down and adds my fake address to his mailing list. In line, I wait to graze through the steaming vats leftover from the Ce nightly luau. I load two Styrofoam boxes with Chinese chicken, shredded pork, mixed dollars for my three pounds of food. food to the nearest picnic table. I expect to see the gatekeeper calling me back to attend the required pre dinner man who, in other circles, would be mistaken for J
152 try to start a discotheque Arun nods. he pretends to ride a stick horse. Having waited an extra hour to eat demented version of myself. for cold buf fet food. Alexander and his like a child watching his parents during a long dinner blessing. For the rest of the movie Jon and his father switch off berating the faggy subplot, which consi sts of a dainty Alexander staring into the eyeliner wearing eyes of his best friend, Hephaistion.
153 n smelly, brutal men, and when they had sex with each other, it would have been manlier than any of * Shadows of half drunk campers waft around a dying fire. I dream of heat. I am standing in the airport termi nal, beneath a freezing air conditioning vent, my head pressed to the cool window overlooking an empty runway scarred with tire marks. Flight attendants frantically juggle between phones and PAs. On the watery meridian blurred by evaporating heat, a cloud mushrooms over the majestically polluted sunset. The horizon rises. The building begins to quake, amplifying the rising chaos echoing through the terminal. I stand pressed against the cold window, watching the heat coming, waiting. still have them.
154 Chapter Seventeen hair moving in torrents as she yells into her cell phone. A vein divides her forehead She kisses my cheek and continues screaming about how her fucking boss makes her do company. asks, turning to me. She thumbs a smudge from my cheek and straightens my shirt. We sit on the floor down. Michelle fishes a beer from the interior of her van, which looks one step away from being lived in. She ha nds me the beer to open as she sparks a Marlboro, inhales, and pushes the smoke out through her nostrils. I watch her.
155 to be a boxer. Knocked a few girls out, even with the headgear, and none of them could touch my nose. Finally some asshole in a bar busted was more worried about my any idea how much of a fake douche bag you have to be in order to be a successful, big shot
156 I just grin. Her eyes stay o n me, waiting for an explanation. I attempt to be elliptical, how males are genetically programmed to venture out, to circulate the genes and spread wild seeds that she mutes her laughter against my shoulder. Tour buses and rental cars plow through the afterglow. She stands and drops her cigarette on the pavement. I stamp it out. the Mocean hippies cashing in t heir retirements early, dooming their elderly selves to bag groceries for the health insurance benefits that will pay for skin cancer treatments. But, I
157 ubbing my eye to head off the flood of emotions the road and hunger have predisposed me to to the feeling of loss I get each rubbi ng my neck. My affections boil over. She never wanted me. To her, I am only someone to pity. My embrace goes limp. She catches my eyes for a moment then leans in. I turn. Her parted lips find the edge of my mouth.
158 Chapter Eighteen I was so swept up in the fantasy of being paid to masturbate in a private room to classy porn that I failed to notice this distinction. surely flunked. It makes sense why these centers only operate on donations. Individuals desperate enough to hustle t heir blood probably carry more than just healthy plasma in their veins. ome in several times and give a few pints before you become a silver star My fingers tap the counter. I rub the vinyl laminate on the counter.
159 * I skip most of the questions on the paperwork while the receptionist asks preliminary questions. in De medications may have treated. The blood bank is only concerned with doctor prescribed contaminants. Is there a minimal intelligence test to be a bl ood bank receptionist? If I had the continental breakfast fit for a motor lodge: orange juice, jelly donuts, coconut cookies, and manipoos (sweet rolls stuffed with meat). compressed in a buttoned up, medical coat. She leads me to a windowless interrogation room and sits in a chair so close to mine that our knees touch. to spout pleasantries.
160 sounds unsettlingly dirty coming from someone as clinical and asexual as Ms. Chung. The cell of a room is ornamented with posters featuring failed models beneath the Ms. Chung reviews my questionnaire with the intensity of an ethnically ambiguous investigative TV reporter studying her notes while the camera captures me squirming, preparing to be called an unconscionable liar by her pleasant, yet stern, non regional dialect. ho has had Ms. Chung is unimpressed. What have I been doing in Hawaii if not having unprotected sex with foreign prostitutes while mainlining heroin? She abandons the yes or no questions to fill in the gaps I left on the questionnaire where I was supposed to detail my sexual co nquests.
161 unprotected sex. Was I the only one whose fear of disease and babies, combined with the residual effects of Catholic guilt and an obsessive personality, qualified as a form of impotency? Ms. Chung returns to questions about my experiences on the streets. She simply How cheap do I look? I want to defend my p aranoia, to justify my absolute fear of an act that is the essence of life for most people: for biologists, advertisers, entertainers, and even the procreation everything, that HIV can take six months to register in a blood test. I want to explain that attempted casual sex with Anezka, the condom broke, leaving me staring at the ceiling the entire night de
162 boyfriend, who was also a virgin, that she had recently been tested, that she was on birth control, and that she had no qualms about tossing a live baby in a dumpster, let alone vacuuming a par a tiny office while a large, middle aged counselor studies the complete absence of a sexual history in my file with a troubled look I doubt he even unveiled on patients who tested po sitive for terminal STDs. This look only worsened when I told him the kinkiest thing I had done was probably when the clinic nurse stuck a Q tip in my urethra. He dismissed my excuses that I was there in solidarity with friends, that I wanted to ensure I w as starting with a clean slate. When I argued that I could have caught a disease from sults in a personals ad. Instead I hosted a house party and stuck the slip on the fridge. That night I ended up in bed, snuggling fully clothed with a high school girl. Ms. Chung is disappointed. She turns me over to a nurse in the empty donation center. Senses are dulled by ammonia and the light perfume of the thick nurse leaning on me as she speaks in a hypnotic whisper without expecting answers. She ru bs my above the constant mechanical hum of machines sucking blood. My breathing slows. My blood spurts playfully into an IV bag.
163 hair and leads me by the hand back to the snack bar where I sit and work through a few more plates of sugary sweets. She hands me a paper slip. I turn the receipt over, expecting her number, something. She offers no explanation so I stuff it in my pocket and heft my pack. She starts to protest but I wave her off. I walk thr ough the door and am jerked back by a loose strap that snagged on the doorknob. I stumble into the unrestrained sun. My legs go limp. A bus stop catches my fall. I wave. Thoughts slow. Anxieties slip beneath t he pleasures of a full stomach and a cool breeze. I climb onto the first bus and immediately fall asleep in the air conditioned shade, local. I stand. Black pixels corrupt my vision. My stomach pulses. A dribble of vomit unspools from my puckered lips. The woman who nudged me to give up my seat, pushes into an overfilled trashcan in the parking lot of Ala Moana mall.
164 Inside, sedated Hawaiian music plays as a security guard escorts out a ragdoll of a treatment is reserved for unfashionable bums. At the food court, my pride quickly defers to the first few waves of hunger. A leftovers of the beautiful. I switch to her table and start in on the soggy fries until a shadow falls over my meal. I swallow hard to choke down the mass of fries in my mouth. A slender woman with a short, pinstriped business skirt stands smiling down. ou over here. Do chic f ace of fashion, the ambassador of hobo couture. Or maybe she represents alternative models who appear on pamphlets for welfare programs and homeless shelters. I know
165 I was utterly hypnotized. Maybe Anezka is wrong and my brooding expression, which I considered my seductive face until I met her, is attr active, or at least intriguing. between tables, looking for other youths with dreams of fame to prey on. I use the card to swipe the salt and crumbs into a pile. Is this my lucky c ard? Is it worth staying on Oahu to stick out another hand? I flick the ivory colored card on the table, collect what little I have, and walk away. * The door to a WWII museum stands open. Brochures and flyers are stacked at the unmanned informa tion desk. I set my pack down and lean on rails, reveling in the hum of air conditioning. The reverence and solemn silence of history resonates off the dim corridors. Track lights illuminate perfectly preserved refuse and mass produced artillery rounds tha t never realized their potential. I inhale the leathery, well oiled air of small photographer for Japanese families that smile in front of the heavy guns that defended Pearl Ha
1 66 * Two gutted rental cars guard a length of dirt disappearing in the brush. Behind these, a ranger leans on his truck, scribbling in his note pad. I nod but stay studying the projection of the trail into the mountains. He gazes at me a long time b efore I notice. He points me down the road to another trail through a public hunting ground. I follow the aim of his finger around the first bend, then push into the jungle several yards and sit listening for his truck. Wet grass and burrs attack my shoes and socks as I slip on pine needles and pull trails I choose curve back down the mountain like all the dead end roads at the foot of the mountains. I run down wit h bent legs, then trip and tumble to a dirt stoop. I had hiked so hard in an effort not to waste time that this was in fact all I had accomplished. I sit on a bluff, huffing and puffing on my harmonica, breathing through the metal chords like a hyperventil ating robot. This is my first attempt of the trip to emulate all those jolly tramps of black and white films, dressed in ripped suits, fedoras flapping open like the tops of canned food, and leather shoes with newspaper stuffed in their soles, who masterfu lly wail away their troubles on harmonicas.
167 The trail dumps me into a junkyard containing a collection of bathtubs filled with green slosh, sinks serving as plant pots, and crumpled busses. Although I never pass a gate, a high fence prevents my escape, an d is the only sensible place to run when the guttural growl of a fast approaching dog powers through the clutter. I fall to the opposite wanted anything as much as h e wants me. * ll be there until sunset. I hold up in a booth eating dinner mints and making misshapen origami animals from the foil wrappers. The restaurant empties with the approaching night and the bartenders put paper cone cups upside down on the liquor bottles. I duck into an organic food mart stocked with vegetables that cost more than my canned meals. beneath her bulbous vegetarian belly built on cheese and almond butter. She follows me down the aisles, smiling. At first I think she is compelled by my *
168 Outside the BYU gym, where the reception my BYU student ID, two Hawaiians pound leather drums. I sit beside them, nodding taker I know them. They even introduce me to o ne of their attractive Hawaiian daughters. I should try appreciating Hawaiian culture more often. I explore the campus and end up in a line of college students waiting to buy the He spins his thin band around his skeleton fing ers. food. * ome my meaningless Zen mantra, a calming ohmmmm. I mumble it like a lullaby for the road. The card pictures the same sunset before me, transforming the bay into a wishing well of copper eyes staring at their twilight counterparts. To the east the blanket o f night has beach towel out like a net to catch her offspring bursting from the sea. I suck from the
169 impact wound of a coconut, spitting shell fragments as the warm ju ice dribbles down my chin, soaks into my shirt, and turns cold. longer, to as American Dream is a ship docked in Honolulu, and I will buy it one day. I tape strawberry guava seeds to the postcard stained with ink, dirt, and a dramatic swath of blood from tr ying to open the coconut. My postcards have become increasingly morbid and optimistic, with their long goodbyes and affirmations of my loving devotion unabashed truth and lies. I have lost the ability to decipher between extremes. A ukulele plays. I smile a few paces behind me with only a sarong wrapped around his waist. A long, black braid of hair bounces on the ukulele. His blank face glows in the sunset as he strums and hums through expressionless l * The man on the adjacent picnic table spews a few minutes of antichristian, an tigovernment, and generally anti American babble before I realize his diatribe is
170 m going fucking crazy. His eyes whirl in their sockets. My jaw rattles. I want to feel his fist on my face and the warm, pulsing blood of a giving wound. He stuffs the clothes scattered on the table into his pack. need to be seen as impulsive and violent crazy to those who would threaten us.
171 Chapter Nineteen Rain peppers the night. Flashlights and voices retreat to tents glowing like jack la nterns. I cross the campground to the windbreak of trees but am stopped by a knee level flashlight that clicks on and blinds me asks a boy. one. lenty of places, just not one place. The light clicks off Are y I chuckle, but t he child remains silent ubt it. He scurries away over the leaves. I bed down beneath a squatty umbrella tree with large round leaves t hat red uce the drizzle to manageable drops. No sooner does my head settle on the pack than a flashlight begins retracing my steps into the trees. Running is an admission of guilt. I sit and wait. say, head bowed avoiding the direct light
172 m atter. My arguing will only affirm his suspicions of me as the type of guy who is plotting to steal his food or watch his wife and son sleep. His flashlight illuminates my way as I walk into the rain on the scalloped beach. He follows t o the edge of the sand, then stands beneath the trees. I trust in the rain and dark to keep my pursuers at bay, at least until morning. His complaint will be filed along with t he other sightings of me haunting the campgrounds. T he rumor s of me will have to ve officially been evicted from Malaekahana Park
173 Chapter Twenty A barefoot Hawaiian in khaki cargo shorts ties flowers and vines into a white wedding arch. His shirt rises over his belly with each reach and his free hand dangles at the wrist. I stuff my shirt in my pack and approach. I ask. The gelled black hair atop his square face stands defiant against the wind The scent of body lotion and cologne overpower the flowers accent buried beneath a lisp. I sit on one of the white benches. day. And this is the simplest one. The last bride until June. Most brides are easy to talk out of their whimsies but she just wanted to be a diva. She boo hooed about ho
174 wanted to pay, but it was just the worst tracking down a grower who could ship express in bulk. If she couldn month? Why not get married in Mississippi on your front porch? Why a beach? There wedding business is booming, especially with second marriage couples flying to Hawaii for quick, intimate ceremonies away from their families. The only thing you need for beach wed the island, at least the right authentic ones. hat brings you to Oahu? he asks. could never do something like that, give up my down pillows and Egyptian sheets Forget Wherever the day takes me. Malaekahana State Park
175 particularly have a reason to head back, but I doubt this is where he wants to take me. * D wayne s Pake, a Hawaiian slur for a Chinese person. We fly d own the highway in his white van: a long extended cab with no windows. A variety of sharp gardening implements, duct tape, and twine rattle in the no big deal, really. And did he mention he did the flowers for the cast party of a famous d high on a ledge. t here next week. That used to You know E lvis right? Now it belongs to the family wh o owns all the Foodlands These aren factoids I had hoped for to help season my postcards home, but I glad he like s me enough to give me the tour. I ask about the mountains forming a ridg ed spine through the heart of the island. He shrugs. His adventures consist primarily of coaching volleyball girl s
176 uy getting fresh with those 14 year olds, but California is just so liberal, they were like, great, great grandfather was a gardener for some German duke. But he had to run off Pake glances between me and t fathers, step fathers who wanted to fuck me, but I guess Pake kick me out for b glancing at it.
177 I focus on the blurred landscape. We have Mahus seems capable. Mahus You know. Mahus I know how to manage openly gay me n from my experience with women who use me for sexless companionship, but I have no idea how to hustle whatever Pake is. show you a secret spot my father took me as a boy, Pake announces, pulling off on a dirt road that disappears beneath a canopy of trees Is he hoping to get me alone in a quiet, romantic setting? Will he sacrifice me i n an ancient Mahus burial ground ? Why else would Pake mention that he also does funereal arrangements? When we get out, I take my pack with me. He smiles, perhaps thinking the pack contains such handy utensils as hand lotion for running down flee ing boys in quick bursts. The secret trail i s dotted w ith hoof prints and horse droppings from guided tours Dirt gives way to sand that spreads and slips into a tranquil bay too heavily shaded for sun worshiping tourists. We si t on a log in front of ember a
178 plantation boss there long before Turtle Bay Resort was built an immense resort that now towers over the tree line if you come here at night T he Mormon boys go wild cr azy things. ed, so they come here and get wild. the * one of my hobbies. For as much time as he spent trying t o convince me that gay men are just like us, I surprised he feels no need to justify this hobby. H e t akes a sharp turn down a farm road. The rattling of tools in the van intensifies as the road degrades. Parked cars multiply along the thick growth of the shoulder. What looks like a makeshift carnival gathers around a plywood concession stand. Barefoot children push popcorn, pulled pork, and beer. Men huddle around trucks, drunk, yelling to Pake and elbowing their pals about my presence. If anyone gives you trouble, just say that Pake brought that even mean? Haole.
179 He collects a small bag of tools. His voice is no longer effeminate, but distinctly Hawaiian, speaking in aggressive pidgin, as he carries himself toward the crowd with the swagger of the bully man he is. Like whitey or foreigner I try to bring my pack but Pake insists I leave it. A backpack will just make me stick out even more. I concede but slip my flip blade in my pocket, and follow Pake into the crowd with head bo wed. Bare feet caked with mud, sand, and hard white calluses shuffle through the packed dirt Elderly men si t in folding chairs, drinking and squinting. Younger men in designer shirts thro w craps with weathered fishermen in torn off slacks and broken bille d caps. A ll are Hawaiian and in some way related to Pake. Some greet him, but none say a word to or about me. Pockets of men star e at me from behind blackout shades. Others whisper to friends then nod toward me Pak boys with his nonthreatening li s p The crowd swells a round a pit the size of a boxing ring boarded off with warped plywood. Coolers and ca ges are scattered aroun d trucks and cheering locals. A cock named Young Boy struggles to be released again from the hands of a kid whose shirt is smudged with bloody handprints. Luis a short, sturdy man in a skullcap handles a bird named Paul. ake says.
180 The birds burst toward each other, clawi ng the air fighting to come down atop each other. They hit the ground in a tangle of burnt red and oil black feathers flailing in the dust. The crowd cheers. The handlers separate the cocks and set them lo ose again In a daze, the birds step on their own spurs. After several exchanges, as if by accident Young Boy s inks in to Paul, b ut pluck pinches his beak, but each time h e set s Paul in the ring he collapses like a nesting hen But Young Boy is hurt and through fighting. He struts in circles like a tricycle with a missing whee shouting and clapping at the bird until it stum bles on Paul with his awkward blade, triggering P eak to fall into Young Boy. After each exchange, Luis inflates Paul like a bag pipe and pinches his beak. To test to make sure both animals are s till alive, the handlers expose their chicken s neck to the other. as Paul i s, he ke eps trying to peck barefoot boy ra k es the feathers and turns over the bloody earth. A small man with no teeth stands at the weight table h olding a nervous rooster that looks healthier than the man. He caught the bird in the jungle in hopes someone will spot him the three hundred dollars for an initial bet. Pake make room for his bulldog of a rooster. Only steers ys in a lisp infused imitation of a southern drawl ped quickly loses
181 cockfighting spurs. Waiting for a match, Pake introduces me to his friend a game warden. The two explain how the local police n ever interfer e with their fights. I t the fed s that cause all the problems. At first the argument makes sense, until I consider the genocidal tendencies of my own heritage as a white American of German descent. When the cock is paired with a suitable opponent, we retreat to truck, where Pake ho ld s open the roost drops Pake then cradles the cock to his chest like a baby, st roking it, as his uncle attaches the spur. The blade i s fixed to a leather band that is hooked was amputated. The leather is fastened with twine then medical t ape. In the pit, Pake lets the cock strut a few feet then jerks it back by the tail, allowing the bird to get used to the spur and so gamblers can size him up. plywood ring. The handlers expose the The plastic gua rds are removed from the spurs and the roosters are positioned on the ground. During the release, the handlers give the birds a slight lift. The roosters rise tow ard each other, clawing the air, provoking cheers with each burst. Dust and feathers cloud the light through the trees.
182 atop the other, and ke eps clawing at the bird snagged beneath its talons. I throw my arm up, cheering with half the crowd. My right clutches the blade in my pocket. The birds are separated. Blood generous wound. l hair grazes my jaw. The handlers release the birds. new companion. I feel the man cower away, melting into the crowd. Outside the ring, i easy to forget just how imposing of a man Pake is. I stand with my back to the truck as Pake shows me a deep wound in his bundle of feathers dangles upside down like a wet umbrella. He stuffs his portion of the winnings into his cargo pants and puts an arm around my shoulder as he leads me back to the van. He is feeling generous and offers to take me out for a traditional Hawaiian meal. We drive to a place called crammed in an empty Hauula strip mall He orders for me, assuming I must love beef. My Hawaiian steak is hamburger patty over rice, soaked in gravy. I clean my plate before Pake finishes half of his meal
183 are interspersed with more stories of his mainland adventures : tales of getting lost on a subway and meeting some famous Broadway singer Even though he never went to school to become a florist, the elements of desi gn come naturally to him, like breeding good fighting chickens. His grandmother spotted his early talent for noticing details. She left Pake her floral business in her will. But, for as much as he loves his work, he wishes he could be like me, be free to travel wherever he wants and meet all kinds of people. He loved all the people in LA. He liked being able to disappear. B ut his responsibilities are here, with his family and the business I say, chewing a tooth pick and spitting the splinters anything else I guess. Did Pake already tell me that on another of his mainland adventures, he packed fifteen sandwiches for a day long tra in ride then ate all fifteen in the first hour because he was so bored? Belting out a laugh loud enough for a stage performance, Pake squeezes my wrist, then recoils, tamping his lips with a napkin.
184 * back entrance of Malaekahana campground. I was going to offer to take you around the island. Sh ow you some of the secret romantic spots you can take your girlfriend when T he van pull s away then veers off into the grass beside the chained e ntrance. I consid er running. Pake says as he springs out of the van. interested in him if he keeps pretending Moonlight pours through the roofless changing room on the open cement floor that slopes toward a single drain. Benches line the cinderblock walls. The florescent tubes flicker as insects ping and sputter against the glass. The pipes hiss. The place looks like an abandoned jail cell lit for a horror scene Pake wait s for me to choose a urinal then stands at the o ne beside me. His hairless legs graze mine as our urine sizzles on the porcelain.
185 living with three older gays My former landlords might have grabbed my ass or made the occasional joke involving my cock and their mouth, but they never tried to piss beside me. I only tol d t feel like he had to pretend. Ob viously he took it to m ean that, like him, I to interpreted as a cr yptic admission about my promiscuity. nice, quiet I try again to part ways at the exit Let me show you the beach, he says. W hile I ome over the table flirting in exchange for dinner, this i s g etting frightening. I study his pa nts, trying to detect a sharp gardening tool stowed in his cargo shorts. He catches my gaze and grins. Pake walks behind me, pointing out patches of sand where I c an sleep. I sit on the beach w ithin range of a bonfire a blaz e with laughter and silhouettes of girls in motion. He lies unusually close posing on his side with his leg up, in imitation of an overweight underwear model. shivering. then reconsider before he invite s me t
186 enjoy spending time wit h my girlfriend. We watch bad reality dating shows After twenty minutes a silence falls, at which time in the date he make his move or leave. I almost want him to attempt a kiss so I can shut him down, but I He reclines, staring at the stars, and describes LA, naming all the celebrities who l ll go to the bathroom and get ready for the night. to the trees. w you do it, he says. He is lying on his side, bare legs laced over each other and a hand propping up his head as he stares out to sea, toward California. sometimes. I you. Helps s left when g problems with her for you to come out here?
187 ys wonder what it was like to leave. Hiding in a stall, I hear Pake the concrete I consider pulling up my feet, but he would just check the l ockless stalls. I wait for him to speak to announce that he leaving, but he just stands there. The glint of his eyes moves across the door crack. At this moment in a horror film, the suspenseful whine of violins would stop, leaving only the sound of my heavy breaths silenced with a burst of an axe splitting the door. A dark stain of water pools around his feet. It trickles into the drain. When I emerge Pake st ands sopping wet. he explains, his wet shirt draped over his shoulder. He t akes my place in the same stall. I stand at the sink, flossing even the thre at of rape is no excuse for ignoring dental hygiene. A slow rocking sound rises from the stall. Is he rubbing one out? I lean closer. A barr age of squealing shit splatters the toilet, emitting a violent after burn of fumes voice says as I quietly slip out of the bathroom. * I walk pas t the line of seaside mansions to another beach park down the coast which lacks rangers My shirt clings to me like a wetsuit. I bury myself in sand to steady my shivering. My glasses hopelessly blur with rain and body heat. I shake uncontrollably
188 through the night, perpetual ly checking my watch, counting the minutes in held breaths. I eping me warm and still The rain c but there is nowhere left to go.
189 Chapter Twenty One A flicker wakes me. Headlights soundlessly boun d over the packed sand groomed moments, waking up on the run, do I feel justified in forgoing a campfire or sleeping bag. Comfort stifles escape. The headlights become flashlights. A n older couple combs the beach for complete shells delivered by the night tide. My pulse refuses to relax. * Dawn leaks through the trees as I pound out pushups on the boulder in a new age workout video that is as much about the ambiance, the repetitive nature sounds and the pure horizon, as the concentrated breathing and slow motion exercises. aerobics. Health enthusiasts will sprint from security guards, climb fences and swim across streams while holding twenty five pound rucksacks over their heads. The series will train viewers for wilderness excursions and * Models st and aside the road in peach and raspberr y colored bikinis and matching heels thumbing rides as a camera man and his silver reflective umbrella color these
190 * On the bus, I sleep face first on my pack. The driver kicks me off at the airport. I take it as a sign. to fly anywhere, so long as my emergency travel funds hold out. Last minute deals are surely available for flights to LA, Canada, and Mexico. A cocktail of hope and despair y want to be the one
191 Chapter Twenty Two Fractured gems of green beer bottles litter the rocky shore. Eviscerated and sun bleached crab shells perch on boulders, waiting to be crunched underfoot like confetti eggs. Webs of fishing nets and seaweed stretch between rocks. Gutted Japanese and Americ an vans cramped with soggy textiles slouch beneath the overhanging jungle. Vines drip over their discolored roofs. Palm tree benches and van seats circle a mound of wet ash caked over empty tin cans. Piles of glass and crushed plastic containers collect in the sand like the ruins of rodent pyramids built to transient gods. A doormat lies half lost long ago with the various cultures that came and went. Some locals like to remind outsiders that this island has never been conquered, as though Kauaians inherently possess an indomitable spirit. But, it is the island itself that is unvanquished. Th e Polynesian Marquesans were the first to claim Kauai, arriving around 400 AD with new crops and livestock and hopes of recreating their homeland. Six hundred years later, they were defeated and enslaved by the Tahitians. The first European, Captain Cook, arrived in 1778 and was mistaken for Lono, the god of peace and agriculture. With Cook came modern warfare and diseases like cholera, measles, and gonorrhea. These cut the Polynesian population in half. King Kamehameha used western weapons to defeat all
192 abdicating the land to Kamehameha II. This new king ordered the end of Hawaiian religion as well as the destruction of Hawaiian temples, or heiaus, which now exist as rock piles along the roadsides. He also approved the purchase of property by foreigners, clearing the way for missions and plantations. In 1893, when outsiders owned ninety percent of Hawaii, American landowners overthrew Queen Liliuokalani, propelling the island chain toward its present role as a vacation state. Of the fewer than 70,000 current Kauaians, around thirty six percent are whi te and thirty one percent are Asian. Anywhere from one quarter to one third of people on the island each day are tourists. In this sense, I am a local. on a palm, providing a lookout. Are the occupants hiding in the trees, watching me, or am kindling. I unfold one. It lists popular monuments and sights along the main highway but continue down the beach. The dark lumps dotting the white sand are never coconuts, but hal f buried refuse relics of a throw away culture. If this is Eden, this is Eden after the fall. The new cradle of civilization is beyond these shores a continent of buoyant plastic trash twice the size of Texas rocking in the watery wasteland. Each day this Pacific Garbage Patch grows, cracks its plastic joints, clears its glinting gaze, and stretches its spindly fingers toward these sandy shores. Eventually, our restless need for more, to
193 explore, overcome, and consume, will overwhelm even us and exhaust all the spoils of our conquests.
194 Chapter Twenty Three Cars rattle over the bridge, hugging the rail. Below, a muddy river pushes through foliage and fences hanging over the banks. A sturdy Asian woman pushes her clunky bicycle up the road. She adjusts the thick glasses slipping down her broad nose. I follow her lead. On the bridge, her feet constantly step on the wrong side of the white line, protecting her bike with her body. On the other side, we walk side by side, talking. house. Even the homes in her neighborhood, which she says is overrun with Filipino junkies w ho live with their parents, start at half a million. She turns down a side road. I remain on the corner, waving. We walk down the street to the backyard of her duplex. way of apologizing for her
195 On the kitch feathers and clucking. She cradles Mojo and smoothes his shiny red, black and green feathers. The walls are covered with portraits of Mojo in a mix between rudimentary Japanimation and fin surface. Lee spills chicken scratch on the counter. Mojo pecks furiously, tossing kernels in the air. She sets a cup of grapefruit juice between the bird and me. When I grab the glass, Mojo pecks at my grungy ring, drawing blood. Lee beckons me to sit on her futon couch while she produces a file folder full of tourist maps and bus schedules. She leans o ver me, explaining the importance of each before handing them over. She draws a map of where to get a bus pass and writes out exactly what to tell the clerk. of the island wi Lee circles spots along the map where I can get water or use the bathroom for free. Running out of papers, she paces around the apartment, straightening furniture and asking me about the mainland she answers in a slow rhythmic voice no matter what I say.
196 Then she sits right beside me and flips through a photo album of her Mojo artwork. A breeze fills the shaded room, providing a chorus for her understated explanations of her art. comforter with warm tea waiting on the coffee table and Mo jo ready to peck my eyeballs out. She rummages through her pantry then her refrigerator and retrieves a giant She wants to give me more, show me where to go, to come with me, b ut I must leave before I take too much. Halfway up the street I turn. Lee stands in the middle of the road. I wave. She stares, arms limp at her sides, unsure whether to run after me, or go back inside.
197 Chapter Twenty Four A crumpled truck stalls outside of a gas station. A local with a storm of white hair and broken teeth nods when I ask if he needs help. I push the truck a quarter mile while he attempts to pop the clutch. He stomps the break and waves me forward. If I give him I leave him strapped tow him down the road. Three teenage girls wearing clothes that are beyond their years, yet still too tight, stand opposite me on the road, hitchhiking. I give them a goofy grin. ays. the passing cars. The only result is a few angry shouts. No matter. I can cover dista nce on the island map as fast as I can cross the same space by car on a Texas map. I follow a sign down a long side street to a resort where I hide my pack beneath a pool chair, remove all but my board shorts, and shower beneath the open air faucet, lett ing the red dirt swirl around the sandy drain. Then, I recline in the sun to bake. No
198 toward me. A smile spreads beneath my army cap. He nods and continues on. I may not bl end in on the streets, but with a smile, I can pass for an eccentric hotel guest. line to hear about my adventures. As is our custom, they ask simple questions and I provide conc ise answers. handkerchief For m y father, movies are cultural events. Like me, he discusses life in terms of movies, and has the sometimes flattering habit of comparing people to movie stars. Legends of the Fall Back home, I would hav e secretly reveled in this comparison. Here, I feel like an actor must when admirers confuse him with the characters he plays.
199 Lazy sunlight streams through the lacey lobby curtains, spotlighting the clouds of dust flouncing through the vacant lounge. Ou tside, a few birds chirp of the coming dusk. ng because they dump most of it I trounce three miles down the highway chewing on a tremendous blade of grass to fit my vision of Huckleberry Finn and to keep my teeth from grinding. The road is littered with flattened and cured Cane toad carcasses. I kick them, sending the hides scraping across the asphalt and pinwheeling into the brush. At Lydgate State Park, a troop of hippies occupy a gazebo, eating, blowing smoke, and beating drums. I station myself at an adjacent stone chess ta ble, reading, looking over from time to time, smiling. A middle aged woman approaches. Dark nipples press through her dingy white tank top and her brown, sun fried hair matches the understated patches of her armpit hair. wer from a wooden bowl full of them. She laughs like an unabashed maniac.
200 I think of Odysseus on the island of the lotus eaters. I imagine this is some hallucinogen that will send me running mad around the island, chasing visions of the woman I left behind. Still, this would be about the same as my reality, though perhaps shrouded in a fuzzy halo. I chomp the flower. Catherine int roduces herself by telling me about her six children, four of whom she birthed in the ocean. I join the grubby troop where my main distinction is my serious lack of secondary hair and hemp jewelry. Everyone has at least one article of clothing missing to showcase deep tans. Adults on drugs and children on organic sugar highs color and paint a table covered in butcher paper. Three tins of organic and vegetarian food are picked over b y flies. A jug of cheap wine circulates. A tall, lanky Russian named Ivan with black kinky hair mixes reggae infused techno beats on his laptop while a middle aged tech hippie named Jeff projects blurred pictures from the last Burning Man Festival onto a s tained bed sheet undulating in the breeze. Leaf explains the various uses of hemp: jewelry, rope, immediately ten year old girl named S halyn Catherine sips from a bottle concealed in a brown bag as she cheers for her youngest son Copper, who runs naked through pool s of acrylic paint on the table, then circles the concrete until his feet loose color. For as loopy as Catherine
201 seems, she must have done something right to have raised these children. I prefer their schoolyard chats about what sports they play to the adu lt lectures on the necessity of with acrylic blips and the chaos of bright colors consumes the entire page in a muddy mess. agree. I excuse myself to finish the last of the food. halfway down his broad, fleshy back. owned Hi e. I say
202 s glassy eyes gaze into what he must assume is my soul. I can almost see him lose his train of thought. He extends his hand. Bull is the first person to ask my nam undecided who I want to be. This group has been so hospitable and genuine, at least in identity like them. I want to name myself. I want to be a Bull or a Copper. * The beach bathroom light drenches me in a puddle of yellow. I gargle with what I realize too late is reclaimed water. The taste magnifies the vegetables that I repeatedly belch. A teetering local h as trouble with the bathroom door. He glares at me a moment, then looks over his shoulder to a cluster of shadows roaring aside a grill.
203 I grab my pack and head off. He slams a full beer on the cement, the beer pulsing out. He stumbles back the way he came, drunkenly calling his friends. The sidewalk on the outer rim of the park is divided by two rows of thick, squatty pines that buffer the condos from the elements. I dash into the cover in the dark between street lamps and hunch on a bed of pine needles, gripping my knife. I should have waited before switching my contacts for my outdated glasses. Westerns never discuss what happens to d scuffle, glasses are the first thing to break, leaving you to track phantoms. As a boy my mother rarely got angry with my brother and me for fighting, but often for fighting before removing our glasses. The only benefit of this training was that I learned to read bodies instead of threats. really think it would take all of them? They circle back on the opposing sidewalk. For a l ong time I sit, listening then I wake hunched over my pack. Silence. I recline on the mattress of pine needles, in the warm den shielded from wind and rain. I give up the grip on my knife and tuck my hands between my thighs. *
204 fers a collection of hipster boutiques, surf shops, a library, southern BBQ, and Mexican food. I pass over a hostel for an open air coffee shop. My the barista as she brews a new pot. She slings me a cookie for free. I ask about a job. She slides me an application and leans over the counter to watch me complete it. I my expression. Down the road I duck into another resort. A pitchman expounds on the glories of timeshares to a small crowd that watches me push through. I crack open a can of pork and beans by the pool and spoon the cold mush as my feet soak in the hot tub. A manager turns down the voices on his walky talky to interact with me.
205 I wave him off with the truncated spoon attached to a keychain of other sawed off His lips move without forming words. I wave goodbye until he leaves. * Nursery rhymes rumble in my throat as I walk against traffic, chewing a blade of grass. I follow the beach back south, only to be separated from Lydgate Park by the mouth of the Wailua River. Impatient to walk back to the road, I wade into the water with my head below and my arms above. I rise to take huge gulps, then sink back, kicking and kicking until my feet find sand. On the opposing shore a Hawaiian girl with a flower in her hair prays in Hawaiian beside two kneeling blonde boys. Between them a gecko twitches on its back, unable to survive their play. * A hen and a rooster roost in the pine tree beside my head. The clapping beats of a luau and the smel l of cooked pork stews my senses. A Cane toad bellows and another creature rummages through the roughage. Footsteps crunch in the gravel, pause, and backtrack. Golf carts buzz by. I dream of calling a phone sex operator and Anezka answers.
206 I fling two finger sized slugs from my exposed ankles and lie back, breathing heavy. The scrub of trees extends over me, threading the stars. The jungle stinks of decay and rebirth the stench of unstoppable growth sprouting between asphalt cracks. This sam e force gnaws on me. Its dewy saliva coats me each morning, and its army of insects that of a warm body beside me. I imagine Anezka beside me, lying so still for so lo ng that the growth wiggles between our fingers, through our ribs, separating and intertwining us like rose and thorn bushes of fated lovers in forgotten fairytales. * A man with a dark wood tan sits a foot from me on the picnic table, staring at t he hustler, advertising for anonymous sex in a public park? Can I blame him? Another man joins us. He winces each time he slurps from his mammoth thermos. I nod. I sit, picking at my calluses.
207 I pull my shirt on. he sips. The other man nods with the waves. A woman in dark shades crosses the grass, perpetually sucking the straw of a large fast food drink. I nod, gripping my pack. * Anahola Mountains revolve as I hike around the gradual bend of Kuhio highway. Blues pours out the open window of a farm house. Modest collections of livestock watch me while chewing their cud. Fruit trees form piles of rotten produce. I punt s poiled mangos and leap the diversity of dead road kill cooking in the drainage ditch. I rest on the shaded benches at an isolated smoothie shack called The Fruit Farm. The place is constructed out of little more than treated plywood and a metal screen th at wraps around the kitchen. I had been walking since nine in the morning. The corkboard flyer board has no listings for jobs. I rip off the slips for organic produce, assuming these places are in need of organic laborers.
208 age woman with long dark dreadlocks who smokes behind the screened in kitchen. I run aside the highway, blinded by the sun. I run, pulling the straps tighter to keep the weight from pounding my lower back. I run against traffic through deep vegetation, with thorns and burs ripping my legs. From the mile markers, I make my first another smoothie shack. The worker points me half a mile down the road to a paint store in the corner of a noisy intersection. I sit waiting for two other men who pull up in cars to use the phone. She answers the third time I try. The traffic and wind make it nearly impossible to d the words will gain significance with reiteration.
209 asleep with your head on my shoulder in the back of cars. I miss taking your comforter to the park early Sunday mornings just to fall asleep in the cool mor ning sun and stuff The wind slows with the the albums I left behind, my favorite band the one she hates. She never understand my appreciation for sad songs. The music stops and the background noise eases. The white noise erases her goodbye. The automated operator comes on, telling me to hang up and to try again. I sit on the curb with my head in my hands, feeling the traffic and wind tug at my layers. repeating words until they run together, lose meaning, and become nothing but soothing sounds.
210 Chapter Twenty Five A burn of light rushes my closed eyes the flashlight. che I turn back to the closer threat, but refuse to look him in the eyes, which are blackened by the overhead light. Years of wrestling concentrate my eyes on his waist, tracking his hips. His weighted chest reverberates with his jumpy movements, and his steroid belly puffs to attention. Homem ade tattoos, stretch marks, and veins snake toward balled fists, stitching a body hardened on the salty seascape. With a fifty yard head start I could outrun most anyone, even with my pack, but hecked by his shooting hand, tucked behind his back, adjusting what is holstered in the waist band of his cutoff jean shorts.
211 Eyes shattered with broken blood vessel I pull off my stocking cap and clench it to keep my hand off my knife. nob Every night on the road I envisioned being found by just such a man. Part of me craved it, to be left alone with a swollen face and fresh scars. But as with all the fights I avoided in my youth, the aggressor merely pushes me, m akes me retreat inch by inch from a sturdy vision of myself. I unzip it and toss it over with the knife clipped in the pocket. I shuck it off, growing smaller and more exposed. I strip my shirt, shoes, then sock s, holding my arms out while he pats down my pants and knocks my crotch with the back of his hand. My clothes are piled before me. He makes me turn as he rifles through my things, telling me to keep my eyes on the sea. I listen for the dainty click of a ha when
212 she searches for reports of bodies washed ashore, when she flies out for an impromptu the report is supposed to say that all the bones in my fists were shatt ered, that my nails pierced in attempt to prevent the inevitable. My heart braces against my ribs. I stutter but find no answer. My arms hang out on an imaginary crossbeam. The chill of warm blood rushes to my nose in preparation for impact. Thoughts empty. I can see through the back of my head. My ears tingle. If he hits me, the sting would catapult my body into action, at least fo r a moment, or would it? Perhaps a head blow would simply make my body crumple. Which did I prefer, to watch myself be a coward, believing that the less I fought the less or to throw the first punch ? What will catapult me into action? If he was
213 threatening Anezka, maybe, I hoped I would act, but My head empties, save for the vision of its contents wetting the soft sand. I bite my lips like a mouth guard. He grabs my back pants pockets. His palm presses my temple. He dusts the sand that comes off on his shorts. A ragged speed boat rocks in the bay just beyond the slip. The sens ible thing to do would be to take me to sea and shoot me clean off the deck. Water absolves all guilt. Who would witness my disappearance at four in the morning from a lightless beach? Who would notice I was gone? Anezka would simply think I found someone else to obsess over and donated to science to be cut up exactly like a fish found washed up on the beach and studied b y marine biologists to understand why so many died the sam e way
214 A concentrated force jabs my skull. I could sense him looking around, growing almost angry at this reasoning. ds my pack. jabs me again, then orders me around with quick, military commands.
215 He strips my headlamp to light the path to the tree. The Kilauea lighthouse blips on the distant ridge. I point this out. The headlamp shoots back to me. My hands jump in front of my face. The light falls from my eyes to my hand. The lopsided ring looks black. Still, it means someone will notice if I vanish. I explained that I love Anezka, how I plan to marry her when I return. I believe it in that moment, when all I want is to be tucked in safely at her side. chested et you stole this ring off some kid and thought it was worth think of the postcards yet to arrive, leading Anezka back to me, how she will reread them, find in them some cryptic foresight into my coming death, how my words will speak from beyond the dead instead of just making her eyes roll, or will they? He l about marital status. I hand over my ID without a fuss after all that time practicing my danger, ideals are the first to crumble.
216 I remove my ID from the secret slit in the side of my medicine bag. I remove the hundred dollars. unfolds it. He studies the slip but there is little on it. The bare then dropping my head lamp. Darkness returns as they move away. I stand, waiting. Nothing but wind. none of their cop cousins will even bother to document my story? I do pushups to ease the itch of adrenaline telling me to run. If I was a drug runner
217 again, maybe this is just one more a survivor, neither too brave nor too timid. I persist by going unnoticed, by being underestimated and unthreaten