I gave my offering of gin to Pele. And it was less dramatic than I thought it would be. After mine and Kala’s long-distance connection on the beach under the sunrise, we walked to the China Young Village.
It was exhilarating to be up so early in the morning. There were no cars, and no people around; just the roosters crowing and Kala and I walking through his neighborhood.
We went back to the little shop where we first met to buy the gin for Pele. Walking in and seeing the familiar t-shirts, bobble heads, and liquor bottles made me feel old for some reason. Like the last time I’d been there was a year ago. Even though it had only been a week.
At first I felt nervous buying the gin, especially so early in the morning. And then there’s the fact that I’m not 21. But Kala is 21, and the lady who checked us out somehow knew it was for Pele. She’s obviously been through this before.
“An offering for Pele?” The nice older lady behind the counter asked.
“Yeah,” Kala said as he distractedly fished money out of his wallet.
“That’s good,” she said approvingly, as she put the small bottle of gin in a brown paper sack. “She’ll bring good fortune and protect you.”
“Mahalo,” Kala said.
“Mahalo,” I said, parroting Kala because I was nervous and didn’t know what else to say.
I stood there like a kid who doesn’t want to get in trouble. But the lady behind the counter understanding the gin was for Pele made me feel less like I was going to the principle’s office.
We walked back to the beach hand-in-hand as little Hanalei started to wake up. There were more people roaming the streets by the time we made it back to the beach, and even a few surfers waxing their boards on the sand.
Once we reached the beach and the lifeguard tower where we met to surf a few days earlier, Kala asked where I’d seen Pele. I remembered the spot specifically. The incident with his mom and sister cemented that area of the beach in my brain way more than when I saw her while I was surfing with Kala.
“Follow me,” I told Kala as I pulled his arm behind me.
I used the ocean and grass behind us for reference and got pretty close to where I saw her when I broke down on the sand in tears thinking I’d seen my mom.
“Right here,” I told Kala.
I looked at the mountains and back to the ocean, sure I was in the exact spot.
“Now what do we do?” I asked him.
“Here,” he said, pushing the bottle of gin at me.
“Just pour the whole bottle in the sand where you saw her,” he said. “You can say a few words if you want to, or just pour it out. It’s up to you.”
“OK,” I said doubtfully, taking the bottle from him.
I twisted the cap off and looked out at the ocean.
“Pele,” I said to the ocean as the light breeze coming off of it floated through my long hair. “It would be my honor if you would protect and guide me.”
Then I poured the entire pint of gin into the sand. The sand quickly soaked it up, leaving the remnants of a wet spot I was sure would be completely gone within the next half hour.
“Is that it?” I asked Kala, turning my focus back in his direction.
“That’s it,” he said with his beautiful smile.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over how cute he is. I could stare at him all day long.
“Well, that was easy,” I said, grabbing his hand and walking back towards the parking lot and street.
We walked slowly back to his house. He asked me to come in and have breakfast with his family, but I still wasn’t ready. Also, I needed to see Gary. Making the offering to Pele forced me to remember how Gary comforted me when I thought I saw my mom in that spot. I don’t think anyone could’ve made me feel better in those moments. Maybe Kala could’ve, but Gary was there to hold me in his arms and take me to safety.
I was still mad at him for the way he reacted the night before, but I can’t deny the discomfort I feel being at odds with him. I figured we could reach some sort of understanding if we just talked in a calm way. So, I left Kala with a kiss that might’ve lasted too long for the middle of the street in front of his house.
I walked back to the motel with a spring in my step, as Gary would say. But as I got closer to the motel, I started to feel strange. It’s hard to explain. I was feeling the tentacles rumbling in my stomach, but not in the same way I feel when I’m near Kala.
When I’m close to Kala, the tentacles almost create a hungry feeling. And that feeling is only satisfied when we connect. I can hold off on the hunger for awhile, like you can when you haven’t eaten all day and are starving. But eventually you become ravenous and could eat a whole pizza. If I hold off on connecting with Kala while I am around him for too long, he becomes the whole pizza I could eat and connecting with him isn’t even a choice anymore.
But this feeling wasn’t a hunger in the tentacles. It was almost like a nausea. Like the tentacles were making me sick. It sounds ridiculous and I can’t explain it, but it made my stomach ache terribly. And it seemed to get worse the closer I got to the motel.
It got so bad, that I nearly tripped walking up the short steps to the sliding glass door of our little room. I caught myself on the railing and then stopped to catch my breath as I bent over at the waist holding my stomach.
It was bad, and if I’d been thinking straight I would’ve ran away. I would’ve realized that the pain got deeper the closer I got to our room. But all I was thinking about was being able to lay down on the couch and maybe go to sleep. Followed by possibly throwing up in our little bathroom.
As I was catching my breath on the landing of the lanai, something whipped across the inside of the glass slider door that caught my eye. It’s movement was so quick, I thought I was hallucinating for a second. Which, with the events of the last week, wouldn’t be that strange.
Now that I’ve thought about it, I was hallucinating in a way. But it’s more that I was seeing something no one else could see. Something that was actually there, but that maybe only I could see. I don’t want to ever see it again. Because I’m not sure my relationship with Gary can ever be the same again.
I slowly stood up on the deck of the lanai, clenching my waist, and looked over at the sliding glass door. I squinted against the sunlight reflecting off the glass and saw Gary standing shirtless with part of his back and the side of his body facing me. The couch bed that I slept on all week was pulled out and someone was laying on it. I instinctively knew I was seeing something that should’ve been private, but I couldn’t turn away. I wish I would’ve.
I temporarily forgot the pain in my stomach and tiptoed a few steps closer to the door so I could see what was happening. I wanted to see who was on my bed and find out why Gary was standing in the corner.
What I saw was a lady laying on the bed with most of her clothes off, except for a small pair of pink underwear. I didn’t recognize her and still don’t know who she was, but she didn’t look that much older than me. She had a short brown bob that was splayed out over my white pillow, and she laid there with her eyes closed. It looked like she had a glow around the outline of her body. And then there were the long, slim arms that were attached across her body.
My mind was so scrambled by this sight that it went to weird places. Am I seeing a human octopus? Does this lady have six arms? Nothing made sense. But from what I remember, I saw long slim appendages attached to either side of her neck, under her armpits, attached to her breasts, to her stomach, to the inside of her legs, and to her ankles. Twelve in all – and they looked like they were sucking something out of her.
They were pulling something from her that looked like a liquid filled with light. I realized those slim tubes weren’t coming from her. She wasn’t a human octopus. She was a donor of some kind. The slim appendages belonged to someone else.
I traced the fleshy tubes as they floated in the air, following them from her body back to my uncle in the corner. I’m almost certain they originated from him. Came out of his body, to attach to this woman. They started at the top of his chest, high up near his shoulders, and went all the way down to his stomach above his pelvis. There were 12 in all, six on each side of his torso.
Thankfully, Gary didn’t see me. He was looking at the ceiling. I think his eyes were closed. They both looked like they were sleeping maybe, or in an altered state of some kind.
I felt instantly terrified, and the pain in my stomach became overwhelming. I leaped from the lanai as quickly and as quietly as I could to vomit in the bushes covered in fuchsia flowers nearby. I wretched at least four times, as quietly as I could. I wanted to get out of there and away from the lanai so bad. Not just because I felt guilt and shame at what I saw, but I was also scared of what Gary would do if he knew what I saw. Would he rage at me? Would he be sad? I had no idea, but I didn’t want to deal with either of them.
I finished barfing and quietly slipped away from the motel. I kept dragging myself up the street, back towards Kala’s. Once I was a couple of blocks away, the pain and nausea disappeared. I felt normal again and was able to reorder my thoughts better.
I started to wonder if someone else passed by our lanai, would they have seen the floating, fleshy tubes in the air that I saw? Or would they just see my uncle standing in the corner and a young woman laying topless on the bed? For some reason, I feel sure that no one would’ve been able to see what I saw. That I only saw what I saw because of where we are, and what I’ve been through this past week.
I’m certain that If I’d witnessed this scene a week or two ago in Venice, it might’ve ended in an embarrassing “Gary close the curtains you perv” conversation instead of “Gary are you a freaking monster” conversation that I’m now having in my head as I pace the streets near the Hanalei Inn.
I’m barely thinking about how young the woman looked (my age) or that Gary’s already hooking up with someone else. These are things that would normally bother me a lot. But all I can think about is what I saw. The woman on the bed looked peaceful but what was happening to her? What was he doing to her?
Gary said he wouldn’t see the neighbor, Janice, again. Did he do that to Janice, too? That thing with those wormy arms coming out of his body? If he did, why wouldn’t he want to see her again?
I feel like I’ll never get these questions answered. Who am I going to ask, anyway? I feel half-crazy just seeing what I saw. I can’t talk about this with anyone. Not Gary. Not Kala. No one.
Then my practical brain kicks in. I need to shower. I need to change my clothes. I’m practicing with Mele on the beach in a couple of hours for our show tonight. I need a nap. I need food. All of these things need to happen at the motel.
I’ve got to stop wandering around and figure this out. This is my last full day and night in Kauai. I can’t waste it pacing the streets worried about this. As freaked out as I am, I have to get back to the motel. Which means I have to call Gary. I need to send a warning shot before I just show up again.
I’m not going to think about that weird scene anymore right now. I’m not going to think about how scared and confused I am. I just need to get what I need from the motel. Then I can go back to Kala and try to forget what I saw.
I push the call button on Gary’s contact and the line rings once, then twice. Then Gary answers.
“Josie!” He says in an extra jovial way. “Where you been little girl?”
“Gary?” I ask.
I’m stunned by his cheerfulness after his blow up last night. And after what I just saw.
“Yeah, you called me silly,” he says with a laugh.
“You’re not pissed?” I ask.
I guess I’m getting right to the point.
“Nah,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m sorry about last night. We need to talk, but I’m not mad. I had a lot of time to think. I overreacted.”
“Yeah, I’d say so, Gary,” I say sternly. “That was so embarrassing.”
“Oh you’re always embarrassed about everything,” he says teasingly.
“Gary, I am not,” I say, perplexed. “That was humiliating. And you getting mad at Kala really pissed me off. He’s a good guy, Gary. I love him.”
Gary sighs and pauses. I can’t believe I just admitted that to him. But it’s true, I really do love Kala.
“I know you do,” he says in a more serious tone. “I think that’s part of the problem. I didn’t expect this and I’m not ready for it.”
“Gary,” I say, and then he interrupts me.
“Let me finish,” he says. “That’s my problem, not yours. You’re an adult and I can tell Kala is a good guy. I know he genuinely cares about you. It’s just going to take me some time to get used to. That’s all.”
“He thinks you don’t like him now,” I say. “I want you to be nice to him. His family has been so good to me. I want you to get along with him.”
“I’ll apologize, OK?” Gary says. “Will that help?”
I ponder how him apologizing would even work.
“Sure, that would help,” I say. “But I need your guarantee you won’t blow up like that again in front of him or his family. You really hurt me, Gary. You can’t act like that towards people I care about.”
“I know, Josie,” he says. “I’m really sorry. Why don’t you come back to the motel so we can talk?”
“I’m actually on my way,” I lie.
I’m really only a block away and have been pacing for at least 30 minutes in the general area.
“Are you decent?” I ask.
He laughs heartily.
“Yep, I’m more than decent,” He says. “Showered and ate already so you can use the facilities. You want me to make you some breakfast?”
“Yeah, can you make that brown gravy?” I ask, thinking of the delicious breakfast Kala’s mom made the other day.
“Oh, that’s a tall order, little girl,” he says. “Why don’t I order you some breakfast if you want that gravy. I’ll get you a Moco Loco. I’ll go pick it up while you make your way back. Sound good?”
“Yep, that works,” I say.
The food sounds amazing. I am absolutely starving after vomiting up everything that was in my stomach. But I’m timid about this situation. I’m actually not sure I can trust Gary. I can somehow admit to myself that talking to him was a relief, even though I’m totally disturbed by what I saw him doing with that woman.
“OK, I’ll leave the slider unlocked,” he says. “See you in a few.”
“Bye,” I say.
I end the call and stay put on the south side of the motel. I’m going to wait until I see his car pull away before I approach the slider. Having the place empty when I get there sounds much better than having an encounter with him right now.
I wait about five minutes and then see our small rental car pull out of the parking lot onto the street. Once I see it disappear down the road, I walk towards the slider. I slowly approach it expecting to see some weird scene again, but I see nothing of the sort. I peer through the glass and see the bed is now pushed back into the couch and everything is where it’s supposed to be. My suitcase sits shut on the floor in the corner of the room where Gary stood with his eyes closed a short time ago.
I slide open the door and am surprised at how normal it feels inside. There’s no strange buzz in the air. No weird smell, except for the the scent of syrup and toasted Eggo’s Gary must’ve eaten before I called him.
I breathe out hard and tears start to run from my eyes. My hands are shaking. I need to sit down.
I plop onto the couch and take some deep breaths. I was really scared of what I might walk into. I didn’t realize how scared I was until I saw everything back to normal.
I put my hands on my legs and lower my head. I breathe in through my nose slowly, hold it for a few seconds, and then blow out through my mouth long and slow. I do that ten times and then feel a deeper sense of calm.
I need to shower. I need to get dressed. Gary will be back with my food soon. I’m making a checklist in my mind. If I focus on my to-do list, maybe I won’t have to think about the lady who was laying on this couch not long ago. Maybe I won’t have to keep wondering if she is OK. Or even alive.
No. No. I am not going there. Gary wouldn’t hurt someone in that way. Remember, he said what he does with women is an “even exchange.” That means no one is dying. The woman looked peaceful, like she was sleeping. And Gary seems energized and fresh. Is that what him being with women does? Energizes him? Makes all the bad feelings go away?
He certainly seems 100% less mad about Kala and I than he did the night before. This is what he does? He connects with them in some way and they give something to him. Does he even have sex with these women?
Ewww. I can’t think about that. The rest of it is weird enough. Truth be told, what I saw gave me the same feeling walking in on him having sex with someone would give me. Except for the violent vomiting.
“You go back to her and I go back to … blaaaaaaack,” I hear someone singing.
Is that Gary? It’s getting closer. I strain to listen.
Shit. It is Gary.
I jump up without thinking and run for the bathroom.
“We only said goodbye with words, I died a hundred tiiiiiiimes,” he sings.
He’s singing? He’s singing Amy Winehouse? He really is in a good mood. Hearing him so happy is strange and slightly eerie knowing what I know now.
I slam the bathroom door shut behind me, lock it, and turn on the shower in a quick motion. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just not ready to see him.
I throw my clothes on the floor and slip into the tub and shower.
“Josie!” Gary yells. “I got your Loco Moco!”
“OK!” I yell back.
I’m standing in the shower with the lukewarm water rolling down my hair. I didn’t even wait for the water to warm up, and I start to shiver as the water penetrates my hair and touches my back.
How am I going to face Gary? I’ve never considered myself good at acting, but I think it’s time to give it a shot. I guess I’ll find out how well Gary knows me. And if he’s able to see through the chipper facade that will hide me being terrified of him.