I had a terrible nightmare. I couldn’t breathe. I woke up next to Kala holding my throat in one hand and grasping for my breath in the air with the other hand. I felt like someone stole it from me and I could retrieve it out of thin air if I reached out hard enough.
Kala woke me up. I’m so glad he was there. I felt like I was dying in my dream. Like the life was slowly draining from me.
It started with me on the beach in Hanalei, admiring the green mountains that look like Puff the Magic Dragon. But then the mountains, or dragon, started moving. The mountain range shook like a dog that woke up from a nap and needs to change positions. It stood up and began to close in on me on the beach.
I panicked and got up to try to run, but realized the mountain range was around me on all sides. There was nowhere to escape to except for the ocean. I decided to run to the water but it looked choppy, like there was a high surf advisory. I ran towards it anyway. I looked back to see if the dragon was getting closer and saw Kala riding it’s back. It was bearing down on me, but he was on top of it. He was trying to tame it, I think.
I was too scared to see if he could stop it, so I dove head first into the ocean. I started swimming hard, doing freestyle strokes like I learned as a little girl in swimming lessons. But I couldn’t make any headway. The current was so strong, I stayed in the same spot. The waves were so big, I started swallowing water. So much that I stopped breathing.
I’ve always been scared of drowning in the ocean. Gary pounded into my head when I was younger how quickly the current can turn on you. It was happening in my dream when Kala shook me awake.
I forgot where I was in the moments after I woke up. I didn’t know the day, where I was, or why I was there. I think I expected to wake up in my bedroom in Venice, but instead I woke up to the surfing posters, and wood-paneled walls of Kala’s bedroom.
Once I focused on Kala’s face, I remembered everything. I remembered us rolling around on the sand under the night stars for what felt like hours the night before. No one bothered us after Paul and the drummer left us on the beach. Once we came out of our collective trance and wandered up to Kala’s house, all of the food and people had put themselves away. All that remained were the folding tables and chairs we sat at earlier.
All the lights were off inside his house, so we quietly snuck in through the kitchen and down the hallway to his bedroom, like we had a couple of nights before. But I was a different person this time. Not as nervous, I guess. Emboldened by him professing our meeting was meant to be and that we’d always be together. Maybe a bit broken by the argument with Gary, and seeking a deeper connection with someone other than my uncle.
Once Kala slowly pushed his squeaky bedroom door securely into it’s frame and hit the lock, I sort of attacked him. I grabbed him from behind and pulled him tightly to me, his back pressed against my chest. I pulled his yellow t-shirt up and off of his body, like I’d wanted to since the first time I saw him earlier that night. I covered the tattooed sun on his back with kisses and turned him around to face me. I knew when he faced me that we would be together that night. That we would connect like I’d never connected with anyone before.
Our tentacles locked together in those moments, and I mean locked. I didn’t feel like I had a choice but to stay pressed to his body in every way possible. We shimmied to his bed and fell together. We didn’t unlock our bodies until we were exhausted and sweaty. Afterwards, he jumped up and turned on a small rotating fan in the corner to cool us and the room.
“You’ve never done that before, right?” He asked me once he returned to the bed and pulled a thin sheet over us.
“No,” I said. “Never.”
We were both silent for awhile. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I was thinking that I finally knew what everyone talked about around me for years. Johanna, my other girlfriends in high school, the books I’ve read, and movies I’ve watched; but none of them really prepared me for that. And I had a sneaking suspicion that very few had experienced what I just had. That mine and Kala’s connection with our tentacles and family lines, was something only a select few on earth would ever enjoy.
I didn’t want to ask him the next question that came out of my mouth. But I had to.
“Have you ever done that before?” I asked.
I already knew the answer and regretted asking it as soon as it came out.
“Yes, I have,” he said reluctantly.
He didn’t sound proud of the fact. But he obviously felt compelled to be honest. I think I felt a literal pain in the general area of my heart when he admitted it. Why did I even ask?
“Josie?” He asked.
“Yeah, I am here,” I said, trying to cover my disappointment.
“You didn’t think I was a virgin, did you?” He asked sitting up and looking directly at me. “I haven’t been for a long time.”
I don’t think I needed to hear that. So, for some reason I asked another question I didn’t want to know the answer to.
“Well, how many girls have you been with?” I asked.
Why did I ask him that? I still don’t know.
“Do you really want to know?” He asked.
“Yeah, I do,” I said.
“Well, like, 10, I guess,” he said.
“10!” I shouted, sitting upright in bed, the thin sheet falling to the side of my body.
“Shhhhhhh!” He whispered. “You’ll wake my parents.”
I clapped my hand to my mouth.
“I’m so sorry,” I said quietly, laying back down and pulling the sheet up around me.
“I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I didn’t expect that answer.”
“Josie, I’m 21,” he said, flustered. “We aren’t kids, I don’t know what you expected.”
I guess I don’t know, either. I know I’m a late bloomer but jeez, 10 people? I don’t even want to know with who.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “You didn’t do anything wrong. My perspective is just different or something. I’ve never gotten close to anyone like I’ve gotten to you. I can’t expect you to have had the exact same experience as me.”
He sighed out long. I couldn’t tell what kind of a sigh it was though. Regret? Anger?
“I’ve been looking for you in all of those girls,” he said, turning to face me on the bed. “It took me all this time to find you. I never want to be with anyone else again.”
His admission surprised me at first and then after some thought, made me feel a little better. But the idea of him being with 10 girls other than me was still raw and exposed at the back of my mind when he rolled over to face me and our tentacles connected again. I scooted closer to him and we fell asleep that way. Until he woke me up from my choking nightmare.
“You’re going to be OK,” Kala says, smoothing my hair as he holds me in his bed. “It was just a dream.”
I lay there catching my breath for a minute.
“It was a nightmare,” I say. “I was drowning. The mountains came to life and you were there.”
“I was?” He asks.
“Yeah,” I say, shaking my head affirmatively. “I think you were trying to help me but you couldn’t reach me. I swallowed a bunch of water.”
I start to shake at the memory of not being able to catch my breath.
“It’s OK, it’s over now,” he says, kissing my forehead and holding me tight.
I catch my breath and settle into his arms. Memories of the two of us in the bed together hours earlier float in my mind. They comfort me as the memories of the nightmare start to slip away.
“I’m so tired,” I say absently.
“Me too,” he says. “Just go back to sleep, I’m right here.”
But I’m not sure I can. I can tell by the light outside that the sun will rise soon. I feel like I need to get out of Kala’s house. I can’t do the walk of shame to breakfast again with his parents. Especially after what we did a few hours ago. It’s going to be painted all over my face.
“Kala,” I say, shaking him awake. “I think I need to go. I don’t want to be here when your parents wake up.”
“What?” He asks in a groggy voice. “Why? Just stay.”
“It’s too awkward,” I say, sitting up. “I can’t face them. It’s just too much right now.”
“Well,” he says, sitting up with me. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
The thought of going back to the motel and running into Gary sounds terrible.
“Maybe to the beach? Watching the sunrise sounds good,” I say, remembering all of the stars in the sky last night.
“Right now?” Kala asks. “Dude, I am exhausted.”
“You don’t have to come,” I tell him, pushing the sheet off my body and scooting to the bottom of the bed.
“Wait,” he says. “You can’t go alone. It’s the middle of the night.”
“Well then come with me,” I say with a smile.
I grab my tank top off of the floor and pull it over my head.
“Where’s my skirt?” I ask as I squint and scour his floor.
“Uh, I don’t know,” he says, rubbing his eyes and yawning. “Try by the door.”
I tiptoe towards the door and see my denim skirt laying flat on the floor. I grab it and slide it up over my feet and legs until it rests on my hips. I slip on my new tropical Vans, and look in the mirror to smooth my hair. It’s dark in the room, but my eyes quickly adjust to the outline of my messed hair.
I look closer to see the details of my makeup, and what I see in the mirror surprises me. I actually think I look older. Or more mature. Or something like that. Is that real? Or is it just a shadow on my face?
Maybe I just feel older. I can’t actually look older than I did yesterday. I smooth my hair with my fingers but it’s so tangled, I can only do so much. I’m going to need a brush to get through all of this hair.
As I’m staring at myself in the mirror, Kala slips behind me, putting his hands on my hips and setting his chin on my shoulder. He looks into the mirror and stares at my new, grown-up face and my tangled hair.
“The most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” he says.
I stare into his eyes in the mirror and he presses his chest against my back. I close my eyes and lean back into him. I feel his tentacles pushing at my back. It’s an odd sensation as I’ve only felt them on my stomach, where they somehow naturally connect. On my back, I feel six individual appendages, pushing gently. As Kala kisses my neck, the pressure from the tentacles becomes too much, so I turn my body to face him.
With the pressure off of my back and my body turned, I feel more comfortable. Kala presses his chest to mine. I feel his six tentacles connect with my six and begin to kiss him. I start to float away somewhere, but then remember I want to go to the beach. I pull away from his kiss to see a familiar dazed look on his face.
“Kala,” I whisper.
He opens his eyes.
“Let’s go to the beach,” I whisper.
“No,” he says. “Just stay here with me. Let’s go back to bed.”
“I don’t want to,” I say gently.
I take both of his hands and slowly push my chest off of his. I carefully back away from him for several steps, still holding his fingertips. To my surprise, our tentacles don’t disconnect. I remember when we walked home from Da Nui the other night, connected at the hip, and I thought I felt the cool air on my outstretched tentacles. I’d forgotten about that until now.
“Kala,” I say. “How long can we stay like this? How far away can we be?”
“What?” he asks in a distracted way.
“Kala,” I repeat softly. “Can you hear me? What’s going on?”
He says something I can’t understand; something in Hawaiian, I think.
“I’m just out of it, I’m so tired,” he says.
I let go of one of his hands and turn him back towards the bed with his other hand. I walk him there and push down on his shoulder so he sits. He obliges with the same dazed look on his face. I drop his other hand.
“I’m going to try to back away, now,” I say. “Don’t go anywhere. I’m not leaving. I just want to try something.”
I close my eyes and concentrate on controlling the tentacles. Can I actually do that? I picture six tentacles, long, smooth, and grayish in color with pink veins. I see them in my mind attached to Kala’s stomach, locked in place by the stubs of his six tentacles that are barely peaking out of his body.
With my eyes closed, I slowly take one step back. I take another step back and then another, all the while concentrating on staying connected to his tentacles. I see my tentacles floating in the air outside of my body, and growing longer with each step I take backwards. I focus all of my energy on my tentacles staying attached to his, and walk backwards by memory.
My heel softly hits his bedroom door and I open my eyes. Kala is still sitting on his bed but his eyes are closed. Is he asleep? I can’t tell in the dark. I put my hands out in front of my stomach where I visualized the tentacles. There’s nothing there to touch, but I move my hands along the spots in the air where I saw them in my mind.
I’m sure we are still connected. There’s no thrashing or longing in my stomach. Only that calm, peaceful serenity I feel when we are connected.
“Kala,” I whisper.
He doesn’t respond and continues to sit on his bed.
“Kala,” I whisper a bit louder.
Suddenly, I see the whites of his eyes in the dim room.
“What’s going on?” He mumbles.
And then it happens. Our tentacles disconnect with a snap, and the breath is knocked out of me. I fall to the ground but make no sound. I writhe on the floor, trying to catch my breath so I can cry out in pain.
Then, Kala is beside me, sitting me up. He pushes his chest to mine and our tentacles connect. Air flows into my lungs all at once. I take big gulps and hold his shoulders to steady myself.
“What happened?” He asks.
He looks more alert now.
“I, I,” I stutter.
But I can’t speak yet.
“Just breathe,” He says, rubbing my shoulders and arms.
“I was trying to see how long we can stay connected,” I squeak out. “I made it to the door.”
“You did?” He asks, surprised. “We can do that?”
“I guess so,” I whisper, breathing out heavily.
My breath starts to come back more evenly.
“Why did you fall?” He asks.
“I think because we both stopped concentrating or something,” I say.
“But I wasn’t concentrating,” he says. “I think I was asleep.”
“Yeah, you looked like it,” I say.
I sit up straighter and lightly cough into my elbow. I don’t want to wake his family.
“I stopped concentrating,” I say. “I heard a snap this time when we disconnected. It hurt like hell.”
“I didn’t feel it very much,” he says with a shrug. “I don’t know why.”
“Me neither,” I say, shaking my head. “Do you know how long or how far away we can be from each other and stay connected?”
“No,” he says. “I have no idea.”
I’m surprised he can’t answer my question. I guess I assumed he’d know everything about this weird pili thing that I somehow came to accept in the last couple of days.
“Get dressed, let’s go to the beach,” I say in a more authoritative tone than I intended.
“Awww come on,” He says, flopping back onto the floor. “Let’s just go back to bed.”
“No,” I say gently, although I’m getting frustrated. “I want to try something. I think it might help us at Da Nui tonight.”
He opens his eyes wider in the dark.
“Oh,” he says, sitting up quickly. “OK, that’s cool.”
I stand up and our tentacles gently disconnect.
I find his yellow t-shirt on the floor and throw it to him. He puts it over his head to cover his body.
“I don’t know where your shorts are,” I say, looking around.
“They’re here,” he says, pointing to a spot near me on the floor.
I reach down and grab them. I set them on his legs and lean over to kiss him.
“Thank you for coming with me,” I say.
“You’re welcome,” He says, sliding the shorts over his legs. “You owe me a coffee, though.”
“Coffee? You came to the right girl,” I say with a laugh. “Do you know I’m a barista back home?”
“You are?” He asks, genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, I can work that espresso machine like no one’s business,” I say with a wink in my voice.
“Damn, I’ve never been more interested in a latte before in my life,” he says, standing up and putting his arms around my waist.