Me: Kala, can you talk?
Kala: yeah. Can I call you in a bit?
Me: sure. This might sound weird but my uncle wants to meet your family
Kala: K. I’ll call you later.
But then he didn’t call. Or text. And still didn’t call. At least three hours have gone by and I haven’t heard from him. I don’t want to text him back because he was busy when I texted him the first time. But now that he isn’t getting back to me, I’m feeling a little bit humiliated. It reminds me of why I hate dating.
Gary went to see his lady friend across the street. I did a really good job of not rolling my eyes or making any rude comments when he told me he was going to her house. It turns out she has a name too: Janice.
Bleh. I don’t want to be a bitch and I’m trying to move on from these feelings about Gary, so I don’t want to think about it too much. But he’s been gone for a long time and Kala won’t get back to me. I tried to Face Time Johanna and I think she’s working a shift cause she didn’t answer or text me back.
I feel stir crazy. I’m not so sure I should be alone right now. I’m trying to keep myself from googling anything about my dad. It’s really hard but I don’t want to upset myself more, especially when I’m all alone.
But then I started thinking. What if there’s something about my mom in the articles online about Christopher Doom? What if there’s something about me being born?
Then I thought, what if there’s not? Would that hurt even more to know that my mom and I were a secret?
I can’t stand it. I have to do some googling. I’ll give myself a time limit or an article limit. I just need to know more. My brain is hungry for information and it’s all at my fingertips. It’s a curse and a gift, I guess.
I google “Christopher Doom” and “girlfriend” and hold my breath.
Images pop up of my dad with several different women, but none of them are my mom. Didn’t Gary say they were in love for a long time? It sort of seemed like he meant they’d been together for a long time but none of the women in the pictures is my mom.
I change “girlfriend” to “baby” and hold my breath again.
I sort through the searches and there’s nothing significant that makes any sense. Stuff is coming up about a Sound Carnage song with the word “baby” in the title that goes down a rabbit hole of fans interpreting the lyrics, but no mention of Christopher having any kids.
I click the home button on my phone and say, “Siri, did Christopher Doom have any children?”
After a few seconds, Siri says “here’s what I found” and offers up a couple of Reddit boards with discussion topics about Christopher Doom and a “secret” child.
I click on the top result and it links to a forum about Christopher having a secret child with a model he was dating. There’s a picture of her with a small belly that apparently fueled the rumors, but no resolution as to whether they had a child or not.
So, I guess there’s no information about me or my mom in relation to Christopher Doom on google. Or at least at the top of the search results. That doesn’t make any sense to me. How could there not be one photo of my mom and my dad together? All of these pictures of him with models show up. What about my mom?
I set my phone down and sigh. I feel like I need a phone detox. Since I’ve been here and joined Snapchat, I’ve been on my phone way more than normal. I don’t like it. Especially when I’m surrounded by such beauty. Sitting here in the motel room with my nose buried in my phone is exactly why Gary and Mom never had social media, and I totally get it.
But how in the hell am I going to learn more about my dad? His parents are dead, he’s dead and anyone in my family that knew him is dead except for Gary. Is my only source of information going to be old rock magazine articles or rumors on Reddit? There’s got to be more out there. Someone out there who can tell me more. I just have no idea who.
A realization hits me like a cold, wet slap in the face. I need to go surfing. This antsy, claustrophobic feeling will be cured by the calm Hanalei Bay and some sunshine. Forget about Kala. Forget about Christopher, or my dad. Forget about Gary and Janice. Ewww.
I get up and change into my swimsuit, slather sunscreen sloppily on my face and body and write Gary a quick note. I am not texting him while he’s with the neighbor. I don’t want to interrupt them and don’t want to break his vibe.
I grab a tiny purse from my suitcase and shove my phone and some cash inside. I step outside the slider, slam the door shut, and take a deep breath of fresh air. I can already feel the sun beating on my face and shoulders and it feels like it’s cleansing the darkness away. I adjust my sunglasses and take off walking to the same area Kala and I surfed. I know there’s a surfboard rental right by the park.
The now-familiar crunching of the gravel road beneath my flip flops is comforting in some way. It feels like what walking through your home neighborhood should sound like. I can feel the texture of the gravel on the bottom of my feet through the flimsy rubber of my shoes. Sharp points of tiny rocks feel like they’ll pierce the flesh of my feet, but as my foot advances another step, they prove too dull to get through the barrier of my shoes.
As I continue on, I hear familiar sounds of families – kids laughing and squealing, music that sounds like reggae coming from nearby houses, smells of barbecued food. This feels like home, but it’s no home I’ve ever known.
My neighborhood in Venice isn’t like this at all. It has a more sterile vibe when it comes to friendliness and homeyness. People mainly keep to themselves. You don’t hear kids playing, or smell food cooking. The most I ever hear is a late-night party from some of the younger people on our street. But this little area of Hanalei seems like what life is supposed to be like. Especially when you’re a kid growing up.
Two young boys pass me on bicycles – one holding a surfboard in his arm as he holds his bike handle in the other. They’re shirtless and in shorts with flip flops on their feet. They laugh and smile as they roll along and I imagine what their lives must be like. Filled with a mom and dad and grandparents who are alive. Trips to the beach with friends and homemade Hawaiian meals like I had at Kala’s this morning.
Oh Kala, I wonder if he’s texted me back? I’m not checking. And I put my phone on silent too. I need to disconnect from all of the dings and alerts.
I’m oddly starting to feel like I am a part of this place. Like I belong. And now that I feel that, I’m realizing I’ve never felt it before. Not like this anyway. As I look around, I see people who look like me. Who welcome me. I can feel their spirit and love for me. Like Kala’s parents. They instantly accepted me into their home without question. Like I was supposed to be there. Like I belonged there. I don’t want to lose this feeling, but I know we only have a few days left here.
How can that be right? We have to go home soon? I can’t imagine it now. Working at Kava Kava. Living in our house in Venice. I don’t want to leave here. I don’t want to leave Kala. I miss Johanna but maybe she would want to move here? Probably not. Her family is on the mainland. I don’t know. I’m just dreaming but could I live here? Is this where I am supposed to be? Where I was supposed to be all along?
I’m rounding the corner to the park and beach where Kala and I surfed and I can hear the waves lapping the shore. Now I can see the blue waters of Hanalei Bay. The beach isn’t crowded even though it’s the middle of the day. I love that about this area too – no big crowds like back home.
I see the sign for surfboard rentals and walk towards the young man sitting in a folding chair in front of a row of surfboards.
“Aloha!” I say to him.
“Aloha ‘auinala!” He replies. “You need a board today?”
“Yeah, I’m looking for a longboard,” I tell him.
“Oh sure, come and take a look,” he says with a motion of his hand.
The young man looks like he could be friends with Kala – he’s about his age and has the same vibe. What am I thinking? He probably is friends with Kala. This is a small community and I am starting to learn that everyone knows each other.
“What do you think about this one?” He asks. “It’s about nine-and-a-half feet. You’ve surfed before, right?”
“Yeah, I have,” I say with a nod.
“OK, I’d recommend a longer one if you were a beginner,” he says with a smile. “This is a noserider. You like to walk the nose?”
“Yeah, that’s how my uncle taught me,” I say.
“This yellow one will be perfect then,” he says as he pulls out a long, worn-in, yellow surfboard from the bunch.
“Thanks,” I say as I rummage in my tiny purse for money. “How much?”
“I can do $20 for the day or $50 for the next three days,” he says.
“Let’s do $20 for the day,” I tell him as I fish out a 20-dollar-bill from my purse and hand it to him.
“Mahalo,” he says as he takes the money. “What’s your name?”
“Josie,” I say as I take the outstretched board.
“Where you from?” He asks.
“California,” I say, tucking the board under my arm.
“Good luck,” he says with a nod. “A hui hou.”
“A hui hou,” I say back with a smile.
I turn and walk further down the beach. I want to find an isolated area to lay down my purse and shirt. I’m a little nervous about leaving money and my phone alone on the beach but I think it will be OK here.
The beach isn’t very crowded so it’s not hard to find a big empty spot near the water. I tuck my sunglasses in my purse and drop it down on the sand. I pull my t-shirt up over my head and put it on top of my purse to hide it. I kick off my flip flops close to the shirt in the sand and am satisfied no one will bother my little pile. I pick up the yellow surfboard, tuck it under my arm and walk towards the nearby water.
I look around at the green mountains that surround the bay like a crescent. I remember Kala’s story about “Puff the Magic Dragon” and the big green mountain. Now that I’m in the bay, I can see where the mountain descends into the sea and how the rolling hills look like the swell of a head and then a snout dropping into the water. I can see exactly what Peter, Paul and Mary meant.
I step into the water and it isn’t warm. It’s not freezing cold either, like the water in California usually is. It’s temperate enough that I can just walk in, and don’t need to take my time adjusting. I wade in until I’m waist deep and then hop onto the board, lay flat on my stomach, and start paddling out. I see a group of surfers in the distance but I don’t want to go out that far today. I just want to catch some of the gentle, rolling waves that blow into the bay every now and then.
Once I’m satisfied I’m out far enough, I stop paddling, flip onto my back and look up at the sky. My feet and hands dangle in the water as I squint against the bright sunlight. I close my eyes and lay there as the sea bobs me around.
I start replaying the events of the last couple of days in my mind. It seems like six months since Gary’s art show, even though it’s been less than a month. And it feels like we’ve been in Kauai for way longer than a week. The passage of time is so strange when you experience trauma or grief, I guess. It slows down in a way that’s unrecognizable.
I think about my normal life working in Kava Kava and going to the beach with Gary in Venice. Those days and years whirred by. But since I’ve come here, every day feels like a week. Is this what life will be like now? Or just while I am here?
As I lay here, I can’t imagine going back to my life in Venice. After what I’ve found out about my family and about myself since being here, I’m not sure I belong there. In fact, I don’t think I ever belonged there.
I feel the energy of the gentle waves picking up power and I can tell instinctively that a nice swell will come in soon that could carry me to shore. I flip over on my stomach and paddle out a bit more. I turn the board to face the beach and wait for the familiar momentum of a wave picking up steam behind me.
As I feel the push of the water at the back of the board, I start to paddle towards the shore. As the push becomes stronger, I place my hands flat on the board and quickly pick up my feet to stand on top of the board. I bend my knees and the little wave catches me and pushes me closer to the shore.
I look up and see a woman on the shore in a white long dress with long dark hair. It looks like she’s watching me but she’s far enough away that I can’t make out her features. I focus on balancing and staring at her as the wave pushes me closer to her and the shore.
As I near the beach, the woman turns to walk away.
“Wait,” I yell, without thinking.
Where did that come from?
“Hey,” I yell in her direction, but she doesn’t respond.
Suddenly the gentle waves I craved aren’t strong enough or fast enough. I can’t get to the shore quick enough to catch her. And for some reason, I need to talk to her.
I refocus on my balance and make a plan to ride the wave in all the way to the sandy beach. I’ll jump off the board and make a run for the lady.
But she’s getting farther and farther away. Her white dress is blending in with a large group of people gathering on the beach near my shirt and flip flops.
“Hey!” I yell once more, this time waving my arms in a wide circle over my head.
No one can hear me and I’m again frustrated with how slow the wave is carrying me. I strain my eyes as the woman walks into the group of people. I try to watch as she starts to disappear into the crowd of other women with long dark hair, children, and men who look like dads.
My board hits the sandy beach with a thud and it’s like my body hitting a wall. I hurl forward off the board and land on my chest in the wet sand in front of the board’s nose.
“Oooofff,” comes out of me involuntarily.
Damn, that hurt. I take 10 seconds to catch my breath and then pop up and pull the board all the way out of the water. I ignore my aching stomach and chest and run towards the group the woman disappeared into.
What am I doing? I’m not sure I am in control of myself right now. I have to get to that woman.
I know she’s the same one I saw on the beach when I surfed with Kala.
I’m within a few feet of the group and am out of breath. I stop in the sand and lean over with my hands on my knees to catch my breath. What am I doing? What will I say to the lady if I get to her?
“Josie?” I hear a familiar voice say.
I look up and see a middle-aged woman with dark, short hair and a teenage girl standing next to her. They’re staring at me but I can’t figure out who they are and how they know my name.
“Josie?” The woman says again. “Are you OK?”
Oh! It’s Kala’s mom and his sister Makaila!
Shoot. I can’t remember his mom’s name. Did I ever know his mom’s name?
“Oh, hi!” I say, forcing a smile through deep breaths. “Hi Makaila,” I say to his sister.
“What are you doing here?” His mom asks.
I stand up and feel like I got my breath back. But now I’m jittery with nerves like I drank a quad shot latte.
“I was just surfing,” I say nervously, pointing at the water.
“Are you with Kala?” She asks.
“No, no,” I say shaking my head.
Is Kala here?
“All on my own,” I say.
“We saw you running towards us,” Makaila says.
Her tone isn’t friendly. It’s kind of rude and suspicious, which really sucks. I actually feel suspicious and totally embarrassed now.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” I say. “I saw a lady I thought I knew with you guys, and I was trying to catch her before she left.”
“Oh,” Kala’s mom says, sounding relieved. “We’re having a family barbecue. Do you want to join us?”
“No,” I say too quickly. “I mean, I don’t want to interrupt. I just thought I saw someone I knew but I think she’s gone.”
“Maybe we can help,” his mom says, walking towards me. “What did she look like?”
“She was wearing a long white dress and had long brown hair, down to her waist like mine,” I say.
“And she was with our group?” His mom asks, looking back at the gathering of about 20 people.
“Actually, no,” I say. “She walked towards your group and then kind of disappeared into it. I think she might be talking with some people she knows?”
Kala’s mom and sister turn and look at the group and now that I am closer, I can see there is no lady in a white dress with any of them.
“Did you see anybody Kay?” His mom says to his sister.
“No,” she says, shaking her head and looking doubtfully at me.
I’m confused and mortified. I’ve got to get out of this situation. What if Kala walks up? Would it look like I am stalking him or something? I have to get out of here.
“OK, well, sorry about that,” I say. “I’m gonna go and get back to the water. Tell Kala I said hi.”
I turn and walk away awkwardly.
“Wait, Josie!” His mom calls behind me.
I half turn to wave goodbye to her and see the woman in the white dress standing right behind her, staring at me.
“Aaaaahhhh,” I yell out and then clamp my hand over my mouth as hard as I can.
“Josie?” Kala’s mom says louder and with concern in her voice.
“She’s, she’s behind you,” I manage to stammer out through the fingers covering my mouth.
I pull my hand up and cover my eyes. I’m scared. I don’t want to see the woman anymore. I’m not sure why I was so determined to get to her in the first place. Especially now that I’ve seen her up close.
She looks like my mom.
I keep my hand over my eyes and and bend over. I suddenly feel out of breath again. Light-headed.
“Josie?” Kala’s mom says.
I can tell by her voice that she’s moving closer to me.
“Are you alright?” She asks.
I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to look up. Don’t want to open my eyes at all. Did that lady really look like my mom?
I feel a hand on my back that I know must be Kala’s mom’s.
“Josie,” she says. “Come sit down with us. I think you need some water. It’s awfully hot today.”
I force myself to stand upright. I don’t want to be a weirdo around Kala’s mom. Oh, why is this happening right now?
“That’s right,” she says as I stand up straight. “Come over here.”
I can’t walk with my eyes closed. That would be even more embarrassing than anything that’s happened so far. I have to look up and open my eyes.
Kala’s mom wraps her arm around my waist and urges me forward.
I force my eyes open slowly. At first, the beach and crowd of people in front of me are blurry. When I’m satisfied there’s nothing scary in my view, I open my eyes all the way and let them focus. I look around the immediate area on the beach as I walk with Kala’s mom towards her family barbecue.
The woman in white is gone.