I laid down on the couch but couldn’t sleep. I thought I was tired but I think I was just overwhelmed. As I lay there looking at the ceiling, I could hear Gary on the lanai tapping on the small table with his long fingers.
I can’t believe I finally know who my dad is. And he’s a famous, dead rock star? I feel so many things right now – pride, anger, sadness. I just wish Gary would’ve told me sooner. What’s the point of keeping this information from me with my mom gone? Now I have so many more questions. And I’m not sure they’ll ever be answered.
I grab my phone and google “Christopher Doom.” Familiar photos of a dark-haired man with dark eyes pop up on the top of the search results. These photos are infamous and I’ve seen them many times in my life, but it feels like I’m looking at them with different eyes now.
I click on the first photo – a black and white picture of Christopher thrashing on a guitar, his head half down, his long, black hair wet with sweat, flying out in front of him. I swipe to the next photo – a full-color photo of Christopher with his four-piece band, Sound Carnage. He looks serious and sullen, along with the rest of the band.
The caption on the photo reads: “Sound Carnage was one of the most famous bands of the 90s grunge era until Christopher Doom’s unexpected death in 1999.”
The attached blurb beneath the photo says a couple of the Sound Carnage members went on after Christopher’s death to join other famous bands, but the fourth member disappeared into obscurity.
I click back to the search results and see a Wikipedia entry for Christopher Doom. I click on it.
Christopher Doom (born Christopher Joseph Barrett) March 15, 1972 – March 15, 1999, was an American singer-songwriter and musician, best known as the guitarist, primary songwriter and front man of the rock band Sound Carnage. Sound Carnage rose to international fame in the mid 1990s as part of Seattle’s grunge movement, becoming known for Doom’s distinct vocal style and anti-establishment lyrics. Doom’s writing helped to redefine mainstream rock music, making him one of the must influential musicians in the history of alternative rock.
Reports of Doom’s heroin addiction and repeated visits to drug rehabilitation circulated as soon as Sound Carnage found fame. Changes in his physical appearance and inability to perform due to heroin addiction made his condition a fixture in fan communities and media. Doom left the public spotlight in late 1998 to focus on getting clean, only to tragically overdose on his birthday, on March 15, 1999.
The weight of seeing those words in print is smothering. I’m not sure I will ever be able to absorb that this person was actually my father. This is someone whose face I know well, and whose music I know very well because of Gary’s record collection. But I don’t actually know him as a person at all. And I never will. That makes me sad in a way I’ve never been before. Makes me feel cheated. Like it’s the most unfair thing that’s ever happened in the world.
Tears start to slowly roll down my face and I put my phone away. I can’t look at anymore photos or Wikipedia stories about Christopher, or my dad. I can’t know anymore. It’s all too much.
My phone dings with the now familiar Snapchat alert. I look at my phone and see it’s from Kala. I click on the alert and a picture of Kala with three other guys on the beach pops up. They’re all throwing shakas and holding surf boards. Kala looks painfully beautiful. The sun created a glowing effect around him, framing his face and hair. Then, the image disappears.
“Aaaaaagh,” I say as I put the phone back down on the couch. “Kala,” I say aloud.
“Kala’s an eater,” I repeat, like Gary said to me a few minutes ago.
“Kala’s an eater?” I ask myself aloud.
What does that mean?
Gary said Manu was an eater. And Halani said my grandpa Alika was an eater, but not like Manu. Is Kala like them?
I think of Manu’s little beer belly and all of the Coors Light he drank. I remember thinking his belly stored spirits. Does Kala store the spirits somewhere like that? Did my grandpa Alika?
I have to know more about my grandpa and what Gary knows about eaters.
I push myself up off of the couch and walk to the slider. Gary’s still sitting on the lanai and staring at the building across from us. I open the slider and step outside.
“Gary,” I say.
He jumps at my voice.
“Josie,” he says. “Little girl, you scared me.”
“Sorry,” I say absently as I pull out a chair from the small table and sit down.
I look over at him and see darkness in his eyes. I’ve never seen Gary as upset as I have on this trip. His usual happy-go-lucky demeanor has been replaced by moodiness, sadness and anger.
“Are you OK?” I ask him. “You seem really upset.”
“I’m just thinking about my mom and dad,” he says. “I miss them.”
“Me too,” I say, placing my hand on his bare arm.
“Talking about this family stuff isn’t so great, huh?” He asks as he looks into the distance.
“I know it’s hard, Gary,” I say. “But I need to know more. I have so many more questions now. About my dad. About everybody.”
Gary sighs out loud.
“And it’s all yours to know,” Gary says. “It just takes me to a dark place. It’s a place I’ve tried to avoid for a long time. It’s hard to explain, but when I get into this darkness, it’s hard to get out of. I have to do things I’m not proud of to get back to myself.”
“What do you mean, Gary?” I ask.
He sits in silence.
“Gary?” I say.
“I don’t want to talk about me right now, Josie,” he says. “What do you want to know about your dad or grandparents?”
I’m willing to let his comment go for now, but I’m putting a bookmark in my brain to have this conversation again. I have no idea what Gary is talking about but I have to know. Especially after everything he just told me about my family.
“Well, what did you mean about Kala being an eater?” I ask him.
For some reason, I’m afraid to look at him. I don’t want to see that darkness anymore.
He pauses. He must be contemplating something again but I don’t want to know what.
“Josie,” he says. “This is a bag of worms. There’s so much to explain. I don’t know where to start.”
A bag of worms? Sometimes Gary might as well be speaking Hawaiian for all I know.
“How about we start with, is Kala an eater like Manu?” I ask.
I steal a glance at Gary and he seems relieved we started there.
“I don’t think so,” he says. “Manu almost seems to have powers where he exorcises spirits out of people. The way you described Kala sounds like he intercepts wandering spirits before they have time to inhabit someone’s body.”
“What’s the difference?” I ask.
“I don’t really know,” he says with a sigh. “I know that Halani seemed disgusted by Manu. And I know my dad couldn’t do what Manu could do. My dad intercepted spirits.”
“He did?” I ask. “Grandpa Alika? You think he was like Kala?”
“Yes, Josie,” he says. “It sounds like it. I haven’t thought about this stuff for a long time. I think I started to convince myself it wasn’t real, even though I grew up with it. I watched my parents deal with spirits until they died.”
“What did they do?” I ask.
Gary now looks visibly uncomfortable. His eyes are scrunched at their corners and he almost looks old, with creases around his mouth that weren’t there a few days ago.
“I’ll try to explain the best I can,” he says with some hesitation. “People would come to my mom for help. If they had bad luck, an affliction of some kind, or a darkness over their house. Maybe they felt weird; were doing things that were uncharacteristic or they were seeing things. Hearing things. They’d come to mom. I think she could conjure whatever was inside them and make it come out. These spirits were drawn to her, almost like a magnet. But then once they were conjured, she couldn’t do anything with them. That’s where an eater comes in.”
“Grandpa Alika?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says. “Dad made them go away somehow. Once they were free, he could make them disappear.”
“Where did they go?” I ask.
“I have no idea,” he says, looking at the ground. “That’s one of the great mysteries, right?” He asks with an odd chuckle.
“Where do any of us go after this life?” He asks to no one in particular.
“So, you think that’s what Kala is?” I ask.
“Yes, I do,” he says. “And I think you are like your Tutu. You somehow conjure these spirits. You seem to do it when you sing, whether you mean to or not. But look what happened the first time? That man was on you, or in you. Wouldn’t leave you alone. Last night, the man at Da Nui didn’t even get close to you, right?”
“Right,” I say. “Because of Kala, I am pretty sure.”
“Did Kala explain to you what he did to make the man go away?” Gary asks.
“No, he didn’t,” I say. “There wasn’t time this morning. Last night, he was so weak, all he could do was go to sleep.”
Gary shakes his head affirmatively.
“I remember dad being that way after,” Gary says. “He’d sleep for a full day. Sometimes he’d have to miss work. Mom would say he’s sleeping with the dead. I always thought she was making a joke about how deep he would sleep, but now I think she might’ve meant it literally.”
Suddenly the beautiful green grass, trees and colorful flowers seem ominous. I look around at what looks like a cover for something scary and unpredictable. What is this place? What has happened to my life since I’ve come here? I feel scared and uneasy.
“Gary, I’m kind of scared,” I tell him. “This stuff is freaking me out.”
“Me too, Josie,” he admits. “I don’t like talking about any of it. Can you understand why I’ve avoided it?”
He looks at me, pleading in his eyes. He wants forgiveness for keeping all of this from me. I don’t think I can give that to him now. But I can sympathize with why he wouldn’t want to talk about any of it.
“I do understand, Gary,” I say. “But we should’ve had this conversation a long time ago. Especially the stuff about my dad.”
He looks at the ground and says “I know.”
“So, what now, Gary?” I ask. “I can conjure spirits like Tutu and Kala is an eater who can protect me?”
“I guess so,” he says sheepishly. “All I know is what I remember from when I was a kid. Once they died, I didn’t want to know about it anymore. I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I always liked that so many people loved mom, and they liked me cause I was her son, but it all became too weird when I started to grow up.”
“What did my mom think about it?” I ask him.
He shrugs his shoulders.
“I guess she felt the same way I did,” he says. “We didn’t talk about it much after they died. It scared us when we were kids. Mom tried to take Alisa on some of her home visits a couple of times and then Alisa wouldn’t go anymore. We were mostly scared of all of it.”
“Do you know any of grandpa’s Kinimaka family that lives here?” I ask.
More uncomfortable sighs from Gary.
“Yes, but it’s been a long time,” he says. “I’ve got some cousins and aunts and uncles here but I haven’t seen them since I was a boy.”
“Why, Gary?” I ask.
All the secrecy and hiding my family did is starting to grate on my nerves. Why can’t everyone just be honest and open about what the hell is going on?
“Well, because they basically disowned my dad when he left Kauai,” he says. “They didn’t support mom and dad moving to the mainland and taking us away from our ohana here.”
“So, then why did you guys leave?” I ask.
I’m getting frustrated with how my family handled everything.
“Halani said it was because mom wanted to protect her family from her gift,” he says. “But I was always told it was to help the Barrett’s, your grandparents. They paid for us to move to Venice and helped dad get a job. I think they might’ve helped buy our house in Venice. They were very wealthy because of Mr. Barrett’s job.”
“Why would they do that?” I ask him.
“My mom helped them somehow, although I never knew the whole story,” he says. “It had to have something to do with spirits but Christopher always said his parents were crazy with superstition. Especially his mom, your grandma. His mom had psychics on the payroll, spiritual advisers, energy cleansers; it seemed like my mom was just another part of her spiritual army she put together.”
I sit for a moment mulling over his words.
“This is beyond strange, Gary,” I say. “To go from thinking you have a normal life and family to hearing all of this. It’s really hard to believe. It doesn’t sound real.”
Gary doesn’t respond. I think the only reason I believe any of this is because of my experiences with the floating spirits and Manu.
“This may sound uncomfortable, but I think we need to talk to Kala’s family,” Gary says. “What do you think?”
“They know the Kinimaka’s,” I say to him. “They already told me that.”
“You told them you’re a Kinimaka?” He asks, clearly surprised.
“Yeah, they wanted to know everything about our family,” I said. “I barely met them and they know more about my family than most of my friends ever did.”
Gary begins to laugh in a hearty way that sounds more like the Gary I know.
“That reminds me of my mom and dad when we moved to California,” he says. “Always asking my friends about their family history. Most of them didn’t know anything about their families beyond their parents. But that didn’t stop mom and dad from quizzing anyone I brought to the house.”
Gary’s smile tells me these memories are fond and treasured.
“That sounds really nice, Gary,” I say. “They loved you and your friends.”
“Yeah, they did,” he says with a smile. “They were the best.”
We both sit quietly on the lanai. The scary feelings I had a few minutes ago have dissipated with the happy memories of my Tutu and grandpa. The surroundings feel welcoming and peaceful once again.
“Josie?” Gary says.
“Yeah?” I reply.
“What do you think of me meeting Kala and his family?” He asks.
“I think that would be OK,” I say. “I mean, it’s a bit embarrassing, but I’ll get over it.”
“Good, you set it up,” he says. “We need a proper introduction.”