It’s another beautiful day in Kauai. The constant sunshine reminds me of California but the people, the pace of life and calm of Hanalei Bay create a totally different vibe. I love my life back home but now that I’ve experienced being here, I’m questioning if this is where I am supposed to be.
I’m making my way very slowly back to the Hanalei Inn and Gary. Mostly because I’m engrossed in Snap messaging with Johanna. When I left Kala and began my walk back, I saw that she tried to Face Time me and Snap me while my phone was dead. I Snapped her back as soon as I noticed.
@jomountain: where you at?
@josie_pussycatt: hey, sorry, I missed you. I was with Kala.
@jomountain: i know! what happened?
@josie_pussycatt: I spent the night!
@jomountain: what?? we need to talk now!
@josie_pussycatt: haha I can’t. I have to talk to Gary. he’s pissed.
@jomountain: uh oh. what does he care?
@josie_pussycatt: I don’t know. thinks I’m a little kid.
@jomountain: he needs to move on.
@josie_pussycatt: I know. I do too though.
@jomountain: I need all of the deets! I always tell you everything.
@josie_pussycatt: there’s not much to tell.
@josie_pussycatt: honestly, nothing happened.
@jomountain: BS. you better call me later after you talk to Gary. I’m not buying it.
@josie_pussycatt: I know it sounds weird. I can explain. I’ll call you later.
@jomountain: kk. byeeeeee.
@josie_pussycatt: love ya jo
@jomountain: love ya jo
I look up from my chat with Johanna and see the Hanalei Inn looming in front of me. It doesn’t look as welcoming as it has before, now that I have to face Gary.
I make my way through the yard to our lanai and knock on the sliding glass door. I cup my hands around my eyes and squint against the darkness inside to see Gary jump up from the couch and rush to the door. He’s in a tank top and board shorts of course, but his wavy hair is down and half-dry, instead of in his typical man bun. He opens the door without a smile.
“Your hair is so fluffy,” I say, trying to lighten the mood.
“I know,” he says with a half blush. “That’s why I never wash it. It always gets like this,” he says as he tosses it over one shoulder.
He stares at me for a beat as we both stand in the cramped living space where I’ve been sleeping on the pull out couch. Until last night.
“Josie,” he says with a bit of sadness.
I reach for him and take a step closer. He reaches for me and scoops me up in an embrace that feels like home. I step closer into his arms and he bear hugs me. I bury my face in his chest and feel tears warm the back of my eyes.
“I’m sorry, Gary,” I say, muffled against his tank top.
“It’s OK, Josie,” he says as he strokes my hair.
“I’m sorry too,” he says. “I took it too far yesterday. When you didn’t come home, I really thought something bad happened to you. If anything ever happens to you, I will be completely lost.”
I pull away from him and look up into his face.
“Gary,” I say. “I am totally fine. I promise. I stayed at Kala’s parent’s house. I ate breakfast with his family. They are so nice. Nothing bad happened.”
“Josie,” he says. “I’m glad you were with his family, but none of that is my business. I just need you to keep in touch with me. I’m not ready for you to disappear on me like that.”
“I understand, Gary,” I tell him. “I got caught up in the moment and then was so tired. It’s hard to explain. I wasn’t even thinking of my phone, but as soon as I woke up, I realized I never told you where I was.”
“I know how that stuff goes,” he says. “Just please, try to keep it from happening again.”
“I promise, Gary,” I say to him as I pull him in for another hug. “I hate arguing with you. It’s literally the worst feeling.”
“Me too, Josie,” he says. “You’re my best friend, I don’t want us to be at odds.”
I smile at him and pull away from his embrace. I step back and sit on the couch.
“I want to talk to you about something,” I say to him.
I have to clear the air with him. I thought about how I’d approach this only minutes before I peered in the slider door.
“It’s about your relationships with women,” I say with some hesitation.
“Listen, Josie,” he says defensively.
“Will you just listen for a second, Gary?” I ask, cutting him off.
He sighs out loud and looks at the ground, the buoyant waves in his hair lightly bouncing around his face.
“Yes,” he says. “Go ahead.”
“When I was a kid, I was really jealous of all of the women you dated,” I say.
I can’t believe I’m admitting this to him but I am sick of keeping this stuff inside.
“When you would leave me with sitters to go out, I hated it,” I say. “And just when I would actually start to like one of your girlfriends, they went away.”
Gary stares at the ground silently.
“It made me sad, and mad and confused,” I admit. “But I understand much better now than I did when I was a kid. I don’t want to be mad at you because you like having a lot of women in your life. I see how women throw themselves at you.”
I smile momentarily at the thought of the old ladies in the coffee shop who always want to talk to him. I’m surprised at how honest I’m being right now. That I’m even having this conversation. I decided on the walk here that it’s long overdue.
“I don’t want to be mad at you for you just being yourself,” I say. “And I am really sorry for judging you after I saw you with the neighbor lady. That was totally unfair and I was disrespectful.”
“Thank you, Josie,” Gary says as he raises his eyes to look in mine. “I’m really sorry about my behavior. I’ve probably been a terrible role model for you.”
“No, you haven’t, Gary,” I say. “You’re doing the best you can and it’s none of my business what goes on in your romantic life. It’s just not. I get that now that I sort of have a romantic life of my own.”
“Kala?” He asks.
“Yeah, Gary,” I say a bit dreamily. “He’s so special. There’s so much I need to tell you about him. About last night.”
“Woah,” Gary says, holding his hands up. “I love you and everything, but I don’t think I can handle this conversation.”
“Oh my god, Gary,” I say, shocked. “No! Me neither! That’s not what I meant.”
“Oh, OK,” he says, exhaling deeply with relief.
“My original point was I have a better understanding now that I have feelings for Kala,” I say. “I don’t want to keep you from having those same feelings or make you feel guilty because you feel that way for someone.”
Gary nods his head in agreement and joins me on the couch.
“Josie, I appreciate it,” he says. “But it’s not really the same thing.”
I’m confused. It’s not? I look at him with a question on my face.
“I can tell you have genuine feelings for Kala,” he says with a smile. “I don’t feel that way about the neighbor lady. Or most of the women I date.”
“You don’t?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “It’s not really about that.”
“Oh,” I say.
I’m confused that he’s admitting he’s just a player. I poured my heart out hoping I would find his heart on the other side. Or at least understand his actions so I can stop judging him. He’s making that pretty hard right now.
“This isn’t simple to explain, and I don’t know if now is the right time or not,” he says. “There’s so much you don’t know, Josie. I didn’t want to disrupt your life with bad memories. You seemed so happy back home, but being here has brought up a lot for me. Halani was right when she said you should know who your father is and know about our family.”
I don’t know what to say. So I stay silent.
“Our family is special, Josie,” he continues. “We don’t really belong in California. We belong here with others like us. Mom and Dad moved us to the mainland to try to escape reality, and it really didn’t work.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“I mean, there’s power on this island,” he says. “There’s power in being with your ohana. If we’d stayed here, mom and dad might be alive. Your mom might be alive.”
“But, if we stayed here, you might not exist. Your mom met your dad in California. I keep telling myself, that’s why we left. So you could come into this world. Had we stayed, that would’ve never happened.”
“So, you know my dad?” I ask him.
I can’t believe he’s talking about my dad right now. I’ve never heard anything like this from Gary.
“I did know him,” Gary says, lowering his head. “Josie, he died a long time ago.”
“He did?” I ask, my voice unexpectedly cracking.
“Yes, Josie,” he says. “I’m so sorry. It’s terrible you never knew him. And you lost your mom too. It’s so unfair.”
Tears burst from my eyes and I begin to openly sob. I can’t believe my dad is dead. Somewhere inside, I thought I would meet him someday. I thought he was out there. Now that I know he’s not, I feel another deep hole inside. It matches the one where the pain of my mom’s loss lives.
Gary pulls me to him again. He holds me while I sob and hitch with uneven breath.
“I guess I thought he might be alive, Gary,” I say, trying to catch my breath. “That he might be looking for me.”
“I know, Josie,” he says. “I know.”
He strokes my hair. A memory hits me of us sitting on the couch in his house after mom died. Of us doing this for weeks. Me sitting in his arms and sobbing, and him stroking my hair. Sometimes he would sob too. He’d lost everything just like me.
“Neither of us has our parents, Gary,” I say through tears as I look up at him.
“No, we don’t,” he says softly.
I see he has tears in his eyes too.
“But we have each other,” he says. “That’s why we have to hold each other tight. Me keeping all of this from you has made me hold you at a distance sometimes. I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s too much for me to keep all to myself.”
“Gary?” I ask. “Can you tell me something about my dad? How did he and mom meet?”
“Your Tutu and his parents were friends,” he says. “His parents, who were your grandparents, actually helped us move to California after they met Tutu here in Kauai. She helped them and they wanted her nearby to help them again. They needed a lot of help. Alisa met your dad, Christopher, when we moved to Venice.”
“Are my grandparents still alive?” I ask him.
“No, Josie,” he says. “They were old and died around the same time my mom and dad died.”
“My dad’s name was Christopher?” I ask.
“Yes, Josie,” he says.
“Woah,” I say.
What a strange revelation. I don’t know what I thought my dad’s name would be. Not Christopher. I knew he was from the mainland so I wasn’t expecting a Hawaiian name. I don’t know what I was expecting. Christopher just sounds so plain.
“Josie,” he says. “There’s more.”
“OK,” I say.
I wipe the remaining tears from my face and swipe my hand under my nose to clear the liquid there. I’m done crying. For now.
“Your dad’s name was Christopher Doom,” he says. “That was a stage name. Not his real last name. You recognize that name, right?”
“Did you just say Christopher Doom? Christopher Doom, the singer?” I ask.
“Yes, that one,” he says.
“From Sound Carnage?” I ask, recalling the name of one of the most famous bands from the 1990s.
I am stunned.
“Yes, that Christopher Doom,” he says.
“The same as the albums you have?” I ask.
“Yes, Josie,” he says. “Christopher was your dad. His real last name was Barrett but he changed his name so it would be different from his dad’s.”
I am stunned in a way I’ve never been before. In fact, I feel like I am in a waking dream. How could Christopher Doom be my dad? My dad was a famous musician?
“Gary,” I say. “I’m so confused. You’re saying that mom and Christopher were married? Or they dated?”
“They were dating,” Gary says. “They were in love. Had been for a long time. When Christopher got famous, everything changed. He changed. Alisa had you and he couldn’t handle the responsibility. He couldn’t handle anything. He died soon after you were born. It was terrible.”
I raise my hand and grasp my mouth that’s wide open. None of this seems real.
“Gary, are you sure he’s my dad?” I ask.
To my surprise, Gary begins to laugh. He’s actually laughing really hard.
“Gary!” I say tersely. “This really isn’t funny!”
Gary says between laughter: “it’s funny if you knew your mom the way I did.”
He continues to laugh.
“Gary!” I yell. “Will you stop?”
He slowly dries up.
“I’m sorry, Josie,” he says. “That was a weird time to laugh. I couldn’t help it.”
“It’s OK,” I say. “What did you mean about my mom?”
“I mean, your mom is the last person you would question about who the father of her child would be,” he says. “Alisa was such a goody-goody and she loved Christopher so much. There’s no question he’s your dad. Plus, you look a lot like him.”
“I do?” I ask.
“Oh yeah,” he says. “You’ve got his eyes. You look like Alisa but those aren’t Alisa’s eyes. That’s all Christopher. And your mom was really short. Your dad was tall and lanky and you’re tall too. You got his long legs.”
“I did?” I ask.
I look down at my legs. I picture my eyes. I got those from my dad? It seems impossible. I somehow thought I got everything from my mom. That there almost wasn’t a dad involved.
“Gary,” I say. “Does my dad dying have anything to do with my mom dying?”
“No, Josie,” he says shaking his head. “I don’t think so. That was years later. And Alisa was devastated by Christopher’s death but she moved on. She had to. She had you.”
“Holy shit,” I say. “Christopher Doom was my dad. What the hell?”
“I know,” Gary says. “Crazy, right? You’ve got to be in total shock. I’m so sorry.”
We sit in silence for a few minutes. I have no idea what to say.
“To me, he was always just Chris,” Gary says. “But then he got so famous and he was Christopher Doom. He almost felt like a different person after that.”
“Did you like my dad?” I ask him.
“Oh yeah,” Gary says enthusiastically. “I knew him since I was a kid. He was a cool cat. He taught me how to play guitar. Introduced me to music. He was a total badass. The end of his life didn’t reflect who he was. It was so sad what happened to him and how he passed. But yeah, I loved your dad a lot. He was like a big brother to me.”
“Oh,” I say.
I feel tears at the back of my eyes again. My dad was a good guy. Gary loved him. My mom loved him too. He didn’t abandon me. He died. He was a famous musician who is still adored today.
“I can’t believe this, Gary,” I say. “I’m so sad but I’m a little excited too. Is that weird?”
Gary shakes his head no.
“I don’t think it’s weird, Josie,” he says. “We were all excited when Christopher got famous. And then when Alisa got pregnant, it seemed like they were living this little fairy tale. We thought they would get married and Chris would have this huge career. Then everything changed.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me, Gary?” I ask.
I have to know why this information has been kept from me for my entire life.
“Alisa made me promise,” he says. “And she’s probably going to haunt me from her grave now, but I can’t keep all of this from you anymore. You deserve to know. You need to know your mo’olelo.”
A shiver goes down my spine and my arms break out in goosebumps.
“Gary,” I say. “That’s what Kala’s mom said to me this morning. How did you know?”
“I didn’t know,” he says. “But I’m not surprised. It’s almost a crime that I’ve kept it from you for so long. Being here made me realize I can’t do it anymore.”
“Why didn’t mom want me to know? I ask.
“She thought your dad was cursed, Josie,” Gary says.
Another shiver goes across the top of my head and down my neck.
“That his death was some foretold fate out of his control,” he continues. “She was scared that curse might get passed onto you. She was so worried about you. She made all of us promise not to talk about Christopher. And she stopped communicating with his family. She blamed his dad for his death.”
“Gary,” I say. “Do you think I’m cursed?”
“No, Josie,” he says. “Not in the way Alisa thought.”
“What?” I ask alarmed.
“Wait,” he says. “I said that wrong. I don’t think you are cursed, but I think you’ve got something to deal with that you inherited from Tutu and the rest of us. Something that has to do with the man you saw when you sang at my art show.”
“Oh my gosh, Gary,” I say.
“What?” He asks.
“I saw another one last night,” I say.
I suddenly feel far away from the little room. Like I’m back at Da Nui instead of sitting by Gary on the couch at Hanalei Inn.
“Where?” I hear Gary say, but his voice is muffled.
It sounds like it’s coming through a bunch of balled up cotton stuffed in my ears. I feel his hand gripping my arm too tight.
“Da Nui,” I say. “I was singing when I saw him. He floated, Gary. He had no legs. In my mind, I called him a floater.”
“Josie,” I hear Gary say with alarm in his voice. “Josie, are you OK?”
“I’m OK now, Gary,” I say.
But for some reason, it’s getting harder to talk. It’s like my mouth is full of marbles or sand.
I can feel the wooden floor of Da Nui beneath my feet. I can taste the remnants of a Mai Tai on my tongue. I can hear Mele softly playing a song.
“Kala protected me,” I whisper. “Then our tentacles connected and I healed him,” I choke out. “Or he healed me. Our tentacles had to connect.”
“Tentacles?” Gary says from far away.
I can barely hear his voice. I’m standing on stage. I’m starting to make out the floating man from across the room.
“Josie!” Gary says louder.
He’s shaking my shoulders very hard. He’s squeezing my arms so hard they hurt.
The cotton stuffing in my ears is ripped away. And I feel the couch in our motel room holding my body.
“Yes, Gary,” I say out loud in my normal voice. “You’re hurting my arms!”
I’m no longer in Da Nui, but back at the Hanalei Inn with Gary. His face is inches from mine and he looks scared.
“Are you OK?” He asks insistently. “Tell me you’re OK.”
I shake my head and put it in my hands for a few moments. I look back up and feel like myself again.
“Yes,” I say. “That was strange. I felt like I was somewhere else.”
“Oh, Josie,” he says. “You almost gave me a heart attack. I thought you were passing out or something.”
“I’m fine,” I say. “But do you mind if I lay down?”
“Yes, but first what about that man you saw last night?” Gary asks. “Did he punch you or run into you like the other one? You said Kala protected you?”
“He tried to come near me, but Kala stopped him,” I say. “He disappeared, I think. Kala saw him and spoke to him in Hawaiian and then he was gone. He never hurt me or got close.”
Silence from Gary. He’s contemplating something but I’m not sure what.
“Oh boy, Josie,” Gary says with a sigh.
“What?” I ask.
He looks worried.
“Kala’s an eater,” he says.
He gets up and walks out the slider to settle on our lanai. I’m left speechless.