The smell of bacon woke me. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever smelled.
I open my eyes and forget where I am. I’m staring at a black and white poster of a Hawaiian man in the tube of a huge wave. The image makes me happy even though I’m not sure whose wall it’s hanging on.
There’s a light, crocheted blanket covering me and I’m only in my bra and underwear.
I panic for a few seconds. Where are my clothes? Where am I?
I hear familiar laughing from beyond the closed bedroom door. I sit up and see my new yellow sundress on the floor next to a men’s blue shirt.
I’m at Kala’s!
Oh thank Lono. I was so disoriented, I couldn’t remember how I got here. Now I remember it all.
Singing at Da Nui. Walking home on a cloud. Going to sleep tightly in Kala’s arms.
Where’s my phone?
There it is. I see it on the wooden nightstand near the bed.
I grab it and discover it’s dead.
Great. I need a charger.
Gary is probably worried sick. There’s no way he would be angry enough with me from our argument yesterday to not care where I was all night.
I slowly turn my body to get out of the bed. To my surprise, I’m not sore in any way. I half expected my stomach to hurt, or for there to be some odd ailment from seeing the floating man last night.
The floating man!
And I remember Kala said he made him disappear?
I’m still confused about so many things from last night.
I stretch my arms high up over my head and hear more laughter from what must be the kitchen. The smell of bacon is now somehow stronger than before and my stomach rumbles in response.
I think I forgot to eat dinner last night.
No wonder I’m so hungry.
I stand up and grab my new dress from Kala’s wood floor. I pull it over my head and down over my body. I pick up his shirt from the floor and bring it my nose and inhale deeply. It smells like his hair – a flowery scent I associate with shampoo. I smile as I pull it away from my nose, fold it, and set it on the bed.
I slip my feet into my sandals and pick up my phone from the nightstand. A small square mirror hangs by the bedroom door and I check my make-up and hair. My hair is flying in many directions close to my scalp but is mostly smooth the rest of the way down my shoulders. I use my fingers to preen through it, and then run my finger across my bottom eyelashes to remove any mascara that’s melted there.
Not bad, I guess. This will have to do until I can get back to the motel. And to Gary.
Yikes. I need to charge my phone.
I open the bedroom door and the smell of bacon, sausage and eggs hits my nose like a slap in the face. I walk down the hall and as I turn the corner, I say “It smells so good.”
The rumbling conversation and laughter stops and Kala and three others turn and stare at me from the large, wooden kitchen table.
I freeze and stare back, recognizing I must be looking at Kala’s parents and a younger sister. I can’t bring any words up and am so embarrassed. I feel like a fool.
“Josie,” Kala says as he gets up and walks towards me.
His mom and dad both smile in my direction as his sister looks back at her plate of food.
Kala puts his hands on my hips and kisses my on the cheek.
“How’d you sleep?” He asks with a smile.
“Fine,” I say as I look at the ground.
“Kala, is it OK that I am here?” I ask. “I feel so embarrassed to meet your parents this way.”
He looks back at them and I do too. They’ve returned to their food like my presence isn’t a big deal.
“Oh yeah,” he says reassuringly. “They’re fine. I’ve been telling them about you, they’re excited to meet you.”
“They are?” I ask.
When I left his room, I wasn’t even thinking about parents. And then when I saw them, I assumed I’d need to leave out a back door.
“Josie, it’s fine,” he says. “They aren’t like that. I’m an adult, you’re an adult, they don’t care that you stayed over.”
I hear him, but I’m not thrilled that I look like a one-night stand. I guess there’s no turning back now.
“Can I use your bathroom before I meet them?” I ask.
“Oh yeah,” he says. “Back down the hallway, last door on the right.”
He kisses me on the same cheek and returns to the table. I turn and walk to the bathroom and shut the door behind me.
I grab some toothpaste from the counter and squeeze it on my finger. I go about brushing my teeth and tongue with my finger as best I can. I splash some water in my mouth, comb through my hair with my fingers again, use the toilet, and wash my hands.
I look in the mirror and dab away a bit more smudged mascara.
OK, I think I can do this now. I just have to trust his parents won’t be weird. And I need a charger as soon as possible.
I venture back down the hall and slowly approach the kitchen table.
“Hello,” I say to Kala’s family.
Kala stands up to meet me halfway.
“Mom and Dad,” he says. “This is Josie.”
“Aloha, Josie,” his mom says as she stands up from the table.
“E komo mai nou ka hale,” his father says.
“Dad,” Kala says. “She doesn’t speak Hawaiian.”
“I thought you said she was Hawaiian?” His dad says.
He then turns back to me, “welcome to our home is what I said.”
“Thank you,” I say with a nod.
“This is my sister, Makaila,” Kala says, motioning to the girl at the table who looks about 15.
“Hi Makaila,” I say to her, although she barely looks up from her breakfast.
“Hey,” she says unenthusiastically.
“Are you hungry?” Kala’s mom asks.
“Yes,” I admit. “I’m starving.”
She nods knowingly.
“Let me get you a plate,” she says as she walks into the kitchen and retrieves a plate from a wall of cupboards.
“We’ve got hamburger, bacon, eggs, rice and gravy. What would you like?” She asks.
“Is it OK if I try it all?” I ask as I look from her, to Kala, and to his father nervously.
Kala and his parents chuckle.
“Of course,” his mom says. “We’ve got plenty for everyone.”
“Thanks very much,” I say.
Then I remember the phone in my hand.
“Kala,” I whisper to him. “Do you have a phone charger I can use? I need to call my uncle.”
“Is your uncle staying on the island with you?” Kala’s dad asks.
“Yes,” I tell him. “My phone died and I am sure he’s worried about me.”
“Are your parents here too?” His mom asks.
“No,” I say, looking down at the wood floor. “I’m just visiting with my uncle.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” his mom says. “Where are you staying?”
“At the Hanalei Inn,” I say as I sit down in a seat at the large table.
“Oh sure,” his dad says. “Have you met Eddie?”
“Um, Eddie?” I ask. “I don’t think so?”
“He runs the place,” his dad says. “We go way back with Eddie,” he says as he smiles and looks to Kala.
“Eddie and Dad are old surfing buddies,” Kala says.
“Oh, cool,” I say.
“You know, Josie surfs,” Kala says to his family.
“Aahhh, I thought so,” his dad says. “I can tell by the way you walk.”
“That’s what Kala said when we first met!” I exclaim. “What did you call it?” I ask Kala.
“Hele wawae,” Kala says with a smile.
“Yes, hele wawae,” I say with a nod.
“And you’re Hawaiian too?” Kala’s mom asks as she sets down a huge plate of food in front of me.
“Guava-orange juice to drink?” She asks.
“Yes, I’d love some,” I say with a nod. “Thank you, this food looks amazing.”
“Aloha,” she says with a wink.
“I’m half Hawaiian,” I tell her as I pick up a fork and dig into the hamburger and rice covered in an egg and gravy.
I take a big mouthful and the variety of flavors explodes in my mouth. The salty brown gravy ties everything together. I could eat this gravy on anything.
“Oh yum,” I say as I finish chewing. “This is so delicious.”
“Mom’s the best cook,” Kala says as he hands me a phone charger he retrieved from a back room. “Here you go.”
“Thanks, where can I plug it in?” I ask.
“You keep eating,” he says. “Give me your phone and I’ll plug it in.”
I hand him my phone, take another bite of egg and hamburger, and watch Kala walk to the couch and plug in the phone near a lamp.
“So which half?” Kala’s dad says.
“I’m sorry?” I ask.
“Which half is Hawaiian?” He asks.
“Oh, my mom is Hawaiian,” I say. “My dad’s from the mainland.”
“Is your mom from here?” Kala’s mom asks as she returns to the table with a tall glass of juice.
“Thank you,” I tell her and take a hearty drink.
“Yes,” I say. “She was from here but she moved away with my grandparents and uncle a long time ago.”
“To California?” His dad asks.
“Yes, Venice,” I say. “Thank you again for breakfast. This food is just so good.”
“So, you’re here to see family?” His mom asks.
“Yes,” I say with some hesitation, remembering my meeting with my great-aunt Halani.
“My uncle and I came to visit our great-aunt,” I say. “This is my first time on the island, so he’s going to show me around.”
“OK, guys,” Kala says. “Enough with the 20 questions.”
“Oh Kala,” his mom says. “We’re just trying to get to know your new friend. Her family is from here, you know we know everybody. We’re curious.”
My phone starts vibrating from the nearby couch. Not an alert vibrate but a ringing vibrate.
I drop my fork and jump from my chair to grab the phone. I see that it’s Gary calling me.
“It’s my uncle,” I say. “I have to answer it.”
“Go ahead,” Kala says with a nod.
I answer the phone and say “Hi Gary, don’t worry I’m OK.”
“Josie!” He yells. “Where have you been? I was about to call the police! What is going on?”
“Gary, I am OK,” I say in my calmest voice.
“Josie, this is not cool,” He yells. “You can’t do shit like this.”
“Gary, can you hold on a second?” I ask.
“Can you help me plug this in somewhere else?” I ask Kala.
This is so embarrassing. I know Kala and his family can hear Gary’s raging from where they’re sitting.
“No, I can’t hold on a second!” Gary yells. “Where are you? I am coming to get you right now!”
“Yes,” Kala says as he jumps up from his seat at the table. “Unplug it and bring it into my room.”
I follow his direction and take the phone and charger into his room. He points to a plug near his bed. He silently leaves the room and quietly shuts the door. I plug in the phone and sit down on his bed.
“Gary, I am so sorry,” I tell him. “Please stop yelling. I am fine.”
“Josie,” he says inhaling deeply and sighing. “I am glad you are OK but I have been up all night worried about you. I’ve been walking the streets trying to find you. Do you know how dangerous it is for young girls in this world? You can not wander off like this just because you’re mad I was with a woman.”
He thinks that’s why I was gone? Oh brother.
“Gary,” I say calmly. “I am so sorry for worrying you. I never meant to cause you so much stress and I feel terrible. I didn’t wander off because of our argument. Kala and I went out and then I fell asleep and my phone died. I am totally fine and nothing happened to me.”
“So you were with Kala?” He asks.
“Yes,” I say. “We went to this place called Da Nui and I had part of a Mai Tai. I was so sleepy that I passed out and didn’t even think about charging my phone.”
“You were drinking, Josie?” Gary asks.
I can tell he’s shocked.
“I wouldn’t consider drinking half of a Mai Tai as drinking, but yes, I drank some alcohol,” I tell him.
“Josie,” he says. “Those are really strong. Where are you?”
I remember the directions Kala gave me last night when I navigated us home.
“I’m at his parent’s house over on Weke and Hee,” I say. “I was just eating breakfast with his family.”
“What? You are?” He asks.
“Yes,” I say. “I promise. I am totally fine.”
“You’re just a couple of blocks away then,” he says.
“Yeah, I’m close,” I say. “I’m just finishing up breakfast and then I will come back to the motel. Will you be there?”
“Yes,” he says. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, you’ve been gone a lot lately, I just wanted to make sure,” I say.
“Josie, please don’t start,” he says annoyed.
“I’m not, Gary,” I say. “I swear. Just checking because I think we should talk.”
“I agree,” he says. “We have a lot to talk about.”
That sounds a bit menacing. I feel like I’m in trouble or something, but how can I be? I am 20 years old. I’m not a baby.
“I’ll see you in a bit, OK?” I say.
“OK, Josie,” he says. “See you soon.”
I end the call and sigh long and hard.
Jeez, that was stressful. I feel more resolved with him than I did when I woke up, though.
Now I just want to get back to that breakfast. And to Kala’s family. They’re actually really nice.
I stand up, leave the room and make my way back to the kitchen table.
“All taken care of,” I say to Kala. “He was just worried but it’s all good.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Kala says nonchalantly.
He obviously wasn’t as worried about the Gary situation as I was. But why would he be? Like he said, we’re both adults. But I don’t think of myself as an adult in relation to Gary. He’s always been the adult. I’m always his “little girl,” and we live in a small little world where that’s who I am. For the first time, I’m recognizing I can move past that.
“So, your uncle, is he from the island too?” Kala’s mom asks me.
I guess we are back to 20 questions now, but oddly, I don’t mind. I want his parents to like me and I have nothing to hide.
“Yes,” I say. “My uncle Gary, he was born here.”
“Who are you here visiting?” Kala’s dad asks.
“Dad, can you cool it?” Makaila says.
“Seriously, dad,” Kala agrees.
“Honestly, it’s OK,” I say to Kala and Makaila.
“They do this with everyone,” Makaila says with an eye roll.
“We came to visit my great-aunt, Halani,” I say. “She lives here in Hanalei. I don’t think we have any other family here.”
“Halani over on Palm?” Kala’s mom asks. “With the artist studio out front?”
A shutter crawls up my spine and sends goosebumps over my body. I remember Halani’s house and the first time I met her.
“Yes,” I say with some regret.
Oh no, what if they know Halani? Would Halani tell them about the spirit of the man that was bothering me? I don’t want Kala and his family to know about any of that. Maybe this line of questioning wasn’t a good idea.
“Ah yes, Halani,” Kala’s father says. “She’s kanaka maoli.”
“Yes,” his mom agrees. “She’s like ohana to us.”
“Oh really?” I ask.
Now I am legitimately worried about them speaking to Halani. I need to change the subject.
“I wonder if you know the other side of my family? The Kinimaka side?” I ask.
Do I really want to delve into my family more? That might not have been the best idea.
“Oh sure!” Kala’s dad says enthusiastically. “Who are your relatives on that side?”
“Um, I guess I actually don’t know,” I say.
I’m not sure why I even brought this up.
“The only one I know was my grandpa Alika,” I say. “But he died a long time ago.”
“Alika Kinimaka,” his dad says knowingly. “Of course, I remember his family. I didn’t know him but I knew some of his nephews. Would’ve been your uncles or cousins.”
“Oh really?” I ask.
This is actually interesting. I don’t know anything about grandpa’s side of the family. The side of the family that I share a last name with.
“Yes,” he says. “Are you going to see some of them while you are here?”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” I say quickly. “I’ve never met any of them. I don’t know them.”
“They’re your ohana, Josie,” Kala’s mom says. “You must see them while you are here. It’s very important to connect to your mo’oku’auhau. Understanding your kupuna will tell you all about who you are and your mana.”
Kala’s mom is a stranger to me, but for some reason I trust her. I don’t understand what she is saying, but I know what she is saying is absolutely true. And if my own mother or tutu were here, they would agree with her.
“I’m sorry, my Hawaiian is terrible,” I say to Kala’s mom. “What does ‘mana’ mean?”
“Mana is a spiritual energy that each of us has,” she explains. “It’s a healing power that we can use for good if we cultivate it.”
“Oh,” I say to her.
A healing power. Do I have a mana? How would I know if I had a mana? I’ve never heard Gary talk about his mana or our family’s.
“Didn’t your makuahine teach you your mo’olelo?” Kala’s mom asks.
“My mo’olelo?” I say.
I know she is asking if my mom taught me something, but I’m not familiar with mo’olelo.
“Yes,” she says. “The story of your family.”
“Oh, I understand,” I say as I look down at the table.
I begin fumbling with my hands in anxiety.
“My mom died, “ I say. “I guess she didn’t have the chance to teach me. My grandparents died before her and my uncle really hasn’t taught me anything about our family or Hawaii. This trip was supposed to be the beginning of that, I think.”
Kala’s mom is silent. I look up from my hands and see water in her eyes. I look to his father who has a similar look of sadness on his face.
“Sorry, Josie,” Kala says as he reaches out and places his hand on top of mine.
When he touches me, I stop fumbling and remember the tentacles in my stomach. The memory of us sleeping tightly aligned all night comes back. I have so many unanswered questions. When will I ever get to ask them?
“E kala mai ia’u,” Kala’s dad says. “I’m sorry.”
“E kala mai ia’u,” his mom repeats.
“You need to understand your mo’olelo,” Kala’s mom says. “We can help you if you’d like?”
“Mom,” Kala says. “Maybe we can talk about it later?”
I agree with Kala but don’t want to insult his parents. They’ve been so kind and I can tell they have genuine concern for my well-being.
“Josie really needs to get back to her uncle,” Kala says.
“But she didn’t finish her breakfast,” his dad says.
“It’s OK,” I say as I stand up.
I need to take the opportunity to break from this intense situation.
“The food was so delicious,” I say with a smile that’s a bit forced. “And you’ve been so kind to me. It was nice to meet you all.”
“Maikaʻi Ka launa ‘ana me’ oe,” Kala’s dad says with a nod.
“It was nice to meet you,” Kala’s mom says, seemingly translating what his dad just said.
“Thank you again for everything,” I say. “I look forward to seeing you all again.”
Makaila gives me a small smile and nod as Kala places his hand on my lower back and points to the front door with his other. I now remember walking through that door last night in the pitch black. All of the questions I have about last night push to the front of my mind with urgency.
Kala and I walk through the front door. Once we are in the front yard, he looks behind him to see if his family is watching. I look too, but see no faces at the windows.
“I’m sorry about them,” he says. “They mean well. It’s just customary to understand the family of other Hawaiians. Especially someone who has family from Kauai.”
“Don’t be sorry,” I say as I put a hand to his cheek. “They were wonderful. I would’ve like to stay longer but I have to see my uncle Gary. He’s pretty upset.”
“Really?” Kala asks. “Because you didn’t call?”
“Yeah,” I say. “He sort of sees me as a little girl. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just been him and I for so long. We hold on to each other pretty tight.”
“I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you,” Kala says sincerely and with a hint of sadness. “Being so alone in the world without your ohana.”
“Well, I did have Gary,” I say to him a bit defensively.
His comment strikes me as odd, but at the same time, I understand his perspective after the conversation with his parents about the importance of family.
“Oh, yes, I know,” he says apologetically. “I just mean without your mom or dad. I can’t imagine life without my parents.”
“I understand,” I say with sadness. “I would give anything to have had a normal life. It just wasn’t my destiny.”
“That’s the sad truth,” Kala says, cupping my face in both his hands.
He stares into my eyes and my stomach stirs a bit, but not with the familiar lashing tentacles from last night.
“Kala,” I say. “We need to talk about what happened last night. I’m confused, and embarrassed, and I don’t know.”
“I know,” Kala says as he drops his hands and looks into the distance. “Don’t feel embarrassed. I understand why you have questions, especially after your conversation with my parents this morning.”
“What?” I ask. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“You don’t know your mo’olelo, Josie,” he says. “Your family history. How could you understand anything about what happened last night?”
“You mean, you do understand?” I ask. “This has something to do with your family history?”
“Of course,” he says. “I’ve understood my mo’olelo and my hopena since I was a boy.”
“Hopena?” I ask.
“My fate, my destiny,” he says. “Explaining all of this will take some time. Maybe we can see each other again tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I say. “You are right. I need to go.”
Kala kisses me quickly on the lips.
“Can I walk you back?” He asks.
I consider his offer but decide I’d like to walk on my own. I’ve got a lot to process from last night and this morning. Plus, I need to prepare myself for my conversation with Gary. It might get heated and the more I calm myself beforehand, the better the outcome will be. Especially after our last conversation on the lanai.
“Thank you,” I say. “You’re so sweet. I think I’d like to walk alone, though. I’ve got a lot to think about.”
“OK,” he says.
He wraps his arms around my lower back and pulls me close to him. It reminds me of our time together last night and I lean into him like a magnet being pulled by an invisible force. Kala kisses me and I kiss him back.
“My ku’u aloha,” he says sweetly.
“My ku’u aloha,” I repeat back, although I don’t know what it means.
I’m pretty sure it means something about love. I turn and walk away repeating the new Hawaiian phrase that I’m sure I won’t forget.
My ku’u aloha.