“Are you OK?” I ask Kala as I kneel down and put my hand to his face.
His ponytail is splayed out above his head on the gravel road in a mess of curls, and pain is contorting his face.
“Get closer to me, Josie,” he whispers.
I lean my face into his.
“No, get your body closer,” he says through clinched teeth.
I scoot the left side of my body to the right side of his body, and the tentacles in my stomach burst from my insides again. I look down at my stomach, grabbing at the dress and the thin skin underneath with my nails, but see nothing.
“Aaahhhhhhhhh,” I say out loud as the invisible tentacles flutter in the cold night air.
I can somehow feel them like they are appendages. They feel the crisp air like the skin on my arms and legs do. And they seem to feel pain when outside of my body, even though I now understand they’ve been determined to leave my body since I met Kala.
“Josie,” Kala whispers. “Don’t fight it. Please, just let it happen.”
His chest and stomach lurch into the air as his back arches at a severe angle. I feel the tentacles grow longer somehow, stretching as far as they can until they find their resting spot near Kala. When they connect with him, my body is filled with electric currents from the tip of my head to my toes. My body hums with energy and the pain in my head and stomach disappear.
Kala lays back flat on the ground and sighs with relief.
“Josie,” he whispers. “We can’t do this on the street. We have to get to my house.”
“OK,” I say. “What are we doing?”
“I can’t explain it right now,” he says. “Can you help me up?”
“Yes,” I tell him.
I grab his muscled arm and help him to sit up.
“Stay close, Josie, or we’ll disconnect again,” he warns. “Get beside me like when we were walking before.”
“OK,” I say.
I have no idea what’s going on but the word “disconnect” makes sense. When I moved away from him to rest, he fell to the ground and I felt worse. Now that those tentacles are resting somewhere near him, I feel better. Energized in a way, but exhausted too.
“This won’t work for long,” he says. “Our movement disrupts the process. We must be still and alone.”
“But your parents?” I ask as I crouch near his side and help him to stand up with me.
I wrap his arm around my waist again and we begin to slowly walk.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “They’re heavy sleepers.”
“Where’s your house?” I ask.
“Take a left up here on Weke and then a right on Hee,” he says. “My house is the last on the left. It’s dark green. Can you help navigate?”
“Yes, I think so,” I say.
I still feel strange and out of it, but I have to help him get home. Seeing him in this condition is motivating me out of my drunkenness.
I dare to look around and see if anyone witnessed this strange scene in the middle of the peaceful neighborhood. I suppose it would look like two drunks stumbling through the streets, but I don’t want to take any chances. You can get arrested for stumbling around the streets drunk back home.
“A left here?” I say when I see the green sign for Weke Road.
“Yes,” Kala says, his voice far off.
“Are you OK?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says. “Starting to feel better. I’m really weak right now but it’s not much further.”
We continue walking slowly, his arm around my waist and mine around his. I feel the tentacles bobbing in the air in front of me, but feel no pain. We must be “connected” enough to continue this way for now.
“Here’s Hee,” I say to him.
“Yes, take a right,” he says.
We turn right on Hee and I see the dark ocean. The stars and moon reflect off of the water and I’m struck by the eerie beauty.
“You live right by the water?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says quietly. “Well, my parents do.”
“Ours is the one on the left,” he says, pointing to a dark green, two story home surrounded by tall green bushes and a gate.
We pass by the gate and I briefly see the yard and a barbecue grill. We continue towards the front of the house and a small, gravel parking lot.
“This way,” he says, pointing to a walkway obscured by bushes beyond the parking lot.
We make our way to what looks like a backdoor.
“Just open the door,” he says as we carefully walk up a few steps onto a porch. “It will be unlocked.”
I open the door quietly and am met with total darkness.
“Kala,” I whisper in his ear. “I can’t see anything. I’ll trip over something.”
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll take it from here.”
He tightens his grip on my waist and lifts me again in that way that makes me feel like I’m walking on air instead of the ground.
“Relax, Josie,” he says. “I’m stronger now.”
He guides us through a dark kitchen area and down a wood-paneled hallway. He opens a door, helps me through the doorway and then closes it behind us.
“Stand here a minute with me,” he says.
I look around his room. There’s a twin bed in the corner, and black and white photos and posters of surfing scenes on the walls.
“Look at me,” he says as he turns his body and positions himself in front of me, instead of at my side.
I look him in the eyes and can faintly see the outline of his features from the moon shining through the partially open blinds of a nearby window. He leans his forehead into mine and wraps his arms around my waist.
“Take off your dress,” he says as he pulls his forehead from mine.
He unbuttons his blue shirt and lets it fall to the floor. I don’t move and instead stare at his exposed chest and arms.
“Don’t be afraid, Josie,” he says. “I won’t hurt you.”
“I’m shy,” I say.
I’ve never done anything like this before. Johanna tells me all about her encounters and truthfully, I’ve dreamed of moments like this. But actually being in this situation in real life is an entirely different experience.
“I understand,” Kala says. “You can trust me.”
“I know,” I say with hesitation.
I want to have this experience with him. I want to have this experience for me. I’m ready to be a woman and I want to understand what it’s like to have a relationship like this. I think I’ve wanted this for a very long time, but I’ve kept it buried inside.
I reach down and grab the fabric of my dress and pull it up slowly over my body and stretch it above my head. I toss it to the side.
Kala leans in and touches his forehead to mine again. My body fires with electricity and I reach out and put my hands on his hips.
“Take this off,” he says, motioning to the surfer girl belt Manu gave me.
His request pulls me out of the moment.
“I can’t, Kala,” I tell him, shaking my head. “It protects me.”
He slowly shakes his head.
“You don’t need it anymore,” he says. “I will protect you.”
“But, the floating man, it kept him away,” I tell him, my voice shaking. “I sang without him bothering me. This helped me.”
Kala shakes his head again slowly.
“Josie, I made the man go away,” he says. “Not the belt.”
I stare into his dark eyes. They look almost black in the dim, moonlit room.
“You did?” I ask. “How?”
“I want to answer your questions and I will,” he says. “But please, just remove the belt.”
I pause for a moment and look down at the leather disc on my stomach. I caress it and feel the imprint of the surfer girl. I remember Manu and what he did for me. How he made me better. I briefly wonder if Manu and Kala are alike.
I still feel dreamy and swimmy, like I’m drunk, I guess. But I’m more aware now than I was when we left Da Nui. I oblige his request and reach both hands behind my back and untie the twine of the belt. I let it fall free from my hands onto my dress on the floor.
Kala holds my hips and pulls me close to him, our chests and stomachs touching. I look up at him and kiss him. I think this is what I am supposed to do. I’m letting instinct and all of the movies I’ve watched, and stories I’ve heard from Johanna take over.
Kala kisses me back and we move towards his twin bed together, our bodies entwined. I feel a jolt of electricity as we move together, and the tentacles shiver in a way I haven’t felt before.
Kala gently lays both of us on the bed and I go with our slow fall to lay side by side as we continue to kiss. Kala adjusts our bodies as I lay on my left side and he on his right. He aligns our bodies so our stomachs and chests are pressed tightly against each other, with our belly buttons meeting.
My neck hurts from looking up to kiss him, so I stop to adjust my body and pull myself up higher so my face is closer to his. To my surprise, he stops my movement.
“Josie,” he says gently. “You must stay still. We need to sleep. Can you stay still like this?”
Sleep? I’m confused. I thought we were going to be together. I thought something was going to happen. Something I’ve never experienced before, but learned about when I took sex-ed in sixth grade. I was at first completely grossed out by it, but then eventually accepted it would be a part of my life when I grew up.
“Don’t you feel it, Josie?” Kala says dreamily. “It’s draining me. I’m so tired. I need to sleep. You need to sleep. When we wake up, I can explain.”
I do feel something. I feel fatigued in an unfamiliar way but also feel adrenaline rushing through my blood. My legs are tingling as if I can feel the blood moving through the tiny pathways beneath my skin. Kala wraps his arms around my body and pulls me as tight as he can to him.
“Can you feel the ikehu?” He says. “Focus on the energy flowing between us.”
I can’t feel the tentacles anymore and I interpret that as a good thing. When we separated earlier, they hurt in a strange way I don’t want to feel again.
“Rest, Josie,” he whispers dreamily in my ear. “Rest my ku’u aloha.”
He brings his hand to my face and then smooths back my hair, caressing the side of my head. He kisses my forehead and continues to smooth my hair on the side of my head. I bring my hand to rest on his side, our stomachs and chests firmly locked together. I slowly drift off into nothingness.