The decision to sing with the band was far less dramatic than I thought it would be. About halfway through my Mai Tai, when I started to feel the alcohol course through my limbs and sour my stomach, I agreed with Kala. Somehow, it did feel right for me to sing at Da Nui.
I figured the band might know more Janis songs so I asked the lead singer, Paul, if he knew the song, “Kozmic Blues.” He and the ukulele player knew the song and said the drummer and bass player could keep time easily enough.
I thought about finishing my drink before singing but decided I felt buzzed enough. If I drank more, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to sing at all.
I went to the single-stall bathroom in the corner of the restaurant and practiced for a few minutes before I went on stage.
“Time keeps moving on, friends they turn away. Lordy Lord. Well, I keep moving on,” I sang to myself in the mirror.
I’ve never done that before. I’ve never sang to myself in a mirror or actually seen what I look like when I sing. I discovered I open my mouth really wide, which made me laugh. Once I was satisfied and felt like my voice was warm enough, I went back out to the table with Kala.
The band, Mele, is currently playing a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” with another guest singer. She plays the ukulele too and is somehow making the song work with a Hawaiian twist. I tap my foot and sway a bit with the effects of the alcohol as she sings.
“Pink Floyd was never able to recreate the studio version of that song,” she says as she finishes the song with a final strum of the ukulele.
It makes sense, I guess?
“Is that actually true?” I ask Kala.
“I don’t know,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Mahalo, Marie,” Paul says to the singer as she bows and then walks offstage. “Marie, everyone!”
The audience enthusiastically claps and a few people whistle from the back.
“We’ve got another guest singer who comes to us all the way from California,” Paul says to the audience. “Josie, you wanna come up here?”
I look over at Kala nervously.
Here goes nothin’, as Gary always says.
I stand up and cross in front of the stage to a small set of stairs, walk up them, and meet Paul at the center of the stage.
“Josie’s going to sing a song from one of our favorite artists and an esteemed member of the 27 Club, Janis Joplin,” he says to applause.
27 Club? What’s that?
I guess I’ll find out later. Right now, Paul’s shoving the microphone at me.
I take the mic but I’m not one for small talk on stage. I know that even though this is only my second time performing to an audience.
“This is ‘Kozmic Blues’,” I say.
I briefly look at Kala who is beaming with happiness. His smile gives me a jolt of confidence. I look at the ground and wait for the band to play the intro.
They start slow and quiet. I raise my head, look at the crowd, and begin to sing.
“Time keeps moving on, friends they turn away. Lordy Lord. Well, I keep moving on,” I sing.
I look at the crowd, look at Kala, and back to the crowd. It feels too intense to stare into his eyes while I sing. I might forget the words if I do.
“Whoa don’t discover it lasts. Honey, time keeps a-moving on, hey yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I’m 25 years older now. So, I know it can’t be right,” I sing.
I’m surprised that I’m not scared. Not a bit. The stage fright isn’t coming. This feels like the most natural thing in the world. Or maybe it’s just the Mai Tai.
I look down at Kala and continue to sing. I recognize the look on his face, which changed from happiness to something else.
It’s awe and admiration.
Just like at Gary’s art show.
I look around the room and see that same look on the faces of everyone in the room. Having people look at me this way is not a regular occurrence. But I’m not questioning it right now. It’s not making me nervous, and is actually somehow comforting.
I look over at the lead singer, Paul, who’s standing next to me and keeping time with a tambourine. He’s got the same look on his face. It seems like he’s in a trance, robotically hitting the tambourine against one of his hands while watching me.
“But it don’t make no difference baby, no, no. Cause I know that I could always try. There’s a fire inside of everyone of us, huh-uh,” I sing louder.
My voice is picking up steam, getting stronger as I get deeper into the song. I’m approaching that part of the song where my singing has the momentum of a skateboard going down a steep hill, and I become powerless to anything except enjoying the ride.
I close my eyes and belt out the next line.
“I’m gonna need it now! I’m gonna hold it yeah, I’m gonna use it till the day I die!” I sing.
I open my eyes and life slows to a pace I’m unfamiliar with. Everyone’s movements in the room are barely noticeable. It’s almost like they’re frozen. The only thing moving is a man with shaggy, dark hair who appears to be floating above the crowd and slowly moving towards me. He has no legs. Just a floating, naked torso and head.
It’s inexplicable that he’s moving above the crowd. That he has no legs, and that he looks dead; but these surreal experiences are starting to feel familiar. I’m starting to accept that the impossible is possible. That all of the things I thought weren’t a part of reality, are now a part of my reality.
I can tell the floating man wants something from me. There’s hunger written all over his face, and I can feel that hunger in my gut. But I’m not scared of him. Come at me, I think in my head as I continue to sing.
I touch the belt with the surfer girl flat against my stomach.
“I’m gonna need it now! I’m gonna hold it yeah, I’m gonna use it till the day I die!” I’m nearly screaming at the floating man.
He’s within ten feet of me when Kala stands up, turns away from me, and towards the floating man.
Is Kala looking at the man? Does he see him too?
I stutter on the next line of the song and almost forget the lyrics. Kala looks back at me and smirks. Then he turns to face the floating man again.
Kala opens his arms wide and the man looks away from me for the first time since he appeared. The hunger disappears from his face and something like fear replaces it.
Is Kala speaking to him? I can’t tell because he’s facing away from me. I can only see the back of his head and his ponytail of curls bobbing with the up and down movement of his head.
The floating man stops and is no longer moving towards me. In fact, it looks like he’s actually trying to float backwards.
Am I still singing?
I am, somehow.
“Hey, I ain’t never gonna love you any better baby. Cause I’m never gonna love you right,” I continue.
I’m on autopilot, watching this bizarre scene play out in front of me.
“You’re not going anywhere,” I hear Kala say loudly over my singing.
He strengthens his stance and tenses his outstretched arms. He begins to speak in Hawaiian but I can’t understand him.
The floating man is only focused on Kala now and his ghostly face is full of terror.
Good, I think, in between singing the next line.
“So you better take it now, I said right yes now, yeah,” I continue.
I see the man’s twisted mouth say something like “no” as he is sucked towards Kala like a piece of fuzz to a vacuum. I close my eyes, throw my head back and continue singing with all the force I’ve got.
“Every time you’re gonna want to need somebody, you’re gonna want to turn around, I’m gonna be there,” I sing.
I open my eyes and look down at Kala. He’s hunched over a chair.
I look around the room. The floating man is gone.
I check the faces of others in the room and it seems I am the only one who saw the scene unfold between Kala and the floater. Everyone is still staring at me in a trance-like state and barely moving. I look at Paul and the rest of the band and they aren’t looking at Kala either. Only at me.
The band plays out the rest of the song and the crowd sits in silence.
The song ends but the silence continues. What do I do?
“Thank you,” I say to my zombie audience.
I look at Kala who is now smiling at me but with an obvious pain behind his eyes. As I look closer, it appears he’s breathing heavier than normal.
He claps and the trance in the room is broken.
The crowd breaks out in thunderous applause, including the band. People whistle and say “wooooooo” enthusiastically throughout the audience.
Paul grabs the mic from my hand and says: “Josie, everyone!”
I nod my head at a few people and walk off the side of the stage.
“All the way from California!” Paul says loudly as the clapping continues.
As I walk off the stage, Kala stands, stretching his back out of what looks like a painful hunch. He gingerly walks towards me and pushes his hand to me while motioning his head towards the front door.
I grab his hand and he pulls me tight to his side as he walks me slowly through the crowd. I smile and nod my head at various people in the audience.
“You were great!” A woman says enthusiastically from a table.
“That was amazing!” A man says from another table.
“You’ve got the blues down!” Another man tells me.
I feel embarrassed from all of the compliments. I’m sure my face is as red as fire from blushing.
“Thank you, thank you,” I say as the compliments keep coming.
Kala puts his arm around my waist and it feels like he lifts me off of my feet. The tentacles in my stomach shoot through my skin. I instinctively look down, and see nothing but my yellow ruffled dress flat against my body.
“Aaahhhhhhh,” I wince aloud.
Then the tentacles find something. I feel them grip on and the tension inside my stomach fades. I somehow understand what they’ve been looking for. I look over at Kala and he’s holding his stomach. Does he feel this too?
“Aaaahhhhhhh,” he says through clinched teeth.
He leans over and whispers in my ear: “We need to be alone.”
I continue to somehow float through the crowd as he carries me. I think the tentacles in my stomach are quiet because they feel connected to something that I’m pretty sure is him.
I’m not suspicious of what his intentions are for getting me alone. I need out of here and the tentacles are demanding I let them stay where they’ve connected.
“Take me with you,” I say dreamily back to him.
We float outside into the night that’s descended over Hanalei.
There’s no one walking on the street anymore. Just a few cars quietly moving along.
“Where are we going?” I ask Kala from a far away place.
He doesn’t answer but keeps his grip on my waist.
“My hands felt just like two balloons,” I quietly sing, recalling the lyrics to the Pink Floyd song Marie sang a short time ago.
“Now I’ve got that feeling once again, I can’t explain, you would not understand, this is not how I am,” I say dreamily.
Kala continues to carry me, although I’m not sure how. I’m by his side and he only has an arm around my waist. Carrying me at this angle would be impossible. But my feet aren’t moving, but my body is propelled forward in some way.
“I’m taking you to my parent’s house,” he says.
“OK,” I say from a far off place. “Are your parents home?”
“Yes,” he says. “But they’ll be in bed.”
Kala turns us down a residential street off of the main highway.
“Iiiiiiiiiii, have become, comfortably numb,” I say dreamily.
I laugh at my ridiculous singing in the middle of the street.
“Is it far?” I ask, as I stare up at the stars.
It seems I can see every star in the galaxy.
“No, but are you OK?” He asks.
“I think so. I’m a little bit tired,” I reply. “Am I walking?”
“Sort of,” he says. “I’m helping.”
“OK,” I tell him, briefly looking away from the stars to him. “Thank you.”
“Did you feel that back there?” I ask. “Did you see that man?”
Kala hesitates for a moment and I study his face as we move along the residential street. The tentacles in my stomach, which currently feel like they’re outside my body, shiver.
“I did, Josie,” he admits. “That’s why we had to leave.”
“So we could get away from him?” I ask, refocusing on the surrounding homes and the quiet neighborhood.
“Not really,” he says. “I told you, we need to be alone.”
“Oh yeah,” I say.
I pause for a moment and think. What’s wrong with me? Am I drunk? I feel so tired and loopy. Like I need to close my eyes. I feel a little woozy, like I need to stop for a couple of minutes and sit down. My stomach and the tentacles are aching.
“Kala,” I say as I unhook his arm from my waist. “I need to stop for a minute.”
I step away from him and the tentacles shriek in pain as our bodies separate. I swear I hear screaming in my ear. I bend over to brace myself against my spinning head and aching midsection.
“Oowwwwwww,” I whisper quietly to myself.
I hear a thud behind me and see Kala laying on the gravel road, writhing in pain.
“Kala!” I cry.
I forget about my stomach and head, and jump up to close the short gap between us.