“You know you’re a healer right?” The woman says behind me.
At first, I don’t think she’s talking to me. But she says it again, and I can tell she’s closer now.
“You’re a healer, right?” She asks me insistently, walking in front of me and blocking my view.
I’ve been sitting at Waioli Beach park for at least 30 minutes waiting for Kala. He’s not late. I am extremely early.
I had so much nervous energy about meeting him and surfing, I couldn’t stay in the room anymore and needed space from Gary and his constant questions. It went something like this for a couple of hours before I left:
Gary: Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?
Me: Yes, I will be fine.
Gary: What if you get hurt?
Me: I will call you if I need anything.
Gary: Who is this guy anyway? What if he’s dangerous?
Me: I gave you his info – you can give it to the police if I disappear.
I walked from the motel and easily found the lifeguard stand reading “Hanalei Pine Trees,” named for this part of the beach.
“Excuse me?” I say to the woman who appears to be in her early 40s.
She’s skinny with shoulder-length black hair. Her deep tan is accented by tan lines on her shoulders that don’t match the bikini top she’s wearing.
“I’m asking you a question,” she says in a terse tone.
“Oh, I misunderstood,” I reply. “What’s the question?”
“Are you a healer?” She repeats with irritation.
“A healer?” I repeat, dumbfounded. “Like, a nurse?”
“No,” she says sternly. “Not like that. I mean, can you heal people?”
I pause and look at my surroundings: the grass leading to the white sand and ocean; and the parking lot I walked through to get to the lifeguard station. I want to make sure I can run for it in case this lady gets too weird. Living in Venice comes with a lot of homeless people and Gary taught me to never be cornered by homeless people.
“Not that I know of?” I say with a question.
“Ah, I see,” she says knowingly. “You just don’t know yet then. You’re a healer. A great healer. You will do good in this world.”
I see a sparkle in the woman’s eyes that says she believes this without doubt. She seems to be energized by sharing the information.
“I am?” I ask because I don’t know what else to say.
I get distracted by something in the corner of my eye moving towards me. I train my eyes on what’s approaching and see it’s Kala the Sun, jogging up shirtless with light blue board shorts and a long, yellow surf board under his arm.
“Josie!” He calls out with a wave as he approaches.
“Sorry for interrupting,” the woman says as Kala gets closer. “I just … I need a healer. My mama is sick. I saw you waiting here and I could feel what’s inside you. I can see the light.”
I’m confused by her words but understand the sentiment behind them. She means me no harm and admires something in me, I think. It’s a welcome relief after my experience with my aunt Halani. This woman is no threat at all – just a nice lady with good intentions who’s trying to find someone to help her mama.
“Don’t be sorry,” I say. “I don’t know anything about being a healer but I hope your mom gets better.”
Kala stands by my side and looks at the woman. Her face lights up at his arrival.
“Oh, I see,” she says, nodding enthusiastically. “You’ll find your Ola lokahi together.”
I feel hot blood rush to my cheeks. I look over at Kala and he doesn’t seem embarrassed at all.
“Mahalo,” Kala says to the lady. “A hui hou.”
“A hui hou,” she repeats back to both of us with a nod, and turns to walk back the parking lot.
“Bye,” I yell after her with a wave.
I’m not sure what they said to each other but it felt like kindness. She turns back to wave and then disappears into the cars in the parking lot.
“Well, hey, Josie,” Kala says with a smile, planting his board in the sand.
“Hi Kala,” I say, looking into his dark brown eyes.
I feel those tentacles in my stomach stretch briefly. It feels like a good body stretch when I wake up in the morning.
“It’s so good to see you again in person,” he says. “You ready to surf? We can rent a board down the beach for you.”
Wait. Did he just say he’s excited to see me?
He has no idea how happy I am to see him, but I’m not used to people being so open with their feelings. Especially with a stranger they’re attracted to.
His self confidence makes me feel brave, and I decide I want to be open with my feelings too. No games.
“It’s really great to see you too,” I say. “It’s nice to be in your presence. Snap doesn’t have the same affect,” I say with a wink.
Kala smiles back in a cool and confident way. What a beautiful smile. His eyes crinkle at the edges, and for a moment I can imagine what he looked like as a little boy.
He doesn’t seem flustered by my compliment or full of himself. Just peaceful and content.
“I have to tell you something, though,” I say. “I love to surf and I’m good – my uncle Gary taught me when I was a kid. But I haven’t surfed in years, so I’m a bit nervous.”
“Really?” Kala asks. “I figured you for a diehard when we met.”
“I was,” I stammer. “I mean, I am. It’s not really by choice that I stopped surfing. Well, it was. But, well, my mom died when I was 13 and I stopped surfing,” I blurt out.
I learned quickly after mom died that talking about death scares people. I discovered when I told people I lost my mom, I ended up comforting them rather than them comforting me. People just don’t know what to say. I can talk about it pretty matter-of-factly, but others don’t seem to be able to.
For some reason with Kala, all of my theories about sharing what happened to mom go out the window. I want him to know. I want him to understand who I am. And to accept me; tragedies and all.
Kala’s eyes go dark and distant at the mention of my mom.
“I’m so sorry, Josie,” he says. “I don’t want to push you. I would’ve never asked had I known.”
“I know you wouldn’t,” I reassure him, reaching out to touch his arm.
It’s exhilarating to feel the warmth of his skin.
“I actually think you were supposed to ask me to surf,” I say, pulling my hand away and smiling. “I think this is when I get back in the water. It feels right. It feels like … fate, I guess.”
“You sure?” He asks.
He seems genuinely concerned and apologetic.
“I’m sure,” I say with a smile. “I hope you’ll be patient with me – I might not be able to get up the first try.”
“Oh, no worries,” he says and beams at me with his crinkled eyes and big smile. “Let’s just use my board for now. When you start getting up, we can get you your own. I can help until you’re back in the groove.”
“OK,” I enthuse. “That sounds perfect.”
We walk towards the water and he reaches for my hand. I reach back and when our hands connect and our fingers intertwine, I feel magic run up my arm and into my stomach. It’s like an electrical current sets my nerves on high alert while a foggy sensation overcomes my brain. The world looks softer – the water, the sand, the trees are glowing at the edges, and I feel more energized than I ever have before.
We step into the cool, clear water and gentle waves lap at my ankles as we walk deeper. I look over at Kala and burst into giggles. The joy I am feeling can’t be measured. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this happy and carefree. Kala smiles back and leads me further into the water.
“It won’t get too deep,” he tells me as we walk further. “We’ll stay close and get you a baby wave to start.”
“Ok,” I say dreamily as I continue to follow him.
We reach a stopping point and he turns his body and the yellow board to face the beach.
“Let me help you get up on the board,” he says, reaching out to me again with one hand and steadying the board with the other.
I don’t hesitate and put my hand in his again. He easily pulls me through the water to him, tight against his body. We both stop and stare into each other’s eyes. Those tentacles in my stomach come to life and feel like they want to poke outside of my skin. We are chest-to-chest staring into each other’s eyes and I feel like I might burst; like there’s too much energy for my body to contain.
I let go of his hand and push off of him to create some space between us. The intensity is something I’ve never felt before and I need a break before whatever is rumbling in my stomach reaches out and grabs him.
“Sorry,” he says, his cheeks burning with a rose tinge.
“It’s OK,” I say with a giggle.
And now that I’ve had a moment away, I want him to pull me close again.
“You ready to get on?” He asks, motioning to the board he’s holding steady.
“Yes,” I say, nodding my head.
I look around at the bay and its beautiful, gentle waves, and the green-covered mountain that surrounds us. The beach and water is spotted with people – families, kids, adults, all peacefully enjoying the tranquil surroundings.
“It’s so beautiful here,” I say absently. “It’s like a dream.”
“This is Hanalei,” Kala says proudly. “The most beautiful place in the world.”
As Kala holds the board steady, I climb on top of it and lay face down with my chest and stomach flat on the board, my hands in the water.
“You ready?” He asks. “The next wave, I’ll give you a little push and then you do the rest.”
“Yeah,” I say.
I feel a bit breathless. I remember the last time I surfed. I was wearing a tie-dye pink and white bikini and was with Gary. Mom was waiting on the beach, watching us in Venice.
My hair was in braided pig tails and I had white Zinc oxide on my nose. I can hear Gary laughing and challenging me to catch the next big wave.
“Come on, little girl!” He yelled. “The next one is yours!”
I remember taking Gary’s challenge and catching the next wave. I rode it almost all of the way to shore and before I jumped off the board, I looked up and saw my beautiful mom smiling and waiting for me. Her long brown hair blowing off to the side, dark glasses covering her eyes, and a big white smile decorating her face.
“You got this, Josie,” Kala says, interrupting my memory.
He gives me a light push and I feel the familiar momentum of a small wave picking up steam behind me. I start to paddle with both arms as the wave gently pushes against the back of the board. I carefully draw my knees to my chest, and slowly stand up to a crouching position.
I’m doing it, I think to myself, but can’t actually believe it’s happening. I’m surfing again.
I look to the shore and see a woman watching me, her long brown hair streaming to the side of her. I focus on her and easily keep my balance on the board as the baby wave carries me to shore.
Tears are streaming down my face but I don’t feel sad. I feel a release that’s been building in me for as long as I can remember. I start to sob as I approach the shore, and the woman who is watching me turns and walks away from the water.
“Yeeehooooo,” I hear from behind me. “First time! You did it!”
I jump off the board into the shallow water, grab its middle and turn to see Kala cheering behind me. He’s jumping up and down and waiving his hands. He starts to walk towards me in the waist-deep water and I begin to walk towards him, with the surf board in tow. I realize we are being drawn to each other, like two magnets, as we float in the water towards the other.
He’s a couple of feet away and I continue moving towards him with more urgency.
“Josie,” he says excitedly. “You’re a pro, you wanna go out in the real waves now?”
I let go of the surfboard and reach for his shoulders. I grip them and leverage his weight to pull my body to his in the water. As I pull close, I draw my legs up and wrap them around his waist. I let my arms rest on his back. I feel him wrap his arms around my back and hold me to him. We are nose-to-nose for just a moment, staring into each other’s eyes when I press my lips to his.
I bring my hands up to the sides of his head and kiss him like I’ve never kissed anyone before. He kisses me back and we are frozen in time there in the ocean, his surf board slowly floating away.
I’ve kissed guys before, but never like this. The kisses I’ve experienced felt like initiations. Like something I had to get over with to say I did it, but really wasn’t interested in. This kiss has an intensity of emotion behind it that’s overwhelming. But in a good way.
“Get a room!” A young man’s voice yells from somewhere deeper in the water, and the spell is broken.
I pull my mouth from Kala’s and see a dazed look on his face that I am sure is replicated on mine.
I loosen my grip on his head and neck and release my legs from his torso. I step back down with a floating thud onto the sand under the water and look back up at him.
“Your surfboard!” I yell as I see it floating about 20 feet away.
I swim towards it with a fury; it feels amazing to use my muscles and body to move in the water. I easily grab the surfboard and turn back to meet Kala half the distance between us.
“Thanks,” he says, a bit shy.
His previous confident nature seems rattled.
“You OK?” I ask. “Sorry about that, I don’t know what came over me.”
“Oh, don’t be sorry,” he says with a chuckle. “That was unexpected. But I really liked it. Never be sorry for anything like that.”
We both laugh nervously and look around the bay.
“I can’t believe I surfed,” I tell him. “I can’t believe I waited so long. I don’t know why I waited so long. Well, I do know why, but I shouldn’t have waited so long.”
He laughs at my quick rambling thoughts.
“Why did you wait so long?” Kala asks.
I pause for a moment, remembering the woman on the shore watching.
“I was so sad after my mom was gone, I never wanted to be happy again,” I tell him. “Surfing made me happy so I banished it. I actually believed I would never surf again. Until I met you.”
Kala shyly looks down at the water.
“Well, I guess it was fate then,” he says with a smile, looking back up into my eyes.
“I guess so,” I say to him, matching his smile.
“You have a beautiful smile,” he says. “I bet it lights up every room you’re in.”
“I don’t know about that,” I say dryly with a chuckle.
Now it’s my turn to feel shy.
“You wanna keep this good streak going and head out to the big waves?” He asks.
“Yes,” I say confidently. “Let’s do it.”
“You chill here,” he says. “I’ll go grab another board and be right back.”
“Sounds good,” I tell him enthusiastically.
He looks at me for a beat, and a small smile creeps onto his face.
“I’ll be right back,” he says and turns to make his way towards the shore.