Gary and I checked into the Hanalei Inn and settled into our room. We got a studio with a small kitchen, bathroom and a Queen bed. Oh yeah, and Gary’s roll-away bed. I understand what he meant by Iron Maiden now. The metal frame folds in half for storage and has an old, thin, worn mattress attached to the top side. Luckily, I get the real bed.
There’s a pretty little lanai (or patio as I’m used to calling it) with a table and chairs attached to our unit that we can sit at to eat, or to just chill. I’m currently sitting on the lanai talking to Johanna.
I started by finding her on Snapchat (@jomountain) and then sent her a picture of me on the lanai. She freaked out and called me once she realized I joined Snap.
“You joined!” She says. “How the hell did this happen, Josie? I’ve been trying to get you to do this for two years!”
“I guess it was just time,” I say nonchalantly.
“Did you just want to make everyone jealous with pics of Hawaii?” She asks.
“Sort of, I guess,” I say.
“What else?” She asks. “I can hear something in your voice. Why’d you join? For real?”
“I met this guy,” I admit.
Before I can even explain, Johanna jumps in.
“What?” She half-screams. “You joined for some guy? Oh my god, I’ve been begging you to join forever and you do it for some random guy?”
I start laughing and she does too.
“He must’ve been hot,” she says sarcastically.
“He was,” I say.
My cheeks feel hot.
“He was cool and nice and it was just this spur of the moment thing,” I say. “It just kind of happened and then afterwards I couldn’t believe it either. I haven’t told Gary yet.”
“Gary?” She asks. “He won’t care.”
“Yeah, probably not,” I say. “He knew it would happen eventually.”
“So, are you feeling better?” She asks.
I remember I barely talked to her in the weeks leading up to our trip, and haven’t worked in the coffee shop for what seems like forever.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “Way better. I think the clean air here helped.”
“OK, so what’s up with this guy?” She asks. “Can I follow him and check him out?”
“Sure,” I say. “I haven’t even looked at his story yet.”
“What’s his Snap?” She asks.
“@kalathesun,” I say.
“Ohhhh, he’s a local I’m guessing?” She asks. “How’s this gonna work as a long-distance relationship?”
I start laughing again.
“Um, there’s no relationship,” I laugh. “Just a cute guy.”
“Well, are you gonna see him again?” She asks. “Oh my gosh, I found him. Look at his story. I still can’t believe you joined Snap for him over me.”
“OK, I will,” I say.
I put my phone on speaker and go to my only two connections on Snap so far: @kalathesun and @jomountain.
I watch the slowly moving images in his story. There’s some pictures of a bluff overlooking the ocean, the chicken shack I saw earlier, and then a video of the ocean. I hear his voice talking on the video, saying something about the surf today. His voice is deeper than I remember and hearing it makes me content and happy, although I was pretty much already there. The last image is of him with two other guys around our age with surfboards, flashing shakas.
I study his face before the image disappears and am hit with the dreamy feeling I had in the shop with him. Then, he’s gone.
“Josie,” Johanna says urgently. “Are you still there?”
“Yeah, sorry,” I say quickly.
“Were you looking at his story?” She asks. “I just did. Which one was he?”
“The one with the ponytail and shaved sides,” I tell her.
“That’s the one I thought!” She say with a laugh.
“Am I that predictable?” I say, pretending to be offended. “He doesn’t look like any of the haoles back home.”
“Haoles?” Johanna says with a laugh. “Aren’t you a haole?”
“Only half!” I say back.
We laugh for a few moments. Mostly at my using Hawaiian slang, which I’ve never done.
“You’re right, though,” Johanna says. “He doesn’t look like any of the dorks you’ve had crushes on before.”
“Hey!” I say, faking defensiveness. “You’re right though, they were dorks.”
“I miss you,” I tell her. “It sounds dumb, but I can’t wait to get back to the coffee shop with you.”
“It’s not dumb,” she says. “I’m literally dying without you here and am about to quit.”
“You are not!” I tell her. “Wait at least for me to come back and work one shift together.”
“Alright, I guess,” she says.
We both know she has no intention of quitting.
“Speaking of,” she says. “I gotta go to bed. I have an early shift in the morning. I am going to be obsessively checking your Snap, so you better post something good. I wanna see something with Kala the sun.”
“We don’t have any plans!” I tell her embarrassingly.
“You will,” she says. “Come on, have some fun. He’s not like the haoles back home, remember?”
We laugh again.
“I’ll keep you updated,” I say. “Watch me on my story, dahling.”
“Oh, OK, dahling,” she says laughing. “Talk to ya later. Love ya, Jo.”
“Love ya, Jo,” I say back.
I end the call and take a deep breath of the Hawaiian air. I can’t see the ocean but I can smell it. Gary said it’s about a block away.
Big green mountains peak from between the lush plants and palm trees covering the Hanalei Inn. I see a vine with bright fuchsia flowers lining the handrail of the deck. I decide to pull a flower free from its capsule and tuck into my ear.
I duck down near the vine, sweep my hair across my neck and in front of my shoulder and take a selfie with Snapchat. I don’t know how to take selfies that well. I’ve done it before but I’m not as good as some people who get crazy good angles, use filters and lighting. I examine the picture and decide it’s a good representation of me. I pick a cute location filter that says “Kauai” and post it to my Snap story.
“There you go, Johanna,” I say to myself.
I go back inside to lay down on my bed. It’s been such a long day and the sun is just starting to set. Gary took off looking for groceries to fit in our small kitchen. I leave the patio door open and pull the top bed cover over my feet. I instinctively put my right hand over the leather belt Mano gave me earlier this morning, which now feels like a week ago. I shut my eyes and sleep without dreams.
I wake up to rumbling in the kitchen. It sounds like someone clanging silverware and pans together.
“Gary?” I croak from the bed.
“Morning, Josie,” he says from the kitchen.
I see he’s already folded up his Iron Maiden for the day and shoved it into a corner.
“How’d you sleep?” He asks as he walks out of the kitchen with a cast iron skillet with something cooking inside that smells amazing.
“Really good,” I say as I sit up and stretch.
“You slept in your clothes, slacker,” he says as he turns and walks back into the kitchen.
“I did?” I ask as I look down.
He’s right. I’m still wearing the dark jeans and top I wore on the plane yesterday.
“I thought I was just going to nap and then I guess I slept all night,” I say as I get out of the bed.
“Yeah, you were out when I got back,” he says. “Did you know you left the patio door open? You shouldn’t do that, Josie. It’s dangerous.”
“OK, grandpa,” I say with a wave of my hand as I walk towards the bathroom. “Didn’t you say this island was super safe?”
I shut the bathroom door but can still hear his muffled lecture through the door.
“Of course it is, Josie,” he says. “But most crimes are crimes of opportunity. Some drunk guy or freak sees an open door and goes in. If the door’s closed and locked, they just keep walking. You get what I’m saying?”
“I guess,” I say as I open the door and walk into the small kitchen. “What are you making? I am so hungry.”
“Eggs, sausage and Eggo waffles,” he says.
“Yum, I want it all,” I tell him.
“Alright, meet me on the lanai, little girl,” he says with a nod towards the patio.
I oblige his request and step out into full sun and a gentle ocean breeze. I take a deep breath and sit down at our little table. I remember the flower from last night, and see it’s still on the pillow I slept on.
“Here you go,” Gary says as he sets down a plate with a waffle, egg and two pieces of sausage.
Gary’s plate has double the amount of food mine does.
“Hungry, Gary?” I say as I pour syrup all over my waffle, egg and sausage.
“I’m a growing boy, sweetheart,” he says through a bite of sausage.
We both laugh heartily.
“This is so beautiful, Gary,” I say after a deep drink of guava orange juice. “That juice is so good!”
“I know, it’s my favorite,” he says with a wink. “It’s just like I remember as a kid.”
“When’s the last time you were here, Gary?” I ask as I continue to cut and eat the food on my plate.
“I think I was around 13,” he says. “Alisa, me and your grandparents came to visit family. That was the last time until now.”
“Did you see Halani then?” I ask.
“Oh yeah,” he says after taking a big swig of juice. “She was great, way different than this time.”
“Hmmmm,” I say as I think over our experience with Halani yesterday. “She does seem like a nice lady, under ordinary circumstances, I guess.”
“She was… or is,” he says. “How are you feeling today?”
“Great,” I say without hesitation. “I’ve never felt better. It’s like I’m ready to conquer the world or something.”
“Hold on there, tiger,” he says with a laugh. “But seriously, I’m glad you’re feeling better.” He hesitates for a moment.
“I know we have stuff to talk about,” he says a bit timidly. “About yesterday. But I don’t really know where to start.”
“Me neither, Gary,” I say. “Maybe we don’t start until we know how?”
He looks at me long and I can see behind his happy demeanor there’s something like sadness, regret or guilt. I look away because I don’t want to see it.
“Your phone’s been popping off,” he says. “Vibrating for the last hour.”
“Oh, it’s probably Johanna,” I say. “I joined Snapchat so she’s freaking out.”
“Oh, you did?” Gary asks.
I check his face to see if he’s upset or disappointed, or anything other than just curious. I see he’s only curious.
“Yeah, I actually did it,” I say, feigning a sense of accomplishment. “At the ripe age of 20, I’ve finally joined social media.”
“I can’t believe you lasted this long, little girl,” he says. “Good for you.”
“I’ll be right back,” I say as I put down my fork and retrieve my phone.
I walk back slowly and see I have Snap notifications from Johanna, Kala, and several texts from Johanna and Adam from the coffee shop.
I open the text from Adam first:
“Hey Josie, Johanna says you’re feeling better. Great news! You wanna go back to your shifts next week? Let me know.”
Then from Johanna:
“OMG Adam is probably going to text you. I literally just told him you were feeling a bit better and he jumped on his phone. I tried to tell him not to bug you lol”
“Are you going to have your nose buried in that phone now?” Gary asks jokingly.
“Gary, I just,” I say before he cuts me off.
“I’m totally kidding,” he says. “Do your thing, I’m gonna do the dishes.”
“OK, thanks,” I say absently as I click on the Snap notification from Johanna.
“Damn beautiful!” she wrote along with an attached picture of her with the espresso machine at Kava Kava.
The caption reads “your boyfriend back home is waiting.”
Then I click on the notification from Kala.
“Wanna surf today?” He messaged.
I look back through the patio door at Gary doing dishes. I know he won’t care what I do, but I’m not sure I want to tell him I’m going surfing with a guy I just met. Especially since I’ve refused to surf with Gary forever. You’re an adult, Josie, I say to myself. He’s not gonna care.
“Sure,” I message back to Kala. “What time?”
I set down my phone and take another deep breath of the ocean air. Before I can breathe out, my phone clicks with a notification.
“Kala is writing …” it says.
“That was fast,” I say aloud.
I open Snapchat and see his response.
“Meet at Waioli beach park at noon,” his message says.
“OK,” I type. “See you then.”
I set my phone down and breathe deep. I pick up my plate and take it to Gary who’s almost finished cleaning up breakfast.
“Hey Gary,” I say as I hand him my plate. “I think I’m going to go surfing today.”
Gary drops the plate in the small, steel sink and turns to look at me, his mouth wide open.
“Really? Are you serious?” He asks, shocked.
“Yeah,” I say. “No big deal, right?”
“Oh yeah, Josie,” he says sarcastically. “No big deal at all, you only haven’t surfed for a million years!”
I start laughing.
“This is so cool,” He says, starting to talk rapidly. “I’ll rent us some boards and wet suits. Wait. No. We won’t need wet suits. You wanna get paddle boards too? We can try paddle boarding. Did you bring a swimsuit? Should we go buy you one? Did you bring sunscreen? We can walk over to the beach once I get the boards.”
“Gary,” I say interrupting him. “That’s so nice of you, but I’m gonna do this myself.”
Gary goes silent and just stares at me.
“I mean,” I say with some hesitation. “I’m going on a date, to surf, sort of.”
Gary raises his eyebrows, still staring.
“Gary,” I say. “Flytrap. Mouth. Close.”
“A date?” He says with surprise. “With who? When did you meet someone to date here?
“Yesterday,” I say. “In that shop I was in.”
“Wait, wait, hold up,” Gary says putting a hand up. “You’re telling me you met some guy? Wait. A guy, right?” He asks.
I shake my head affirmatively.
“You meet some guy in a shop for five minutes and now you’re breaking your surfing dry spell?” He says.
“I guess,” I say and shrug my shoulders. “He’s local, seems cool and is my age. Oh yeah, we have the same birthday, too.”
“Huh?” Gary says and looks at me doubtfully. “Seriously?”
“That’s what he said,” I reply and walk out of the kitchen towards my suitcase on the floor near the bed.
“What’s his name?” Gary asks, following me.
“Kala,” I say. “He loves to surf.”
Gary stands in the doorway as I shuffle through my clothes looking for my swimsuit.
“You cool with that?” I say as I turn around with my black bikini and a t-shirt.
“Oh yeah,” Gary says quickly. “You know I don’t care about this stuff. I trust you. I just want you to be safe, that’s all.”
“I’ll be fine, Gary,” I tell him as a walk towards the bathroom. “We’re going at noon to the beach right up the street. Broad daylight. Lots of people. I’ll take it slow in the water.”
“Well, yeah you will at that beach,” Gary says. “No big waves. It will be a good place to hit restart.”
“Hit restart,” I repeat. “I like that.”
I shut the bathroom door and lift up my shirt to put on my bikini. I notice the leather belt with the surfer girl Mano gave me. I gently lift it off my stomach and see the bruising that almost covered the area in black blotches is completely gone.