“We have to bring this guy Coors Light,” Gary says.
“Coors Light?” I ask. I’m confused.
“Isn’t this guy some sort of a priest or shaman or something?” I ask.
“I don’t know, Josie,” Gary says. “I mean, I don’t know what you call him. He knows Huna and he likes Coors Light. If we bring him Coors Light, Titus said he’d help us.”
“Titus?” I ask.
“Sorry, the pizza shop owner,” Gary tells me.
“You were in there forever,” I say.
I waited in the car alone for at least 30 minutes while Gary was in the pizza shop asking about someone who could help me. It wasn’t bad I guess. It gave me some time to calm down and re-center myself.
“So, now what?” I ask him.
“Now we go get some Coors Light and go to this guy’s house,” Gary says. “Titus called him while I was in the shop and he’s expecting us.”
I take in a deep breath and exhale. Are we really going to do this, I think to myself.
Are we really going to go to some guy’s house we don’t know and tell him some creepy ghost man won’t leave me alone?
“We’re doing this, Josie,” Gary says, interrupting my thoughts.
“Are you reading my mind?” I ask him, surprised at him answering the question I was just asking myself.
“No,” he says with a laugh. “I know that sigh and I know that look on your face.”
I smile a bit at Gary’s assessment of my body language, but can’t help feeling a little exposed in his presence. That’s a familiar feeling.
“OK, let’s get that Coors Light,” I say.
Then I start uncontrollably laughing.
“That’s not a sentence I ever thought I would say,” I tell him through laughter.
Tears are flowing out my eyes and it feels good that they aren’t tears of sadness or terror for once.
Gary starts the car up and we drive to the local liquor store that’s literally called “Hanalei Liquor Store.” Gary runs in and retrieves a 6-pack of tall cans of Coors Light.
“Here you go,” he says as he half throws the beers into my lap. “Catch.”
“Gary!” I say as I catch the beers before they hit my stomach. “My stomach!”
“Oops,” Gary says with an accompanying “oh shit” look on his face.
I sigh and arrange the beer on my lap. My stomach still hurts but the major pain subsided a bit again. When Gary sees he didn’t hurt me, he starts to laugh. The ridiculousness of this situation is now catching up with him too, I guess.
“Where are we going?” I ask him as he starts driving deeper into Hanalei.
“Kepuhi Point,” Gary says. “Titus said it’s an old brown house off the highway right by the Kepuhi sign. He says you can’t miss it.”
“Are those really your directions?” I ask.
These would never suffice in Venice.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Gary says with a shrug. “We can always ask someone if we get lost.”
We drive on a single-lane highway around mountainous curves overlooking the ocean as we make our way to Kephui Point. The road seems like it would be treacherous in the dark or rain, and I’m glad Gary’s the one driving.
“We should almost be there,” Gary says.
I divert my gaze from the ocean view just in time to see the “Kepuhi Point” sign. Sure enough, right behind the sign is an old brown house set back from the road and obscured by large old palm trees. Gary pulls into a driveway that takes us to the house. As we get closer, the house looks older and more run-down than it did from the street.
The little brown house has a rusted, metal roof and sits up on wooden stilts. A broken, green wooden ramp leads up to the porch that looks like it could fall off the front of the house at any moment. Broken white blinds cover part of the porch and a stained white chair sits alone near the front door. The only window I can see into the house is covered with a rust-stained air conditioning unit.
“Woah,” I say to Gary. “This looks a little scary.”
“Don’t worry, Josie,” He assures me. “You’re not going in alone.”
I pass the Coors Light to Gary and we both get out of the car. We cautiously make our way up the stairs side of the green ramp to the front porch. It’s wobbly and feels like it could give way at any moment. Gary knocks on the crumbling, dark brown front door. We hear rumbling behind the door and it quickly swings open.
Before Gary or I can say “hello,” the old Hawaiian man says “Howzit? Where’s ma beer?”
I look over at Gary and he looks at me. Gary turns back to the old man.
“Right here, buddy,” Gary says, lifting the Coors Light and passing it to the man. “You’re Manu, right?”
“Yah,” Manu says.
Manu is tall. Not as tall as Gary and way thinner, except for a tanned little beer belly. He’s hunched over a bit and has short, gray and black hair. He wears no shirt. Deep lines run through his face and his teeth are yellow and brown in spots.
“I’m Gary,” Gary says to Manu. “This is my niece, Josie.”
“Howzit?” Manu says as he looks at me and tilts his head up.
“I’m good,” I say. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m supposed to say in reply.
“Come in, Braddah,” Manu says and opens the door wide for both of us.
We follow him in and he disappears behind what appears to be a living room. I hear what sounds like a fridge open and close and then a can crack open. Deep sounds of slogging beer hard down the throat are amplified until they stop and Manu says “Aaahhhhhhhh.”
Manu walks back into the living room with one of the tall cans.
“Coors Light’s mo’ bettah den da utter crap,” he says and then takes another deep swallow.
The can’s surely almost gone at this point.
“Sit down,” Manu says.
Gary and I both look around the room. There’s only a couple of choices. A soiled-looking, brown cloth couch or an ancient, wooden rocking chair that looks like it’s made from dingy bamboo.
“Bruddah you sit in tha rockah,” Manu says. “Kaikamahine, you sit on da couch.”
I’m the kaikamahine he’s talking about but I don’t want to sit on the couch while Gary sits in the rocker, cause that means I’ll be sitting next to Manu on my own. Manu sees my hesitation.
“Don’t be lolo,” he says. “I won’t bite cha.”
Gary nods at me and I start to walk towards the couch. As I step closer, Manu sits on the middle couch cushion that looks like it’s been thrown up on, or peed on, or both. I notice that despite the shabby surroundings and the stained couch, the room doesn’t smell unpleasant.
I sit down on the far end of the couch, trying to put distance between me and Manu. He’s having none of that and begins sliding closer. My stomach’s starting to ache. It was quiet for most of the drive from Hanalei, but the pain is waking up.
“Oooohhhh,” I breathe out slowly. “My stomach, Gary,” I say as I hunch over.
I see Manu getting closer out of the corner of my eye and my stomach begins pulsating in pain.
“Are you OK, Josie?” Gary asks from the rocker on the other side of the small room.
“Uh, Gary,” I say through clenched teeth. “It hurts. It started back, it hurts.”
“Ahahahahahaha,” Manu says with a menacing laugh. He’s sitting right next to me now. “Lapu in der, wahine.”
“Lapu?” I ask.
My eyes are closed now. The pain is so intense I can’t look up.
Manu leans into my ear and I can smell the beer on his breath. I keep my eyes closed cause I don’t want to see him up close.
“Lapu,” he whispers. “No be lidat, braddah. You leave dis wahine lone.”
The pain in my stomach is so intense now I can barely concentrate on acting normal. I want to scream out in pain. I want to fall on the floor and writhe in pain. But I can’t move. I’m folded in half with face at my knees on the old, gross couch.
Manu begins to chant in my ear.
“E iho ana o luna. E pii ana o lalo. E hui ana na moku. E ku ana ka paia,” he says over and over.
“Josie?” I hear Gary say but the chanting in my ear is turning into a swirling sound in my head.
Gary’s voice and Manu’s voices are being drowned out by what sounds like an engine on an airplane. It’s like I’ve got a seat on the plane right by the wing and the engine’s revving and revving, picking up speed.
I sit up with my eyes closed. I can feel Manu so close, he’s almost on me and he’s still right in my ear. But the engine sound is getting louder and it’s distracting from the stabbing pains in my stomach. I hear myself making a sound but I’m not even trying to.
“Eeeeehhhhhhhhhhh,” is coming from my throat.
I lay my head back on the couch and the sound gets stronger and louder. I don’t know what’s happening to me. My stomach’s pushing up this sound through my esophagus and past my vocal chords.
“Eeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” keeps coming out of my mouth, over and over.
I can’t even take a breath. I don’t feel like I need to. I realize this feels good, in the same way that throwing up feels good. This sound needs to come out of me. I stop fighting it and realize I’m barely in control of my body anymore anyway.
The sound finally stops and I draw in a huge breath. I hear a loud crash next to me.
I open my eyes and Manu is off the couch. He’s on the orange shag carpet in front of me flopping from left to right as Gary towers over him.
“Manu?” Gary says with alarm. “Josie?” He says when he sees I’m conscious again.
A growl comes from Manu’s body as he wriggles on the stained carpet. Gary is speechless. I am too. I don’t know if Manu is dying or having a seizure. And I don’t know what to do. I feel so weak I’m not even sure I can stand up. Gary kneels and rests his hand on Manu’s shoulder.
“Manu,” he says loudly.
Right then the writhing stops and Manu opens his eyes wide. His large light-brown eyes are so wide and beautiful in that moment, I feel like I can picture what he looked like as a young man. He lays there for a few seconds with his eyes wide, and then they settle as he stares blankly at the ceiling. He draws in a huge gulp of air and sits up.
“I’m aurite Bruddah,” he whispers as he claps Gary on the thigh where he kneels.
Gary looks over at me. “Are you OK?” He asks.
I think for a few seconds. My stomach doesn’t hurt at all anymore. I feel very weak, like I haven’t eaten for days. Like if I stood up, my legs would tremble and buckle underneath me. But I feel lighter. I feel more like …like me, I guess.
“I’m better, Gary,” I say. “I think I’m all better.”