She came all the way from Switzerland. 34 hours on a plane. They asked her “Where are you going?” “To the beach.” She answered them. “Why are you going there?” “To be happy for a while.” She said. ” How long will you be staying?” “As long as it takes.” She replied.
I was not there when she landed. Half way around the world, on a sandy hill in the middle of the Pacific ocean, she stood there with a heavy pack and no connections. Shrugging her shoulders, she caught a bus to the nearest hostel. Tired and cranky, struggling to remain friendly in a strung out haze of sleep deprivation, she smiled her way to a small bed on the south shore.
A few days of solitary adventure where she was able to get her sea legs and an ahi taco with wasabi and cucumber at the Mermaid Cafe.
Meanwhile I scrambled madly about a bedroom on a neighboring island, looking under the bed and the chair for my absent wallet. Frenzied computer activity and phone calls where all I heard was “Seven to ten business days” without any ID to board a plane. Frustrated hair pulling and lots of deep breaths before- alas- it magically appears where it had not been before.
We finally meet at the corner of Elepaiao and Pueo two days later, where the hot wind slaps our bare legs and the sun was two hours from his bed time. We ate spicy Koren poke and chain smoked as we laughed and filled each other in on the years between our last meeting on the back roads of the Cascade mountains. Snorting with laughter and shaking our heads, a little sympathy and a few congrats. It was decided to spend the night with the crabs on the beach, who ate our shrimp tails.
Everything into the car! Hurry hurry! Can’t leave anything behind! Spent precious cash to buy a ride to the end of the road- Miles away where the concrete ends and the sunsets are always perfect. Shoving bags and fishing poles, coolers and boxes, like a puzzle into the Cherokee until there was room only for us to perch in a ball atop the swaying mess. Past where the radio no longer works and Metallica is incongruously blasted from the speakers to cloud our wake along with dusted sand. Chasing the sunset around serpentine curves full of pot holes like land mines exploding under the wheels, sending us bouncing with all of the supplies into a jumbled confusion.
Spilling out of the rig at the pavilion, stacking and packing till a semblance of temporary order had been established. We called it our camp site. With a grateful sigh and a plop on the bench, we planted a garden of tequilla bottles and beer cans.
When the sun rose on the bluff the next morning, it found two bleary eyed grinning woman with a powerful need for a cup of black coffee. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, a few cups of cool water, and we went off to the road where I taught her the Aloha thumb.
Another Cherokee, with a Jungle Girl bumper sticker and duct tape on the door panel. It belongs to a friend, who loans it to me for a day of ani-tourist activity. Down south for ice cream and window shopping, Spouting Horn and other nefarious haole traps, along with the tree that looked like it could walk away on legs of prehistoric vine.
An iced coffee and a straight shot west, munchies (pu pu platter) and up north into the canyon. Ears popping, road hopping, around bends and ripples in the layered stone. From absolute zero, waves in your toes, to 5,000 feet in 45 minutes. Hot steel railings projecting protective arms around the huddled masses collecting in the U shaped tide pools of the cement walkway.
Stretching out past the cameras and sun hats, the botton-up shirts with Hawaiian print and the smell of coconut lotion, was a vast green expanse of hot wind smelling of plumeria blossoms, and thousands of feet of fiery crimson soil peeking through jungle foliage with pure white egrets flying far blow. “Mind the gap” just doesn’t cut it.
Giddy with altitude and beauty, we went hiking down the lookout trail giggling like school girls about thong underwear (butt floss) and fake breasts (may as well put a squeaky toy in there while you’re at it).
Days went by of political argument, thoughts on society, the mental state of a certain mentality, laughing till we snorted about something only vaguely funny, snorkeling (her for the first time) at Queen’s Pond with a few beers, exchanging notes (you HAVE to read this book write it down), soaking in the sun and salty island wind.
Her passport was stolen and she didn’t care too much. “The island likes me.” She said. “It wants to keep me here.”
She loved spam and rice, even took a can of spam with her back to Switzerland. She went bug nuts over the Kona coffee in a can, and I promised to mail her some. She liked the Hawaiian pink sausage, raw tuna poke with wasabi, seared ahi, Korean crab, and the surprise steak meal delivered to camp with (gasp) real forks.
5 days flew by like a summer dream, as they say, and soon it was time for her to fly away back to her home across the Pond. We parted with a hug on the corner of Elepaiao and Pueo where we met a king of the island, a direct descendant of the infamous Kamehameha, as he waited for the same bus.
She tells me there is a steep wooded hill behind her house by the lake, that always leaves her breathless but it’s always worth the climb. She says the sunsets are beautiful, but nowhere near as stunning as an evening in Polihale, and the stars are a slight shadow dusting when compared with the memory of skies that only an island on the equator during a new moon can deliver. She says she has taken to having a shot of tequilla in memory of our beach camp, where the waves taught her peace and the sunshine she brought home with her on her skin still warms her heart.
I tell her when I am rich and famous I will fly over there for the Carnival.
So in the meantime, somewhere in Switzerland, she is sipping quervo and wearing a sea shell necklace.