He was staying with me six nights out of the week. He… however old he was, one-shouldering his overnight backpack, occupying the other with a twelve pack of whichever beer he was feeling that day. The kind of person where your chest starts pounding and your stomach turns to a symphony of twists and turns. It didn’t matter if it was the third or thirty-third time I was seeing him, these were always the symptoms. I put all fears aside on the 22 floor ride down, ready for the iron doors to separate and reveal his flawless figure; a tanned face hiding behind a flat bill hat and shades. An extra large white tee covered his broad, sculpted surfer shoulders. Vibrant colors gleamed from his board shorts showing off his tanned calves all the way down to his slippers, a local Hawaiian term translated to flip-flops. This gorgeous man was waiting in the lobby to see me.
July 3, 2013 approx. 3PM
“Dude, don’t get me wrong, I respect my parents, I respect girls too, like at age thirty. But not girls our age, no way. This one chick was bangin’ my buddy, ends up she was doin’ the same shit with two of my other brothers.”
Voices were known to trail down the hot surface of the earth from parties of all ages up above in the parking lot, jamming to beach reggae and drinking in the beds of their trucks and SUV’s. Everyone partied at Sandy’s I learned. Even over the blaring reggae island music, you could make out the howling of the locals, “Eh, bruddah, you see dat dera. Das a solid one bruddah. Ohhh look him go!”
They converse how the waves look coming in from afar. A vibration out in the middle of the ocean traveling distances unknown, crashing into the earth feet before me. Rebels, who have been doing it since they were tikes take the risk at riding these beasts.
Sandy’s is the name if you are in on local terms, Sandy Beach for the tourists. Me? I called it My Sanctuary, my place of limitless coastline and endless waves, each one a different tropical blue. They rush up to touch you, only to be dismissed seconds from grasping your toes. It amazes me, wave after wave, never stopping or slowing down for anything in its’ path — Mother Nature exercising her power like the hands on a Grandfather clock. If the waves aren’t fascinating enough, take a look out in the distance of one of three surf breaks. Talent and skill ride atop wave after wave after wave. Hours on end there are people out there, paddling their way out, waiting for the perfect one. Turn your head around to a backdrop of mountainous greens towering behind you. My favorite, is on a clear day, not too much wind or mist, you are able to see the mountain tops of Maui off in the distance. Like looking out onto another planet nautical miles away.
The aloha state and I began our relationship just two short months ago. It was a blooming and beautiful connection. I was a twenty-year-old Iowa girl starting a new life out some five thousand miles away from anyone, anything I knew or recognized. My worried father asked the night before he and my mother drove me to the airport,
“Em, you gotta tell me. What is the first thing you’re going to do when you get there?”
Well Dad, I did what any twenty-year-old Iowa girl would do when moving to an unfamiliar place — I bought a journal. I would document my life spent out on island. However exciting or dull the journey may be, I would write it down. I wanted to remember. I wanted to be remembered. I was living on one of the most longed for places to be. Everyone knew Hawaii.
Absurd dialect of degrading women swayed its way down the beach and into my tamed ears. This star-of-the-show doofus was rambling on about how he thought girls were slutty and easy, degrading, and name calling. I could tell these were the words of a frat boy — humiliating, excessive and negative, always time to blatantly share stories of their recent or past (or made-up) hookups. A tourist unknowingly sharing his life with anyone in ear-shot. I began writing his words down in my journal. A smile worked its way through my clenched teeth; a realization my stereotype was still paralleling perfectly.
Sweat had built up in the small of my back. I wanted in that water. A trip to the emergency room with a neck or back injury was not on my busy schedule of sunbathing all day, so I settled on heading to the chlorine filled hole at my condo building. I shut the pocket-sized notebook, the first step to cleaning up camp. I had had enough of that frat boy talk. I flipped over and rearranged my body to get some last minute rays. I can stand this for five more minutes, I told myself.
“Hey,” an unfamiliar voice very near sounded.
I thought my ears were tricking me with island voodoo.. The most beautiful man I have ever seen was crouched down beside me, tanned toes inches away my towel.
My voice found way, replying, Hey, what’s up?
He had been relaxing on the beach, catching some waves.
He asked my name, I told him. I would have told him anything at that point. On a high, quick and so very high. I believed the heavens had sent down a sign right then and there— an angel, to tell me I was doing just fine, that I am where I should be, that I was in for a real treat. This guy in front of me was a whole new God, a God who came down, stuck his hand out, and placed it in mine, changing my life. His name was Mike.
“I have some cold ones chilling up there, he points up at the parking lot, “let’s move down beach a bit and a have a few, yeah?”
He was asking me to have a beer with him. This was how I thought. He had to have thought I was slow or something, just in my head narrating his every move. Keeping memory. He wanted to enjoy a cold one with me, the young, touristy-looking, Iowa girl, not getting in the water.
Sure, the word flowed right out.
A few beers led to a lot of laughter, a great turn to my day. The more the sun disappeared underneath the ocean horizon and into another world, the more our intoxication level increased. Mike suggested a beer run and sunset watching on a nearby cliff.
Sure, the word came out again.
The cliff was beautiful. Breathtaking. A dreamlike feel as we walked down to find ocean as far out as you can see, the moonlit glow hanging above protecting. Nothing around us but darkness. Mike asked if we should continue the night together..
Sure, no hesitation.
We made our way to the penthouse. Mike makes himself right at home, exploring inside the wooden drawers of my kitchen for a knife of his liking. I was curious how homey he would go before asking for some guidance. My eyes followed his glossy gaze, mazing his way through. They are actually in that one over there, I tell him as I point.
He looked at me and smiled.
Let freedom ring! Bright and early the morning of Fourth of July, I lay in bed reminiscing about the night before. Still in amazement, I got myself up, showered, and made coffee. My normal morning routine, this time coffee enough for two. Beach boy began to wake from his slumber, stretching his well worked body across my bed.
I sat down and asked, How do you like your coffee?
Just how I liked it. We tried at morning talk. He was gazing out at the city below us, “I had a dream my car got towed Emz. It was crazy.”
How did he know dreams were my favorite subject? It turns out, his car did get towed, for blocking a driveway.
Smooth Maui. It was just what I needed to deal with before a long shift ahead. I weighed the likeliness I would be late to work if I helped him out with a ride to the tow station. I had become an optimist overnight, a breed of people I admired and adored. I poured our coffee to go and we hit the highway. I was go-with-the-flow-Emily, all of a sudden. Easy and laid back, no double-thinking, no second guessing.
I had not the slightest idea where we were headed. Mike did though. He directed us to the beat up garage of a business, strangely, as if he had done it a time or two before. Nonetheless, he got out of my vehicle, shut the door behind him, stuck his head into the open window.
“Thanks for the ride, Emz. Get to work on time, okay?”
No problem man.
Vehicle into reverse, I thought to myself, I am never going to see this guy again.
On second thought, I hit my breaks, shifted into forward, and yelled out my open window before I could realize what I was saying,
Can I give you my number?
My new, improved, optimist-self, giving out my number to the surfer guy who approached me on the beach just the day before. He turned around and retraced the steps he had just taken.
“Oh yeah, how else was I supposed to invite you to this party tonight?” He punched my number into his phone, “Thanks again Emz.”
I zoomed through traffic, back to the east side, back to reality. I had a nine hour shift ahead of me. Not one of those hours was spent thinking about anything work-related. Strictly Mike and my dream-like evening I just had were the only things on my mind. Nine hours can go by very quickly when you have something, or someone, to look forward to when you get off.
Mike had texted me earlier in the day, but I waited until I was off work to reply. The house address up to the historic North Shore was punched into my phone. These were the old stomping grounds of Queen Liliuokalani, The Kingdom of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs. I pulled up to a modern-day castle, an ocean front beach house. I walked to the backyard. In a circle on the grass sat the new crew; a few guys with guitars in hand, a couple cuddled up listening, young adults enjoying life on this beautiful holiday, beers not missing from a single hand.
I could do this.
Morning rays created a heat storm inside our tent. My second night waking up with this Mike character. He unzipped the door, we both covered our eyes. Reflections off the ocean stunned our vsion — the sun dancing atop the water.
Mike turns to me, “Bring a bikini like I told you, Emz?”
Of course I did, I replied, smiling and giddy like a little girl.
We were the first ones up. We took a walk along the shoreline, getting just our feet wet, holding hands, fairytale-like. He turned to me once again, “Ready Emz?”
I had a confession; I had not been in the water yet since I had moved on island a few months ago.
“What?! Emz, unacceptable. Whatta been doing?”
His drive to get me in that water was way mor intense now after hearing that news. It didn’t take much. One scoop of his arms, seconds left of open air, I was free falling down, down.. then scooped up again. I open my salt-covered eyes to Mike’s. Wrapped in his tight grasp, cool pools of aqua blue filled the crevices between us. Staring into each others eyes as if we had known each other for years, his kisses, nothing less than magical. We floated for what seemed like hours.
I couldn’t have imagined my holiday to go any other way.
It wasn’t a question what I would do with my days anymore. We had developed a relationship. A collaboration, rather, of our commonalities and fondness for each other. Mike made me see life in new ways, cliché as that sounds. He knew the island, everything he showed me was a first for me, making it all the more exciting for the both of us. He enjoyed being the one to show me the nooks and crannies, his secret spots to watch sunset or to relax and enjoy a beer. This was our get-to-know-each-other time. We compared how each of us grew up — worlds apart, generations apart. He asked me the stereotypical questions one would ask an ‘Iowa girl’ — “So Iowa.. do your parents farm, were you bored your whole childhood, do you own cowboy boots, and how did you end up here, in Hawaii?”
I was honest with Mike. I felt comfortable with him. He was a calm and careful listener. One morning, up in the penthouse, unable to make it out into the beautiful sunny day just yet, Mike asked me how many guys I had been with. It flowed nicely off his tongue. When I was to ask questions, I stuck to ones more focused on his family — how they made it out to Hawaii, why his parents weren’t together, how his relationship with them was, how he met his friends, how he had first gotten into surfing.
My answer as to how many guys I had been with took him by surprise, “Emz, that’s it?! There’s no way!”
I don’t lie, man.
Mike taught me how to perfectly slice an avocado, a mango, a papaya and a liliko, not all in one day either. He would bring over these fruits from his back yard, tell me he has a surprise when I met him down in the lobby. Shit, this guy taught me how to surf! We woke up one morning, I got the coffee going. He came and met me by the window, “Emz first surf lesson today?”
He found out I had a strong liking for red wine, so red wine he brought over. It paired perfectly with the steak we had every other night down in the garden area of my condo building.
One night my neighbor, an older gentlemen, Peter, stumbled upon Mike and me. Peter was out smoking his pipe, like he did every night. I mentioned this observance to Mike. Right then, he called out Peter’s name, “Come on over and join Emz and I, Peter.”
Turns out, Peter and Mike were both engineers. They both attended The University of Hawaii — Warriors. They compared courses, professors, problems within the program, what needed to change. I sat back and sipped the last of our red wine, listening to the two talk intelligence. Once again, a night in the books of my dream-like journey.
Mike and I were working out well. Surfing, drinking, smoking, playing. One morning, Mike sat on my couch with his computer on his lap. Not a rare occasion, but his expression seemed confused. I asked him what was up. His ID and credit card were resting on the coffee table. Mike was purchasing a plane ticket to Nicaragua. A surf trip, two weeks, no cell phones, all bros.
What was I to do.
The day came. I picked Mike up at his place. I handed him over some goodies to ensure he had a smooth and relaxing flight. Mike, off island for two weeks. Fourteen whole days. I thought my anxiety would skyrocket. I thought I would go mad.
The first week went by. To my surprise, not as tough as I thought it would be.
The two week mark was coming up. I got to thinking about Mike, what we had/didn’t have. I set the thought aside, and popped open my email. The thought came jolting right back. I had a message from him. He requested I pick him up at the airport the next night.
Of course I would.
I recall one particular night I stayed at Mike’s house. We were out in his backyard looking up at the stars swaying to and fro in his beat up hammock tied between two palm trees, a heirloom from his childhood on Maui. We laid together all night, his sturdy arm around my neck, my palm rested on his furry, grown-man chest, open to the night sky. Cougs, his cat, would try to rub up on our feet. We were in motion though, pushing off the earth, keeping the momentum alive.
Mike turned towards me, “Emz.. I want you to know how much you mean to me.. how much I enjoy having you around and the time we spend together.”
Ok, ok. Great Mike.
He has never spoke this way towards me before.
“Emz, for real though. I am comfortable with you. I like you around.. I care about you.”
Our “relationship” went back to “normal” for a few nights after his return. We got back to our routine, of beach, beer, ciggies, spliffs, cookouts — the works, my fairytale life. Until one night. I might have gotten too much sun that day, I was feeling great. He began to roll a spliff. I watched his technique as I planned. I planned for the medicine in-between his fingers to enter my system in order to begin on a question boiling in the back of my mind.
Are you seeing anyone else?
It wasn’t just a thought anymore. It was out in the open. Simple and quick. A world of weight off my shoulders.
“What do you mean Emz?”
My mind went racing. I threw my head back and yelled, What do you mean what do I mean?!
“I fucked a chick in Nicaragua.”
The loyalty right then, divided, like an unsettled wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. The ambition I had put in, the fondness, appreciation, uniqueness, desire, want, and need of him — gone. The impression I had of him, his dream-like silhouette, the lovey words he was just beginning to speak to me, the inside jokes, the adventures we took, poof, vanished. Six words is what it took. He had completely lost my respect. I wanted him out of my sight, out of my condo, out of my mind. Those, were thoughts. My face stood still. My mouth, still. Everything, stillness. I was above this. I should have expected this.
A long pause, a few breaths of air, he was the one to speak,
“Emz, I’m sorry.”
His words were nothing but jumble now, like little kids building blocks — the resources laid out in front of you, unable to make out words. Too amateur, too child-like. I had nothing to say to this stranger sitting so relaxed and at ease beside me.
It will never leave my mind, the way those six words came out of his mouth.
Understandable, is what came out of mine. Understandable. I was clearly the imbecile. I sat there, watched him take a sip of his beer, light up the spliff, take the first few hits. He held it in my direction for me to grab. I flung myself up off the white leather couch straight for the open window, twenty-two floors up. Staring out over the city, nothing but concrete below. His hands appeared around my waist. Another apology off his lips, whispered into my ear. I shoved him off of me.
“I can leave Em.”
It’s fine, it’s cool.
We finished smoking and went to bed.
Was I upset? Was I surprised? Let’s say I took it pretty personally. After he left the next morning, I already had it in my head that would be the last time seeing Mike. I didn’t let him know this. And why would I? He was oblivious.
He really thought I just waved the whole situation right on by. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I stayed awake in bed, replaying those six words overand over again. I fucked a chick in Nicaragua. He couldn’t have used another word other than chick? He couldn’t have used another word other than fucked? He couldn’t have lied to my face!? Any and all the above would have been somewhat better.
I ignored his calls for the day, oh and his texts, oh and for the next week or so. Until, he showed up at my door. This was supposed to be a secure building.
Who had let him up?!
Firm strikes came from outside my double-doored entryway. It startled the living day lights out of me, cozied up watching late-night TV.
Then a voice, “Emily.”
I ignored him. He fucked me over. There was no way I was letting him back into my life, let alone my condo. His texts and calls continued that night and into the morning. What didn’t he get? He should have understood from the beginning, I am a black and white kind of girl; you fuck me over, you’re no good to me anymore. Simple as that. Apparently he couldn’t take the hint. He thought he was an exception.
Two Days Later approx. 4PM
We had just gotten off work. My friend and co-worker, Antoine, was coming over to relax and unwind after a busy day. I parked my car in the garage, walked past the door guy to check the mail. None. I stood and waited for the elevator to come retrieve me. Surprise, surprise, Maui Mike appears in my peripheral, looking like a Baywatch superstar running up to meet me.
What do you want Mike?
“I need.. I need to talk to you Emz.”
I have plans.
“I have been worried about you. Can I please have a second of your time.”
I make a quick phone call to Antoine. He is upset. He cannot believe me, I am giving this guy the time of day. What was I supposed to do with a guy who shows up at my doorstep to apologize?
We took a walk back around my valley. I was hesitant to speak, even more hesitant to accept his apology, although it was very sincere. He said he had cleaned up his act, he was a new guy. I didn’t want to say I believed him, but I sure made it seem like I did.
I had let him back in like the little, naive, unexperienced girl I was. I set up my stern wall only to get it broken down once again. He was the perfect, every girls dreamy, surfer boy, who one day magically approached me on the beach, offering me a ride into his dreamland. And that was the thing, I was already in dreamland, without him. I already had the beauty, gorgeousness, dreamy world around me. I looked only at one
thing and I fell, hard, into his deep, dark vortex of dreamy looks, charm, and everything he had taught me. Who helps you when you move on with your life? Sometimes you need more than yourself.