“I catch a paper boy / But things don’t really change / I’m standing in the wind / But I never wave bye bye / But I try / I try… / Modern love gets me to the church on time / Terrifies me / Makes me party / Puts my trust in god and man” — David Bowie
I miss my long-lost sister’s nuptials by 15 minutes, but come hell or high water (managing both) I make it. And it only takes my ex-boyfriend’s credit card, a Go! Mokulele airplane, three buses on borrowed fare, a one-mile hike down a desolate coral road, a six-mile hitchhike and help from no less than 12 kind strangers.
It’s important that I be there because I promised I would. See, my long-lost sister’s dad—my estranged biological father—is a master of not doing what he says he will do. The Maui County Fair; custody court dates. When I was a toddler,
I’d sit on the lanai steps waiting for him; mom’s sad, careful watch painted in the kitchen window from dawn to dusk.
In my life, I’ve been little better than him. But I vowed I’d be better today.
Along the way to Kapolei, I sit next to a man wearing Captain America pajamas and a Rolex who smells like donuts. A woman boxes the ears (“Faka!”) of a toothless man two seats away. She hugs me goodbye. A rather well-dressed woman—carrying only a roll of toilet paper—stares at me like I’m the Antichrist. “Hello, lady,” I tweet. A nice old man named Ron forcibly gives me his UH Warriors umbrella to keep me safe from the sun.
But leave it to me to leave my wallet on the bus. In it was my driver’s license, my return ticket and more than every cent to my name. Luckily, I’d already talked story and exchanged numbers with the Moloka’i man who finds it. Angelically apropos, his name is Pono.
So after the beach BBQ reception at Barber’s Point Lighthouse—a meal my long-lost sister made herself (along with her bouquet, from “a twelve pack of roses”)—I skip the sleepover and solicit a ride to Waikiki.
I meet Pono at his hotel’s bar, where he returns my wallet and we exchange life stories. A few drinks do not seem sufficient reward, so I buy him midnight dinner at a 24-hour diner. He’s not fond of my plan to roam until morning, so I lie and tell him I’m calling a cab. Pono and I part ways.
There’s free WiFi in the hotel lobby. An all-Oakley clad middle-aged man shows up with his laptop. He’s respectful and chatty, but I’m tired. His name is Jim and he admits the obvious: he’s lonely. Conversations with strangers always help me catch my second wind, so I’ve soon convinced him to wander Waikiki with me. “Adventure,” I urge.
Jim is witty and we walk for hours. Early on, we saunter into Senor Frogs where the floors feel made of glue. It’s my 26th birthday, but the crowd makes me feel ancient. I put on my sunglasses so I can smirk and snicker.
Last call. Flood lights on. Jim and I adventure until the number 19 bus comes ‘round at 4:46am. I almost miss it, but Jim flags it down. I run, shouting goodbyes, knowing he’ll remember me longer than he should.
The quiet bus driver’s name is Charles. His eyes say he’s smart and I like him instantly.
Later, he stops the bus so we can have a cigarette. The only other rider’s name is Steve. He does not smoke but retrieves a stack of Star Advertisers and hands them out to joggers, Charles and me. I learn he does this everyday, all day.
“I tried giving one lady one newspapah, and she said ‘NO!’ jus li’ dat.” Steve mimics a snarling, cornered cat. “I jus’ trying fo’ give her one newspapah?! E’ryone needs newspapah.” There’s a flash of something generous and longing in the way he matter-of-factly folds his hands.
After the next stop, Steve slides into the seat closest to me and points at the A1 headline. “Prem. Preem—what dat says?”
Steve cannot read.
“Premier,” I say, and read the article aloud. It’s about a new anti-’ice’ ad campaign. Though Steve’s got his teeth, it’s little wonder why he’s homeless. I ask him why anyway.
“It’s jus’ hard.” he says simply. I can only nod.
A few minutes later, he proposes.
“Nah! Steve, I will just disappoint you.”
He throws his head back to laugh.
“I’ll marry you tonight.”
“Sorry, Steve. I have to go home.”
I get to the airport three hours ahead of my flight. I practice circus contortion and get my first winks in 24 hours. I snore, uncaring, until OGG. But I make it. ■