Slowly, On Island Time

August 30th, 2023

This morning I am leaving Hawaii after spending a month here. I woke hours before the sunrise for my solo trip home. Scott and Maya left days ago to make it back for the first day of Maya’s last year of high school. Jack and Lu left yesterday which is always sad but they promised to come home for Thanksgiving. I stayed a week longer to share the house we rented with my parents, brother Denis and his husband Luke. It was well worth it but now I am traveling home alone. I have quick lay over in Phoenix and a terrible boarding number because I don’t’ usually check in. That is Scott’s job. Couples fall into doing things for each other over the years. Scott never has to think about what is for dinner, I never have to think about checking in on time for a flight, which I did not, which gave me a terrible boarding position. This does not help the airport anxiety that it is pumping my heart to go a little faster and woke me way before my alarm. I am one of those people who likes to get to the gate two hours early. Yes the gate. It drives my family crazy but they are kind to me about it because it truly is my only neurotic trait. This morning they have already texted me from their various time zones to tease and check on me. They know I have a crystal in my bra but don’t know that I this time I even bought a lei so that I can breathe deeply the tuberose aromatherapy it offers.

When I woke this morning at 3:30 AM, I went out barefoot to stand on the small patch of grass just off the lanai. Lanai means patio, but in Hawaii it is so much more. The lanai is the room where the house meets the shade, then sky. It is where you consider sleeping every night right before you drag yourself indoors to a stuffy closed bedroom. It is where you always want to eat, where you toast your quests and where you gather to laugh when it rains, which it does every day. The lanai is where you listen to music and work out to work off tropical drink calories. It is where you lovingly put sunscreen on the backs of those you rarely get to touch and where you wash the sand off your feet too fast only to find it later sticky between your toes after a good long shower. Lanai’s are the home to flowerpots who drink up rainbow water and offer up their flowers and fruits. It is where you go after a fight or bad dream. It is where you say hello to the land and where you say goodbye.

So I go to say goodbye. I feel the warm night and notice the full moon behind a curtain of soft clouds. I take my last look out to the North Shore of Oahu and feel surf move the water in my body up and down one more time. I have a relationship with this island. I believe the breeze weaves itself through flowering trees right before finding me because it knows it pleases me. I will notice the layers of its journey and trace the fragrance back to the plumeria, ginger, volcanic dirt. I believe the trees here look down on me, see me, breathe me in and breath out to me. Like lovers we kiss and inhale and exhale each other. I feel them surround me in their canopy of consciousness. The ocean whispers a quiet surf, tempting me to walk the beach to put my toes in one last time. I believe the ground where my bare feet touch, reaches up in invisible webs of light and wraps itself around me, coaxing me to stand still, look around, receive.

And I have received so much. But I can’t hold the circuit any longer. I know I need to get gas, I need to return the rental car that is filled with sand. I have three heavy bags packed with everything from the everything Trader Joes bagel salt I dragged here, to my flippers that swam laps in safe coves. I have new Hawaiian Christmas ornaments and a beautiful locally made lime green sundress that goes perfectly with the Gold disc earrings my brother and his husband gave me last night in thanks for sharing this magical place with them.

I make the drive over the dark mountains and through the Dole Pineapple plantation and see for the last time the sleeping giant Ka’ala whose belly reaches it’s peak at just over 4,000 ft. I thank him for keeping us safe, for keeping the wind constant, waves gentle and rain on time. The road turns into a highway and I easily find the airport. I am the third person to drop off my car, make it swiftly through security and to the gate with so much time to kill that I can’t even admit it to anyone. I am shamelessly grateful for this leisurely time I have earned by being neurotic. My heart is finally quiet and full and happy. It beats soft and steady. The open aired lobby allows for the breeze to find me still.

Somewhere over the rainbow by Iz is playing in this empty gate which is perfect because I didn’t play it at all this time and needed to hear the ukulele at least once before I left. I am sure the airport employees are sick of hearing it. The sun is coming up in the east announcing that the main land has been up for hours already. Honolulu is wide awake with busy tourists who natrually wake super early to find Kona coffee and their tour bus. The whole island is early to rise, early to bed. I am not the only one ready for the day. Diamondhead in the far distance is a soft peach in the rising sun and truly glistens with diamonds as it touts its extinct mystery. I wonder when I will be back again.

The line is forming for the A listers. An infant is already crying hard. There are 7 wheelchairs that have to board. I wonder who is milking it. My C list gives me plenty of time to scan the crowd, write and edit and write. I think about Scott already done operating for the day. I will uber home to him and turn into my circle driveway around 2:30 am. When I get in the door I will sit on the floor while Walter turns in happy circles pushing his tail in my face trying to sit on me like a puppy. He will then rub his head all over me to spread his scent over my dying foreign lei. Tomorrow he will take his time forgiving me for leaving him.

I has been 5 minutes but already I can’t wait to shower off the man who is sitting spread eagle next to me. He is also defending his armrest like it is the Alamo. He happens to be from Texas. The woman to my right is lovely, smart and around Lucia’s age. She is an African American woman from Georgia on her way to finishing her masters at Morgan State trying to decide on med school or getting her PHD. Our conversations turns to how trauma locks itself in the DNA and how many generations it takes to heal. She is doing her thesis on stored trauma. The Texan pipes in that the blacks were granted plantations at the end of civil war and were the most brutal of all. His says history does not teach us that. His wife sits in the other isle seat. Her eyes scan us as if she is used to intervening. I go quiet feeling how he has now taken up the whole row. I had no idea he was listening. Out of all the things we talked about from her trip to Kenya to study medicine in the jungle, to her recent trip to Hawaii as a representitive of Morgan State for a summit on diversity in Hawaii, he has chosen this. I feel into the woman next to me, feeling protective. Her energy is even and centered. She pushes back gently. She does not need my protection. She says,”Yes there is a lot we don’t know.” She is unflustered by him. I throw up an energetic bubble anyway and cross my left leg over my right and turn my body a bit more obviously away from him. He does not speak again. I realize her graciousness has won over what feels like my own shame and ignorance over what we actually do know. I choose to calm down. Later we exchange numbers. I hope she gets in touch.

We go quiet, I put on The Life of PI and want to be home. I think about the shower I will take and how I will slide my Hawaiian tan into our big bed next to a sleeping Scott who doesn’t not take up other people’s space. He will grumble a “hon” and wrap an arm around me. I’ll kick my leg out to feel the fan, close my eyes and see palm trees in the full blue moon light. Sleep will come as I imagine hearing the surf, knowing it will take days till I can’t hear it anymore. The lei will die, the bags will get unpacked and slowly, on island time, I will return.

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