by Kimberly Nicole
Waianae, Oahu 2013
I moved to Hawaii on a whim where I rented an in-law suite on the island of Oahu that smells like a fragrance perfumers have been trying to bottle since ancient Egypt. The sun would set into the ocean during the summer months out of my glass sliding doors that I never locked. I would even leave the door slightly ajar when I knew Kawika was on his way over. My showers would be timed for his arrival, so he would know he was welcome to enter and join me. My sheets would be soaked from my wet, waist-length hair, so afterwards we’d lay on my couch to air dry our skin in the Hawaiian breeze coming through the screen of my still open doors and open windows.
The sliding glass doors didn’t have curtains so I woke up with the sunrise. My circadian rhythm had never been so at peace I realized over a breakfast of fresh papaya off the tree outside my window, a double rainbow still lingering from the morning’s tropical shower. On weekends after breakfast, I would take my book to the hammock looking down over Makaha beach where I met Kawika from the house high in the mauka. The hammock smells of the salt water that is carried up from the beach by the breeze and mixed with the scent of the wild plumeria flowers. The wind would breeze through and make me lose my page in my book. The hammock was attached to the poles of the thatched-roof lanai built by my landlord. He built the two story, open air house as well as installed the below ground pool which his wife mosaiced into a scene of sea turtles and mermaids. The house is in a gated community with government housing for native hawaiians at the base of the mountain where Kawika lives.
Waianae, Hawaii is at the very top of Oahu serviced by a one lane road. The Hawaiian islands are maybe the one place in the world where having brown skin protects you from petty theft, so most criminals assumed I was local and left my car windows intact. The peacocks who lived in our neighborhood sometimes woke me up with their yowling that was far worse than cats in heat. They would sit in the middle of the road when I was late to work daring me to ruffle their majestic feathers.
I met Kawika by the rock wall on the beach where he worked as a lifeguard. I had just come in from surfing as he was passing on patrol in his golf cart and stopped for a chat. We sat in his golf cart watching the waves and then the sunset and then the stars while sharing my beach snacks of graham crackers and cut fruit for dinner. He came back to my in-law suite a few weeks after regular chats. My landlords were in Germany so we took a bottle of vodka into the pool. What I didn’t take into the pool was my bikini top. In the morning, Kawika woke me up before the peacocks, making me sweat before the sun had risen.
We met a few months before I had plans to move off the Hawaiian island to an island in the Caribbean. This deadline made us desperate to spend as much time being physical with each other as our bodies would allow. I wondered if I’d ever find another chemistry so potent- the light breeze mixed with Kawika’s breath on my skin injected with multiple rushes of endorphins.
There was one day I came in early from surfing after cutting my foot on the reef. I limped to the lifeguard stand with my cut full of little rocks that I could have cleaned by myself, but would have rather fulfilled a fantasy of being alone with Kawika in the stand. A drop of blood stained the wood flooring as Kawika put my foot on his knee. He put on his medical gloves with a raised eyebrow and a cheeky smirk and set to rinsing out the debris. He kissed the bottom of my foot after he bandaged the small wound, kissed the inside of my naked knee, and then my palm, the latter two having absolutely no injury.
My brain told my heart that this was just chemicals, but my heart told my brain otherwise. I’m the type of person to be constantly mediating between the two, but usually siding with my heart in the end.
Kawika is not the type to have changed much. I imagine he still has the body of a surfer with the skin tone of someone who works outside. His hair is still cut short so as not to ever have the opportunity to be bleached by the sun and he will still be riding around in his golf cart with his easy smile, deep voice, and accent that he changes for no one. Strange that ten years later, I still think of how my world would have been if I’d decided to stay on Oahu, even though the idea clashes with every aspect of my life now. If I ever want to find out, I can always go back and find Kawika in the lifeguard tower on Makaha Beach.