Hilo was my home base for 7 years.
Now, that doesn’t mean I lived there consistently for 7 years, because I didn’t. I went back and forth from Japan and Taiwan to Hilo, leaving for the last time when I was 20 years old, to go and teach second grade in Macau.
I feel like I spent most of my time in Hilo just trying to get out of it. I hated it. I moved there from Fiji, and my life in Fiji had been pretty darn sweet. My brother Dana and I made good money with our pumpkin bread business, I had friends, I felt cool, I could ride my bike or take the bus anywhere. I had a life and the wherewithal to do things.
But in Hilo. My parents were broke and Dana and I couldn’t get jobs at first because we were too young (that thing about ‘minimum age’ to work in the United States!). So we were broke too. And couldn’t get around, on account of the lack of public transport and how spread out everything was, so it felt impossible to bike ride everywhere. Not that we really had anywhere to go.
I felt uncool. My freckly-ultra-whiteness hadn’t meant all that much in Fiji because my friends were used to me, but in Hilo, I glowed like a ghost. I couldn’t hear squat, but I was loathe to admit it and I spent most of my time trying to ‘pass’ as non-deaf. Given Hawai’i and marijuana, most people thought I was just stoned all the time because I missed out on conversations and went around with a kind of goofy smile all the time (the, “hi! I can’t hear anything you are saying, but I come in friendliness and peace” smile).
I went to two different high schools in Hilo, then when I was in Japan as a Rotary Exchange Student when I was 15, I took the SAT, a year of correspondence school work on top of my Japanese high school work, and was finished with high school. I entered the University of Hawai’i at Hilo when I was 16. I left after a year, took off for Taiwan to live with Dana for 6 months, then back to Japan for another year. I returned to Hilo when I was 18, Dana returned too – we both knuckled down and graduated in no time, then we both hightailed it back to Asia.
This is my daughter
23 years ago when I lived there, I never would have believed anyone who might have told me that I’d be crying intense tears there, 23 years later.
I never would have believed that my daughter playing on the monkey bar with my husband would fundamentally move me, bringing back so many memories of my (now-adult) niece playing on the same bars.
I never would have believed how happy I would be, or could be, to be in that spot again.
This was at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo. I spent hours on these very tables, studying, chain smoking, and slogging down pints of heavily-sweetened and highly-creamed coffee.
This was in the cafeteria.
I worked there throughout my time in college – either in the little “snack shack” where I sold spam musubi, or in the deli, where I crafted kick-ass sandwiches for the sporty people who came by.
Nothing looks like it has changed much. Even the chairs look the same.
And we went to Rainbow Falls, up Waianuenue Avenue.
We lived there when we first arrived from Fiji.
A Hawaiian girl living across the street from us had a huge crush on Dana, and I suspect, friended me in order to get closer to him.
Whatever, we had a good time. She took us to the Falls, and to paths leading far above them to swim.
You have to walk through the Banyons to get above the Falls.
As I stood there, I was flooded with memories of us all playing there. Liana, Dana and I. She and I dared Dana to climb those trees and he did, laughing the whole time.
He always did shit like that. Wild, golden boy. My beautiful brother.
I was so happy to be there, in this place that was drenched with joyous memories.
And I was so fucking angry that he’s gone.
These plants made me smile that day.
Mikey and Moxie had walked ahead and I was wandering around, kind of blinded by my tears of mixed happiness and rage. And longing.
I looked down and saw these – heart shaped green leaves – and felt a sliver, a smidgen of relief.
Which was all that I could ask for.