Not to suggest that I’d been wronged per se, but almost immediately I perceived a conspiracy taking place against me. I stepped off the plane and the heat smothered my body as if I were covered entirely by a giant wool sock. My pack, stylishly and brand new, suction-cup-glued itself to my back. I felt the moist beads begin at the top of my spine and dance their way down until they were sucked in by the hem of my shorts. Jennifer Lopez, easily 20 years older than me, could pull off this sweaty look in her music videos acting like a fit firm lioness, sexy and sensual and seducing men (and woman) on the other side of the television. By contrast, me, power walking down the airport terminal trying to regulate my breathing and willing myself to stop sweating (doesn’t work by the way), I probably looked more like a warthog, or maybe just a human- either way, not attractive.
An unforeseen heat wave and, consequently, my initial thoughts in Maui are filled with disdain.
Back home before I left Kitty promised “Oh it’ll be absolutely wonderful!” Even back in Seattle when I was in line at the airport a woman remarked, “Maui is PA-RA-DISE!”
If so, then paradise needs to work on its first impression. From a lifetime of expectation I anticipated toucan Sam birds nested in coconut palm trees placed strategically on the corners of every four story building, and native half naked Hawaiian men on giant sea turtles chasing wild boars out into the ocean fending off pirates and sharks with tools made from ivory tusks. Instead the airport consisted of ugly brown paint, cliché décor tiki bars, and a raunchy stench (half caused by my own sticky salty skin).
I found the nearest restroom and bolted in, ignoring the looks of strangers as I took off my shirt and wiped down my entire torso with paper towels. I dried my shirt under the automatic hand dryer and picked at my skin as strangers pretended not to notice. I resolved any self-conscious feelings by thinking of the probability of ever seeing any of these people again. I only thought about probabilities when I found myself in uncomfortable situations, like an internal coping mechanism. 7.3 billion people in the world, about six in this bathroom; so six divided by seven billion, imperceptible small. Also take into account that they might die, that they’d most likely forget what I look like, that they might be taking a shit in the stall next time I’m in a public restroom wiping myself down- the probability becomes infinitesimally small.
Outside the bathroom I walked down the airport terminal until I came to the next Tiki bar and ordered myself a Mai Thai, hoping to somehow cool down. The bartender was a cute brown skinny girl, probably not Hawaiian, but greeted me with an Aloha! and wore a pretty smile. She asked me where I came from, I said Seattle.
“Ooo I’ve never been to Seattle before, but I hear it’s fantastic. A big music scene, yeah?”
“Pretty big,” I replied, trying to act cool and hip and foreign for her (harness your inner J-Lo, I told myself), “Seattle is home of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, the Fleet Foxes. Not quite as big as San Francisco or LA though.”
“Mmm, ain’t nothing nowhere like San Fran baby. You ever been?”
“You should go,” her eyes lit up, “Go see the music there.”
“See the music?” I asked, but she didn’t reply. Instead she diverted her attention to a group of business looking men on the other side of the bar, which made me feel sore because I wasn’t rich like them and imagined myself free and in another world running off with some brown-skinny-maybe-Hawaiian-gal. Oh well, that’s the ego.
Over my drink I took heavy breaths to grab my bearings and further acclimate myself to the heat. “I will be here for three days,” I reminded myself, “so it’s no good being a sour puss about the climate. Enjoy yourself, have a vacation, and put on a fucking smile!”
Ok, I committed myself to a good time. If nothing else, for the sake of my mom I needed to have a good time.
I paid my bill and tipped the girl handsomely, “Where should I go to see the music in Hawaii?”
“No music to see in Hawaii,” she stated, “but keep your ears open and you’ll hear it all over this island. San Francisco! That is where you’ve got to go seee the music. San Francisco is where it’s at.”
I promised her I would go see the music of San Francisco someday, and reluctantly made my way down to the baggage claim, picking up my lonely suitcase traveling around the belt like a lost planet.
I texted Mama telling her I had arrived. She replied fifteen seconds later saying that she was waiting outside in a red van at the curb. Sure enough, right out front sat a shiny red Dodge Caravan. I walked up to it as the back door slid open and out jumped my sister, Sophia.
It had only been six months since I last saw her, but at her age dramatic bodily (and emotional) changes happen in six months. She was fourteen, twelve years younger than me, puberty and high school drama fully charged, but my favorite human nonetheless. Back when I was in middle school and Mama and Dad were still together, we all three flew to China and adopted Sophia. That was my first time ever leaving the country (ever leaving the Pacific Northwest actually) and my world grew to the size of a planet, to how the earth actually is, diverse and great and filled with many words and symbols and smells that I will never understand, but I can still wonder at them all with amazement and awe forming a type of reverence inside. Thirteen years later now and Sophia stood five foot two, legs for days, graceful black thin hair that flowed over her bare shoulders, right now providing a stark contrast to her flowered strapless sun dress. She was stunningly adolescent, and I loved her for it. I admired her dress and told her how mature she looked as she gave me a hug and blushed like how all 14 year old girls blush at compliments.
My mom hopped out of the passenger side door while my sister threw my suitcase in the back. Mama was exactly five feet high with dyed boppy blonde hair. She wore a gold bracelet and a silver necklace with a faux diamond yin yang charm hanging off. I gave her a hug and awkwardly noticed her boob implants, which always caught me off guard (she had the surgery five years ago). Perhaps it’s a baby sucking on a teet thing, or perhaps it’s a weird Freudian thing. I know that it was her decision and her body, so power to her. But, whatever. I will always feel uncomfortable when I notice Mama’s boobs.
I jumped in the van sliding the door shut and sat next to Sophia. From the driver seat Tim turned around to give a handshake and greeted me, “Good to see you bud!”
“Hey Tim.” I replied with a smile. His two daughters were in the very back, and we greeted each other cordially. Madeleine was Sophia’s age, and Katie had just turned sixteen. Both pretty girls who were always told that they looked just like their mother. I’d yet to meet their mom, but Mama said she was a real bitch. I replied to Mama that I’d probably act like a bitch to the person who my spouse cheated on. I hurt her with that comment, but that was about a year ago.
“What took you so long at the airport? We’ve been waiting for you for like half an hour,” Mama had a cutesy almost sing-song way of talking. She sang in choir all through high school and college, and even did musical theatre in LA for a short stint after she graduated.
“I said I’d text you when I arrived.”
“We looked online to check when the flight would get in, and got here then because we didn’t want to keep you waiting, but you took so long. I began to get worried.”
“Oh I’m sorry Mama. I sort of like airports so I hung around a little bit people watching.”
“Ok, but you kept us waiting.” She replied.
I felt irritated at her comment, but didn’t want to break into an argument, so I kept my mouth shut.
After a prolonged silence, “Jonah, did you hear me? You kept us waiting.”
“I heard you Mother.”
Her tone hinted at her annoyance, “It was very inconsiderate of you to keep us waiting, especially when we offered to fly you out and pick you up, and especially when we haven’t seen you for so long.”
“Mom, I’m twenty-six. When I say I’ll let you know when I’m ready, I mean that I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” I felt my face begin to flush, which I hated, because that only happens when I get angry. I hate being angry, but my mom knew just the right buttons to push to make me so, and vice-versa.
She still sang her words, but they had ice in them, “To reiterate, I guess I just assumed that my son who I haven’t seen in months would be excited to see his mother the eve before her wedding, and would not dilly dally around the airport for a half hour making us all wait.”
My face fully flushed. So much for the good time.
Just then Sophia grabbed my hand, halting the words like knives about to be chucked from my mouth.
Sophia piped in, “Can I show you all a new song I found? Or, rather, I suppose it’s a really old song. But I just found it and I think you all will really like it.”
Without hesitation Sophia reached forward to the auxiliary cord with her left hand while digging into her pocket with her right, pulling out her phone and with one seamlessly quick motion she plugged the cord in and clicked on a song. Lola by the Kinks began to play. Delightfully easy guitar chords burst through the stereo speakers covering the tension between me and Mama, diverting our near catastrophe. I beamed in awe of my sister, the natural peace keeper, and the glue that kept me connected to the fragmented parts of our family. I knew the words so I sang along with Sophia, practically screaming in the backseat, “WELL WE DRANK CHAMPAGNE AND DANCED ALL NIGHT, UNDER ELECTRIC CANDLELIGHT!”
After the song ended Tim commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before, but I like it.” I looked out the window, holding Sophia’s hand.
We drove straight to the condo, about forty minutes away from the airport. A huge, spaciously beautiful building four stories up looking out at the pacific ocean on the west side of the island. It had ginormous floor to ceiling windows and maple hardwood floors that glowed with the sun set. I was the last to arrive and everyone claimed all the beds so I took the couch. The air still clung heavy and sweaty, and after a lap around the premises I immediately hopped in the shower. I twisted the cold knob all the way to the left and the hot knob a quarter of the way right, then quickly washed myself with the little complimentary soap and shampoo. I rarely take cold showers, but I needed this one. Cold showers send the body into a terrible shock flash followed quickly by a vivid alertness to the world. Maybe this is a direct cause of evolution. The penis shrinks, eyes widen, and adrenaline pumps to the muscles. If an alligator emerged from the drain pipes I would instinctively kick it in its snout, then probably be paralyzed in fear and get my foot bitten off. Thanks evolution.
Luckily in my three minute shower no alligator attacked me from the drain. I got out and my head felt clearer and my body temperature cooled down. We were going out for dinner and then an evening walk on the beach, so I slipped on a plain loose white tee, khaki slim shorts and my pair of slip on tennis shoes.
We went out to a seafood restaurant at the center of the nearby town. “They have the best fish in all of Maui,” Tim boasted, “a local told me that.” A rather bold statement I thought, even if it did come from a local.
Our waitress came up, rocking a black dress and white apron. She looked about my age and talked with a natural Hawaiian accent. I’d probably run away with her, I thought to myself. I ordered a rum and coke as I perused the menu, eventually deciding on a lemon and sage salmon dish. As we waited for our food we played catch up conversation with each other. They told me about the house they just bought, how fantastic Maui has been (they’d been there for a week already), how great it will be to finally be married to each other. I smiled politely and nodded, and when my turn came around I told them about my job, living with Phil, and a new donut shop down the street. In not too much time our food came and the conversation turned to more natural matters- what we wanted to do tonight, which beaches we should hit tomorrow, wedding details, etc.
Honestly, the food was pretty damn good. Mom and Tim ordered a bottle of wine, and I ordered another rum and coke. The sun began to set but Mama kept her sunglasses on. She always had that rockstar mentality. Sophia and the girls scrolled through their Instagram critiquing or complementing the people they followed. Watching the sun light up the clouds in dark blues and burnt yellows, I thought about how odd it was to be here, with Tim and his girls, and Mama and Sophia. I felt as if I sat in the front row of a roller coaster. I imagined everyone around me cheering and laughing, and me just waiting for it to be over. Then again, I strangely felt relaxed at this moment. I altered my vision from riding on a roller coaster to riding on a Ferris wheel. I told myself I’d be alright, to just enjoy the view and the complimentary drinks.
The bottle of wine drained, Mom and Tim each ordered a margarita. “How long ago did you break up with Allison?” Tim asked while sipping the last of the wine.
“Well, she broke up with you, right?” Mama added.
I was caught off guard because she did kinda break up with me, but I’d been telling myself and everyone else that it was mutual. Also in general I didn’t want to talk about Allison, but especially not to the man about to marry my mother. I’d been nursing the hots for my ex girl for a while and just kept waiting for it to pass, but it’s dreadfully difficult to get past an ex when you don’t got anyone new to take their place.
“I mean, she moved away, so we decided that a break would be best. But that was a while ago, maybe close to eight months.” I responded.
“Have you talked to her since then?” Tim probed.
“She actually just rang me up a few weeks back. Allison got another promotion at her job, and is moving back up to the Seattle office.”
“Oh woah!” Mama loves this stuff, “Do you think you guys will get back together?”
The waitress came around handing out the margaritas. “You want something else?” She asked me casual with a swing in her hips.
“Not quite yet,” I replied, “It’s a personal goal of mine to always finish a drink before I order another. I like to know that I can finish what I start.” The waitress smiled and walked away, promising to be back soon.
“So,” Mama continued, “Will you and Allison get back together?”
“Nah, I don’t think so. She started seeing another guy at her company, and I think they are going steady and he’s trying to get transferred up here too.” (she didn’t tell me this, but rather I scraped it out of one of her friends a few weeks back dying just to get any and all information, but also trying not to get anyone to notice that I was dying for information, so I asked it all slow and spread out through the night, and so of course I got hardly any information but I’m much too embarrassed now to bring it back up with anyone. Damn my pride I should’a just asked everything shameless and free like I imagine myself to be, then I wouldn’t have to be scouring the internet and racking my brain every drunk night wondering what’s she doing and if I should just call her, but of course I never call her).
I took another full drink of my rum and coke, downing it, and now wishing for another.
Tim continued to press the topic, “Well if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If you want her you just got to win her over. Bring her some flowers, take her out for drinks, show her that you are the better man.”
I looked at him blankly. I imagined punching him in the face, but instead glanced over at Mom, who just smiled gaily awaiting my reply.
Honestly, I don’t dislike Tim, and I think that I’m mostly done being mad at him and Mom. I understand that affairs happen all the time, and it was obvious that Mom and Dad never really matched each other. Ultimately, I think I get why it happened. Still, it’s like Mama’s boobs; no matter any objective reasoning or understanding, it’ll always rub me uncomfortably.
I asked if we had any alcohol back at the apartment. “Just vodka,” they replied. I wanted some whiskey, and asked if they knew of a nearby liquor store. They said there was one close to the condo. Katie talked about which car she hoped to have once she passed her license test. Mom and Tim commented about the pace of life on the island. I looked over at Sophia who made a silly face at me. I mimicked. Sophia laughed, and made another face, which I mimicked again. I glanced up and the waitress watched me, smiling, but then she looked away quickly.
By now evening hit complete and full, but the air still clumped muggy like pockets of photons hitting my body in intervals. Tim paid the check, then complained about how much money we just spent on the meal. I thought about leaving my number for the waitress, but felt chummy about it. Besides, I probably just felt lonely after the conversation of Allison.
We stopped by the liquor store and a bought a fifth of whiskey. On the beach I felt remote from everyone and fueled with alcohol. Being somewhat drunk, I became disgusted at the sight of Tim, and Mama began to look pathetic and weak. I glanced over at Sophia and from the bottom of my heart wished her never to be that way, so I ran over and picked her up like a guitar and high kneed it into the ocean; Sophia kicking and screaming, panicked and jovially. I got about three feet deep before I lost myself and tripped head first into the water, Sophia unstoppable laughing and breathing heavy like a fire. Everyone on the beach protested immediately about safety and ruining our clothes and getting the car wet, but Sophia and I pretended not to hear, and instead continued splashing and swimming in short circles. We laughed so hard that I got water up my nose and starting coughing, which made Sophia laugh even harder until the same thing happened to her. Eventually, exhausted, we begged to the beach like two Eskimos over ice caps, apologizing for our inconvenience to the group.
We drove back to the condo, Sophia and I dripping like wet dogs. Mama and Tim blasted the AC, claiming everyone else was too hot. Mama got the first shower, so Sophia and I sang a song. Tim and his girls picked out a movie on the Netflix. When Mama got out of the bathroom I noticed that her face looked flushed and puffed, but only slightly, and I suddenly felt sad and bad for everything I had ever done.
I washed, I cried, I dried off, I put on my clothes. In the living room the TV blared and everyone sat around staring. I walked outside. I lit a cigarette, I smoked the cigarette. Up above the half moon reflected meekly across the Hawaiian ocean like a broken staircase to the horizon. I thought about marriage, I thought about family, I thought about Allison. Sadness swelled like the ocean around an island. I took a breath in, I let it out. I gazed up at the moon, I walked inside.
I quickly found the bottle of whiskey I had picked up earlier and poured myself a small glass with two ice cubes. I wanted to sleep and dream of darkness and nothingness, ending this day with an un-defining period, abrupt.
But I couldn’t, because the couch seated Mom and Tim and Katie, while the two young girls shared the lazy chair. I hung back in the kitchen, taking my time to finish my drink. All the while emotions dark and brooding swirled like the ice in my cup. I finished with a giant gulp, considered another, but felt wavy enough. My pillow and a blanket lay on the living room floor in front of the television, so I put my head down and closed my eyes. No one said anything; the movie went on for another hour. All three girls slowly made their ways to bed, wishing a good night and leaving with a yawn. Mama and Tim fell asleep, so I had to wake them up to kick them off. I forced myself to brush my teeth, and finally, with the half moon piercing through the window onto my face, I fell asleep.
I awoke to the smell of pancakes and loud whispers of high school girls. The morning sun had grace and a soft touch enlightening the condo like tiny strands of hairs from the head of white Jesus. Mama’s laughing resounded from the other room, and I imagined myself a child. Sophia noticed I was awake and asked if I were hungry. “Ravished,” I replied, “perfect,” she countered, and sprinted out, coming back twenty seconds later with a plate piled high with five pancakes, some sliced fruit, and syrup dripping off the sides. “Bon appetite” she announced, “your coffee is on the way.” She sprinted back to the kitchen, then returned ten seconds later with piping hot coffee in hand and speed walked toward me like Scrooge passing off a baby Christmas morning.
She watched me as I began tackling her feast. “Mm mm delicious!” I exclaimed, “compliments to the chef.” She smiled and left, returning moments later with her own pancake and cup of milk.
“Big day, huh?” I thought aloud, sensing her nervousness.
“Yeah, it’s weird. Mom gets married today.”
“Why do you say weird?” I asked, hoping to probe her mind, “Is it actually strange that Mom is getting remarried?”
“I mean, I figured this day would come, she isn’t really the type of person who is cut out to be alone. But, I don’t know, it’s still weird, isn’t it?”
“Is it weird that Mom is getting married to Tim?”
“A little bit,” she admitted, “it just doesn’t make sense to me for her to marry someone who cheated on their spouse, and who you cheated on your spouse with. How could they ever really trust each other, you know?”
“I don’t know,” I confessed, “but if they couldn’t be together, could they really be with anyone else? I imagine they’ve learned to forgive themselves, and then they could learn to forgive each other. The beauty of evil is that it creates empathy, maybe that’s why God allows it.”
She thought about this for a moment, “but what if they haven’t forgiven themselves, and instead are just afraid? I’m afraid they are lying to themselves about being alright, and eventually it will break again. Everything breaks, people especially.”
“You’re too young to talk like that,” I replied.
“I’m fourteen,” she said with a scowl.
“I forget. I love you a lot Sophia, and even if we break easily, we also have a remarkable capacity to heal. I hope you learn that too.”
“Does healing look like lying to yourself?”
“Healing never looks clean, so maybe so.”
She thought about this too. “I hope they are alright. I don’t trust Mama, but I want her to be happy. I hope Tim can make her happy.”
Katie and Madeleine walked in, both asking Sophia to make more pancakes, which she enthusiastically accepted. Sophia bopped into the kitchen like a pure wild doe, which she was probably in a past life, and I was left alone.
Over my coffee and half eaten pancakes I wondered if Mama would ever be ok, and if any of us could ever really heal completely, and what that would mean if we couldn’t. Mama and my Dad were married for twenty three years. Perhaps it was plagued by adultery from the start, or perhaps that was only how it ended. Now we were broken pieces of stained glass, impossible to put back together but obviously belonging to the same pane.
The wedding wasn’t until sundown, and we had nothing left to prepare for the ceremony. I took a walk down the street, picked up a bouquet of flowers for Mama and a piece of sea glass off the beach. It no longer shimmered, but the cloudy green color and salty sheen texture gave it a certain degree of loveliness not found in recycled bottles or blown vases. I stuck it in my pocket and saved it as a momento.
When I got back to the condo I gave Mama the flowers and she began crying, thanking me for making the day special. Tim sat on the couch with Katie watching a baseball game. He gave me a thumbs up as I walked by. I sat opposite of them and tried starting a conversation, but it quickly died and I felt awkward interrupting their moment, so I made my way out to the balcony with a book and a cigarette.
Eventually we all rendezvoused for lunch, and afterward took a trip back to town. Walking around the shops Tim began feeling sick, and had to go back to the car to sit in the air conditioning for a bit.
“Want me to go with you?” Mama asked.
“No sweetie, it’s alright. I just need to cool down and I’ll bounce right back.”
After an hour we all went back to the car, he was in the front seat snoring which made the girls laugh. Mama had a somewhat disgusted look on her face, and I wondered what it would take for her to leave him right now. Of course she didn’t.
We drove back to the condo, took showers, ironed clothes, applied deodorant, tied ties, buttoned shirts, curled hair, cried, drove to another beach, walked down the steps, met the pastor, he gave a ceremony; we took pictures, the girls cried, Mama and Tim kissed, the pastor blew a conch shell, people waved, we smiled, up the stairs, in the car, to the restaurant.
The entire ordeal took less than an hour, perfectly planned and executed to maximize the sun setting in the background. At dinner I ordered a Hawaiian burger and had three gin and tonics, but unfortunately I couldn’t get drunk. Mama and Tim shared a bottle of wine and the girls giggled about being in their first wedding. Afterwards the newlyweds took an evening walk on the beach while I set a movie up for the girls. Next, I promptly fell asleep.
I dreamt of the tide sucking in crab shells and glass bottles and flip flops. All these items and more swirled around out at sea. Then, after everything was broken, the ocean threw it all back up onto the shore in disarray. I awoke as the movie finished, moved to the couch, and had the same dream, breaking everything in tinnier and tinnier pieces until eventually all was sand.
And that was the day that Mama got remarried.
The next morning we all went out to breakfast at the local waffle house, just a few blocks down from the condo. I had an incredible hangover, even though I barely felt drunk the night before. Sophia sat in a funk, while Madeleine and Katie stared at their phones. Tim shoveled eggs and bacon in his mouth with a grin smeared across his face. Mama sipped bottomless mimosas and kept saying to herself, “Eli-za-beth Lud-wig. Eli-za-beth Lud-wig,” playing with her new last name like a cat plays with a ball of yarn.
“How’s it feel to be a Ludwig?” Tim asked, same grin.
“It’s funny,” she thought out loud, “I’ve imagined my new name for a while, but now that it’s my official name it feels foreign. Like I’m a new person.”
“Well, in some ways you are,” he said, “as the Bible states, we are now united, and are one. Me and you. Man and woman. Brand new.”
“Do you feel brand new?” Mama asked back.
“Like how I’ve never felt before,” he paused, “like we have no history and an endless future.”
“You’re sweet,” Mama said smiling, “I think I feel like I’m suddenly in a new place, but I don’t think I’m afraid. (a pause) No, I don’t think I’m afraid.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Tim looked towards the ocean, “We are whole now, nothing can damage us anymore.”
Mama smiled and grabbed his hand.
After breakfast Tim and his girls hung around the condo while Mama and Sophia drove me to the airport. I gave Tim a handsome handshake, and congratulated him on the marriage.
Once we got in the car Mama blasted the stereo, but after a while I turned it down.
“I love you Mama, and I hope you are happy.”
“Why do you say that? Of course I am happy. Tim makes me very happy.”
“I know, but these last couple of days felt strangely heavy. Did it feel like a wedding for you?”
A brief silence ensued, and when Mama replied she chose her words very carefully.
“Happiness is not ease, Jonah, and it doesn’t always look easy. I’m 47 years old, and the happiness I choose is not necessarily the happiness you know. I don’t regret anything with Tim, and I am willing to commit my life to him.”
“You don’t regret anything? Not Dad? Not the affair?”
“I was never satisfied with your father. I know the affair hurt you and your sister. But… is it selfish of me to give you a taste of hell if it means I get to escape it completely?”
“Was it really hell for you?”
“At times. Not that your father ever hurt me, but life ached, it was a boredom like a giant sheet wrapping all around me, and suffocating me from the outside in.”
“And Tim won’t bore you,” I spoke it as a statement, but she answered anyways.
“Everything is a risk, if that’s what you are getting at.”
“But what if he does? Then you will have to start all over again. I’m just afraid you will rely too much on him, and then when you aren’t satisfied you will have to look elsewhere again.”
She didn’t reply, and I knew that I hurt her with these thoughts, but I had to say them.
“What is it that you want from him, ultimately?”
She thought a second, everything wise is reflective, and again gathering her words carefully and delivering them intentionally she said, “To take my mind off my sadness. Which he does most the time. For me, that is happiness. How could I ask for anything else?”
Is happiness the absence of sadness? I didn’t know.
“Does he know what his responsibility is? To keep you from being sad?”
“It’s why he married me so quick. It’s why he left his wife. It’s why we are in Hawaii right now. Why can’t you just be happy for me?”
“Because I can never believe anything you say, and now you say that you are happy.”
Mama began crying, “Sophia, do you believe me when I say I am happy?”
Sophia was already crying in the back seat, but managed to reply, “I think we are all trying to get rid of our sadness. Maybe after that we can figure out if we are happy or not.”
As they dropped me off I gave Mama a hug and kiss and reminded her that I do love her a lot. “I really hope that Tim cures your sadness. I just worry about you, Mama.”
“I’m your mother, so worry about yourself.” She said it like she was giving me permission to go over to a friend’s house. “I love you Jonah, see you soon I’m sure.”
I gave Sophia a hug and a kiss, and thanked her for who she was. They drove off in a fury, leaving nothing in their absence.
In the airport I went back to the bathroom stall and cried silently. I tried to think of anything happy, but only found sadness swarming inside me violently like the top of the ocean. Hawaii was for lovers, which we all wanted to be, but nobody knew how. I mechanically waited to board the plane, feeling utterly damp. Once aboard I almost immediately fell asleep. I dreamt I was a little kid in a big pool struggling to stay afloat, desperately trying not to sink, but splashes kept rebounding off all the sides of the walls and I kept taking in water. I never sank, just struggled exhaustively.
When I arrived in Seattle the half moon lit up the sky. I bussed back to my apartment. Phil was spending the night at Kitty’s house, so I smoked a cigarette on our porch, took a walk, and with nothing else to do I crawled in bed and tried to sleep. Princess leaped up on my bed with me, and as a reminder of grace she kissed my forehead before disappearing to some other part of the house. Eventually, sleep came to me like some faraway foreign war: it probably happened, but I was totally unaware.