Teeth

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Chapter 18 - Mother's Day Out

November 1st, 1992

Baby Andrea was squalling from the back seat.

“What does she want?” Chuck asked.

“I don’t know.” I replied.

“Well you’re the mom.”

“And...”

And…you should know.”

I believed that I should know. There was something wrong with me. Some instinct that I didn’t have was supposed to tell me what to do. I was waiting for that knowing that everyone says comes with motherhood. “You just know,” my mother said.

But I didn’t. I had no idea if I was doing anything right. I sure didn’t know why she was crying right now.

“Why don’t you see what’s wrong?” Chuck asked perhaps exasperated with my lack of mothering skills.

“Why don’t you?”

“I’m driving.”

“And I’m riding with my seat belt on. Pull over, and you find out what’s wrong.” I was not unwilling to find out what’s wrong with my daughter; I was just tired of doing everything alone and being ordered around.

Chuck didn’t pull over until he reached the apartment complex where the babysitter lived.

“Come on, little princess,” Chuck said as he pulled a screaming two-month old out of the car seat. As soon as the baby was settled on her father’s shoulder, she stopped crying. Chuck smiled and kissed his daughter’s ear.

I pulled myself out of the car and followed Chuck with the heavy blue baby bag up the stairs to Wendi’s apartment. Wendi was the babysitter.

“Hi Lilian! Chuck! And there’s my princess!” Wendi was smiling and welcomed us into her home, “So where are you guys off to today?”

“I am going to take Lilian over to that lighthouse by Makapu`u Point,” Chuck said.

“Cool! Maybe Chris and I can go sometime.”

“It should be real cool,” Chuck replied as I grinned slightly and placed Andrea’s bag on the floor.

“Did you bring an extra can of formula?” Wendi asked noticing that there was only one bottle in the bag.

“We shouldn’t be gone for more than a couple of hours. Andrea just ate before we came over,” I explained.

“Well, you never…”

“It’ll be fine,” I said.

“I’m sure it will, I was just being cautious,” Wendi said.

“We’ll be back in two hours,” I explained in a louder voice than I should. I was sick of people telling me what to do. I was tired of being wrong all the time.

“Lilian, let’s go,” Chuck interrupted and grabbed my upper arm with his claws and squeezed. “We really will be back before Andrea needs anything else. It’ll be fine. If you need anything, though, just buy it. I’ll pay you back for it when we get back.”

“Oh, okay Chuck. No problem,” Wendi said as Chuck pushed me out of her door and continued to squeeze my arm until my fingers started to lose circulation. Let go of me! As Wendi closed the door, she called, “Have a good time.”

When Wendi closed the door behind us, I yanked free. We’re silent all the way to the car. But as soon as we got in the car, “Who the hell do think you are?” Chuck asked.

“What?”

“What makes you think you can treat people like that?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Wendi is our babysitter.”

“She thinks I don’t care about Andrea!”

“She was asking if you brought formula!”

“She’s a self-righteous bitch.”

“She was worried that Andrea might get hungry.”

“Bullshit! She had a whole bottle!”

“Shut the fuck up, Lilian!”

“You shut the fuck up!”

Chuck slams on the breaks and stops the car on the side of the road. “If you don’t shut up, you can walk the rest of the way.”

“What’re you gonna do? Drag me out of the car?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, go ahead.”

Chuck got out of the car, shut his door, and proceeded to walk around to my side of the car. I hit the locks. Realizing that he just allowed me to lock him out of our car, he punched the hood of the car and left a dent the size of his fist.

I stared at the dent.

Chuck paced like a caged bear in front of the car. He stopped and stared at me through the glass.

I thought about the dent. There’s no way that would ever get fixed. We didn’t have the money. All the money in the world wouldn’t prevent it from happening again. I couldn’t fix things. I couldn’t stop them, and I couldn’t explain them.

I reached over and unlocked the driver’s side door.

Tempers calm, we drove through the paniolo area of Oahu to Makapu`u Point in silence. We passed by a rodeo arena and several tiny ranches. Everything was emerald green and sunlit gold as I looked out of my window. The ocean disappeared behind trees. The air was fresh and cool, like rain. The tiny houses that lined the road were just waiting for something to happen. They looked as if they’ve been waiting for decades for anything to happen. The ocean emerged again from behind the trees.

We passed Sealife Park, and Chuck pulled into the scenic observation point about a mile away from the barricaded dirt road which lead to the light house.

“We’ll have to walk from here. We can’t park outside the barricade,” Chuck said as he turned off the ignition and opened his door. He started walking before I could get out of the car. I scrambled out of the car and began walking, but fell behind. His body was tall and purposeful striding two steps to my one. His head hanged down as he walked. He searched the ground for things he may stumble on. I just watched his back.

Chuck stopped at the gate and waited for me to catch up.

“Are you ready?” he asked as I approached.

“As I’ll ever be,” I said looking at the massive road ahead. It was deceptive from the highway. The road was mostly hidden from the highway except for the part which narrowed and curved around this craggy hill. The piece of path that we couldn’t see from the road led to the right and was wide, dusty, and full of ruts and craters left by the government vehicles that drove to the lighthouse.

“Look, Lilian. There’s a shortcut,” Chuck said and indicated the left side of the point where people appeared to climb with relative ease over naturally occurring rock stairs.

“That looks like a really tall hill,” I said to Chuck’s back as he turned to the left.

“Come on, Lilian. It’ll be quicker.”

I followed the same way I always did, and we began to climb.

Chuck started off going relatively fast, as if he was climbing up a flight of stairs. Along with being out of shape, I was also afraid of falling. Chuck slowed down when he looked back and saw my legs shaking and my hands clawing the rocks as if they were going to keep me from falling.

“Lilian! Are you all right?” he called from about twenty feet above me.

“Not really!” I called back as I looked at the scrapes from the lava rock on the palms of my hands and backs of my fingers.

Chuck waited until I reached him before he moved again.

“Hold my hand, Lilian.”

I grabbed his right hand with my left, and winced at the salty sweat that slid over the fresh scrapes. The familiar sting of salt in fresh wounds made me pull my hand from his and rub my wrists. “Do your wrists hurt?”

“No, I’m just nervous.”

He turned to go up another step, but stopped and looked into my eyes, “Do you need to rest?”

“No. I can’t stop or I’ll really freak.”

He grasped my hand and continued up the hill, checking the stones as he went and telling me to step where he stepped.

Chuck inadvertently kicked a rock off the side of the cliff as he slid his size 12 boot along the narrow walkway. I watched as the obsidian stone the size of his fist hit the cliff’s face as it fell. The turbulent ocean below and the wind in my ears drowned out any noise that the black, glassy rock might make as it shattered against the steep wall. The splintered shards from the mother rock fell silently, and I watched them until they became a part of the ocean.

He smiled back at me as he reached his hand out for mine to steady me. Making our way along the cliff, Chuck’s muscled arms have held my soft and clumsy frame against the wall of this cliff several times when the gusts of cool air threatened me and my vertigo and panic kicked in.

This rock formation was deceptive. It looked like a short climb from the west face, but once we rounded the north edge, the path narrowed to about eight inches of loose and cracked rock. To turn around would only result in a traffic jam of ignorant tourists and thrill seekers who were as deceived as we were. It was easier to climb.

The dirt road leading to the lighthouse would have been much safer, but we couldn’t see the particulars of this trail when we decided to attempt the journey. There was nothing to do but finish what we started, just like our life together.

We moved forward like sloths on a tree branch as we rounded the northern face of the cliff. Chuck checked each foothold with his weight and brushed the loose rock off the edge of the narrow path. He held my hand as we side-stepped along an even more contracted path. I could barely see around him, and he didn’t speak to me. He was concentrating. I wished he would just speak to me and let me know how much farther we had to go. We must have been close. I couldn’t see the beach behind us anymore.

The way was getting easier, but Chuck was still holding my hand and blocking my view. I felt the downward slant of the rock beneath my tennis shoes, and different muscles were working.

The ocean wind blew against my body as the path widened onto the dirt road. I let loose the pent-up breath as we walked forward to the lighthouse. This was what we came to see. Chuck and I have driven past this little red lighthouse many times, and we always said we wanted to see it up close.

Chuck walked in front of me still holding my hand.

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