Wednesday, January 07, 2009

day three:

in the early afternoon we all go to a buddhist mission and begin setting up for the party. her step mom is having her sixtieth birthday bash in the temples recreation area. she tells me that growing up there, her and her best friend [whos dad is a priest at the temple] used to play all around the grounds. climbing on the buddha statue [the largest on US soil, apparently] or ducking under the raised platforms and hiding behind the trees, pretending they were spies or adventurers or models or whatever. she introduces me to the priest, her best friends father, and he doesnt speak much english but is warm and forgiving and laughs a lot. i feel at ease with him. i meet more people and they all seem nice and i try to remain impressive. the tables finally get set up and a few pictures are taken. i stand in the back most of the time, because, as always, im the tallest.

i borrow one of her fathers shirts as i didnt bring any appropriate casual tops to go with shorts and slippers. it is a blue button up number with a floral pattern all over it. very island sophisticated.

as people start filing into the party i lurk around the keg making insignificant conversation with the guest ive already been introduced to. the dj is set up on a stage and i meander over toward him to spy his set up. we chat for a while and he seems to be very impressed that im a dj in new york even though im sure he makes much more money djing in maui than i ever will on the mainland. i start drinking wine and make small talk with the pretty bartender. everytime someone learns im from new york they ask if i know someone, a friend or old classmate that has moved there in the past few years. i politely say no and remind them there are over 8 million people in city. this never seems to register.

the warm night air and flowing red wine get every one loose and a dancefloor is established. the dj plays songs from the 80's, as the host instructed. all the women are old and beautiful and full of energy. i sneak away to smoke a cigarette on the beach and look into the darkness of the sea. i realize i dont have a flame when and wonder what to do. behind me is the kitchen to the mission and in it is the priest. i wander over to him and ask him for a light. he doesnt understand at first but i make hand gestures and point at the cigarette. his face lights up and he nods quickly and says hai twice, fast and clipped. he opens a drawer and digs out a book of wooden matches and test them first, striking forward at the box instead of sliding back towards himself, like i see people usually do. it is a strange and exciting gesture for some reason. he hands me the box and i bow slightly and go back to the beach, hoping no one has seen me.

the people are dancing to billy idol and all the tables have plates of food unattended and she is somewhere in there swimming in her childhood. i try lighting the cigarette and the match doesnt work. i try again and again, tearing at the box, almost destroying it. from nowhere a girl emerges with a backpack on and piercings all over her face. we are all alone on the beach and aside from the music from the party, only the shushing of the surf is heard. she notices my frustration and i motion that i cant light my cigarette. smiling, she takes the book of matches, grabs two sticks, and ignites them on the sliver of box not yet mutilated by yours truly. i lean in and spark my cigarette and take a deep drag and say thank you. she smiles and her lip ring twist against her teeth. then she shrugs on her backpack and walks away into the empty beach.

i meet a thousand people throughout the night. two twin girls give me a jar of weed because they know i smoke and sympathize with me. next door neighbors from her childhood tell me boring stories of when she was a little girl and she blushes and i laugh and kiss her forehead. friends of hers look me up and down to measure if im worth her time. i switch from white wine to red and back to white then back to red.

as we are cleaning up a drunk man outside the party begins to heckle us. i smell pussy! he says. go back to the mainland, he says. you didnt even book my band, he says. she tells me the locals arent too keen oon white people, even the ones that have been there for thirty or more years. the voice is drunk and frustrated and it rises in anger from the blackness behind the fence. i look around to see if anyone will challenge it but no one does. they all just finish cleaning up and ignore him. it makes me uncomfortable but i say nothing. i just do my part.

at night before we fall asleep i hear the wind howling outside. i go to the sliding door and listen and its louder than traffic on a thoroughfare. this is the white noise of the island. i stand there hypnotized for a moment before she whispers to come to bed.

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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at downtownalleys.blogspot.com.