Anna is a second semester freshman. I’m entering my final semester as a senior, chomping at the bit, eager to get out of UH and head for the graduate program in English at the University of Wisconsin.
I’ve heard from everyone that it will be colder than hell in Madison, but I don’t care. I’m tired of Honolulu, particularly thinking about my Ex. I want out. But . . .
Anna was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. A Hilo High grad, she says she’s a Viking through and through. I mention how much I love Hilo, how my family camped there often.
She says, “My heart, you know, it’ll always be there in Hilo. I’ve never visited a place that I thought was better.”
We’re both in ECON 130, the last core curriculum class for me. The first day we sit side by side in the front row. This is a 12:30 class, post-lunch for lots of folks, pre-lunch for me given my back-to-back-to back classes. We’re in Bilger 151, the big Chemistry auditorium.
Dr. Miller comes into class, puffing and a little bit red in the face.
He dons the neck mic with a bit of difficulty and, leaning against the large desk in front, greets us, announcing right off — remember, this is the mid-70s. Times were different:
“Hello all. I have to warn you folks down in the first three rows or so, that I always enjoy a liquid lunch at Pizza Hut, so you may want to bring umbrellas or wear raincoats since I tend to spit when I get passionate about the subject matter.”
Anna and I look at each other and grimace.
A guy just behind me says, “You’re kidding, right?”
“Not about the liquid lunch,” Dr. Miller says, “but, yeah, no, I don’t spit when I speak.”
The guy and most of us in the almost saliva zone chuckle.
“Well, rarely,” Dr. Miller adds.
The guy and most of us in the maybe saliva zone groan.
After going over the syllabus spitless, and telling us that we’ll really enjoy the textbook because he wrote it, so we all have to make sure we buy it because he lives off the royalties rather than his teaching salary, which is so low, he says,
“I leave you with this final thought. By the time this semester is over, if you learn nothing else, you will understand exactly what I mean when I tell you there is absolutely no such thing as a free lunch. You may not know what that means now, but you will by the end, and be prepared, I give you this huge hint that you’ll have to explain what it does means on the final exam. Remember: There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
He releases us and as Anna and I head for the exit, I say, “I do not know what he means by there being no such thing as a free lunch, so while I’m still this ignorant, if you didn’t eat yet, can I buy you lunch, which would mean that it’d be free for you, although, I guess, it really wouldn’t be.”
Anna crinkles up her nose, then laughs. “Well, I ate just before class, but you could buy me a free cup of coffee.”
I can tell she’s hapa – half Caucasian and, by her last name, half Japanese.
Because it’s not so obvious with me, I tell her that I’m hapa, half Caucasian, half Korean. “My last name’s a Korean Lee,” I say.
“I’m hapa too,” she says and explains her mix. What I knew already at first glance, she confirms. The combination in her is pretty stunning.
We both get coffee, me a sandwich too, at the cafeteria. Sitting outside, I ask her about growing up, what school was like, what got her to UH Mānoa. The usual kinds of stuff.
She wants to know about the English major because that’s one she’s looking at. She talks about winning the English Scholar Award in her senior class, and how much she loves reading and writing.
Then she asks, “What are you going to do after this semester?”
I hesitate, give her a long, “Ahhh.” Do I want to tell this woman that I’m up and leaving Hawaiʻi? I’m definitely attracted to her. Would this kill any chances with her? I have no idea if she’s attracted to me.
Should I lie to her right off the bat?