All I Had To Do

I have been dreaming myself into stories again.  These should be some of the quietest journeys I will ever take, dribs and drabs here and there, snatches of tales which might be drawn together into some semblance of a passable narrative.  There are these times, however, when my dreamt fragments will weave me first into that sparely functional black and white fabric, suitable for my imagination to sensibly fill in blanks, but then slyly let me see into what is really what, and to varying degrees draw my mind over the wall, my eyes seeing how my life spreads so thin I can see right through me.

Last night I am riding a bus.  I am 13.  My goal is to get from my house all the way out to Hawai‘i Kai.  It’s Danny’s birthday, and we will all get together and jump off the overpass into the murky water of the marina, risk swimming with the sharks we do not see, because we’re young and still think we live charmed lives.

The bus ride is long, and I am drifting in and out of consciousness, dreaming within my dream of Makena Beach Park on Maui, where my family had spent our previous summer vacation camping.  We’ve pitched our Coleman tent all around the island, and as it happens on these summer adventures, we meet many other camping families, folks from all over the world who also want to avoid the touristy areas, folks from all walks of life.  As also happens, we run into these families again and again at various camping sites throughout the trip.

I wake up in my dream.  Where am I?  We’ve reached Kāhala Mall.  A long way to go yet.  This is a milk run, long before the days of express routes.  We will stop everywhere, including weaving in and out of the valleys along the way.  It’s a good thing I decided to start out early for Danny’s.  This ride, all told, I have figured in my recent gearshift up to adult teenage brain, will take nearly two hours.

The bus grunts, then starts moving again.  The hum of the engine and the warm air has me drowsing, and I step directly back into the dream that I’m at Makena Beach Park.  Magically, we’ve not only run into a family we know, but we know them not because we’ve seen them elsewhere on Maui last summer, but because we’d met them the summer before, when we were camping on the island of Kaua‘i.  He is a physician, she is a teacher, and there is one big difference this year.

This year, the couple have brought their two daughters with them, these two one-year older and one year younger than I.  To my at that time soon to be adult teenager’s eyes they are breathtakingly beautiful, already tall, both nearly my height, athletic looking, with long legs, their faces quite similar, one more blond, and the two are both deeply tanned and always smiling.

If it were possible, I’m sure they would have heard my heart beat near cardiac arrest rate, and I, about to pass out with this plenitude of beauty standing before me, was not worried, for their father, the physician, would be there to resuscitate me should I nearly die, so no problem.

I cannot believe my luck, but these young goddesses in the making want for the three of us to go swimming.  So swim we do.  It’s almost as if the three of us have known each other all our lives.  We are that comfortable together.  Afterwards, sitting on the sand we share stories of our lives, and that night after dinner we lie on the sand listening to the pulse of the waves, watch stars blink and fall, and sing songs we all know.

I have great difficulty that night, trying to sleep while fantasizing about making passionate 13-year-old love to these two young women.  It is a rough one, I tell you, and the next day does not help, since the family will be moving on to another campsite.

I dream that I ask my parents if we can follow them, but my father is hell-bent on fishing this area another night or two, so that night I buy cigarettes from a gas station vending machine across the highway, and smoke beneath the starlight, down on the beach alone.

Unlike other years, we do not have the good fortune of running into that family again, and I arrive home on O‘ahu starved for the passionately imagined affection that these two girls might give me.  I know that they live on O‘ahu as well, but with all our talking, I’ve neglected to find out even what school they attend.

Days pass, I am back in school with all my friends, and I gradually abandon my plans for steamy dates with the three of us, gradually lose the perfect brain camera picture of those faces, their looks and our meeting blurring in my memory.

I dream the bus has halted again, waking me, and as I look around I panic, not recognizing anything.  I have no idea where I am or how long I’ve been asleep.  Rather than do the smart thing and ask the driver where we are, I jump off the bus, somehow believing that on my feet, I’m more fully in charge of my fate.

For sure this is not Hawai‘i Kai, I realize, with a quick survey of the neighborhood.  Walking in the same direction the bus has gone, and much calmer, I now decide the best thing to do is ask someone where I am.

A man is standing on the sidewalk, his back to me, trimming his mock orange hedge.

“Excuse me,” I say, “could you please tell me where I am?”

The man turns, and in my dream, it is the kindly physician, he of the wife who teaches, and the two daughters with whom I fell in about-to-turn-thirteen-year-old love just a half year back.

“Why Lanny Lee,” he says to me, “I didn’t realize you knew where we lived.”

“Oh my goodness, Doctor S,” I say, “I really had no idea you lived here.  I just got off the bus at the wrong stop and I really don’t know where I am.”

He laughs.  “Well you’re certainly not lost now.  Come on in.”

We walk through the gate and into his yard.  “Hey, H,” he says to his wife who is weeding nutgrass, “look who I found out here on the street.”

“Why Lanny, how nice to see you.  Were you coming to see us?”

“Oh no,” I say, “I was headed for Hawai‘i Kai.  I got off the bus at the wrong stop.”

“Hey girls,” the mom calls.  “Come on out here.  It’s Lanny Lee from camping last summer.”

I am thisclose to struck blind by how these girls have developed in just six months.  They are, I’m so happy to report, extremely happy to see me.

I tell them all my story, how I’m headed to a birthday party, how I fell asleep on the bus, and . . .

. . . was dreaming about you, the two of you, and how I am madly in love with both of you, imagine the three of us together  . . .

have to get going so I can make it to the party.

The four of them walk me to the gate, we say our goodbyes, and Mrs. S tells me I’m welcome back any time.

And I dream I get on the bus, go to Danny’s party, am late, but still in time to jump off the overpass into the murky marina where sharks swim unseen, waiting for boys like us, the ones who think they will live forever.

My alarm wakes me up a little past the dream’s end, but I lie here, eyes closed, wonder about those two women, what they might be up to now, consider that their parents, like mine, are probably gone now, and why on earth I never went back there.

With this dream burdening me, I feel almost as if I am lost back then in that old world of ghosts and lovers, deafened by mad cries and bent staggering through all that blinding color I see of nothing.

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