To Grow

It was the conversation Mr. and Mrs. Kakesako had dreaded having. Well, the one they’d dreaded having would have been about marriage. If Kimiko had sat them down to tell them she was marrying Devin, that would have been terrible news. This conversation, this one was actually worse.

The three sat at a picnic table in Pauoa Park. Kimiko had asked them to meet her there because she didn’t want to talk to them at home about her problem.

“I’ve met someone new,” Kimiko said. “I realized that I don’t love Devin anymore.

“Whaaaaa . . .” said Mr. Kakesako.

“Oh my God,” said Mrs. Kakesako.

Recovering himself, Mr. Kakesako said, “So what you gonna do with him?”

Kimiko dabbed at her eyes with a wad of tissue, then blew her nose. “I don’t know. I don’t know how to tell him.”

“Well, dear,” said Mrs. Kakesako, “You must figure this out quickly. The sooner the better.”

“Yeah,” said Mr. Kakesako, “like you better come home right now and tell him. I told you he was no good and not to go out with him.”

Kimiko regarded her father with a deeply saddened look. “I know, I know, Dad, but I was so in love with him, you know. I probably should have listened to you, I know now.”

“Probably?” Mr. Kakesako rarely raised his voice, but the situation was dire and agitated him highly. “No probably about it, girl. You know I was right. You gotta go home right now, tell him you no love him anymore, and tell him to move out.”

“But I can’t,” said Kimiko. “I care too much about him.”

“That’s good,” said Mrs. Kakesako, “it’s good you have such a good heart, dear. But if you don’t love him anymore, and if you’re going to start going out with someone else, we can’t have him living with us anymore.”

Kimiko said nothing, just stared down at the picnic table top. The once fresh green paint had faded. All kinds of graffiti decorated the surface, carved into it with knives and other sharp instruments. Mostly these were declarations of love. So-and-so loves some her or him.

She looked back up at her parents, altering her gaze between the two of them. “I don’t suppose,” she said, “that one of you could tell him?”

Mrs. Kakesako face-palmed herself. Mr. Kakesako put both palms down on the benchtop, “Oh no, baby girl, not us. You got yourself into this, and it had to be you who tells him.”

Kimiko nodded. “Okay, yes, you’re right, Daddy. I’ll try to figure something out.”

“Dear,” said Mrs. Kakesako, “I hope you mean you’re going to figure out something right now. The way you say it, it sounds like you need some time to think about this.”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” said Mr. Kakesako, “Now not the time to think, Kimi. This is the time for act. Tell him right now, this morning. You gotta do it. I want him out of the house right now. No more lie around, no work, smoke marijuana, and drink all the time. If he was paying us any kind of rent, maybe I’d give him a day for find a place. But that buggah stay freeloading off us. Get him out now.”

“He is a kind of parasite, you know,” added Mrs. Kakesako.

Had her parents spoken to her like this about Devin two years ago, Kimiko would have been up in arms, huffing and puffing, resenting every word. But Devin did not work, did smoke dope and drink all day, and expecting to get from him some kind of payment for room and board was like waiting for Godot.

“But I care so much about him,” said Kimiko. “And you know he fell off his bike when he was high. He can’t walk right now. To kick him out when he can’t walk, well, it seems so inhumane, you know?”

“Inhumane my fanny,” said Mr. Kakesako. “I tell you what. I’ll drive him wherever he wants to go.”

Mrs. Kakesako said, “I’d be willing to carry his suitcase to the bus stop for him.”

Kimiko’s shoulders sagged. “Okay okay, you’re right. I’ll come home right now and tell him.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. Kakesako breathed sighs of relief. The three rose and headed for their cars. “See you in a minute,” said Kimiko, stepping into her car and closing the door.

“WoooHooo,” said Mr. Kakesako, once he and Ellen were in the car. “At last, huh? I thought the guy was gonna live with us until he died. Or us.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Kakesako. “These last four years made me feel like I was in jail for a life sentence with no possibility of parole. I don’t like that boy.”

“No talk inhumane,” said Mr. Kakesako, laughing with joy.

The drive was less than ten minutes. When the Kakesako’s arrived, they saw no sign of Kimiko’s car.

“Oh shoots,” Mr. Kakesako said. “Where her? No tell me she went chicken out.”

Mrs. Kakesako shook her head. “That girl. I hope she didn’t lose her nerve.”

“Her nerve,” mumbled Mr. Kakesako. “I never like make a scene. But if she bailed on us, I’m gonna tell him myself. I get plenny nerve right now.”

As they were entering the house, Kimiko pulled into the driveway.

“Where you went?” asked Mr. Kakesako and she exited the car.

“I bought Devin a pumpkin spice latte. His favorite. I thought it might make it easier for him.

“Oh Jesus Christ,” said Mr. Kakesako. “Pumpkin drinks. Just go, Kimi. Go in and tell him already.”

Kimiko followed them into the house. “You want us there with you?” asked Mrs. Kakesako.

“Welllll,” said Kimiko, “you know how he feels about you guys. I think I better go in there alone.

“Feels about us,” said Mr. Kakesako. “Yeah, we know. We heard him talking in there enough. If he doesn’t like us, even more so he should be outta here.”

“It’s not that he doesn’t like you specifically,” Kimiko said. “It’s, well, you know he just never got around to really liking most Asians. I think I might still be the only one.”

“He is a bit racist,” said Mrs. Kakesako. “I can’t believe he sits down at the table with us. What’s that word? Oh yes, I think the word I’m looking for is disdain. That’s the way he treats us. With disdain.”

“Disdain,” said Mr. Kakesako. “That little Haole. I might just disdain the floor with him if he doesn’t get going right now. And make sure to tell him not to take anything he doesn’t own. If I catch him taking anything of ours, he better believe I going disdain him.”

Just then, Grandma Tsuji came up from her room in the basement. She saw her daughter and son-in-law staring up the stairs to where her granddaughter and her boyfriend lived.

“What you watching for?” she asked.

“Come come, Ma, have a seat,” said Mr. Kakesako.

Grandma Tsuji sat beside her daughter. ”What is it, Ellen?” she asked.

Mrs. Kakesako pointed up the stairway. “It’s Kimiko. She’s telling Devin to get out.”

“Oh,” said Grandma Tsuji. “Why she is doing that?”

“She’s in love with a new boy now, and we told her she has to get Devin out.”

“Now,” added Mr. Kakesako.

Grandma Tsuji said, “How can? The boy cannot walk.”

“I’m going to drive him anywhere he needs to go,” said Mr. Kakesako.

“Oh,” said Grandma Tsuji.

The three listened but could hear nothing. Then Kimiko appeared at the top of the stairs. From the expression on her face, the three guessed that she was stunned about something.

“What is it?” Mrs. Kakesako asked.

Kimiko began descending the stairs, coming down slowly. When she reached the bottom she said, “He doesn’t want to go. He said he’s in too much pain to leave right now.”

“Oh, the poor thing,” said Grandma Tsuji. “I told you he couldn’t walk,” she said, turning to her daughter and Mr. Kakesako.

“Shit,” said Mr. Kakesako, “Let me up there.”

He sidestepped his daughter and stormed up the stairs.

“Oh no,” exclaimed Mrs. Kakesako, “I hope he isn’t going to get violent.

Mr. Kakesako had a very bad temper, and he was given to abrupt action with little thought. Twice he had been sued by people with whom he got into physical arguments. Both times the cases had been dismissed, but if he did bodily harm to Devin, there was no doubt that a third assault indictment was in his future.

Kimiko turned to look back up the stairs. The other two women strained to hear what was going on. They could just make out the volume of Mr. Kakesako’s voice, but the exact words were muffled.

Finally, Mr. Kakesako’s loudness subsided. Kimiko turned back to give her mother and grandmother a frightened look. “You don’t think,” she said, not completing her thought.

“I better go up,” said Mrs. Kakesako.

“Me too,” said Kimiko.

The two ascended the stairs and walked down the hallway. As they approached the bedroom, they could make out Mr. Kakesako’s voice. It sounded calm, rational.

The two women entered the room. Mr. Kakesako sat on the bench by the vanity. Devin sat at the edge of the bed.

“What’s happening?” asked Kimiko.

Mr. Kakesako said, “Devin and I have reached an agreement. I’m allowing him to stay until his leg is healed. In the meantime, he’s promised not to do anymore drinking or marijuana smoking. Isn’t that right, Devin?”

Devin looked up, tears in his eyes. He held the pumpkin spice latte cup with both hands. “Yes, that’s right, I won’t drink or do any kind of drugs.”

Mrs. Kakesako said, “You do understand that Kimi has a new boyfriend, yes?”

“Yes,” said Devin, “I understand that.”

“So she’ll be living in the guest bedroom until you leave.”

“Yes,” said Devin, “I understand that, too.”

Mr. Kakesako stood and headed for the door. The women followed him out.

They said nothing until everyone was back in the living room.

“So?” asked Grandma Tsuji, “what is happening.”

Kimiko explained the situation to her.

“Oh, that’s good,” she said. “He’s such a nice boy. I’m glad you didn’t hurt him, Gerald,” she said to Mr. Kakesako.

The four were all seated now.

“Ah,” said Mr. Kakesako, “I probably could have kicked him down the stairs, but he was crying so much he killed my fight. It’s tough to see a grown man cry like that. I guess I pitied him. I guess. Whatever. It’s all settled now.”

He looked at his daughter. “All this is okay with you, Kimi?” he asked.

“Oh, yes, I guess so. It’ll be odd still seeing him in the house. I feel more like a sister to him than a girlfriend. But yes, for all of his faults, I’m glad, Mom and Dad, that you’re giving him this chance.”

“Oh yes,” said Mrs. Kakesako. “I guess it’s the good thing to do. Even if he doesn’t like us. Pastor Kalekini would be proud of me, I guess.”

“Yeah,” agreed Mr. Kakesako, “we turning the other cheek. I hope he doesn’t up an slap that one, too. I still could give him dirty lickins if he pulled any kind crap.”

“Oh, Gerald,” said Grandma Tsuji. “You always too much hot-head. Good you, being nice to Devin. He’s a good boy.”

“How can you say that, Mom?” asked Mrs. Kakesako. “You know how he feels about Asians.”

Old Mrs. Tsuji nodded her head. “Eh, yes, I know. But sometimes you have to look past that, Ellie. We are not born hating other people because they are different. It is their upbringing, their parents and their friends. They make them that way. They have to learn that kind of prejudice, you know, to feel that way.”

“Mom, how can you say that?” asked Ellen. “Your grandparents were rounded up and locked up because they were Japanese. I don’t care if you learn that from other people. You did learn it. That’s why he hates Asians.”

“Then how did he fall in love with me?” asked Kimiko.

“Because you are beautiful, inside and out,” said Grandma Tsuji. “And that, Kimi, can overcome all kinds of prejudice.”

Mr. Kakesako shook his head. “Well, I gotta say that you,” he gestured to Kimiko, “have a lot to do with me telling him he could stay. I mean, you don’t love him anymore, but you say you care a lot about him. That’s all you. You are a beautiful person. I not, yeah?”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Kakesako, tussling his hair. “We know there’s something good inside you, even if it’s buried way, way down. You really are a softy in the end.”

“Well, I still got my temper,” said Mr. Kakesako.

“True,” said Mrs. Kakesako, “but you did control it just now. I was worried when you went up there. But you didn’t get angry enough to hurt Devin, so I say that’s a victory.”

“Yes,” agreed Grandma Tsuji, “I think we all have something good inside of us. I like to think that so I can get past all the badness I see in the world.”

“Amen,” said Mrs. Kakesako. “I have to work on that, too. I don’t care for Devin the way you do, Kimi, but you’re part me, and you are a good, caring person. I want to be like you.”

Kimiko smiled for the first time in hours. “Hey, Mom, and you Grandma, and you, too, Dad. You made me who I am today. The same as someone who’s prejudiced, I was raised to believe and act the way I do. And it was all for the good with me, the way you all brought me up.”

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