In a car in darkness, I won a competition I had nothing invested in. Three ridiculously easy questions and the MC pretended to be shocked that I got them all right. Yes, well. I’ve heard all those popular urban-statistics. But when the MC subtly called out a guess at my gender, I wasn’t quick or clever enough to correct. Had I thought, it would have been a good laugh. Confusion on the line. At least one person shaken out of their routine.
I learned with sharks in the water, I must be quicker on my wit.
Still, we laugh about the ridiculous commentary on-air, about the lameness of a three-legged race missing one leg. And static obliterates the idiotic commentary so our laughter takes over instead.
We climb out of the car into the park in the midst of approaching dawn. We find the dirt path as the sunrise comes on slow. An orange glowing orb hanging loosely suspended in a matrix of branches. Mottled green slopes in a semi-circle are bathed in soft yellow mist strewn dew drops across the uneven ridges of time’s slow erosion. Half the island is exposed by morning’s creeping light, splayed before us a 3D map in distant motion. And suddenly, I know exactly where I am.
The ocean is silent and mild from this height. Five, six foot waves lap like ripples on rocks in a small blue pond. The white crested tips are brushstrokes of texture, not immense depth. The brown, eggshell, blue-green reef are shadows on shallow water. The edges stretch off into a blue-white oblivion. Not an edge or a horizon, but a fog disappearing into eternity. And suddenly, I have no idea where I am.
A straight line like a walking path is cut in the mud where a tram that once ran, delivering war supplies to the top of this isolated view-top mountain. The crumbling wooden ties and chunks of misplaced concrete form our addled stairs. We step alternatively too short and too wide. The only railing is the rusted tracks below our soles. A bridge approaches and below our steps is nothing but distant reaching greenery and air. Half-way up, a hive of docile bees have made a dwelling of the space in between our steps and our doom. I greet them with おはいよ as I slowly pick my way past. Their wings hum soft morning songs into the coming day.
We crest one thousand steps in under an hour, sweating, water half-drained, and backpack loaded with snacks. Up atop a broken launch pad build for the old war, we gaze out wordlessly at a land conflicted and green. Overrun and preserved. I wonder as I wander through enclosures of concrete where waiting soldiers once huddled against enemy attack: how long will this precarious balance hold? And when it slips, which one will win out?
I huddle in the bunker of my heart and listen to modernity buzzing overhead. It hovers in the air, the shape of a hang-glider sawing away above our heads. It’s descent looks so peaceful from a distance, but it’s engine roars like an unpiloted V-1.
A slow snack in the shade brings chatter to our lips, and we talk about the past and family until we are both ready to descend. We gather ourselves together to descend the way we came, covered and heat-bathed. Water, by the 1000th step is fully drained. We are drenched in sweat. We lay in cool blacktop in the shade, waiting for a bus that isn’t coming.
The right one in the wrong direction approaches and we clatter across the street. We can make a connection we didn’t know existed. We get on an over-crowded bus that empties at the very next stop. We are alone but two, three others. The bus driver lays on the horn at a red truck that is traveling too slow. “Stupid,” the bus driver mutters, and I think, “How rude.”
After the truck turns off, the driver turns back to us. “I’m sorry. I think you will miss your connection. I was trying to make it, but no-one knows the speed limit here and they all go too slow. So you’ll be late and have to wait another hour for the next bus. I’m sorry.”
And I think, suddenly guilty — oh, I was wrong.
Not rude, frustrated. Helpless. Conflicted.
And again, I think of the precarious balance slipping.
We mention Kailua and the bus driver tells us the way we should go. Oh, we were wrong. There is a bus that will get us home in twenty minutes, not two hours. We pull into the stop and the two, three other passengers sit and wait with us.
One of them feeds the gathering birds. Sparrows, doves, cardinals, and minahs. They all peck and flutter together. The sparrows’ boldness shows in protection of its own.A long wait for the final bus, so walk again a while. There are tourists lining the streets, even here, and I am happy to listen to their 日本語 while I can. I catch the sounds of words I have heard but don’t know the meaning of. I feel like a baby mystified by the conversations of adults. I wonder if they can feel me listening. I wonder if they see my utter lack of understanding. I wonder how old I seem.
We had good luck all day and I thought much of LeGuinn.
The evening approaches with reading, resting, and finding speakers to play some music with. I realize only once it’s playing how much I miss my bass.
I will go play piano before the day lets out entirely.