When I visited Hawaii just last year, I felt like I was returning back to all that was sweet. On the plane, I sat on the window seat. I edged over my arm rest to try and catch a glimpse of the coast of Waikiki. The clouds were too dense to permit me a view, but the blue sky outside indicated to me that we were near. A little girl and her grandma sat on the outer seats from me. While I peered out my window, she watched me become enamored with the great white fields of clouds.
“Enjoying the view?” she asked me.
“Yes. I don’t see anything yet, but I sense that there’s something beyond those clouds,” I replied.
“You talk funny!”
I smirked the smirk of an adult. I knew exactly what she meant.
“Is this your first time visiting?” I asked her.
“No. I visited last year with my parents and grandma.”
I looked over to her grandma in the aisle seat. Before we took off in Anchorage, I let her have the aisle seat. Her eyes were loosely shut as if she were on the cusp of a dream. She wore a purple and pink floral sundress, preparing for the sunny afternoon that we would arrive in. I imagined she dreamt of nothing but the clear blue water and coconuts filled with her favorite cocktail.
“What do you want to do when you visit?”
“Probably just sit on the beach and let the warm sand run through my toes,” she replied. “I like the way warm sands slip through your toes.”
“That sounds great! I’m here to visit a friend of mine,” I emphasized.
I made sure to tell her that, because telling a child I had a girlfriend probably made him or her think I had cooties.
“That’s very nice of you,” she said. “I wish my friends could come to.
For another hour or so, the little girl and I talked about where we were from. I leaned in closer to her as she talked, because the jet noise drowned out our conversation. She lived in near Anchorage, loved country music, and dreamed of riding horses. Her favorite color must have been purple, because her glasses and shirt were that color. She went to a private school, which meant that she probably could have afforded to ride a horse.
I told her I was from Ketchikan, hated country music, and dreamed of surfing waves. Although I had never surfed in my life, I couldn’t have now. When I was a child, I ruptured my own eardrum swimming in the water that prevented me all my life. Because of that, I lost 70 percent of my hearing in the right ear.
“I hadn’t swum since I lived in Hawaii” I revealed to her.
“That’s a shame. Swimming is fun!”
Eventually the small talk died down between the two of us. When her grandma woke up, the little girl talked to her. Not feeling my legs, I stretched them. I yawned, scratched my head, and closed my eyes for a bit. That is until a great hue of red flashed across my closed eyelids. I felt an extraordinary warmth on my face. I peered out, and saw blue below. Outside the window floated the island of O’ahu in all its glory. Fields with massive rivulets meandered popped out of the land like a 3D image. Sooner or later, the coast of Waikiki came into my vision. From the corner of my eyes, I could see that the little girl watched me, knowing that it was a sight that I had been waiting to see once again.
The sight of the coast brought me back to 2001, when I was a short 4th grader on a beach in Waikiki. I was with my mom, dad, brother, and sister. We just arrived at the beach on a glorious Saturday morning. Tall palm trees as skinny as the girls in their bikinis stretched their green leaves, providing shade for people at the beach. Floral print towels, the smell of sunscreen, the bright yellow and white shimmers in the ocean. I could feel the eastern winds brush my chubby cheeks. It was going to be fine day.
Once I advanced closer to the ocean, I saw my friend Jay and his parents already lounged on the beige sands. He had recently been introduced to his baby brother that was born just a few months ago. His mother nestled him in her arms. His dad wasn’t around. He was on duty on an island in the Atlantic doing who knows what. He was no longer the only child. I walked up to him and gave him a high five.
Although my family and his were in a touristy part of the island, I hardly noticed anybody around except my own self. But when you’re a child, you’re hardly aware of what’s around you. In Waikiki, a place known for its large crowds of tourism, there are many hotels near the beach that are lined up. This arrangement provided the tourists a view of the sun going down to the western hemisphere. With my family and the hundreds of tourists roaming barefooted, it really was a crowded that day.
I wove through the tourists with my friend. he was full of energy just like me. We were both the same height and prided ourselves at being extremely talented at playing basketball. Sometimes when I would play him at his house, I would win. I never won often, but it felt good to beat him at his own game. Racing each other, we ran from our parents to head over to the local ice cream shop, a delicacy known for its ice cream.
I dug in my pocket of my still-dry border shorts. The gloss of the fabric shined under the sun, making the orange flowers look like tangerines. I felt four quarters in my fingers. I had enough for an ice cream cone I thought. Jay carried bills that his parents gave him, not knowing that later on his change would be soaked. I asked the lady from behind the counter for a green ice cream cone. It was my favorite flavor, a vanilla ice cream with green swirls flavored like lime. He gets a blue one, but it doesn’t taste anything like blueberries. I lick my cone, making sure I don’t waste one single drip. We returned to the beach with our cones and ate the ice cream as if it were our last one.
As I sat on the berm of the beach, I dug my feet into the warm white sand. I felt the warm sand slip between my toes like sand in an hour glass. It felt great. My fat toes pointed up to the sky like a hitchiker’s thumb.
When I finished sitting in the sun, I took my hat and sunglasses off. I threw off my tank top and ran towards the shallow end of the current. I plunged into the ocean like a scuba diver. Before I went in, the ocean glimmered, shining into my eye and leaving a blare of white light when I closed my eyes. The water shocked me to my nerves. I shivered a little bit, but bared the tingling sensation. It was cold, but refreshing in the 80 degree weather. I held my breath underneath with eyes closed, feeling the bubbles from my nose emerge to the surface. After trying to hold my breath forever, I popped out of the water with eyes still closed. The water in my hair dropped down to my body, soaking my once glossy shorts in the process. The white light in my eyes turned into a red hue. I opened them and was enveloped by rays of sunshine.
I splashed the water at Jay and he splashed back. I crawled out of the water towards where my parents sat at. I lied on my green towel as grains of sand stuck to my soaked brown skin.
But the truth was, I wasn’t there to swim in the ocean. The ocean was just a warm up. I was there for the Hale Koa. At the Hale Koa, many military families vacationed there. It was known for its cheap rates, which garnered lots of attention from mainlanders. Although locals looked down on them, I saw myself in a lot of them. They probably enjoyed their time at the Hale Koa, because they moved around a lot. At the Hale Koa, people had the opportunity to stop time. They had the opportunity to sit around and soak up the dream of not moving, or not dealing with their superior officers, or not having to pack up trucks filled with their homes.
Once, I saw my childhood crush at the Hale Koa. Her name was Sierra. I went to elementary school with her at Hickam, an Army base that connected to the more well-known Naval base Pearl Harbor. She had a smile that was missing one of her two front teeth. The last time I saw her at the Hale Koa, I waved at her and she ran away. It was only fair that she ran away, because she once tried waving at me at school. She was with her friends at the hopscotch station. I blushed, flushing with an extreme embarrassment and ran towards the kickball field to kick my frustration out on red rubber balls.
The best part about the Hale Koa was the pool. I don’t know what it was about it. Thinking about it now makes me realize that it must have been a pool filled with pee, spit, and filth. But before, I was never concerned with how dirty the pool was. No amount of pee was going to prevent me from diving in. In fact, I peed a lot in the pool too. There, I admitted it. Strangely enough, with the rules and reality of the pool that could have restricted me from having fun, I couldn’t care less. I was unbound.
From where I sat on the beach, I could tell that the ocean was clearer than earlier. Clouds shifted a bit to the east, giving room for the sun to penetrate the ocean blue with its yellow rays. It was now midday. Our parents brought out the food they made the night before – rice, lumpia, and spam musubi. The taste of soy sauce melts on my tongue. “Yummy!” I muttered with rice all over my lips. After I finished, my parents told me to wait 30 minutes or so before swimming again. I crossed my arms and turned my head. Jay did the same.
For a couple of minutes, I sat there in silence. I let the rice on my lips stay on my mouth. My mom tried wiping it off, but I turned my head away from her.
“Okay, you can . . .” my mother says. Before she says “go” I darted towards the Hale Koa. Jay dropped his musubi and followed me.
I ran on the stone slabs with my bare feet. The sun had lit them to make sure they sizzle my soles. The slabs rid of the sand particles that were stuck to my feet, drying them in the process. I also felt the wet footprints of other children eventually. I must be closer I thought. Just over the bridge, I saw shrouds of coconut trees. I noticed that there weren’t any coconuts in them. Underneath them, a big sign that read “POOL (I.D. REQUIRED” came into my vision. I smelt the chlorine and basked in it as if it were the perfume of familiarity.
Before entering, the guard asked to see my military ID. I pulled mine out. I handed it to him and he observed it from beyond his shades. I imagined if he took off his sunglasses, it would had been whiter than the rest of his tanned body. On my ID, my face was chubby. It was physical proof that I loved sweets. My hair was cut like a marine. I wore a facial expression that looked like a squarish frown. When I think about it now, it makes me laugh.
Flipping it over, he handed it back to me. He motioned a thumbs up to me. Jay gave his ID to the lifeguard after me. Without waiting for him, I slowed down as I approached the pool. I tested the ground around its circumference to see if it is slippery. The footprints had dried up.
Backing up a little further, I crouched just a little bit. I wound up and picked up speed, launching myself into the air as if I were a catapulted rock. I cannonballed into the mid-shallow end. The impact wet the dried up spots once again. The girls hollered. I opened my eyes underneath, and I see a blurred vision of legs kicking around to stay afloat. The clearest thing I see are my hands, my body and most especially my big fat toes.