This summer, I went to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu with three close friends, and came back with sun poisoning, a bruised tailbone, and an unexpected amount of content to write about.
Let me tell you about just one of the eight days.
Maybe in another post, I’ll tell you about the other seven days on the island. And maybe about “Tiger Lounge,” our special invite to a gathering of weed-smoking hippies who play musical instruments in a laundry room.
But for now, just look at this photo below for a solid minute. That man is who we call Grandpa Ray. Okay now read the story and picture him exactly like this the whole time. Except maybe with a shirt on.
Day six of Honolulu.
I sat in a deep couch, my feet barely scraping the floor as I faced the wall of glass overlooking the city of Honolulu, tears streaming down my face. One of my hands was under construction – pinned down by Leahi, who was biting her lip in concentration as she prodded at the deep splinter in my thumb with tweezers. My other hand was gripping the couch as tightly as I could. Unable to wipe the tears streaming from my eyes, they pooled together on my lap, creating a sad puddle screaming “Carrie can’t take the pain of a tiny splinter”.
Nikki wandered into the house dripping in sweat, a few scattered leaves in her hair, glancing around every corner as if hiding from someone. Annoyed, she whispered somewhat incoherent complaints about how hot it was outside, how “this man” was working us too hard, how Marina was nowhere to be found.
At least Marina didn’t have a tree trunk stuck in her thumb.
My memory must have erased the moment the splinter actually left my skin in Leah’s triumphant blood-soaked tweezers – my next coherent memory skips to shuffling over to the sink and running cold water over my hand, my brain repeating over and over cold water stops the bleeding cold water stops the bleeding. Someone placed a band aid on my finger, and suddenly I was floating, my head wasn’t on my shoulders, my feet were hardly touching the ground. I reached for counter to hold onto, to keep me grounded, and then I was gone, had floated away… until the feeling of falling jolted me back to reality as my head hit the coffee maker that was perched on the countertop.
Our trip to Hawaii had begun five days before, when our spirits were high and were still filled with hopes of experiencing beautiful moments for the perfect memories.
This was before our missed flight, before we had to spend our entire food budget on new plane tickets to Oahu.
By day six, things began to feel like a poorly-written movie starring four girls attempting to adult on a budget of zero while enjoying the paradise of a tropical island with sun poisoning (on my end), a bruised tailbone from cliff jumping (also on my end), strep throat (which Leahi had developed), and lots of inexpensive instant oatmeal.
Day six was also the day we planned to visit Grandpa Ray.
A distant relative of a friend from home, Grandpa Ray lived in a makeshift treehouse on the outskirts of Honolulu. He loved company, would cook us a meal, and offered to take us surfing at sunset – “if you help with the chores around the treehouse first!”
We heard “cooked meal” and were sold. We made the short drive to the treehouse.
Two hours after our arrival, Leahi and I stood in the hot sun, tearing apart a rotting deck with hammers and an axe. Marina had disappeared into the jungle of plants and vines with Grandpa Ray to help care for his taro, and Nikki was nowhere to be found.
An hour later than that, and I found myself deep in the fluffy couch, rubbing the already-forming bruise from when I had hit my head after blacking out.
We had all made it back to the treehouse, Grandpa Ray had served us lunch, and my finger still throbbed. I adjusted the Band-Aid covering the deep cut, grumbling I hope surfing is worth it.
Sundown was finally approaching, and the five of us piled into his car and drove towards the brilliant setting sun sparkling over Waikiki.
Untying a surfboard from the car and sticking it under my arm, I trekked through the sand after Grandpa Ray to the clear, cool water.
Paddling out to the break to join the scattered silhouettes of surfers spotting the brilliant sun on the horizon, excitement welled up inside me, and my breath caught behind the squeals I let out every time I remembered to breathe.
A wave bigger than the rest approached.
With seconds until the wave would envelop me, I spun my board and pulled myself onto it, thinking through the motions of pulling my legs up, standing on the board, riding the wave – but it was too late, the wave was there, I had not yet stood up, it was passing –
And then I was flying, still lying flat on the board, white water obscuring my vision so that all I could see was the wave surrounding me, pushing me to shore. I let out an excited shout of breath as the wave released me and faded into the calmer water.
Every wave that rolled past as I paddled back to the break made my heart pound harder than the one before it. I took in a breath and watched as the brilliant sun slipped below the horizon behind a particularly tall palm on the shore. I kept paddling, knowing I wouldn’t be disappointed if I never stood on my board for a wave.
My band aid from the splinter occurrence earlier in the day slipped off my finger and floated away, caught in a wave that rolled past.