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Crying in Hawaii

September 4, 2012

 

Marie looked at herself in the mirror. The makeup she had applied an hour ago was gone. Her hair was a flat, frizzy mess and she could barely see through her burning, watering eyes. She was in a bathroom stall at a tourist marketplace in Waikiki, Hawaii. She pulled out a package of claritin and took one of the little white pills. She tried to put visine drops in her eyes, spilling most of them all over her face. Her eyes were puffy and red. Her nose was running. She was a mess. She started to really cry, exacerbating the irritation all over her face.

 

 

That morning she had put sunscreen on her face anticipating a day of walking on the beach and in the shops of Waikiki, the same sunscreen she had used on her face dozens of times before. Today her eyes betrayed her and rejected its ingredients. Her skin had protested slightly upon application, burning a bit and her eyes were watering heavily by the time she walked to the bus stop. As the bus rolled through Honolulu, it felt like she had poured ceyenne pepper in her eyes and she could barely keep them open long enough to check the route on her iPhone. She was experiencing a severe allergic reaction. Once in Waikiki, she got off the bus, walked into the nearest store and bought eye drops, allergy meds and tissue.

 

 

She stood there leaning against a wall in the bathroom, looking at her pathetic reflection in the mirror. She felt ridiculous. Here she was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the day to herself and she was standing in a bathroom crying like a little girl.

 

 

Marie wasn’t in Hawaii on vacation. She had decided to make a trip to see her daughter Lori after reports of panic attacks and a trip to the emergency room. Marie had reached out to Lori’s husband John and asked if a visit from Mom was in order. His reply resulted in Marie’s booking a flight that week. Lori was only 25 and she and John had already been married for 5 years. They had just adopted John’s 4-year old nephew, George. Lori had experienced a lot of change in a short amount of time. Marie knew that Lori liked to think of herself as a strong person who could handle anything. She was very proud of the daughter she had at only 18. But things were catching up with Lori and her mind and body were protesting. Lori recently graduated college and was now paying off massive student loans and had yet to find a viable job. Marie and her husband had recently divorced and though Lori had experienced the breakup from the safe distance of Hawaii, it had taken a surprising toll on her. Her family, as she had known it, was gone, disassembled and changed beyond recognition. Now, she was the new mother of a four year old who had spent most of his life in foster care.

 

 

Marie wasn’t sure what she could do to help. Lori said having something familiar around might be of some comfort and Marie was happy to have the opportunity to meet her grandchild. The first few days were good. Marie bonded with George, playing games and reading stories. She washed dishes and folded clothes. Lori and John got to go out all day on their 5 year anniversary while Marie watched George.

 

 

Marie knew this might not be an easy visit. She and her daughter could only take so much of each other. Mothers and daughters. They were a lot alike which meant they got on each others nerves easily. And they were both very emotional people. It was easy for Marie’s emotions to take control of her composure and she cried easily.

 

 

Becoming single had changed Marie. She was more self-centered now and though she had come to Hawaii to help her daughter, it had not cured her of the daily thoughts that consume a girl when she has a crush on a boy. Lori got a taste of this as she watched her mom check her phone every five minutes and answer text messages with a smirk on her face, even as they drove past the beautiful landscapes of Oahu. One evening Lori even snatched the phone from her mother after hearing the sound of an incoming text. Marie protested, “Just tell me what it says,”

 

“It just says, ‘goodnight,'” Lori claimed. It was from Sam. He was in Lafayette, staying at Marie’s apartment as she sat on her daughter’s couch watching Community. “Just let me answer it,” Marie protested as she and her daughter played role reversal and Marie wrestled the phone from her daughter. “King tired. Wish was here. Goodnight,” was what it actually said. Marie replied with a smiley face and a goodnight and let her daughter take the phone from her.

 

 

Marie had intentionally scheduled her flight to coincide with Sam’s visit to Lafayette. If she had stayed it would have been the first time she would’ve seen him since the weekend with the purple room. Marie was still nursing a pretty bad crush on Sam, and it was clear that he was not feeling the same. She told Liz that she equated her feelings for Sam with having a really bad case of the flu. “I have swine flu,” she told Liz. “The symptoms are awful and there’s no cure or medicine I can take. All I can do is ride it out and hope it goes away on its own.” She hoped that being far away with the daughter she hadn’t seen in over two years, the grandson she had never met and on an island paradise she had never been to would give her the distraction she needed to not think about him every day, to get some distance. Instead the fever seemed to reach its height in Hawaii. She had stood in the Lafayette airport, the previous Friday evening, looking out the window at the plane that would take her on the first of three flights to Honolulu and had started to inexplicably tear up. All she could think was, “He’s on his way to my apartment right now. He’s coming here and I’m leaving.” Marie never ceased to be amazed at how irrational emotions could overcome the brain’s rational thought. “We are all fools in love,” Austen wrote. What a genius that woman was.

 

 

There she was only a few days later, looking at herself in the mirror and crying again. Crying because there had been some tension in the household between her and her daughter when Marie’s attempt to download photos caused Lori’s computer to crash. Crying because her eyes felt like they were going to burst into flames and she couldn’t keep her eyes open. Crying because she looked like shit and felt like she had aged 10 years. And foolishly, crying because she was still thinking about Sam, every day despite the increasing evidence her hopes were in vain.

 

 

A woman came into the bathroom and looked at Marie. “Are you alright,” she asked. “Yeah, I’m okay,” Marie said. “Thanks for asking.”

 

 

She pulled herself together and walked out into the streets of Waikiki and hoped the meds would kick in. She found a place to get some lunch and ordered a beer to help the claritin along. Within the hour her eyes were feeling better and she was walking along the  beach looking at the clear, blue water and the surfers. By the end of the day she had bought some trinkets for friends and family and had taken a short sail on a catamaran and laughed with strangers who gave her beer.

 

 

For Marie, the best part of the trip wasn’t the beach and landscapes. It was meeting her grandchild. George was adorable and charming and they warmed up to each other quickly. Before long, they had their own secret language, their own schtick and funny jokes. She taught him how to do the up-high, down-low, too-slow-high five routine. Marie was smitten with him and was happy to have the opportunity to make an impression on him. He called her Momo Ree, a shortened version of Momo Marie. By the time she was going to the airport, George was saying, “I don’t want you to go,” and “I’ll miss you.”

 

 

Mid-way into the trip, Marie had not been overly impressed with Hawaii. It was a beautiful place, but not unlike places like Destin or Key West. She told Liz on the phone, “If I had a set amount of money to spend on a beach vacation and I had a choice between Hawaii and Destin, I would go to Destin and get more for the money.” That was before she went on a hike with Lori. One step into the environment where movies like Jurassic Park and King Kong were filmed and she was blown away. The natural beauty was overwhelming. She texted Liz, “On a hike. I take back everything I said about Destin.” The hike ended at a small waterfall. Marie moved at a slower pace than Lori and the energetic George, stopping to take endless photographs. When she got to the waterfall, Lori and George had already climbed into the pool of cool water that it spilled into, ignoring the signs warning tourists from venturing past a flimsy barricade of rope. Marie followed blissfully. She found herself in a surrounding that seemed truly paradisal. She walked on rocks and soaked in the environment. She waded in the pool of cool water. She could have stayed there for hours. She hugged Lori and said, “Thank you for taking me here.”

 

 

That hike showed Marie the other side of the coin of Lori and John’s parenting. George was a very smart, precocious little four year old. The history of his life included being taken from his mother and moved from family to foster homes. Raising him required a different protocol than other kids. At first Marie felt like Lori and John were a bit too uptight, too strict with George. It seemed like there was a lot of tension in the house as George was breaking some rule every day and spending a lot of time in time-out and having endless lectures given to him. Marie viewed all this from with detached involvement. She was not there to judge. And she understood and respected the motivation they had for doing things the way they were. It just wasn’t Marie’s style.

 

 

On the hike, Marie saw the relaxed side of Lori’s parenting. The hiking trail was very muddy and there was no hope in keeping one’s shoes clean. Knowing this, Lori allowed George to jump enthusiastically in every puddle he came across. Unlike Marie, she wasn’t as paranoid about George getting hurt. So, Marie witnessed a happy, carefree, energetic little George running ahead and jumping up and down in puddles with the occasional guidance about using his hands on the rocks or being careful on a particularly slippery walkway. It was after that excursion that Marie thought, “She’s going to be fine. She’s got this.”

 

 

George’s enthusiasm even provided some comic relief as a group of Japanese women came up the muddy trail as Lori, Marie and George were going down. The dainty, young women were dressed very stylishly in impeccable clothing and George jumped from a higher step into a deep, red, muddy, puddle with perfect timing, splashing them as they walked by. A big streak of red-stained water splashed up onto a white shirt. Marie covered her mouth and laughed to herself thinking, “That was fantastic.” George of course got a scolding, and was forced to yell out an “I’m sorry,” to the hikers as they climbed ahead. Marie knew that Lori was laughing inside, too.

 

 

On Marie’s last day in Hawaii, she and Lori were driving to Waikiki again, looking for some last minute gifts for Marie’s friends. They were discussing Hawaii in general and it’s odd culture. Hawaii is sunny and mild all the time. You can see why people might want to retire here. The weather is always the same. It’s like the opposite of what people say Seattle is like, with it’s perennial rain and high suicide rate. Yet, the relentless sunshine and consistent weather has it’s own oppressive force.

 

 

“Your emotions aren’t as consistent as the weather here,” Lori quipped with the sarcastic bite she inherited from her mother. Lori talked about feeling almost guilty when she felt sad or stressed in such a paradise. But the sunshine and beautiful water doesn’t change the things in your life that affect your mood. You can still find yourself crying in Hawaii as Lori had learned all too well.

 

 

Marie thought of Sam. She had thought that being on a trip would cause the daily attentions he seemed to give her to subside a bit. At first they had not. Every day there seemed to be a morsel of attention to chew on. But towards the end, he had chilled a bit. A couple of days before she left, she observed that she had not heard from him at all that day, the first time that she had gone a whole day without something from him, since that weekend with the purple room. The fact that she even made this observation was evidence that her fever, with it’s delusions had not yet subsided.

 

 

And then a miracle happened. Marie was at Lori’s house, in the room she was staying in when she heard the sound of an incoming text. She paused before walking over to her iPhone. “Please let it be Sam. Please let it not be Sam.” It was Tennis Bashir! He had been gone for over a month. He had texted her weeks ago saying that he was going to India for “a couple of weeks.” She had not heard from him since. Marie was shocked to see a text from him. “Hi, Marie,” it said. “Maybe you forgot about me.”

 

“Not at all,” Marie had replied. This was just what she needed to get her over her swine flu. The 28-year old who had found her so attractive that he had to stop what was he was doing to come and find her at the park where they had been exchanging flirtatious smiles for days. Now he was texting her from New York, as soon as he had returned from India. They had spent a total of about 8 hours in each other’s presence. A coffee date, drinks at a little bar and a little kissing at his apartment. They hadn’t seen each other in over a month. Yet, he texted her from New York. Marie was intrigued by him. She wanted to figure him out. Yet she knew there was no future at all with him. He was so much younger, looking forward to settling down with a wife and having kids and likely moving to Shreveport for a job. Besides all that, Marie had learned something about herself in his absence. She had slept with Sam. She had experienced casual sex and it had left her with a swine flu-level crush. If she did the same with Mr. Tennis, she would fall hard for him too and he would disappoint her as well, one way or another.

 

 

All these thoughts were in her head as she packed and got ready to return to life in Lafayette. Just before bringing her to the airport, Lori and her family took Marie to dinner. “I’m glad you came,” Lori said. She teared up and told Marie, “You made George feel more like he has a family.” Marie teared up too and they laughed at each other. Two emotional girls, crying in Hawaii.
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