Remember that time when you were babysitting and were convinced the dog was trying to trick you into facilitating his escape so you followed him out the backdoor into the night, planning to outflank him before he got to the gate but instead you ended up losing your legs in some kind of quicksand and found yourself facedown in a puddle of rank rainwater and dead leaves because the little bastard had tricked you into running over the covered ground pool and due to the night-ness and the black pool-covering you fell for it? Literally? Oh yeah, right. That was me. And as I was trying to dry my clothes with the family’s hairdryer, PRAYING the evidence would be eradicated before the parents came home, and glaring at the dog–who I’m pretty sure was telling the dog community about the whole thing as he barked periodically throughout the remainder of my time there–I considered the possibility that I might try to be grateful. At least the pool was covered. Admittedly, I had not been looking at the ground, only at the ghostly form of that hell-beast as he skirted the perimeter of the yard (now it all made sense), so I could have actually drowned that night. I had not been prepared for the ground to disappear. I would not have been ready to hold my breath. There would have been no one to help me. No one to hear the splash. No one but the dog. And I think we can all guess how much assistance he would have provided.
When I was in high school, we had tests to identify the poet of selected poem stanzas. Sequestered in my room studying, I would recite them to myself in a British accent, because if I sounded like Emma Thompson it was much cooler. “No man is an island entire of itself. Each man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
I’ve actually kind of wanted to be an island. Isolated, mysterious, scary beautiful…it has an appeal. Oahu is gorgeous. I have allowed that. And since, for me, there is no higher compliment than comparison to cinema or television: It looks just like LOST. The mountains are like a giant’s sharp green teeth and driving over to the other side to Kailua or Kaneohe is like being swallowed briefly. This island is its own world. It totally feels “entire of itself.” I totally feel “apart” from the main. I still drive around wondering how I ended up in such a place. In many ways I feel more a foreigner here than I ever did living in Europe. Sure, I can park my enormous American minivan without issue now. Yes, I can read the street signs and road markings without taxing my brain too heavily. And I can’t tell you the freedom I feel in paying for things without doing higher math in my head to calculate how much it “really” costs.
But the people I associate with most are people who have lived here most of their lives, if not their entire lives. Their island is different from my island. “Aloha” is no joke. Of course I realize there are scary evil people running about making all kinds of bad choices, but on the whole–people are just freaking happy here. Which leaves me no recourse but to wonder: what the hell is wrong with me?! Why can’t I love it too?
This baby gives me bloody noses. I’d never had one in all my born days, so you can imagine how disconcerting it is to be washing my face in the morning, wiping my eyes clear of water to see the sink swirling with red, then looking up to see a face that could have staggered off the field at Culloden–wide, red-rimmed, confused/terrified eyes, lower half of the face streaming bright crimson…It’s happened while I’m sleeping. And eating breakfast. I can’t feel it coming. I’m never prepared.
So apparently there were two hurricanes heading straight for Hawaii last week. My mom had texted me Monday: “How are you? How’s the weather?” I replied, “I’m fine. It’s just overcast and hot.” How small talkative Mom is today, I thought. Totally oblivious. The next day, after cleaning up the crime scene left from my most recent bloody nose, I got another text from a friend living on the other side of the Giant’s Teeth. Since Sam was broken and I was pregnant, would we like her husband to come over after work to secure our outdoor furniture/plants etc? Did we have bottled water? Were we ready for the storms? … (The gears in Christina’s rusted out brain started to turn) Storms? Bless them, they did come over and piled outdoor furniture, took down chimes, barricaded plants in the corners, and moved stuff down all the steps to the garage.
I actually did need several things at the Commissary so I thought I’d join the masses and experience the frenzied panic shoppers. It’d been quite some time since I’d participated in such an event. Since leaving Alabama and the constant tornado chaos, I really haven’t been in any bad weather. My biggest concern was that all the milk and bread would be gone. Because we really did need milk and bread. I needn’t have worried. There was plenty of milk and bread but ZERO Spam, Vienna Sausages, or bottled water. (My thoughts on Hawaii’s love affair with Spam are saved for another time.) I couldn’t have carried a case of water up all our stairs anyway, so when I got home (quite some time later) I reluctantly started filling every available container with water, silently grumbling to myself that I’d just shortened the water filter’s life by about 30%.
Sam, the invalid, sacrificed the use of his spine for the next two days in order to relocate the bikes and crap from the one side of the garage so as to squeeze the second car in there and thus protect it from flying debris. Cuz I had rolled my eyes at the suggestion that I do such a thing. Various weaponry was prepositioned in case looters tried to take advantage of the situation. We all slept downstairs in the kitchen, away from most windows, the night the storm was to hit Oahu. The kids love a good camp-in. Sam, who spends most of his time laying on the floor anyway, simply moved himself to the kitchen at the end of the day. I tried the recliner. Then the couch. Then decided I’d rather die in my own bed without a crick in my back.
Sam, who can neither sit nor walk, was prepared.
Our friends were prepared.
All of Spam-eating-Oahu was prepared.
Me? I was vexed at the possibility of losing power to my laptop and thus being prevented from watching my K-dramas, and more focused on how inconvenient putting tape on the windows would be, as per Sam’s request from his incapacitated position on the floor. I flatly refused to do it.
Me: Not Prepared.
It turns out, nothing happened. I could have never read those texts and gone on my merry way. I would have said, “Gee. It’s really windy today. Guess I’ll go to the Commissary tomorrow.” I’d never have known a disaster had been averted. But after all that preparation I have to say I was very glad that nothing happened. If for no other reason than to avoid having to say Sam was right… No, really–I’m so thankful everyone is safe. So is it better to be clueless or grateful?
I’ve had several chances to observe myself and how I react to panic and disaster. Unfortunately, I have come to no real conclusion other than: I don’t do it well. I’m either taken apart by it or completely out of touch with it. Neither one instills me with a great sense of pride.
No man is an island. This is the part where, if I was Eowyn, I’d throw off my great helm and gasp (perhaps even with a fierce and bloody visage), “I am no man!” right before stabbing the enemy in the face. But I’m not that cool. I’m not an island. I’m not even observant enough to take care of myself and my family. It was all about me and how I could make things easier on myself. I don’t think I was always this way. I need to tap into this Aloha you got going on here, Hawaii. This Ohana business. Everyone is a Brah, Sistah, Auntie, Uncle– There’s a concern and gratitude and belonging that I’m not getting completely. I’m a haole on my own little island that I made myself. Maybe there’s a way for it to be enough that I’m here, a part of them by default. That would be best, as it requires no work on my part. Or maybe it’s in the Spam.
But if it is, then I’m kind of screwed. Cuz, Sistah, that ain’t gonna happen.