Change of Plans

As this December approaches, I think of all the subtle changes that winters here bring. Bright neon lights that go up on trees and buildings all over town. Night falls sooner and the winds pick up. It rains more.

They all merge into a single December, different memories occurring at the same time period, year after year, and turn into an odd amalgam of holiday. So now, at Mocha Java Café at Ward Center, it is dusk and my thoughts go to blue skies.

It is April, 2005. I wait for my friend Evin to meet me outside the Barnes and Noble on the parking lot at Kahala Mall. It is a Sunday afternoon, two o’clock, and the sun is fighting to shine through grey-clouded skies. I am anxious to hurry this along.

Our routine is simple. Every Sunday, for a year, we lunch at the Carl’s Jr next to the movie theatre. We cross the mall, stop for a quick game of BeatMania and Point Blank at Waialae Bowl, and make our way back to the Barnes and Noble. I’ll write in the Starbucks for a bit and he’ll look at the comic books. We’ll bus it back to my apartment on the number six from the cemetery bus stop across the street, to play more videogames on my Playstation 2. His parents will pick him up and it’s another week of high school the next day.

Today, he’s running late but I’m preoccupied with work and it doesn’t matter. When he gets to Kahala, we go to Carl’s Jr, to Waialae Bowl, to Barnes and Noble, and when he’s done flipping through the latest Superman, he ambles over and finds me at the café, jotting notes on loose-leaf paper. He takes a seat, watching me.

“What are you writing?”

“Story,” I say. He nods, glancing around. The Starbucks, as usual, is packed with people plugged into laptops or poring into books.

“You don’t want to check anything out?” he asks me. I look up, he gestures to the shelves around us. I shrug and turn back to the page.

“Not particularly. Kind of just want to finish this.”

It’s his turn to shrug. “Is it mostly fiction?” he asks me. “Or is it real life?”

“What do you mean, real life? Like Mid-Pac? Who’d want to read about that?”

He laughs and rubs his nose with the palm of his hand.

“At least it’s almost over,” I say. “Year and a half to go.”

“Yeah,” he says, looking away. He checks his cell phone. “Oh, change of plans today. My mom’s gotta pick me up.”


“From here.”

I look up. “What?”

“I’m staying at my mom’s place tonight.” Evin’s mother lives in Hawaii Kai.

“Oh. No videogames?”

“Next week,” he says. I look down at my paper, finish the sentence, and close the book. We walk out of Barnes and Noble.

It is almost six and the sun is gone, the grey skies replaced by a thick blue glow that glares out, all at once, over the mostly-empty parking lot. A foggy winter teal, it feels less like weather and more like a colored tint. I’m staring at the sky when Evin’s mother pulls up in a big SUV and the two of them drive off. I watch them go.

It is December, 1999. The sky today is overcast and grey, too. Outside, thick clouds threaten rain.

I am at the old apartment on Hausten Street, not far from where I live now. I am with my friend Kevin in my cluttered bedroom, thinking of things to do before his mother comes to pick him up in an hour. He is 16 or 17, I am 9. My only toys are Lincoln Logs and models of cars, nothing to actually play with.

“Does your computer work?” he asks me.

“Yes,” I say. “But I don’t have the new Internet or computer games or anything.”

“It’s okay.” He says. I pull a sheet off the bulky grey desktop in the corner and turn it on. When it sparks to life, I hand him the keyboard and he starts a word processing application. I ask him what he’s doing. He types.


Kevin wasn’t much of a writer but loved the military and had aspirations of enlisting once he finished high school. He hands me back the keyboard.

“What?” I ask.

“What happens next?”

“I don’t know.”

“Think of something,” he says. I stare at the screen.

“He gets the bazooka?”

“Are you sure?” Kevin asks.

I stare blankly at the words in front of me. I squint and try to picture the scene. A young American hero. He vaults over jeeps and around sandbag bunkers in a grey-skied city, past bullets and explosions against an invisible enemy across a bridge.

Yes, I decide. He gets the bazooka. Kevin shrugs and points to the keyboard. I put it on my lap and almost type exactly that: HE GETS TO THE BAZOOKA. Instead, I stare at Kevin’s words. How do I describe this better? And how do I give it meaning?

I try my best, not typing half as fast as Kevin or as properly, but the Captain does eventually grab the bazooka and he blows up a truck. Kevin chuckles, reading along, and the two of us sit there, writing back and forth for the next hour. After he leaves, I continue writing the story. In case he ever comes back, he’ll be able to see the progress. Outside, the clouds finally give way and it rains.

It is raining here now, too, at Mocha Java. My memories of the past come weighed down with facts. Evin moved away to California. Carl’s Jr and Waialae Bowl are gone. I still write and occasionally go to the Barnes and Noble—although rarely because it’s impossible to find a seat. Kevin enlisted in the Army after he graduated high school. And a short time later, right around the time of my Sunday with Evin, he was killed by a car bomb while serving in Iraq.

Today, it is December again. Another December of early evenings, blue tinted twilights, and overcast grey skies. The changes in season are subtle from then to now, but they always get me, every time.

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