This Fragile New Sun

For the first time in a while, my back cradles this fragile new sun. My back also cradles our social contract, recently renewed three days ago: my end of the deal is two layers of spray-on sunscreen, and in return, I do not get sunburnt while tanning on my beach towel. Preserving our tacit agreement, the sun glitters across the Waikīkī ocean, its light scissoring against the deep blue, hotels, and those who fail to abide.

Down here, no longer are the sky and the sea confused. It’s not like up there, when you peeled back the window shade, only to find the view from 30,000 feet above the Pacific remarkably empty. On hour nine of the homebound flight from New York City, the sky and sea were the same shade of blue, and you were unsure where the horizon lay. You realized the violence to what is undetermined—this horizon, this timezone (Am I in HST yet? Or still in PST?), this summer away from the people youʻve built your college life around (Do I actually love him, or is this realized love only symptomatic of distance?), this summer in a home where you have never been you yet, only a timestamped version from six months ago (Where is the line drawn between our past and future self?). Homecoming is the passage of time with an undetermined horizon, that sound between the forgotten melody of the past and the metronome toward the future. Time’s left hand is imprinted from picking the strings of the past, and its right hand is steadily strumming toward the future—time masterfully plays the ‘ukulele.

On my beach towel, I listen to “Pineapple Special” by Ohta-san for the first time in eight years, and I remember the taste of my childhood. I am frustrated at four years old, crying after my Wednesday afternoon ‘ukulele lessons because my fingers were too short to span the frets of my grandfather’s passed-down Kamaka. Once lessons were over, we ritualized walking across Mililani Shopping Center to share a strawberry smoothie at Wendy’s. A year later, I played my first two songs as a band member at the 2008 Roy Sakuma ‘Ukulele Festival. In my grandparents’ lanai, I finish my homework in silent awe as my grandfather chords “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters—his lungs hold miles of poetry he can sing in a single breath. Although fragmented by my grandparents’ moving away to Las Vegas when I am ten, there would be three more annual July afternoons left to bruise the sun with my Kamaka—my final ‘ukulele festival in 2015 concluding with “Pineapple Special.”

And as I hear the ‘ukulele, I hopscotch through time, as if I’ve been provided a second chance to grow up on this island. The flesh of lost time tastes sweet and strange—I find my present nineteen-year-old self in a lost childhood. For the first time in a while, my back cradles this fragile new sun.


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