False Wiliwili — Part Two

I was raised a good Lutheran, so there are two things I know for sure. One, if it looks like bread and wine, then that’s all it is, bread and wine, and two, lying is very bad. And I speak from experience, guiltily, that it is very, very bad if you lie during a conversation that may lead to a relationship with someone who revs your engine.

“Ahhhhh, I’m headed for Madison, Wisconsin for a graduate program in English.”

This admission made me feel that any romantic relationship was automatically out of the question. For a second. Hope springs eternal. I’d heard of long distance relationships working. I tell you, I’m famous for making all kinds of plans, when some woman knocks me out, having no idea of whether romance is even a possibility.

Anna was very impressed by this. The Hilo girl says, “You do know it’s going to be cold in the winter.”

“Yes.” I smiled. “Yes, I think I’ve heard that.”

We had a great, really long talk. The kind of talk that makes you think you’re not being an ass, or boring, or are spitting on the listener. Her mom was a teacher at Hilo Union Elementary School, and her dad worked at a facility up at Pohakuloa where they were breeding Hawaiian Nene birds, our local geese, that are also our State bird. I hadn’t known that the Nene were an endangered species, and that there was an intensive effort to increase the population.

“Oh yes, it’s not good right now. There are fewer than 1000 all together on Maui and Hawai’i.”

Her mom was born and raised in Hilo and her dad was from Japan. They’d met a UH Manoa, she an education major, he majoring in zoology. It was actually her mom who got the fulltime job offer back in Hilo, so they moved, and her dad had found his way to the Nene project while lecturing at UH Hilo.

“I go to Japan every summer. I stay with my grandparents.”

Funny, how I jumped to the thought that I wouldn’t see her that summer because she’d be in Japan. Like I was even going to be here? I’d planned to leave for the mainland the week after graduation. Pre-falling-in-love thought process is a strange thing.

“Are you fluent in Japanese?”

“Yes, I am. I placed out of the language requirement here. I’m still wondering about majoring in Japanese, though.”

“Wow. English and Japanese. Are you looking at other majors besides those?”

“I like to draw, and I really enjoy history.”

She was taking a life drawing course and the second of two semesters of world history required for core.

“Do you work?”

She had a 20-hour a week student job. “I’m with an office on campus called the KOKUA Program. They help all students with disabilities. And not just here at Manoa, but also at the community colleges. I’ve even taped a geography textbook for a blind UH Hilo student.”

Apparently the other campuses, while they did have some services for students with disabilities, did not have the resources to provide all that was needed, so Manoa helped out.

“Right now I’m recording textbooks for a History major with low-vision. It’s great. I’m reading books on Japanese and Indian history. I’m good with the Japanese, but my pronunciation of Indian terms and phrases is pretty much a best-guessing prayer. We do have to spell them when we tape, though, so that makes me feel kinda better about probably totally destroying the vocabulary.

“The other part of my job is taking notes for students who can’t take their own. This semester I’m taking notes for one of the Japanese history courses.”

“Wow, you must be a great note-taker.”

“No, not really. But the kind of note-taking I do, what’s called visual note-taking, means I only have to write down, and then tape record after class, the things that are written on the board or are on slides and overhead projections.

“The student is responsible for all the verbal information in the class.”

“That’s great. Sounds like the kind of job where you get a lot of personal satisfaction from what you’re doing.”

“Yes,” she said, “there’s definitely that, but I have a younger brother who’s developmentally disabled, so I grew up helping, you know?”

I liked this woman more and more. It was actually getting late by the time we broke up the meeting.

“I have to get back to the dorm, eat, and then study,” she said.

We rose. “Which dorm you in?”

“I’m in Johnson Hall. A bit of an armpit, but it’s okay.”

I was headed in the opposite direction. “See you in class on Thursday?” I said.

She said yes, and smiled one of the most amazing smiles I’d ever seen at that critical moment right before I knew I was in love.

Thursday couldn’t come around fast enough. When I got to Bilger, I noticed that the first two rows were empty, except for the seats next to the very edges of the room. Dr. Miller had shown a tendency to pace the full stage area, but that stage didn’t run the entire length of the hall. The edges, apparently, were considered probably spit-free zones.

I scanned the first few rows, but I didn’t see Anna. Then I scanned, very carefully, every row all the way to the top. No Anna.

I decided I would make myself obvious to her by sitting in the second-to-last seat in the first row on the makai, or ocean, side of the auditorium. This would leave the last seat by the door open for her.

Class time arrived. I kept looking up into the back. Nothing.

After a few minutes, Dr. Miller came puffing into class. He dropped the copy of his published liquid meal-ticket on the front desk.

“My apologies for being late,” he spluttered. “I’m still figuring out how long it takes me to get here from Pizza Hut. Hopefully next time I’ll be right on the dot.”

He scanned the room. “Hah! I see you’ve taken my advice about hiding out in the hinterlands.” He focused on me. “Yet there exists one brave soul so hungry for knowledge of macro economics, that he is willing to risk being showered by my words.”

The class laughed.

I sort of did too, but my mind was very much occupied. Where was she? God, I thought, what if she’s dropped the class?

I cursed inwardly.

Or what if she’s ill?

Whatever doctorly, or motherly, or nursing tendencies I had, they kicked in. I would go to her beside in Johnson Hall, read her textbooks to her, type her papers as she dictated them, her voice weak yet still audible. But how would I handle her drawing assignments?

The door to my left opened. My heart stopped. It was just some guy. Frickin Hell.

He scanned the available seats, then sat in the one I’d left open for Anna.

“Thanks in advance for being my shield, man.”

He didn’t sound like he was joking.

Dr. Miller spittled on. I absorb what he was saying. Class ended. I sat there, dazed and exhausted from all the near heartbreaking stress I was feeling.

Anna was not there the next class. I still kidded myself about her being too sick yet to come back. I tried extra hard to suppress any thought of her having dropped the class. I tried to listed to the lecture, but Dr. Miller’s mouth moved like that of an actor in a silent movie.

No Anna the class after that either. Irrationally I started to hate Econ now. Why had I registered for this class? There were other social science classes that would have fulfilled the requirement. God, I wanted to be on the mainland already.

I’d given up trying to follow our tipsy teacher, sat doodling all the way through. Every once in a while I’d catch a word or two, but everything was out of context, so nothing really made any sense.

Then, toward the end of the class, it hit me. Damn. I was brilliant? Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I knew she was in Johnson Hall. Why the didn’t I just go over there and see what was up?

Talk story

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