arriving

In April 2006, my husband moved to Hawaii to start working for the state. I stayed behind for a month and packed up our apartment in California and sent all of our earthly posessions off with a long-haired Israeli in an dubiously unmarked van. I crossed my fingers that our stuff would make it and not wind up abandoned in some industrial park.
My mother-in-law dropped me off at the airport with two overweight roller bags and overloaded backpacks and a guitar and a couple of armfuls of miscellany that hadn't made it into the moving containers. Everyone else in the Hawaii-bound ticket line was cheerful in optomistic shorts and colorful t-shirts-- well primed for their impending vacations and sunburns. A blond dreadlocked guy started chatting up my guitar-- "Is that a bari Uke? No--a mini-Martin?" He said that Puna is the place to go to party, and that he was staying with some friends down there for a couple of months, maybe longer, who knows?
On the plane I sat next to a guy in a aloha-print golf shirt who admitted, sighing happily, that he flies out to Hawaii a couple of times a month to stay at his condo in Kona. You know, just to get work done on the plane.
After my laptop battery died I sketched diagrams of my garden: all the nice warm-weather crops that would do better here than they had in the chillier microclimates of northern california. Tomatoes, Peppers, cucumbers-- we could even try some papayas, mangoes-- what other tropical fruits are there, even?
We got near the islands and I felt something acidic and weighty in my stomach-- anticipation? dread? regret? Flying close to land all I could see was the rumpled black lava rock-- miles and miles of it. As we got closer I could see some buildings, some boxy houses and I had the strangest sudden impression that if I ever flew away from here, my heart would break. So then I knew- even if I hated it at first, eventually I would come to love our new home.
Then we landed in the Kona airport. Like an old movie, you climb down the stairs from the airplane, cross the tarmac, and walked among the "little-grass-shack" aesthetic open-air buildings that house ag inspection and baggage claim.
I walked out and there was my DH, Aloha shirt tucked in, and hair parted and combed, with a fragrant lei and a box of macnut chocolates.
The month's separation, the misery of packing up and saying goodbye to friends and family and everything familiar-- it all evaporated. He carried my heavy bags out to the car ("It's so HOT!" I kept saying disbelievingly) which had arrived the week before, intact except for some scratches and some dark brown spatters on the inside ceiling, like some animal had met an ugly and mysterious demise inside somewhere across the pacific.
We drove on the upper highway-- at first past the lava-- caught in heaving rocky gestures like a black sea, then up through the little homes with bright flowers in the yard, and then into an alien
landscape.
"Where are we?" I kept saying. Thorny bare south African trees, tall sun-whitened grass, and wide dry plains.
"What does this look like? Nevada? Southern Utah? The Serengheti?" It was lovely, but not how you'd imagine Hawaii to be lovely- Lovely like the sage dessert. Parched and empty and vast lovely. Inhospitable lovely. Not a hula girl or palm tree in sight.
We arrived at our new house, furnished and musty from the elderly landlords. A giant 4' black velvet painted fan hung on the wall, across from a 3' bunch of dusty Eucalyptus tied with a massive pink crepe paper cummerbund. Sticky dusty ceramic figures (with removable cookie-jar heads) sat gummily on top of the fridge. Floral mildewy swags hung over the windows and artificial trees crowded all of the corners, and all of tables were shrouded in heavy stained polyester lace.
But DH had prepared a lovely spread-- with no kitchen utensils he had managed to will into existance a chocolate orange birthday cake with buttercream frosting, and a bounty of grass-fed big island steaks with collards. It was amazing to me how all of the misery of transplanting myself could evaporate once I was with my partner again. Now it seemed like an adventure-- an open unexplored world. He gave me a thick stack of coupons-- "one trip to the beach," "one massage," "one hour of yardwork," "one home-cooked meal." Each sheaf a potential moment in the wide open future. The perfect birthday gift.

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