The sun set more slowly than usual that night, illuminating the sky with streaks of orange and gold that shone with a light only comparable to the bonfire, now crackling before me. The image was something out of a dream. For a moment I forget Rusty is a Jack Russell, “Isn’t it amazing?” His panting response reminds me that I’m talking to a dog.
Some people would regard sitting on the beach at sunset with a joint between your lips and a dog in your lap as a sad, lonely existence. To me it’s nothing short of heaven. I guess it doesn’t work against me that I live on the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai…the Garden Isle. If you had to describe the place as a whole by listing just one of its attributes, it’d be that no building is permitted to rise above the tallest palm tree on the island.
In front of me lay the gem of the north shore, my own little slice of Heaven, Hanalei Bay. She makes my heart flutter today the same way she did the first time I laid eyes on her 20 years ago. Granted I was merely an infant nibbling grass at the time, it was something about the way the sun lit this place up that kept bringing me back. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I realized it was exactly where I needed to spend the rest of my life.
I can remember my last night at home almost too vividly…
It was the first time I had ever ridden a bus with seatbelts. Not that anybody actually planned on using them. Maybe the kids in the first few rows would, in the same manner that a dog rolls onto it’s back, under the eyes of the teacher seated at the front of the bus. The kiss asses mixed throughout would do the same.
A group of 20 or so PTSA moms spent the hour prior to our departure trying to black out the windows on the bus to make our destination a surprise, as if they assumed we wouldn’t be able to look out the front windshield. Hearing the rain pour down on the bus without being able to see it created a sound that added to the chaos of the lacrosse players doing their best rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Was that in fact the Second Circle of Hell? No, the kid avidly playing Flappy Bird across the aisle from me was too happy for that to be possible. Close though.
I was seated far back enough on the bus to have a hard time seeing who was leaving their seat in the second row. The suspension on this half a century old, yellow sardine-can must have been non-existent. One bump in the road sent the individual stumbling onto the shoulder of the driver, the poor man’s mustache writhed in frustration as he let out a slew of curses so far under his breath that it was no longer English. People speaking in tongues? Check. Alex, our school’s ASB president regained his balance with a quick mountain pose, and began to speak. I don’t think a single person there gave a shit about what he had to say, he was only up there because he gets off to the sound of his own voice; the type of kid that talks to you just look at his own reflection in your eyes. It’s funny the way that the reds and yellows of hundreds of taillights, blurred by the rain on the windshield, started to resemble a roaring fire behind him.
It didn’t have to feel like Hell, it was Grad Night after all. But graduating high school left me with a few dismal realizations about the world we live in: No longer are a 3.6 GPA and a 2050 on the SAT adequate criteria to get into any of your 5 dream colleges, you can’t always be with the person you love, and a one way plane ticket isn’t always half the price of round-trip.