Haoles: An Excerpt from Between Sky and Sea

by Donald Carreira Ching

Mark woke half-dreaming, his head still buzzing from the night before. Tihani was curled up beside him, sunlight and salt air filling the room. He slipped out of bed and to the open window. In the distance, Diamond Head met sapphire waters. Waves broke champagne white. He watched the collection of tourists spread out across the beach below, squatting under umbrella tops and tanning on towels, and pictured himself a shade amongst the faces. Nothing truly familiar, Mark smiled and took it in.

Tihani mumbled something and he turned his attention to the backpack lying on the tabletop in front of him. He unzipped the front pocket and dug past the plastic bags filled with extra toothbrushes and bars of soap, and found the small box he had smuggled in a pair of boxer shorts, extra-large. Mark checked to see that Tihani was still sleeping and then opened the box, the diamond solitaire dancing in the sunlight.

“What time is it?” Tihani mumbled, still tangled in sheets. Her dark hair spread across the pillow in thick curls, her forehead just peeking above the starch white duvet.

Mark slipped the box back into the bag. “Sorry ah, nevah like wake you.”

“I think you two just wanted your privacy,” she said, reaching for her glasses.

He leaned back and stared out the window again, “No can be jealous of one nice view.”

She got out of bed, taking the bedding with her. “You don’t have to tell me twice.”

Mark smiled and watched her make her way to the bathroom, the sheets dragging like the train of a wedding gown. He smoothed his beard down and combed his hair back with his fingers, then cleared his throat and put on his best impression of Andy Cummings. “Waikīkī, my whole life stay empty witout you,” he sang.

Tihani threw a roll of toilet paper at the back of his head, her laugh echoing off the bathroom walls. “Too early,” she said.

Mark ignored her, choosing to watch a family picnicking on the sand instead. “Alotta memories hea, y’know? Every Sunday, my folks wen take us to da Hanohano Room. Aloha Week, we be right out in da front, one year we even wen get to ride on one of da floats my faddah’s union wen sponsor. Wen spend alotta time out hea, y’know, but everytime stay something new, stay something different. Never da same.”

“Save the stories, my love, you don’t go back to work til Monday,” she said, turning the shower on.

“Yah, yah, how about one joke den, I ever tell you da one about da Hawaiian, da Podagee, and da Chinaman?” He waited for her response but already knew she was shaking her head. “Eh, no ack like you never wen laugh da last time,” he replied, reading her mind.

“You never bothered to ask what I was laughing at.”

“Jus tryin fo sustain da culture, das all.” He got out of his chair and walked to the door, picking up the newspaper off the floor. He made his way back to the window and threw the first few sectons to the carpet. “You know I always wanted fo start up one comedy troupe, fo be one comedian. Like Rap’s, have one group like Booga Booga. Tūtūpapa, man, he always wen play em fo us.” He found the comics section and discarded everything else. “But no can, nobody know how fo be funny anymore.”

The shower stopped and Tihani stepped out in a terry cloth robe. She twisted her hair into a bun and sat on the bed, picking a pair of shorts up off the floor. “Most of it’s all the same.”

“Yah, but get plenny opportunities fo do um different, I mean look at dis,” he smacked the page in front of him. “Why we no get any of da kine local funnies? You get Peanuts, Garfield, I like see Tūtū Knows Best or What I Wen Tell You? Imagine all Pidgin wit English subtitles down da bottom.”

“Imagine the letters to the editor.” She undid her hair and started playing with her bangs. “Are you going to get ready?” she asked.

“No lie, how you not goin laugh wen you open up da paper and see How many Podagees It Take?” Mark grabbed his shirt from the night before and slipped it over his head. “Eh, I get anada one, What da Haole wen say to da Podagee?

“Don’t even get me started on that word.”

“Jus one joke. Local folks know dat, dey can appreciate um.”

“Typical Blalah,” Tihani said, grabbing her purse.

“What’chu wen say?”

Tihani opened the door, “I’m just fucking with you, now hurry up.”

Mark grabbed the cardkey off the bureau. “You one true hapa girl, ah? No can make up your mind.”

“You know you’re staying here too, right?”

“And? Dis da Moana, da first lady of Waikīkī.”

Tihani looked at the European styling of the room, the crown molding near the edges of the ceiling and floor. There was a perfume of white tea in the air conditioning, soaked into her scalp, and with the window closed they could be almost anywhere. “Grab the camera please,” she said.

Mark walked past her, ignoring her request. “We may be stayin hea, but I not one tourist.”

Tihani rolled her eyes and grabbed the camera herself. “This is Waikīkī dear, who are you kidding?”

They walked down the hallway, passing images of old Hawaiʻi. There were old photographs of the hotel and a younger Oʻahu. Kings and queens framed in koa with landowners and tourists from elsewhere, lei so abundant in flowers that they nearly covered the faces of the people who wore them. Folks gathered on the beach to watch the surf and talk story, the sand beneath their feet stretching forever.

Tihani stopped to look at an image of the International Marketplace, nothing more than a colony of houses then. “My grandparents met there, y’know? My grandpa selling coconut hats and my grandma working one of the kiosks.”

I miss dat magic about you,” Mark tickled the ivories of his imaginary piano, singing into one hand like a microphone.

“He tried to trick her actually, had one of his friends act like she was stealing a pair of earrings. My grandfather chased his friend around the corner and got them back, telling my grandmother that the theif had gotten away.” She touched a finger to her left earlobe, “Not that she believed him, of course.”

“And you talkin like you hate Waikīkī.”

“Try working here for three years.” She kissed his cheek and led him down the hall. They got to the elevator just as the doors opened, a couple stepping out. The woman wore a blue blouse with pink flowers, and a sun hat so large you had to move to the side to avoid its brim. The man wore a red shirt, with yellow Capri pants, and a pair of yellow sneakers.

“Folks havin one good time?” Mark asked as they passed. The man looked at him and said something in Japanese. “Konnichiwa,” Mark bowed.

The Japanese woman looked at her husband and then curiously at Mark. Tihani gave him a much harsher stare. “Get in here,” she said, pulling him in. She pressed the button for the lobby.

“Sorry keh, jus fuckin around,” Mark laughed to himself. “Can get anada comic strip, Sight Seein, no frames, jus funny kine drawins, or better yet, get folks submit couple shots wit da faces all blurry.”

Tihani looked him up and down. Mark, having forgotten to pack his surfshorts and anything dressier than a tank top, had ended up buying a clearance pair in neon blue and an ‘Aloha Waikiki’ polo from the ABC Store. “You gonna be in it?” she asked him.

A soft ding interrupted their conversation, the doors opening to the hotel lobby. A large table sat in the center, tropical flowers blooming from a large crystal vase. In every direction, people gathered, the hotel staff dressed in floral print dresses and dress shirts, greeting visitors with tea and kukui nut. Mark stepped out and took a glass, bowing his head and accepting a strand of polished black from one of the greeters. “Dea stay one feelin deep in my heart,” he sang, “and it stay stabbin me jus like one dart.” Mark held Tihani’s hand and spun her. “All da folks wen step tchru dis hall, all da folks wen stay in these rooms. I bet your granfaddah wen bring your granmaddah fo stay hea.”

She let go of his hand. “It’s nice to get away, but…I dunno, I think you’re too into the whole thing sometimes.”

A bride and groom giggled as they passed, a group of photographers behind them. “So what if I like get married hea?” he asked her, his mind running through his plans for that evening.

Tihani looked him up and down. He distracted her with a quick flex, bringing his shoulders up to meet his neck and forming one large mountain. She laughed. “I think you know me better than that,” she said. “And besides, I packed the suitcase, I’d know if there was a ring.”

“Eh now, why we gotta get all materialistic. You know da Hawaiians never have rings, was jus kane and wahine.”

Tihani ignored him and made her way out onto the veranda. There was a line of people waiting to be seated, and she joined the fray while Mark walked down the steps to the courtyard. There was a large banyan tree in the cobblestone center, its branches sprawling out in every direction and forming new trees where the roots met the dirt. He started around the tree to get a better view of the ocean and couldn’t help noticing a familiar face standing at the bar talking story.

“Couple minutes,” Tihani said, lifting her camera. “Smile.”

Mark stepped back behind the tree, clearly shaken. “Huh?”

The flash went off. “You alright?” she asked.

“Yah, yah, jus wen catch me off guard,” he said, rubbing his eyes.

She shook the photo a couple times and then put it in her purse. “Maybe you should sit down.”

“Yea, we go wait in da lobby,” he said, pulling her toward the steps.

“Markie boy,” a voice shouted from behind them. Mark took a few more steps before finally turning to face the guy he had seen at the bar.

Junior was skeleton thin, skin stretched taut across his cheekbones. His hair was cropped close to his scalp, bleached blonde and faded orange. “Fuckin long time no see, man.” He looked at Tihani, “How you, name’s Junior,” and then leaned in to kiss her on the cheek, Tihani catching a trace of marijuana on his lips.

“We good,” Mark said, pulling her back.

Junior didn’t seem to notice. He perched a toothpick between his lips and let it dangle there. “Must be, dis one nice place, a lot of nice lookin ladies, plenny rich haoles, and you. Go figgah, ah?”

“Surprised fo see you hea.”

“Yah, yah, friend of mine works da bar, told me come swing by. We goin go one party tonight, if you like check um out. A fuckin rager near da university. Smart girls, dumb drunks,” he threw up his eyebrows for good measure.

“Nah, I no think so.”

“Busy guy ah, family man,” he winked at Tihani. “Shit never changes wit dis guy, howz your braddah?” Mark looked straight at him, the fingers on his left hand closing into a fist. “Elani, ah? One hermit him, always wen have one excuse why he no like come out wit us. No like smoke, no like drink.”

“He stay doin good,” Mark said.

Junior smiled big and looked at Mark over the rim of his sunglasses, his eyes red and glassy. “Stayin straight, das da Teixeira way.”

“I think your friend stay lookin fo you,” Mark said, stepping forward and waving Junior back toward the bar.

“Maybe.” He moved to shake Mark’s hand, but Mark just left his fist hanging by his side. “Nice fo meet you,” Junior said to Tihani. “Nice fo see you too, family man, tell your braddah I wen say howzit, ah?” Mark watched Junior sway down the walkway and back to his seat, his smile disappearing behind a beer bottle.

“What was that all about?”

Mark started up the steps, “Ho, I stay ready fo grind already. Pau waitin.”

The hostess stepped out into the waiting area. “Teixeira, party of two?”

“Perfect timin,” Mark raised his head, continuing to ignore Tihani’s question. “Hea,” he said.

The hostess led them along the veranda to a table that overlooked the ocean. Mark pulled out one of the chairs and gestured for Tihani to sit. The hostess set two menus on the table, “Please enjoy.”

“Thank you,” Tihani said, looking at Mark, her hands folded over her menu. “So…?” Mark picked up his. Before she could pry further, the waiteress approached the table. “Tawani-wani-wan,” the waitress said in a sing-song voice, catching Tihani and Mark off guard.

“Oh my god,” Tihani jumped out of her chair. “You working here now?” she asked after kissing the waitress’ cheek.

“Needed a change and the job was open,” the woman threw a side-eye at Mark.

“Sorry. Lei, this is Mark. Mark, Lei. We used to work at the Royal together,” she said to Mark. He stood up and kissed her cheek. “How long have you been working here?” Tihani asked Lei.

“A few months now, it’s nice.”

“More time with the kids?”

“Less time with the haoles trying to reach under my skirt,” Lei laughed. “Do you remember that one night we had those two guys from Austrailia?”

“God, I do not miss it,” Tihani said, finishing the thought.

“Why do you think I’m here?” Lei raised an eyebrow and looked over her shoulder at the other patrons, the majority of which were older and returning from the buffet line. “It’s definitely not the tips.” Tihani shook her head and picked up her menu. “So what’re you two having this morning?” Lei asked.

Mark and Tihani both smiled at each other. “The buffet,” Tihani said.

“And French toast, I like one side of French toast,” Mark added.

“You got it,” she scribbled the order on her notepad. “You can help yourselves if you like and I’ll be back with some water.” Lei took both their menus and moved on to a couple a few tables down.

“Ready?” Mark asked.

Tihani leaned in, “Are you going to tell me what’s the deal?”

“Stay hungry, das all.” Mark leaned back in his seat and tried hard to keep his eyes on Tihani, ignoring the sound of laughter floating over from the bar.

“Who is he?” she asked.

“Nobody, alright?”

Lei returned shortly with a pot of coffee and a carafe of water. “Your orders will be out shortly.”

“Thanks, Lei,” Tihani said.

“Wait if you like,” Mark stood up, “but I goin eat, keh?”

Inside the grand salon there were large wooden tables set up with two or three serving dishes each. The center table was crowded with danish trays, pastries, bowls of fruit. Mark followed several others who ignored the poached egg and salmon offerings, the miso soup, and instead took large helpings of scrambled eggs and potato lyonnaise, some slices of applewood bacon. Then he made his way to the center and loaded up on pastries and yogurt parfaits, dressing his plate in ketchup and pepper before returning to their table, Tihani right behind him.

Mark sat down and began to eat, taking small bites of the different foods. “I love dis shit,” he said, hungrily scooping up his potatoes and looking out at the water. Tihani took a sip from her coffee cup and bit into a Danish, watching him. “Eat what’chu like, do what’chu like.” She smiled politely, her cheeks just nudging her glasses up. “What, you not talkin to me now?” he asked.

“I’ll talk when you do.”

He stared at her, studying her eyes, her slender jaw, waiting for her smile to vanish. “Junior’s da kine guy everybody know, you wen hear um, always like tchrow parties. Kahaluʻu, Kaʻaʻawa, Alan Davis. Couple times we wen go, but not da kine parties you like hang around long.

“Alotta drugs?” Tihani poured some cream into her cup.

“Not like everybody doin em.”

Tihani looked down into her coffee, the swirls of brown and white. She added another packet of sugar. “But that’s not how Elani knows him, right?”

Mark rested his body against the table and looked over at another couple laughing about the birds perched on the eaves, a waiter trying to shoo them away with a water hose. “Your food stay getting cold, y’know?” She gave a large sarcastic smile and picked up a strawberry. “He dunno Elani, he jus full of shit ackin li’dat. Playin games, him.” Mark started to move his food around on his plate. He could hear the waves breaking, “But Kāʻeo—,” the smooth, harsh crash of them. “I dunno, we gotta talk about all dis now? Shit can wait, ah?”

“Sounds like something you’d say. Always putting things off. Cracking a joke, booking a room.”

Mark put his fork down. “We gotta go tchru dis again? We hea fo enjoy ourselves, das all.”

“To get away, you mean?”

“Fo relax,” he said.

“Why not just get a movie and relax at the house?” Mark avoided her stare, focusing instead on spearing a smoked sausage. “But you still haven’t told your parents yet,” she said, acknowledging what she already knew with the tap, tap, tap of her fingernail against the side of her coffee cup.

“I jus like ease into it, y’know? I no like leave things da way dey stay, not now.”

“It’s been months, Mark. Your father can handle your mother.”

“Das her faddah, Ti, my Papa dat wen pass away.” Mark put his fork down and took a large gulp from his glass. “And you know my faddah, you know da treatment makin him weak. I figgah we can jus do um part time: half out dea, half in da new place.”

“Can I get you every other weekend?” she asked sarcastically.

“You know it no stay li’dat. Stay temporary.”

“Until what?”

“I dunno, until things get better.” He returned his attention to his plate. “Right now, jus make me feel shame everytime I think about packin up. Makes me feel—.”

“Like Kāʻeo?”

Mark closed his eyes and took in a breath. “I never say dat.”

“But that’s the truth.”

“You right, y’know,” he nodded. “I like come hea fo get away, fo not have to see guys like Junior. Fo have to answer all kine questions about Kāʻeo and what he doing and why he doing it. I stay tired of all of dat. Every. Fuckin. Day.”

“This is me, Mark.”

“You like know who Junior is?” he started impatiently, his breath bated. “Stay one druggie, one good fo nutten who no care about his family or his future.” Mark put his hands on the table and laced his fingers together, staring down at his shaking palms, trying to calm himself. “But das Kāʻeo’s boy, ah? Good friends from hannahbaddah days, back wen our Papa wen know Junior’s faddah. And wen Papa and Kāʻeo wen get into um, who you think Kāʻeo wen go start cruisin wit? Wea you think he wen start spendin his time, ah?” He spread out his fingers, looking at the thick collection of gathered skin and the islands of soft flesh between. “Happy?” Mark finally asked.

Tihani opened her mouth just as Lei arrived carrying Mark’s plate. “How’s everything?” They both nodded. “Awesome,” Lei said, setting the French toast down. “Can I get you guys anything else?”

“Thank you,” Tihani said, moving her plate to make space on the table.

“She one nice girl,” Mark said after Lei had disappeared, trying to change the subject. “How long you guys wen work together?”

“Maybe a year,” Tihani said, reaching over and cutting a piece of toast with her knife before dipping it into the syrup. “She always had more patience than me.”

“Dat bad, ah?”

“I preferred cleaning rooms to waiting tables, but sometimes it’s just about where the money is. I’m glad I did it, frustrated me enough to finally go back to school.”

“And look at you now, ah?” Mark reached over the table and grabbed the camera, snapping the picture just before she snatched it back. “One senior docent at Bishop Museum stuck wit one kanak like me.”

“Stop it,” she said.

“Serious, I bet das what your friend stay thinkin right now.”

“Believe me, Lei’s choice in men is about as good as your brother’s choice in company.” She looked up, realizing her mistake. “Sorry.”

“Nah, stay alright,” he said, reaching over to touch her left hand, tracing the naked space below the knuckle of her ring finger. “I jus worry, y’know? My faddah, he always wen try fo tell me dat we family, dat we gotta hold everything together, no matter what. And now, you know, wit everythin goin on…”

Tihani put her hand on top of his and squeezed it. “What more can you do?” she asked, removing it.

“I been hearin dat a lot,” Mark moved his plates to the side, pushing his chair closer to the table. “Papa wen say dat wen Kāʻeo left, Pops wen tell me dat wen Papa died, but you know sometimes I think what da fuck am I really doin? What I wen really do? But den oddah times, I think about us. I think…dat…dat we get one chance fo start fresh, fo walk out da door and jus fo’get about all of dis,” he waved a middle finger in Junior’s direction.

“Is that how you see it?” Tihani asked. “I mean, I’m not asking you to turn your back on your family, I’m just asking you to consider that you can’t do this all by yourself. That you can’t keep hiding.”

“Shit, Ti, stay dat easy?” Mark snapped his fingers. “Soon as we get home, I goin tell my maddah, not like she can remember right? And not like my faddah goin chase after me, not like he get da energy.”

“Elani can help.”

“Elani jus one kid, barely outta high sku.”

“I dunno, who do you think’s taking care of things right now?”

“You know think I like share something more wit you?” he caught himself lingering on her left hand again. “Wen I wen plan dis I was thinkin, you was goin love it. Wen try fo give you one weekend you was goin remember your whole life, and da first night we arguin in da middle of Kalakaua cuz you no like go Duke’s wit me.”

“This wasn’t my idea.”

“Fo plenny folks, one surprise stay one good thing. Stay something dey look back on.”

“And most folks don’t think about what it means to stay here. To work here. To be Hawaiian in a place like this,” she responded bluntly. “And most folks don’t treat their relationships like escape plans.”

The look on her face made his middle empty and his throat swell. It was a calmness, her lips and stare clear as the ocean after it breaks over the shore. He had seen that look on Kāʻeo’s face once, just before he had packed up what little things he had taken with him and moved in with Junior. Stay like wen da current stay pullin you back, wen you just about to break free and den da chill hits your ankle and you can feel da salt at da back of your tchroat, Kāʻeo had told him, trying to explain what he had been feeling.

“You know, I don’t care that you ignore me when I’m talking to you about stuff I’m learning in class. I don’t care that you’re not interested in discussing politics, that when I’m trying to discuss my cultural studies thesis with you, you have more jokes than opinions.” Tihani looked away from him, at the banyan tree, the tangle of roots twisting down. “But my grandmother, she taught me to be proud. E hōʻonipaʻa yourself in this world, she told me.” Some of the roots were older than others, knotted, dark and dry, sprouting new at the joints. “And even though my grandfather spent more time in his armchair than on the lānai watching her dance and chant, he still made it a point to come to her performances, to bring her lei.” She closed her eyes and lowered her voice. “He still made time when it mattered.”

“Eh, I wen tell you how many times, I just no see stuff dat way. I no can help da way my folks wen raise me. I try, you know I try.”

“I know,” she said, taking her eyes off of him.

Mark retreated, pulling his hands into his lap, and stared past her at the water. “It stay more complicated than all dat, Ti. I just think, maybe a couple more months, he goin stop blamin himself and come home. He still my braddah, you know?”

“A couple months? Another year? How long are we goin to wait?”

Out past the gaggle of sun tan lotion and snorkel spouts, two boys were sitting on their surfboards, their backs to the beach. “I remember dis one time, me and Kāʻeo, we was down Kualoa. Kāʻeo, he was tryin fo ack big time, tryin fo race me out past Chinamen’s Hat, but Kāʻeo, his imagination always wen get da best of him, ah? He wen catch himself lookin-lookin-lookin in da water and den all of a sudden dis wave wen hit him,” Mark smacked his hands together, “and he was under, chokin, tryin fo make his way back up. I wen try fo go after him, but I wen get hit too. I no remember seeing him sinkin, but da blood, all da red bubblin up.”

He crossed his arms, his right hand unconsciously moving up his sleeve, feeling for the scar where he had hit the reef. Even after they had cleaned the cut, Kāʻeo joked about coral heads growing out of Mark’s arm. The first few days after it happened, Mark would wake up and inspect it in the bathroom mirror, biting his lip as he dug it open with his fingernail. He leaned back in his seat, and listened to the ocean, the waves rolling. “It took everythin I wen have fo pull him in,” he said.

Tihani leaned in. “That was a long time ago,” she said.

“I dunno, some days I feel li’dis. I feel like I’m da one gotta save him, ah? But most of da time, I stay stressin, all piss off cuz he wen turn his back on us. Sometimes I just like fo’get he ever wen stay a part of dis family. I think wea da fuck is he, why I gotta be da one fo deal wit all da bullshit? Why I gotta be da one fo sacrifice, fo buss ass fo make things work?”

“But, really Mark, what can you really do?”

“You guys alright?” Mark looked up to see Lei smiling nervously, a few other patrons throwing glances their way. She laid a small black folder on the table. “I took care of the buffets.”

Tihani opened the folder, “You didn’t have to do that.”

Lei kissed Mark on the cheek. “It was nice to meet you,” she said, and then bent over to hug Tihani.

“We’re staying here for one more night, maybe when you get off we can get drinks later?” Tihani asked, scribbling in the total.

Lei’s smile articulated politeness. “You know how it is, I just wanna get home early and beat the rush.”

Tihani nodded. “Say hi to Kama for me.”

“You guys have a good night.”

“You too,” Mark said, crumpling his napkin and setting it down on his plate.

He looked over his shoulder at the other tables. One couple took pictures while another skimmed a tour brochure, some reading romance novels or the New York Times. One man was studying a map of Oʻahu and practicing the street names, sounding them out for half the lānai to hear. All of them were strangers. Haoles, Mark thought, listening to the chatter drowning out the rolling tide and what Mark believed to be the distant sound of children laughing. “I just think, I dunno, maybe your right,” he finally said, his tone uneven.

“I’m not saying you have to jump on the phone as soon as we get back to the room and tell them.”

He walked around to her chair and pulled it out for her. “No can keep runnin,” he admitted. She left it at that, letting her hand linger on his before standing up and gathering their things. As they left, Mark took note of the side-eyes and comments, several patrons gawking at his outfit when he passed.

In the lobby, the same Japanese couple they had seen earlier was waiting for the elevator to arrive; both of them wet and very red. Tihani looked over at Mark, expecting to see him mimming a how-to guide to putting on sun tan lotion for the couple, but instead he was standing there with his arms folded in front of him. In the reflection of the elevator doors, Mark noticed for the first time that weekend the ridiculousness of his attire, the flat gloss of the kukui nut lei around his neck, and the blur of faces beside him.

Tihani leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Mark smiled at her and then smirked, finally noticing the Japanese man who was now shifting back and forth in place, his wife fanning him with her hat. Lobster, he said with his lips. The elevator door opened and they stepped inside.

When they reached their floor, Mark and Tihani proceeded down the hallway, paying no attention to the photographs or the large picture windows that looked out on the world below. “How you feeling?” Tihani asked, opening the door to their room.

Mark emptied his pockets on the TV stand. “Alright.”

She picked up her camera, “One more time.”

He waited for the flash and then sat by the window and looked around at their room. Everything was folded and in its place, the only sign of life was their bags, clothes and plastic bags falling out over zippers and onto the floor.

“I think I’m definitely going to have to put up every picture from this weekend, look at this,” she passed him the photo she had taken of him earlier. He stared at it a while. She sat down on the bed and looked at him, “What’s wrong?”

Mark looked at the picture again: The banyan tree behind him, the look of surprise on his face, and off to the side, an out of focus blob of orange, Junior’s hair. “Homesick I guess.”

She got up and walked toward him, put her hands on his shoulders. “Everything will be alright, I promise.”

“You sure?”

“Wouldn’t matter either way.” Tihani put her lips to his ear and let them linger there and then walked into the bathroom, leaving the door open and her clothes behind. “Tis for you my heart is yearning, my thoughts are always returning.”

Mark stood up and looked out the window. Clouds filled the sky. The beaches were crowded, overcast by shadow, even the water seemed more included, choppier now than Mark had remembered. He reached into his bag and looked at the ring again, the single stone barely catching a sliver of light. He put it back where he had hidden it and then laid down on the bed and closed his eyes. He drifted off, dreaming that he was on the beach looking out at the ocean and listening to Tihani humming to him from some place up above. Years seemed to pass and Mark watched as the waves overtook the land and Waikīkī slid into the sea, leaving nothing but blue to separate the horizon. Not quite awake, he stirred when he felt Tihani’s body beside him, mistaking the movement of the bed for the rhytmn of the water, the room already thick with salt air.

And in that moment, he opened his eyes and thought he saw his brother there, floating among the branches that had long since fallen away.

 
Donald Carreira Ching received his MA in Creative Writing from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where he was awarded the Myrle Clark award with distinction and won the Patsy Sumie Saiki Award for Fiction. He recently completed his first novel, Between Sky and Sea, excerpts from which have appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Hawaiʻi Review, and are forthcoming in the M.I.A. Anthology and Chaminade Literary Review. His work has also appeared on the radio program Aloha Shorts, and in Cirque, The Star Advertiser, Rio Grande Review, Rainbird, as the runner-up in Honolulu Weekly’s fiction contest, and as the winner of the Star Advertiser‘s Halloween Fiction Contest.

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