by Donald Carreira Ching
I used to count the cars like the next one would be the last one, but there’s
really no point. There’s always another one abandoned on Dump Road, on the side of the highway near the military base, or at the beach park. If I troll along Kamehameha Highway near the pier, I’ll usually find at least one just before the road curves toward the waterfront homes that look out onto the sandbar, Ahu O Laka.
There’s no more room, so I don’t always call it in, but I always pull over, check it out. Plenty times it’s easy to trace back their origins: a new batch of orders, or an engine blown, or the remains of a transplant expired from the rent. “There’s no point in junking um,” an owner told me once. I had just caught him stepping out onto the road, leaving the keys to his Tercel in the ignition. “Costs more than it’s worth,” and he was right. These are often the ones stripped to their rusted frames, windows folded in and sparkling, innards exposed and loose, or missing. I give them a once over, check the VIN, and move along.
But they’re not always empty or abandoned. When I see that, I do what I’m supposed to. I tap on the window, call out for “aunty” or “uncle” like I know them, hoping that I don’t, and ask if they’re all right. Then I give them a warning and tell them what will happen if I see them again. Things they’ve already heard before. Sometimes I just write the ticket, break out the cuffs, or sweep them out to another hiding place. Maybe they’ll make it to a shelter, maybe not. They’re used to it. We all are. They apologize. I don’t ask for what. I hand them a card and then I drive away, taking in the shallow comfort of an empty stretch.
But then it ends as it always does, and I wonder how many times I’ll find myself on the side of the road, and if one day someone will find me there, curled up in the backseat, blinded by a circle of light, asking myself, what the fuck did I do? What the fuck did I do?
“What the fuck did I do wrong?”
Donald Carreira Ching was born and raised in Kahaluʻu, on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. His work has appeared in local, national and international publications. In 2015, his debut novel, Between Sky and Sea: a Family’s Struggle, was published by Bamboo Ridge Press. In 2018, he received the Elliot Cades Award for Literature, Emerging Writer. More at donaldcarreiraching.wordpress.com.