birds eye photography of sea

Butch was just a tourist until the sixth day of his vacation to Hawaii. After laying on the beach in a drunken stupor, sunning by the pool with a good buzz and eating half a pig at the luau, Butch woke up on his sixth day with an unsettled desire to go somewhere. The escape from his life wasn’t helping. No amount of drinking would get him away from himself, and it took Butch less than a week to realize it.

It was 6:17 in the morning and the sun was rising. He didn’t know where to go, but he was certain it was time to go there. He showered and scrubbed as much of the alcohol stench out of his pores, then dressed quickly and headed straight for the front door of the hotel without saying a word to anyone. As he emerged into the perfectly mild sunny morning a young local boy pulled up in an old red Toyota sedan with Taxi stenciled on the side. The boy inside leaned across the passenger seat and looked Butch up and down.

“You are going somewhere today. Come. I’ll take you.”

Without giving it another thought, Butch opened the passenger door and climbed in the front with him.

“You know where you’re going?”

Butch shrugged. “Not really. It’s just that I need to get out and go somewhere. Any ideas?”

“I got you. I know just where your somewhere is. Trust me. You’ll see. I’ll take you.”

Butch looked over at the boy, who looked like might have only had his driver’s license for a week, but also a big, charming smile. “Alright. Sure. Why not?”
The road they took wound up past beaches and into rain forest. After an hour and a half silently driving through the forest the road crested a high hill overlooking the ocean and the boy turned right and headed down a dirt road in the direction of what looked like a cliff to Butch.

“Where you taking me, kid?” He was beginning to get nervous.

“You’ll like it. It’s exactly what you need,” the boy said as the car was bouncing more violently down the worsening road. Butch held the dashboard and the handle by his head with a white-fingered death-grip. Just as they appeared to be ready to plunge over the cliff into the sea, the boy turned left, and the road dropped steeply down the hill toward a cove. Butch could see it below.

There was a small rocky beach in the cove that Butch watched get closer with each switchback. When they arrived at the bottom a half hour later, Butch was nervous just like he felt every Sunday night preparing for another Monday at work. The boy stopped and climbed out with a bounce in his step. Butch drug himself out and on to a small descending trail in his khaki Costco shorts, Teva sandals and untucked flower shirt that screamed “easy target.” The boy was thirty yards ahead on the path already.

At the bottom of that trail there was a curve that led back toward the steep hillside, and Butch heard a waterfall. He followed the boy toward the falls on the narrow trail. With each step he felt lighter and more sober. This is the somewhere I needed.

“Come. I have something for you to see. Very few see this.” He turned off the trail and up the hill a short distance through thick vegetation. Butch did as he was told, each step energizing him. Though he lost sight of the boy, he could hear voices ahead.

“Is this where you murder me for the thirty-six bucks in my pocket and my maxed out credit card?”

The boy laughed loudly through the dense forest. “You’re lolo. Nobody is here to kill you.”

Butch emerged a few steps later into a clearing where there was a large rectangle of stones set into a raised platform. On the platform, he saw seven old Hawaiians dressed in traditional Polynesian ceremonial outfits, standing in a large oval with two spaces open at the end. The boy stepped into the gap, and motioned for Butch to join him.

“Come, lolo.” The old men in the circle laughed. They were all calm and otherwise serious, but they looked happy to Butch. The leader at the opposite end from him waved his hand and Butch took it to indicate that he should sit. Everyone did.

Butch was beginning to feel calm and safe in a way he couldn’t remember since childhood. The warm wet breeze blew through the trees, and the smell of flowers, coconuts and saltwater filled Butch’s nose. They sat there a while before the oldest man there spoke in a language that sounded a lot like the Hawaiian Butch had heard around the hotel, but it was different–more rhythmic and somehow deeper. After he spoke a couple of sentences, all the men stood up. Butch started to but the elder motioned for him to stay seated.

They closed their circle around him and started to sing and chant. Then they began to dance around in a circle changing directions and chanting. Butch wasn’t sure, but he didn’t believe he could get up even if he wanted to. His heart filled slowly with the joy the men showed with every stomp and skip in their dance. Every note played a song he felt was familiar but unknown.

Butch sat there until the sun had moved far across the sky, watching and listening and after a time he couldn’t measure he lay back and closed his eyes. He slept deeply. He dreamed of the sea, and the mountain emerging from the depths of it. He dreamed of the boats first landing and the huts growing into towns. He dreamed of being one of the fishermen, and dancing the dance himself. Butch woke as the sun was starting to disappear behind the hill.

“Now we go back. You are better, yes?”

“Very much. Thank you.” Butch bowed his head to the boy automatically.

They rode back up the hill in the old red car, bouncing as they had on the way down, but Butch was unconcerned by it. He watched the rhythm of the waves as the came ashore in groups. Five — three — one — two — five the pattern repeated. He felt the breeze and watched the flow of the palm trees as they swayed in it — pushed and held up by it at the same time.

They returned to the road and neither of them spoke all the way back to the hotel. When they arrived the sun was down and Butch hadn’t eaten all day. Still, he didn’t want to get out.

“It’s okay, lolo. Your mana is healed now. It will stay with you now.” He nodded his head toward the door of the hotel. “Go on.”

Butch began to slide out of the car and stopped. He turned to the boy.

“Why have you called me lolo all day?”

“You were weak. Your mind was weak and numb. That is lolo. You needed help from the kupuna. Now you can go back and remember them as we do. They will feed your mana if you can remember them and what it was to be lolo. Nobody will believe you if you tell them either. It can’t be believed. It must be lived.”

Butch stood up from the seat. He felt hungry at last. He turned and leaned down into the window of the car. “What do I owe you?”

“Me? Nothing. This is the gift–the makana–from the island and the kupuna, the ancestors. I am happy to bring you together with it.”

Butch tapped two times on the roof of the car with one hand and turned toward the door. He took a few steps and thought of one more thing to say, but when he turned, the boy was already gone. He said it anyway.

“Mahalo.”

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