by Crystal Dalison
After my island cruiser of a car finally succumbed to its lifetime of abuse, I had to hitchhike to work every day. Because I lived out in the jungle, down a sparsely populated dirt road, my morning commute usually involved a lot of walking. Crazy as it may sound, I didn’t mind it too much. Don’t let anyone tell you that hitchhiking on the island is easy, because it isn’t, but it can be a lot of fun – especially if you happen upon a consistent ride like I did.
Even though she was always alone when she picked me up, I always sat in the back of Hoku’s truck, because the passenger’s seat was invariably occupied by an empty child safety seat. For three weeks, she had picked me up hitchhiking to work at the same time, along the same road, nearly every day, but because of our wind barrier, all I knew about her was that she liked to party – she always had road beers, at the very least – and that she drove like a bat out of hell: speeding through tight turns, swerving out of lanes, and just scaring the shit out of me in general, at a rate of five miles to the heart attack (it was sort of a pre-work adrenaline kick that I eventually, curiously, came to enjoy.) Grateful for all the rides, even if they were usually harrowing, I invited her to come hang out with me one evening, so she picked me up after work and we set out on the long, serpentine road that ran along the ocean, and against the mountains, travelling to the east side of the island.
Hoku, while navigating a blind curve around the pali, leaned through the truck’s back window to root through the cooler next to me and fished out two more green bottles. I had just opened a fresh beer for myself, but accepted the new one without protest. It’s said that drunk people sometimes survive even the most horrific of car crashes without sustaining injury due to the limpness of their bodies at the time of impact. Judging by the line of logic introduced by that, my road beers were a safety mechanism in their own right. Kind of like a seat beat, but less restricting.
Lounging in the bed of the little red pickup, I wondered where Hoku was going every day when she picked me up on the side of the road. Moreover, I wondered about the somewhat incongruous presence of the car seat. Never had I seen Hoku without a beer in her hand, and I hoped, in my self-righteous way, that she was not responsible for the care of a child. Obviously, my own vices and shortcomings have never impeded my ability to judge others. Perhaps that is why I like to write – because I can ruminate on what I think, what I think of others, and what I think others think, without feeling like a supercilious hypocrite.
Quickly downing my first beer, and then my second, I watched the waves break to my right and the jungle sprawl to my left from my perch on the wheel well. Red clay, green leaves, and blue water all rushed by in a pleasant whirl of vibrant color. Suddenly turning off the main road and down a dirt access track, Hoku stuck her head out of the window to shout back at me that she wanted to stop by her place for party favors before we headed to the beach to meet my friends.
Tall cane grass whipped past, snatching into the truck bed and pricking my skin like so many tiny clawed fingers, as we sped down the red clay road. Unable to see where we were headed anyways, I hunched over and tucked my face into my arms to spare it from the cane grass until we pulled up in front of a little jungle bungalow. “VACANT,” the place seemed to announce, with its overgrown garden and a lani that showed signs of a chronic vagrant infestation. We entered the dimly lit house and were greeted by the word “MISSING” in large bold type, accompanied by the enlarged face of a smiling toddler, printed on a flier positioned at eye-level on the wall facing the front door. Xeroxed copies of the same poster sat in stacks on the desk, on the coffee table, on the floor.
“You know, with how wet it is during the winter here, I have to replace them all every day,” Hoku explained, while putting together tonight’s trail mix from the various pill bottles and baggies wedged in the top drawer of her desk. “Zany as it sounds,” she said, as she slid first her eyes, and then herself, back out the door and into the fading sunlight, “I think the trick is just to stay loose enough that when reality finally hits you hard, it doesn’t jar you too much.”
Crystal is a slightly feral, outdoors-oriented, bibliophile seeking a bachelor’s degree. She enjoys adventures, stories, and being wild in the wilds in wild weather. She dislikes concrete, structured environments, and wearing shoes.