Here the four of us are in Hilo, Hawaii— Michele, Ruth, Maggan, and me. Michele and Ruth have gone to the college to try to get showers. Maggan’s grocery shopping, and I’m sitting on the sidewalk. There seem to be a relatively smaller number of tourists here than on Maui. There’s vacant and abandoned buildings in Hilo. Every square inch of this island isn’t as intensely desired. I like that.
I’ve done this before, been here before, sat on a sidewalk in front of a supermarket facing “Da Store” and saw smoke rising up from the sea and thought, this isn’t volcanic.
I mentioned this deja vu feeling to Maggan. She agreed with my thought, that I probably saw this before in a dream. I wonder what these experiences really mean. If anyone knew, maybe we humans could do more with our lives. But somehow sitting next to Maggan, I wonder, what is there to do, anyway?
Maybe Bill Jackson’s right. Maybe it’s just a perception that got routed by mistake in such a way as to seem to be a memory.
“Let me try to use the words for things,” Maggan gestured with her arms all around. “These clouds are gray. There’s some blue, and waves—”
“—are smashing up or cracking up or breaking up, which is right?”
“All those are right. You can say any of those things.”
“And those rocks or stones or, what was the word you called them?”
“I thought borders were like edges.”
“BouLders,” I said more carefully. “R and L sound pretty much the same in English.”
Maggan was writing the words down in a notebook with Swedish words beside them. I tried to pronounce some of the Swedish words. “Nya ords,” these were for her.
“And the sea in here is different. What could you call that?”
“How do you spell that? C-O-M?”
“You won’t believe this. C-A-L-M.”
“If you say it really slowly, you can hear caLm, but if you say it fast the L kind of disappears. Palm, like palm trees, same way.”
She pointed at a pine tree. “What do you call the parts of this?”
“The big part, that’s a trunk. T-R-U-N-K.”
“Is that what you put in a fire?”
“Well, when it’s cut up or just down on the ground and dead, it’s called a log.”
“L-O-G?” She wrote a bunch of Swedish words to explain this. “And the rest of the tree?”
“Branches. Off the trunk grow branches.”
“And the word for the smallest part?”
I thought a moment. “You could call them twigs. Twigs, little branches.”
“And the rest is leaves.”
“Yeah. On a pine tree, like that one, they’re usually called needles. Pine needles. On trees like that other one, leaves.”
“I like to talk to Americans,” she said. “It helps my English. I love Sweden and I love Swedish people, and if I meet one I go, oh hi, Sweden!” She threw up her arms and smiled. “But I see Swedish people all my life in Sweden.”
I like Maggan. I really like Maggan. I’m so glad she wants to travel with me for the next couple of weeks. It’s just nice sitting on the wall with her talking about English language or people or whatever, nice to have her sleeping beside me in my tent last night. It’s this kind of togetherness I miss most in being single, not the sex. Though I certainly would make love with her if things went that way, I feel no urge to try to make that happen.
A Hawaiian guy just now made a pass at me after getting me stoned. He’ll give me some marijuana flowers to let him suck me, or I could suck him. No, sorry, I’m not gay. Would I look at some girlie pictures to get hard, then let him look at it while he beat off? No, sorry, I’m not into that.
I don’t think I like this campground. Maggan comes back.
Michele and Ruth come back feeling nervous about this place. Me too, but after all there’s four of us, and hitching at night rarely works out anywhere.
Thursday, January 22, 1981
This morning I sat with Michele and Ruth in their tent. Ruth still had an upset stomach. Then we agreed to get moving and Maggan woke up.
We encountered a very funny-looking gecko outside the tent, crawling out of a fruit juice can. It felt as cold and moist as a salamander. Its tail was missing.
We split up into twos to get rides, but Michele and I flagged down a pickup truck immediately and called Ruth and Maggan back and we were all in town. I did most of the pack-watching at the laundromat. Ah, clean clothes!
While we were crossing the bridge in the park on the way to the laundromat, Maggan and I delayed to watch flowering water-lilies and frogs. The frogs gave high-pitched yelps when they jumped into the water.
Maggan walks the edge of the canal,
looking for water lily flowers to photograph.
Frogs say yike! and splash,
one by one, as she approaches.
She snaps a picture of me
sketching lily pads
with the pen cap in my mouth.
“That’s a good picture,” she says.
“You painting water lilies.”