Words by Kleo Cruse Art by Liam Grant
Tindering overseas. It seemed so innocent and silly: an experiment, as much as a desperate attempt to get away from my family.
In the first few minutes after checking into our hotel in Honolulu, my grandma fell asleep on the king size bed that her and I were sharing. Her snoring was ferocious. I restlessly downloaded Tinder and lay there swiping.
Nicholas, thirty-one years old. He asked me if I’d like to come down to Queen’s Beach Park, have beers and watch the sunset.
I agreed to meet him.
Showered and giddy, I ran across Waikiki.
“Nick?” I said, peering into a green hammock.
“Yes!” He smiled up.
The next night we hung out again. We bought a slice of pizza each, and brazenly he linked the fingers on his non-pizza-eating hand with mine.
“We could go here,” he paused outside a bar, “Or we could grab some drinks and go back to mine?”
“I like that idea,” I replied, smiling.
We stopped in a cluttered corner store. A small Korean lady stood behind the counter. She cried out in excitement when she saw Nick.
“This is Aunty,” Nick said.
“Nice to meet you!” I said.
“Ah Australian! Sydney?” Aunty asked.
“You’re going to have to meet my housemate. He’s probably asleep.”
“Oh no, not that whole thing,” I sighed.
“He’s super chill!”
Danny was chill. Asleep in one of two La-Z-Boys in the tiny lounge room, his mouth wide open, head tilted all the way back. With a start he awoke.
“I got you beers,” Nick rested an opened can on a cardboard box serving as a table.
On Nick’s day off, I told the family that I’d be gone for a while. He was taking me to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Park. He picked me up from the front of the hotel.
“I’m really excited about this!”
“Me too!” Nick said with a smile.
We got back to Honolulu around 5pm, sunburnt and happy. We agreed to freshen up, then meet again for drinks in a couple of hours.
“My footy team is playing tonight,” I sighed, “I don’t know where to watch it.”
“The Yardhouse will probably have it on.”
There were no seats at the bar in the Yardhouse, so I lurked behind two seated men. It was a close game. One man pushed himself up and left. The other man patted the barstool.
“Wanna seat?” He said, looking at me.
“Is that other guy gone?” I asked, my gaze not faltering from the TV.
“Yah pretty sure he closed his tab,” He was in his late fifties, with an East-Coast accent.
I sat down warily.
“What’re you havin’? On me!” He leant in.
“Oh no, that’s ok.”
“Can I ask you something about AFL?” He had that American way of talking. Like he owned everything.
“Sure,” I said. I quickly sent a message to Nick: Hurry. Some creepy dude is talking to me.
“Here’s one for ya! Where are all the blacks?”
Finally my face tore from the screen. He looked me square in the eyes.
“Uhhh…” I muttered.
A hand grabbed my shoulder. I turned to see Nick’s broad smile.
“I ran,” he said, breathlessly.
I hugged him. The old man turned away sourly.
That night Nick told me about the biological mum that’d given him away for adoption.
“I think I’m actually gonna miss you,” I said, resting heavily on his chest.
“If you lived here, I would pursue you,” He said.
I nodded slowly, “I’d better go. It’s 3 am and you have work.”
He walked me back to the hotel soundlessly, along the canal that bordered one side of Waikiki, his arm rested across my shoulders.
Danny, Nick and I hung out at the beach everyday. Danny, I decided, would be the perfect match for my best friend back home. Engaged, witty and open-hearted. We drank cider (bought from Aunty) out of metal drink bottles to avoid getting caught, then we’d gorge on Mexican food.
On my last night, Nick and I ambled along, eating ice cream.
The maddening lights of Kalakauwa Avenue were speckling Nick’s tanned face. I stopped abruptly and dug my hand into my bag. Amongst the detritus I found two coins.
“Here,” I said blowing the dust off, “A memento. This little one is a five-cent coin.”
“And this one?” He asked, inspecting the thicker gold coin.
We continued walking, turning onto Kai’ulani Avenue, stopping at Aunty’s liquor store. I grabbed two cans of cider and took in the shop for the last time – engorged shelves, bric-a-brac, the fuzzy sound of a Korean TV show coming out of Aunty’s iPhone.
At the counter Aunty exclaimed, “Australia girl!”
I laughed and reached for my wallet. Nick slapped my hand away and grabbed the drinks.
Danny was asleep in the La-Z-Boy again, mouth lolling open.
“We don’t have to sit in the lounge-room and exchange cultural differences again, do we?” I whispered to Nick in the kitchen.
“Naw, we don’t have to do that.”
“Okay good, because…”
“Yah I know. It’s your last night,” he stared absently into the open fridge and exhaled heavily.
We cracked a can each, him looking me dead in the eye, and cheers’d.
I sat up plaintively in his bed. Next to me on the ground were four old cans of mine, mostly full, abandoned because each time I’d spun out from heat and alcohol.
Nick stood up suddenly.
He waggled an index finger at me and bit his lip.
He picked up a wooden box, the kind that people keep their important trinkets in.
“Ah!” Triumphantly he held up a jade rabbit, about the size of a matchbox. With a coy smile he handed it to me.
He held out another almost identical jade rabbit, as green as his eyes, “You have one, I have one!”
I closed my fingers around mine. It felt cool against my hot skin.
“Thank you,” I mumbled, fighting off the sting of tears.