Monday, December 5, 2022

Eruption conversations



Across from me at Gate E5 was a local couple of a certain age (likely mine adjacent) who looked worn and unhappy. The man, a braided gray pony tail running down his back, brought a large plate lunch to eat with his wife, whose broad face was framed by glasses and slightly off-color hair. They just wanted to get home to Hilo, they said. Then: she had worked the night shift on O`ahu for years, hates O`ahu (her voice would get softer when she said, "people have such _attitude_"). And the traffic, the road rage. It wasn't really worth seeing the eruptions; better to watch on tv. Not much to being there, really, except to be cold.

When he'd lived in Makaha, he'd worked in Waikiki; got there on the bus. It took hours. Then they moved to Wahiawa; he worked for Enterprise Rental Car at the airport before he retired in 2014. They'd bought a couple of acres in HPP, and moved there. They didn't like O`ahu, would never live there again. "Two days max for me now," he said.

A delay was announced. The airplane from Kona had arrived late. "I just want to get home," she said. She didn't like O`ahu. Our Southwest numbers were next to one another, so we got on the plane together, finally, and they gave me the window seat, which I'd mentioned wanting a few times. She really just wanted to get home, she said from the middle seat, which she didn't mind.

We got to the reef runway, about to take off, get her home, when the pilot, a woman with a slight German accent, came on to say there was an indicator on that meant we couldn't take off, would have to return to the gate. Getting back to the gate meant meandering from runway to runway, letting other planes land, and finally re-arriving at Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The German woman came on and talked a long time before saying we were not getting off, the fix would be quick, and we'd be on our way.

Sounded like a light bulb needed replacing. At least that's what my pony tailed friend laughed about sardonically. The man in front of me, who had held a baby curious to lower the shade until he lost patience (he had none, truly) and thrust her at the woman seated beside him. He emitted a torrent of quiet "fuck's," and then fell asleep. When awake, he was unkind. When asleep, no doubt he was consistent.

The woman next to me really wanted to get home to Hilo. The captain said the issue was fixed, but now there was paperwork to do. 

We pushed back again. We taxied to the runway. We took off. The captain said we would be 1000% safe. Over Maui, I caught sight of Mauna Loa's plume! "I just want to get home, slip in my pajamas, and watch my show at 6," my neighbor said.

By 4 a.m. I was standing beside the Pohakaloa viewing road, gazing on Mauna Loa's fountain, its lava flows, the red radiance of the clouds against the black lava, night. To my right the full moon. One cloud, holding still beside the fountain, was white on its right side, black on its left. I could hear two women coming down the road. "She doesn't want to have sex with him, but she goes to Monterey with him on weekends. Sad. She doesn't even like his company." The woman's parents were upset when she'd split with the "such a nice man." A few minutes later, they came back down the road the other way, now talking about cars. The non-talking woman stopped to take photos of the flow. They nestled together for a selfie. "Touch your face! Touch your face!" the talker said. "So it focuses on you." Then back to the car conversation and into the night they ambled. Coming toward them, and me, and us, a long line of headlights.

I drove up Mauna Kea Access Road, found a vantage point from which to see the flow from a higher angle. Muttering of voices, smell of pakalolo. A Spaniard arrived, said that earlier you couldn't see anything, but he'd set his alarm for 6 and here we were! The sun rose. I drove down the mountain, stopping to see offerings left by Mauna Kea protectors, some of whom still had a campsite down by Saddle Road. HAWAII IS NOT PART OF AMERICA one installation read.


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