August 22, 2017

COMING OF AGE IN HAWAII

On The Edge of SEX

POUNDERS BEACH

It’s 8th Grade Class Picnic Day. Our destination is the south shore, a kama’aina coastline known for shaved ice stands, manapua trucks, and old-timer restaurants like Pat’s at Punalu’u and the Crouching Lion. Barry, my big brother, rides behind me on a blue bus exiting the school parking lot. I turn around and say, “Pounders Beach or bust!” My brother winces. He shares his bench seat with Chuck Marsland, the DA’s son and Howdy Doody lookalike. Chuck has a transistor and listens to KKUA, a rock station beginning its Top 40 countdown. My bench mate is Cecily Mayne. She’s a track star with skin the color of koa and a river of auburn hair spilling down to her waist. She told our history teacher her birth country was Argentina and that English was her second language. She’s the only girl I know with pierced ears. This morning Cecily wears a green camisole over a white bikini and her lobes glisten with turtle shell studs. She shifts and her leg bumps mine. It’s the first time a girl has ever touched me.

We pass the Makapu’u Lighthouse and enter the jagged shadows thrown down by the cliffs. Chuck blares “Bad Moon Rising.” Pastor, the Filipino driver, spins his head. “Turn dat damn racket off!” Chuck lowers the volume and flips the bird. My brother laughs about how easy it was to tackle Wendell Westlake, a bruiser on a rival team. I know Barry’s laughter is a bluff. He’s secretly miserable. Low admission scores forced him to repeat and now he’s in my grade. Students think we’re twins but we look nothing alike. I have our hapa haole father’s thick nose and dark skin. Barry shares our Irish mother’s complexion and refined features. Dadio hates it that his son is repeating but doesn’t think he’s dumb. On the contrary, he believes he’s as smart or smarter than me and only needs good teachers to fire up his ambition and drive. “Proud Mary” plays on the transistor.

We make Laie by ten. Pastor pulls up beside a buff and blue tent and we all climb out. Barry accepts a challenge. Seems Cecily and her friends want to play football against the boys, on a ragged sand-and-crab-grass field beside the shore. “Touch?” I ask my brother. “Tackle,” he grins. The boys vote him captain. Barry decides on key positions, filling our front with the heavy guys and sticking the scrawny ones in the backfield. He tells me my job is rushing the quarterback.

Some of the challengers are cheerleaders, such as the brunette fox Evelyn Twigg-Smith. Most wear bikinis. I flash to Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne gyrating like love goddesses on Laugh In. Our girls give off the sexy aromas of coconut oil and Coppertone. Their skin glistens. Tops and bottoms have patterns of orchids, hibiscus, and torch ginger. Barry flips a dime into the sky. “Heads,” calls Evelyn. The girls win and want the ball. Mr. Meecham, our swim coach, accepts Evelyn’s invitation to referee. Chuck kicks off. Debbie Curley, a cropped blonde, fields the bouncing ball and returns it five yards before getting tripped by Brian Cody. Meecham places the ball near their goal. Barry crouches down opposite Ernette Cabrinha, a Portuguese girl. Ernette’s their center. Her thighs are thick and her woman-sized breasts make her top resemble a Band-Aid.

Lisa Yamashita, a Japanese girl in my English class, is their quarterback. Lisa always makes my heart leap, especially after she congratulated me for winning the short story contest. Her admiration makes me want to be a writer. Lisa’s got the best legs on campus and always wears micro skirts to show them off. Even the men teachers check her out. Today Lisa sports a black one-piece. Two blockers flank her: Debbie Curley and Lacy Johnson, the principal’s daughter.

Lisa calls out colors. Barry drops into a three-point stance, his right plant hand becoming a fist. I recognize a wildness in his eyes, the kind of anger that pushes him to punish the weak. It was the same wildness I saw when he strangled me in my crib. I crouch but avoid the three-point. “Blue!” calls Lisa. Ernette hikes the ball underhand. Lisa looks downfield while Barry bulls forward. Cecily runs out for a pass. I pretend to rush. So do most of the boys. We’re all floating in a sea of lust brushing against half-naked babes. Evelyn grabs my forearms with her small strong hands. I let her squeeze. My brother hustles into the backfield, knocking Debbie down. Lacy grunts trying to block him. Lisa fakes a throw and my brother leaps. Brian races toward Lisa but she sidesteps him and zips away. Barry catches up. He slams into her, his hit as ferocious as the ones uses to halt the fullback rambles of Kealoha “Big K” Williams. Evelyn releases me. Lisa drops beside a row of rubber slippers marking the sideline. She clutches her belly. Meecham jogs over and says, “Got da wind knocked outta you.” Teammates swarm their injured leader. Cecily glares at the boys. Evelyn says, “Fuck.”

Barry hides his hands in the pockets of his trunks. “They wanted to play,” he mutters. A few boys nod. Chuck rubs his face with both hands and laughs. His face turns beet-red. Most of my teammates rest their hands on their hips and keep their eyes fixed to the ground. I feel lousy. How could my big brother hit a girl like that? I pray for his transfer to another school or for him to get expelled for bad grades.

It takes Lisa time to recover. She finally accepts Evelyn’s outstretched hand and gets pulled to her feet. She wobbles into their huddle. They break and the ball is hiked. Lisa drops back to throw. Barry brutes forward, waving his hands like a madman. Lisa rolls right. I rush in. Cecily lowers a shoulder and drives it into my chest, sending me backwards. Our impact pops a breast over her top and she slips it back. I wrap my hands around her warm belly to contain her. Cecily presses hard into me as though we were dancing. She spins and escapes. “Pass!” says Brian. I spot a shadow the size of a bird sailing over the field and Cecily reaching up. She snags the pigskin and weaves through would-be tacklers, her koa thighs flexing. Meecham signals “touchdown” and her teammates go pupule. I know scoring first will be something these girls never forget. They charge past us and celebrate on our end of the field.

The boys, including my brother and me, gather at mid-field. It’s noon and the day turns hot. Brian spits. “Shit on us,” Chuck cusses. We stand numb in silence as the waves pound the shore mercilessly.

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