What If There Is a Hidden World
That We Can’t See?
by Eleanor Lerman
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2,
3, 4, 5, 6, 7
We paid for our drinks and wandered out into the warm summer night. We were going to have to take a bus home so we started walking to the nearest stop, which was about two blocks away. But as it turned out, we didn’t get very far.
In fact, we had just reached the corner when we were surrounded by a group of young men, half a dozen of them, hardly out of their teens. They were dressed in t-shirts and baggy shorts; two of them, both blondes, wore their hair in dreadlocks.
“Hey, bra,” one of them said, addressing Bobby. “What you doing up here? This be our beach. Our street.”
“Huh?” Bobby said. It seemed to take him forever to focus on what was happening. But he finally seemed to register that someone was talking to him. “Okay, okay,” he said. “We were just at the bar and now we’re headed home.”
“You don’t go to our bar. You don’t surf our beach.”
“Who’s surfing?” Bobby said. He was still so blitzed that he actually looked down to check what he was wearing: no wet suit, no surf shorts. “We were just drinking.”
“What’s the matter,” one of the other boys said in an exaggerated, whiny voice. “Missed the last party bus home to faggitville?”
“What?” Bobby said.
I got it, though. “We’re not from Brooklyn,” I said. “We live down the beach. Edgemere.”
“The hell you do,” the boy challenged me.
“Just leave us alone,” I said. “Peace, love, all that.”
One of the blondes walked up to Bobby and chest-bumped him, hard. Bobby took a step back.
“So you’re gonna let a chick defend you?” he said.
“Against what?” Bobby said. “You want to fight? I’m a little under the weather here.”
“Faggit,” the blonde said, as if that word hadn’t already been used enough.
“Whatever,” Bobby said. “I’m un-insultable.” Then he turned to me. “Too bad Jack’s gone. I could ask him if that’s the right word.”
Maybe it was the mention of Jack’s name — the non-name, non-existent, made-up-for-our-benefit though who-knew-why name — but all of a sudden, I felt as if something had shifted. My mind, my breath, my vision, I couldn’t have said what, exactly, but something. Something shifted to a level of awareness — hyperawareness — that was new to me.
Suddenly, information was coming at me from all sides, from different levels; pieces of images, words overheard, gestures seen from the corner of my eye. Suddenly, I realized that I had seen the blondes at the bar, where they had been sitting in a far corner.
I remembered them making the shaka sign — a shaken fist, with the pinkie and thumb raised — when someone they meant to greet had walked into the bar. I flashed on a thought about Jack trying to fit in and the Hawaiian slang he’d used, which one of these boys had used, as well: bra, braddah.
I also remembered overhearing something when I was working on the food truck: two of the DFDers had been telling each other not to come to this neighborhood, because the surfers around here were nuts about protecting their wave breaks, their turf. And I remembered something else as well, from far back in my memory banks.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I said. “You’re the Shaka Surf Club. I remember all the Hawaiian crap. When we were in high school, we used to compete against you guys. Or your fathers, I guess. They went to North Peninsula High School up here, right? We belonged to the Edgemere Surf Club.”
“A club?” One of the boys stepped out of the circle surrounding us and nearly spat at me. “We’re not a goddamn baby club. We’re the Shaka Posse.”
“Fantastic,” I said. “You’re a gang. So I guess we have those on the East Coast now, not just in Cali. Or on the Big Island.”
“What big island?” the blonde said.
Nobody explained it to him. I just took Bobby’s arm and started pulling him along. “Come on,” I said to him. “I see the bus.”
Now, two boys stepped in front of me; the pair included the other blonde with the long dreadlocks. He was actually an impressive-looking kid; tall, toned, handsome. But he had scared up a threatening expression to put on his face that was intended to frighten me, maybe even make me cry.
And some other night, it might have. Some other night, all my bad feelings about myself, my failures, my aging body and brain, my disconnection from what I thought of as the mainstream of life, which I had tried so hard to be part of, all of this would have led me to the conclusion that these boys represented just one more bad thing that was going to happen to me, one more helpless moment when I couldn’t change the course of events, all of which were going the wrong way.
But this wasn’t some other night. This was now — the shift had taken place — and I was feeling differently. Better, maybe. Cut off from some things, yes, but connected, now, to others. Or at least aware of them. Aware of new possibilities, different ones. The older you get the more you see. Well, maybe so. I took a deep breath, a new one. Okay, Jack, I thought, let’s give it a try.
I leaned forward and put my face right in front of the boy with the blonde dreads. And then, pronouncing the word with as round and deep a sound as I could draw out of myself, I said, “Boo.”
The boy nearly jumped back. “What the...?”
“Boo,” I said again.
“You think we’re joking with you?” the boy said. Then he addressed Bobby. “She’s totally bent, your old lady.”
“Not my old lady but yup, she sure is. Lolo,” he added, trying out some slang himself. “And lots of people seem to know it all kinds of places. Believe me, you’re not the first. Just tonight...”
I pulled at Bobby’s arm again, since he seemed to be getting ready to tell the Shaka Posse a whole, long, complicated story they were not going to be interested in. In fact, I could imagine how they would cut him off. But that wasn’t going to happen because the bus, carrying light within it and people, passengers, was just crossing the intersection up ahead and would be pulling to a stop in a few moments. Everyone on the bus could see us; it wasn’t the ideal time to start a fight.
Still, the boys kept a tight ring around us for another moment or two, but when we pushed past them, they let us go, and we made it onto the bus. Even though it was late, I wasn’t surprised to find that it was crowded; the bus followed a route to and from the airport, which meant it conveyed the same type of workers I usually traveled with — food handlers, cleaning service staff — back and forth to their overnight shifts.
“So,” Bobby said as the bus started up again. “the Shaka Surf Club, huh? Did we really compete against them? I don’t remember.”
“Yeah, a couple of times. The schools organized a contest.”
“Did we win?”
“Are you kidding?” I said. “We were terrible.”
“Well, maybe then,” Bobby replied. “But I’ve improved.”
He had improved, I decided, in more ways than his ability to carve a wave. The thought made me smile, and Bobby took notice.
“Oh, good,” he said. “It’s you again.”
“What do you mean? You were the one who was acting like an idiot back there.”
“Those kids weren’t going to do anything. But really, Chris... Boo?”
I shrugged. “I figured I might as well try it out. See how it felt.”
“And like fake-Jack said, it didn’t feel right. I mean, it had the right effect but still... It didn’t work for me. I’m not a ghost yet.”
Before we could explore our theories about Jack — if either of us had any — we were interrupted by a quick buzz from Bobby’s phone. He pulled it out of his pocket, tapped the screen a couple of times and then handed it to me. “Look at that,” he said, showing me an alert he’d just received from one of the web sites he was always checking that monitored local conditions for surfers in the northeast. “That storm front everyone thought wouldn’t do a thing took a turn towards us, it looks like it’s going to nuzzle up to the coast for a while. That means we should have some real action tomorrow. Maybe I’ll take the day off and just boogie on down to the beach.”
“You’re going to boogie?”
“Again not the right word, huh?” He laughed, because he had meant that as a joke. Another Jack joke. “Wrong decade?”
“Wrong century, dude.”
“Still, I might. I might boogie a little. Just because I can.”
“So can I ask why you seem to be in such a good mood all of a sudden?”
“Because no matter how old and decrepit I get — and did I thank you for reminding me? — I’m always in a good mood when surf’s up. You just don’t notice that enough.”
“Okay,” I said. “That may be true.”
Bobby leaned over to rest his head against the window and closed his eyes. Before he had a chance to nod off, I had something else to say to him. “So maybe I’ll go with you tomorrow.”
“Sure,” he replied. “Nice day to hang out.”
“No,” I said. “I mean, maybe I’ll go surfing.”
He kept his eyes closed, so maybe he didn’t know he was smiling, but he was. “Oh really? So may I ask why you’re in such a good mood all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s been a strange night.”
“And that makes you happy?”
“Well, it doesn’t make me feel bad,” I told him, which was another good change for me. Enough of a change to want to get back in the water and say hello myself. Hello because I was still here, still alive, still looking around. And I figured it was possible that, if I kept looking, one of the things I might find was that surf’s up all over the universe. At least some times, for some of us. Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought, if one of them is me?
Copyright © 2015 by Eleanor Lerman
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