Tuesday, December 2, 2014

At the End of the Rainbow (Part 1)

Dorothy Okamura wouldn’t budge from her studio apartment on the third floor of a modest highrise on Kanunu Street. She had lived there since the sixties and had grown attached to the place for different reasons. Obviously she had been there much of her life, but she also had fond memories of the building and the room, and most importantly she felt she had grown old and any changes wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Her young life had been a series of moves—as had her parents’ lives before her—and nowadays Dorothy made it her business to keep things as regular as possible. In an effort to do this, she marked a routine on her calendar and stuck to it.
On Fridays she attended free classes around the corner at the senior center from a neighborhood Kumu Hula. She had lots of hula sisters and each class was a small potluck where everyone brought a snack or drink and on break they gossiped about rumors they heard since last they all met. On Saturdays she cleaned her apartment. She lifted every knick-knack, picture frame, rug, candle, and decoration, dusting carefully underneath or behind it. She washed every dish and eating and serving utensil by hand. By the end of the day the breeze from her jalousies brought in enough dust and dirt to undo her efforts and she knew it, but she still felt satisfied after finishing her chores. On Sundays a bus from the mission picked her up and took her to the mission so she could meditate. She knew everyone who went on Sundays and after sitting before the altar, she chatted with them. On Mondays she practiced a hobby. Mondays were good days for that because she had just been to the mission the day before and she could ask the monks or her mission friends for helpful hints on whatever her current interest was. For a while, it was ikebana. After a few years, however, she got frustrated with her lack of improvement and gave up. She then decided to practice origami since that was less expensive and, she felt, easier. Origami began to bore her too, so she considered learning how to become skilled at stringing leis. On Tuesdays she went to the movies. She knew it was naughty, but she liked to pay for an early movie and stay all day to watch as many movies as she could. Although she had once been caught, she didn’t feel too bad about sneaking multiple shows because the neighborhood theater she included in her weekly routine wasn’t the theater she used to go to, which closed down decades ago. She felt somehow this new, ultra-modern theater was responsible and therefore owed her something extra.
On Wednesdays her son Daniel came at eight to pick her up in his white Toyota for her doctor’s appointments. He did this because if he didn’t she would take the bus and he felt she was getting too old to ride a crowded bus full of rowdy kids, tourists, and weirdos. Daniel felt differently about his mother’s situation than she did. He was uncomfortable with the idea of her living by herself from the beginning, although his home in Pearl City was already full with his own family and he made it clear there wasn’t room enough for her. His worrying made him a real nuisance. He was like a flea nibbling at her ear, pestering her to leave her apartment for someplace better and safer and all she would have to do is push a button and someone would be there, someone who didn’t have to drive a half-hour from Pearl City. Dorothy loved her son but she often dreaded Wednesdays with him because each week was a renewed attempt at convincing her to leave her apartment and move to a home for the elderly on the other side of the island.
“Mom,” he’d plead as soon as they pulled out of the parking lot, “town isn’t safe anymore. I’ve seen fights right outside your window, even in broad daylight, and your building backs up to housing projects—”
“Yes Daniel,” she acknowledged, “but there is a fence!” The muscles in her face tightened, lifting her flabby jowls like a bloodhound that has scented her prey. She cracked a small tilted smile, eyeing him through her oversized, plastic glasses as if she had just convinced a child to eat his vegetables.
“Of course there’s a fence, but—mom, you know that’s not the point. The point is—“
“And the Daiei is right over there. Close supermarket.”
“It’s not the Daiei anymore mom but I don’t see—”
“And Walmart! Now we have Walmart, can get anything I need, no need take the bus!”
“Mom, but think about your safety, and your health. The doctor—“
“Why, you no like Dr. Okada? Been see him for years now.”
“I like him fine, but you’re changing the subject. There are doctors on the North Shore too.” He fumbled at the console and removed a yellow and red brochure, waving it in the air as he spoke. “Besides,” he said, raising his voice, “this place is…it’s broken down. It’s ugly. It’s not the same as before, whether that’s what you want or not. It’s not someplace you deserve to live. Do you think I want you to live all the way on the North Shore, away from the place I grew up? Of course I don’t! But it’s not good for people your age to live here now if you can avoid it, because things are different now. Do you know what I read in the newspaper the other day? Someone got stabbed—during the day—just a couple blocks from you. Why? Who knows! What I do know is that I never want that to happen to you, for you to walk into an argument between two crazy people and be hurt or killed. I know I’ve shown you this brochure a thousand times, but I’m asking you to consider coming with me to visit. This place I picked out for you —Anuenue—doesn’t that sound like a place you’d want to be? I know I would want to be there! You’ll change your mind when you see it and feel what it’s like there. This place really lives up to its name and I think it’s what you deserve, mom.”
Dorothy was moved by what her son said but she remained quiet for the rest of the ride to the doctor’s office. Daniel rolled his eyes at his mother’s stubborn reticence, compulsively adjusting his glasses in frustration.

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