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A Breath of the Past
(2 of 2)

     In an attempt to say something casual and amusing, I said I’d go with him rather than let the tickets go to waste. After all, there we were, two reluctant bachelors, needing a change of air desperately, so why not? Neal was not particularly receptive to the idea.

     Until a couple of days later. He phoned up and asked if I was serious about going. I said, “Sure!” I’d never been to Hawaii. He was one of my best friends. I wanted no part of my established cheery holiday rituals. I could keep an eye on him. Why not, indeed?

     So we came. Christmas, New Year’s, the works, for three weeks—away from it all—make a clean start for 1997. Well, it wasn’t that clean at the start. It took about a week for Neal to stop talking about Gail every minute. But slowly, surely, Kauai did its magic thing and we both began to feel happy, first in tiny patches, then for longer periods, and finally almost all the time. We visited all the places Neal had visited with Gail, then ventured out elsewhere and found some corners of the island they had missed. Before we were through, we’d logged some memorable rum and wasabi-drenched culinary adventures in excess to call our own.

     Two-and-a-half years have passed since my trip to Hanalei with Neal. We grieved and went on with life. He found someone new to share love with. I did, too. When it came time for Saundra and me to run away on a romantic holiday, I didn’t think twice. It had to be Kauai. But waiting till the last minute, the Hanalei house I’d shared with Neal was unavailable in July. I contacted a charming couple in San Jose through a magazine ad and found this sweet little Princeville condo.

     And so I find myself eating a perfect breakfast with my lovely young lady on a perfect day in paradise and suddenly Gail’s voice comes in out of the guest book to chat happily with us about the Na Pali Coast and the beautiful little niihau shells on Anini Beach and Waimea Canyon and the Dolphin Fish Market and how she’s looking forward to coming back again.

     A total surprise. Out of the blue. But after wiping my eyes and reliving the story as I tell it to Saundra, I think maybe the curious symmetry of it will serve to make our visit even better.

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First published in 1999.

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