I drive through downtown Lahaina; Front Street is what it's known as. My windows tinted and rolled up, air conditioning blasting. Tourists mixed with locals fill the sidewalks. I see a couple about to cross the street, wait, no they’re not, yes they are, no, they’re waiting now to let me go, so I slow and wave my hand. They pause.
“Move, you stupid fucks!”
Finally they walk across, one holding the other, as if it’s dangerous around one in the afternoon, sun glistening on the water, with two other island, post-carding in the distance.
“Where’s my thank you?”
Not even a goddamn thank you. They weren’t from around here. I drive through the intersection and in my rearview I see lights flashing.
I pull to the side and a cop rolls and slows, we roll down our windows.
“You went bra, on the green turn, but you go straight.”
“Oh, sorry, didn’t even notice”
“Just try to pay attention.”
He drives away in front of me and I continue on.
Is it a sign I didn’t get pulled over? Does it mean life will be better now? There are no signs. When I was twenty years younger, everything was a sign. I was “spiritual.” I tried once to live off things I would find growing in the wild. Have you ever had a dandelion salad?
I live in Maui, Hawaii. To some it’s a place they will look forward to vacationing at. They will put their forty hours in, week in and week out. They’ll prepare six to twelve months in advance, and as they get closer to their departure, they’ll surf the web on things to do, places to see, history and folklore, what’s the weather like right now.
For me it was my home. It’s what I wake up to everyday.
I have a small humble condo that has a spectacular ocean view. I wake up in the middle of the night and listen to the ocean waves. It’s only at that time when you can hear them, when the traffic has ceased, the day is asleep and the night quiets everything down.
Recently, I’ve lost my vision for Hawaii. I’ve been taking it for granted. I know this because things gather dust to remind me. My surfboard is used as a table on the patio or lanais as it’s called here. I pick at the old wax that has hardened against the board. The board my feet used to dance on when the waves were nice and glassy and I would be out with my friends surfing in the sun, talking about nothing important and meaning every word of it. The sun softens the wax and I use my beer cap to write my name in my board, Chuck was here “R.I.P.” Then the night comes and cools the wax and I use my beer cap to chip away at my name and imagine what it would be like to be a sculptor.
What would it be like...?
There are no more signs, and it wouldn’t matter even if there were. I take the island’s beauty for granted because I want more. I want more meaning in all of it. I want my life to mean something again.
I decided to get up extra early the morning of my accident. It was one thirty in the afternoon and the Monday game didn't come on until about three thirty, so I was heading up to the store trying to decide on a six or twelve pack, when I saw something across the street. I should tell you, if you haven't assumed, that I'm extremely lazy. I won’t even bend over to pick up a dollar, plus it’s embarrassing, what am I a bum? So for me to be intrigued enough to pass the store, stand on the corner, wait for the light to turn green, and cross the street, it’s a huge feat, and therefore it must of been something really amazing. But it wasn’t.
I mean to me it was, but I think for most people it wouldn’t be. I crossed the street and moved closer to what I thought would be the answer to all my queries in life.
What do we look for? What is it that moves us?
Is it a feeling, a comfort that we seek? Remodeling our homes, upgrading to nicer and nicer cars, better beds and better partners to go in the beds. Even if we live well below our means, is that just the comfort of knowing we can handle our financial load, as opposed to always needing to make more?
Now I could see my prize in plain sight it was clear. I started to run towards it, arms open like a lost lover being reconnected, and I stopped right in front of it and read:
FUTURE SITE OF MAUI'S FIRST DEL TACO
My eyes crinkled and a smile grew, a genuine smile. I thought of all the nights in high school, weekend nights, around two AM, stopping for a late night snack before stumbling home, but it went beyond that.
When I was only five or six, I lived on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, California. My mom was raising me by herself. One of her jobs was with Del Taco, and one of her tasks was to go to some of the different locations and try out the food, to test consistency or whatever, who cares, it was a Del Taco marathon once a week. We would drive around in her yellow Volkswagen bug and go through the drive thru. I eventually ended up each time curled in the back seat fast asleep, barely clenching a “half full” coke with the left over abundance of French fries lying on the floor. I remember Pink Floyd’s “Another brick in the wall” would be on a lot, the kids’ part would scare me when they all sang together. Or Steely Dan, and Fleetwood Mac, or Joni Mitchell.
This was big news. I felt invigorated. I was going to run home. I was going to run because running was healthy, and I was going to be healthy, I was not going to stop at the store, I was not going to watch the game or make bets. I was going to go home, no, run home and write out a list of goals. I was going to surf more. I was going to spend more time at the beach. I was going to do whatever, something other than what I had been doing.
I started running, and man I was moving. I didn't go back across the street the way I came; I was going along a dirt path that ran adjacent to the highway. The dirt path was running and I was running, maybe I would be a runner. “Shut up brain, no time for you,” and I ran past all these beautiful bushes I've never even seen before. I ran by a school that seemed hidden behind a bunch of trees. Maybe it's a school for the occult, or some kind of... “Brain, I mean it, shut up!” I was going downhill and just letting it all hang out, I picked up my feet, and let gravity pull me down the hill faster than I could do by myself. Gravity and I were working as a team. My hand flying from side to side and back and forth, I looked like someone getting attacked by a bunch of bees.
But it was the most fun I've had in a while. Why don't I have more fun like this?
Why is it so hard to have a little fun? Look where I live: I could see the ocean, the hilltops, the homes, the trees, the bushes, the clouds, the other islands, and it looked fresh, it looked so beautiful, but it was always there, “but you're not!”
“Brain, I mean it, SHUT UP!!!”
“You shut up!”
I felt like I was floating, maybe because I was running so fast when I jumped over the stream at the bottom of the hill. Maybe it was because I never felt myself land.
I woke up. It was dark, the air was cool, and I thought I was in bed. There were a lot of things making me uncomfortable. Things were poking at all parts of my body. I lifted my head and felt a rush of pain to my face. Then it left. I kept trying to open my eyes but I couldn’t. I felt a hand touch mine, I was frightened, like having a nightmare, or I can't even think right! What am I trying to say: I didn’t know where I was.
The poking went away, I had a dream of eating Del Taco with my girlfriend and trying to explain to her that the beef tacos were vegetarian. Someone was talking and there were beeping sounds.
I spoke. “I get it -- I'm in a hospital”
All I heard were voices, most of them crying, some familiar and others not. My mom was saying, “I’m here, I’m here.”
My girlfriend was holding my hand. I think it was my girlfriend. “Danielle?”
“Yes, it’s me, I love you so much”
Yep, that’s my girlfriend. “All right, so what’s going on? I can’t open my eyes!”
There was silence.
My brain chimed in, “You’re about to see the world in a whole new way, Chucky boy."
Brain, I’m warning you...
The crying started again.
I reached to my face. I thought there were bandages or something on it, and I tried to pull at them.
“What’s he doing, what are you doing, what is he doing?!?”
“I’m getting these things off my face.”
A man spoke.
“Mr. Racine, there is nothing on your face.”
“Then why can’t I open my eyes?”
“They are open.”
Can you enjoy everything? I mean is there a way to really embrace all that is out there, every minute, every breath we take?
I used to laugh at the ones that would dance at concerts, look how foolish they are, or those who sang Karaoke; you'll never catch me doing that.
People who dressed up for Halloween, or sang at open-mike nights, people who took pictures, you know, cheesy pictures.
I never realized until lately, that everybody has their own Del Taco.
I try to remember light, color, and shades of anything. I spend most of my time trying to describe light and color to people and children who have never seen it before. Who were born without the gift of sight. The strongest images I have -- that I remember -- are of two people, the old couple that were trying to cross the street. I remember their matching shirts with aloha print, blue and green with yellow hibiscus, he had socks on, but they weren’t white, more like beige, they really stood out being strangled by his black sandals. She had bright pink Crocs on. I hated crocs, but I would do anything to see one now. Even as I write this I don’t really know what pink is any more, a shade of red maybe. Then I remember the flashing lights behind me, red and blue, the cop’s brown face and black uniform with yellow trim.
I thought it was frustrating to wait for two people, here on vacation. Two people taking their time to cross the street, because for them, they’d waited six months to come out to Hawaii. Sitting day in and day out at an office pushing papers for forty hours a week, for them, they had time to wait to cross the street, to them, what’s the fucking rush.
What is frustrating is trying to open your eyes, when THEY ARE FUCKING OPEN!
FUCKING DEL TACO, THANKS MOM.