The sun had just risen and was streaming in across the bed. The fragrant orange and white lei that Lennie had placed around my neck at the airport was hanging on the lampshade and I could feel the cool ocean breeze filtering through the jalousie windows with the promise of a warm day ahead. Outside I could hear someone in the yard. It was a strange monotone voice, as if it was someone in an institution that could not comprehend the world around them. Over and over the voice said flatly, “Richard?… Richard?” I got up from the bed and opened the window fully, but saw no one in the yard. The slightly insane sounding voice had immediately stopped when I went to the window. I gave it no more thought as I put on a robe and went looking for Lennie.
The smell of freshly brewing coffee led me to the kitchen, where Lennie was puttering around the freshly cleaned room. He too was wearing a robe that hung open across his chest and was tied loosely at his waist. He saw me staring and I was greeted with a huge grin. “You look nice in the morning.”, he said. “Some women have to have all their makeup on before they even step out the door. I like the way you look when you wake up. I think you’re beautiful Kathryn.” He quickly went on, “Wait ’till you taste the coffee, baby. Kona coffee – it’s the best in the world.” He poured us each a mug of the dark, rich coffee and then added some stevia to his own. “Come on outside and meet Nathan”, he said and I followed along.
Nathan was Lennie’s handyman and I liked him immediately. He was tall and slim and moved quickly. He had the depth of the ocean in his eyes and you could see the intelligence behind them. Nathan was one of those guys who could do anything. Lennie told me that he could build things, fix anything and that Lennie loved to just sit and have intellectual conversations with him. So, I offered him coffee and the 3 of us just sat there in the garage, conversing and watching the morning sky greet the day.
Besides painting, there was one other thing that I excelled at: cooking. I have the ability to make something delicious and nutritious out of almost anything. When Lennie sat down at the table he stared at the food and said, “I don’t want to eat it; it looks too beautiful.” But his stomach won out and he picked up his spoon. “Oh, baby, how did you make it taste so good?” It was just cut up papaya and mango, but I had grated some fresh ginger and mixed it in. Spices – they were the secret to all dishes, not matter how simple. The omelette had been filled with whatever vegetables that I had found in the fridge and now we were full and I was ready to go wherever Lennie wanted to take me.
We got into the Blazer and headed for Lennie’s favorite store. He said that he needed a couple of shirts as his were getting kind of worn looking. He had told me that his favorite store was ‘Salvay’ and we pulled into the parking lot of the Kailua Salvation Army.
“Want to see how I pick out a shirt?” I watched as he went to the extra large rack, closed his eyes and ran his fingers along the tops of the shirts. “When I find one that feels like silk”, he said, “I stop.”
“Can I pick out your shirts for you?”, I asked him.
“Kathryn, I would love it if you picked out all my clothes. A friend of mine told me to always buy black pants and shorts and never get horizontal stripes. That’s all I know. You should see the way I used to dress. Green pants with a blue checkered shirt. I didn’t know any better and no one helped me.”
“I would love to pick out your clothes for you and I can lay them out each morning, so you don’t have to try matching things, okay?”
“Deal.”, he said. We wandered around the store and I found 2 bright canary yellow mugs for one dollar each that would match the dishes in the house as all of the mugs that went with the set were either missing or broken except one. We left the Salvation Army with our treasures – 2 mugs and 2 new shirts for Lennie and got back into the Blazer. Our next stop was Don Quixote, the local supermarket that, besides food, sold souvenirs, liquor, bedding and household goods and just ‘stuff’ in general. It was an old store, full of everything that was Hawai’ian. Instead of the deli counter being filled with cold cuts of meat, it was filled with ‘poke’ – raw tuna, cut into little cubes, done in every imaginable kind of sauce and marinade that you could think of. Lennie asked the guy behind the counter to give me a piece of the ‘spicy ahi’, which was the Hawai’ian word for tuna. I wasn’t sure about the raw fish, but as soon as I put it in my mouth, I loved it. I don’t think that we ever tried many of the different types as we both loved this one. We had both found out that each of us tried to be as health conscious as possible. We loved many of the same foods – like our Fuji apples. I was a vegetarian and he didn’t eat very much meat and being raised Jewish, had never even tasted pork. This I was happy about. I loved to cook and he loved everything that I made for him.
We packed our groceries into the Blazer and drove back through Kailua town to the house. By now the sun was high so I decided to spend the afternoon unpacking. Lennie had cleared out a dresser for me and given me half the closet. Originally he had told me that I didn’t need to bring hardly anything with me, as I could get everything here. And his one request was not to bring any jeans. My favorite store back in Canada was also a thrift store and I had been able to find sarongs, shorts and sandals that people had obviously brought back from vacation and then abandoned. I managed to fill my allotted space.
“Hey, baby? Do you know how to get two days out of one?”
“By taking a nap. That way when you wake up, you feel more energized and can do more.” He went on to explain how one of his good friends was a well know health expert and had taught him that. So he went to have a nap. I had never done this before, so instead I went into the kitchen to see what I could make for lunch while Lennie napped.
When he awoke, lunch was on the table and as we ate Lennie said that it was Friday night and he couldn’t wait to go dancing with me. I couldn’t wait either. We both loved to dance. I had taken ballroom and latin dance lessons and Lennie was just a natural. He had about 25 different moves that had always made him a popular dance partner. So popular in fact that several years earlier, after leaving a very unhappy marriage, he had signed up as a dance partner on a cruise ship that went from Japan to Russia to Europe. He was considered one of the entertainment employees and therefore had the free roam of the ship when he was not dancing. The dancing on the ship only amounted to 45 minutes before and after lunch and 45 minutes before dinner. He had explained to me that there were far more women who went on cruises than men and they wanted someone to dance with.
When he came out of the shower Lennie found his clothes laid neatly on the bed for him to change into. I had put my hair up into a knot and was wearing a halter top with attached palazzo pants. I had sat out in the yard for a little while, so there was now a healthy glow to my skin. Lennie just stood there staring at me. “Oh my goodness. I never thought that I could be with someone that was so little and cute, cause I’m so big.”
“I’m not cute.”, I said flatly.
“You’re cute to me, especially when you’re standing next to me. I want you to start seeing yourself the way I see you Kathryn. I think that you have been hiding yourself for far too long.”
Driving to Honolulu was a beautiful twenty minute drive through the mountains and along winding stretches of road with forests on one side and cliffs overlooking towns and the distant ocean on the other. We passed through the area known as Nu’uanu where the different Embassies lined each side of the road, each one resplendent architecture, reflecting their own culture, but with distinct Hawai’ian and Asian touches. One of the things that Lennie had pointed out to me was that there were no signs along the highways and roads, other than the government markers for speed and routes, etc. There was no advertising, no billboards; nothing to mar the beauty of the natural landscape.
We were now driving down Kapiolani, one of the main streets through Honolulu on our way to the Ala Moana Hotel where the famous Rumors Nightclub is located. This had been Lennie’s Friday night haunt for the past seven years, where he had danced and sweated off the pounds, getting himself down from 325 pounds to a little over 250 now. He knew most of the regulars there and they knew him. The bouncer at the door let us straight in and I saw a nightclub that looked as if it was out of the 1980’s with its sunken dance floor, sleek, curving bars and neon lights.
“I had one of the best nights of my life tonight Len.”
” Every night form now on is going to be the best night of your life Ku’uipo. The drought is over.” Holding hands, we drove home through the darkness along the winding mountain roads, as Cecillio and Kapono sang ‘About You’ on the radio.