Kauai, And

We went to Kauai and our hotel was backed up against a strip of wild ocean, where the dark ocean had heaved up an entire trunk of driftwood on its hardscrabble, sandy shore. We didn't know that right away, of course. We didn't know that in the evening we'd go down to the sea, find it too harsh, and sit on the shore listening to roaring waves, watching the sky and tracing constellations on your phone.

No. We went to Kauai, early and hungry, with dawn just brushing the sky with her rosy fingers, and picked up our rental car to find some quiet nook for breakfast. Against the shore, we ate—eggs, maybe, with toast—and watched a cruise ship, comically large, push its way towards a narrow strip of jetty in a bay already thick with floating surfers, slick and dark as seals.

We drove along a southern road where dry, barren hills rose up on our right hand and coffee plantations, hibiscus shrubs, and plumeria trees bloomed in friendly clusters on our left. Years later, you brought me a bag of coffee from that same plantation where we sampled cup after cup from piping-hot carafes, and I remembered dried beans roasting under a hot, high sun.

We went to Kauai and turned away from the coast, heading up into the hills where the valleys deepened and the landscape turned Martian. Walking over the raw, bloody-brown earth, our footprints sinking deep, pebbles skittering, it seemed impossible that anyone else had ever walked where we had. Waterfalls of green and white foam licked down the hills, and their water was icy and fresh.

We drove higher, singing, talking, listening, watching. Scrabbled through undergrowth where there was no formal overlook to stare into the Waimea Canyon, to toss stones, unable to hear where they hit—if they hit. We drove higher, looking down over another valley, and took pictures. Standing on a tree. Hanging from a branch. Smiling, laughing, posing. So many pictures, there under the blue skies and behind green leaves.

That night, we watched the stars, huddled in chairs a safe distance from the hungry ocean.

We went to Kauai and climbed into the back of a jeep, trundling over high, grassy hills, zipline harnesses knocking against our knees. Together we swung out over valleys—you were God and I was David—and that picture is awesome and perfect and was my desktop background for months.

We went to Kauai and, sitting side-by-side on a catamaran's front bench, breathing through snorkels, we rocketed up the Na Pali coast. Washed, sloshed, drowned, tailbone dented as the ship slapped the waves, I shivered and shuddered and was cold to my bones. But when we did stop, we emerged from our snorkels and breathed and the coast behind us was a movie backdrop, a CG landscape, and so, so beautiful.

Those valleys, our guides told us, had safeguarded some of the oldest colonies in the islands.

We struck away from the coast, over the roughest waters in the world, and made for a dot of an island on the cusp of the Pacific. Over a coral atoll where crown-of-thorns and endangered gray seals were wonderful and terrifying, we plunged over land's edge and the vast ocean opened beneath us, blue and blue and blue and black where light finally failed to reach. A void beneath us, and there was no fear. Only exhilaration.

We returned to Kauai, and you lay belly-down on the catamaran's nets, clinging as the boat plunged, trying to toss you off. I curled up on a narrow bench in the cabin, managing somehow to fall asleep while my shoulder, jammed under a table's edge, kept me from spilling onto the floor.

The ship's engine juddered to a stop, and a black triangle poked up from beneath the waves. A pilot whale's dorsal fin knifed through the water, visible for only a moment, before ducking under, lost.

We returned to Kauai, and a whale waved us goodbye.