You’re all about proving me wrong, that laws are laws, facts are facts.
Fact: what’s keeping me down is not you, but gravity.
We leave the Ala Moana Mall—out into the shuffle of the parking lot. Shopping bags, swollen, swing from your wrists, not mine, because you enjoy feeling fettered by weight—how it tethers you to the ground.
Law: cars are required to stop for pedestrians, always, crosswalk or not.
You step out in front of one Chevy Blazer to show me it will brake, but its tires got stuck in their motion and—
Among the spread of candied ginger and pickled mango, you’re splayed—knocked down, grounded.
I visit you at the hospital, in the ICU, bring you your underwear, laundered, folded, pikake-scented. You say there’s nowhere better to be damaged than here—paradise.
But I want to know, off your feet, how do you feel?
You say, “It didn’t feel like church bells, baby—it didn’t feel like anything you could relate to. It felt like unexpected blink-of-an-eye fucking sucked away by some hailstorm—stones the size of footballs—you wouldn’t know. The world hasn’t mistreated you the way she’s mistreated me—plus, you were loved as a child.”
“But how do you feel?”
Standing between the intravenous stand and your hospital bed, I’ve got one finger twirling a strand of your hair, one finger twirling a strand of my hair, so if I wanted us to be we could be woven true, we could be, but I think you’re stupid.
“Only getting stupider,” you say, take a deep drink from your pineapple smoothie, then ask me to put you in a wheelchair, set you on Waikiki Beach.
You say, “I want you to watch—I want you to see how inevitable it is—how the universe will make it all up to me. The universe will surround me with hula girls, grass swaying over their tiny pinched hoo-has.”
“You don’t mean that,” I say. “You don’t want that—you mean to want that you aren’t dying—that’s what you mean to want.”
“I’m not dying,” you reply, flick my finger from your hair, rest your palm on the spot the nurses have shaved in preparation for the second operation, the second unhinging of your skull—third if you count the push of the Chevy Blazer and the hard hand of pavement that first opened your head.
And as your brain swells and your various blood clots shift upstream, the doctors say some things might not be the same—like memory and balance and lovemaking. Not that that’s important to us anymore—“born-again virgins,” we call ourselves. Except you know that I know you’ve been sleeping with your driver’s education students. And me, I’ve hired a live-in maid-man, a tall Sudanese refugee with biceps that swell up like a tsunami when he lifts me and sets me atop the new Whirlpool dryer.
Laundry days: after the maid and I strip the bed of its damp and wilted sheets, before the maid and I put them in the washer, the maid tells me about his before. How he watched as a wild dog ate his fallen balloon-bellied brother—how he spent weeks upon weeks running—callused feet pounding the dry and cracked desert—how he could not stop these feet of his—how his feet would not let him pause once—not even for food or drink—how his feet defied these laws of body, how his feet decided which facts of survival were primary facts and which were secondary.
Accidentally, he helps me to debunk your myths—the sea smoke dissipates. I see how the pain you claim is chosen, a selfish statement born of some twisted luxury, how facts are actually flexible and fluctuating.
You swallow what’s left of the pineapple pulp, say, “Mmm, yeah,” and run your tongue over your lips to drag in the last of the sweetness.
“Aren’t you so proud,” I say, and stand up from my dent in the hospital bed. I drag my heels across the linoleum, breathe in its risen bleach stink, get to the broad, clean window. I look down on the parking lots and tops of buildings. I look into the windows of resorts and wonder when Honolulu last looked like Honolulu—how hard it is to stay yourself.
You ask me what I see out there.
“Just a reflection.”
“You’re so self-absorbed,” you say. “It’s what we’ve always had in common.”
In the reflection I watch you lift up the skirt of your operating gown.
“They don’t let you wear underwear in this place,” you say.
With my front side still to the window, I lift my shirt, press my bare tits against the glass, hold them over the city for a moment, lower my shirt and readjust.
“Come over here,” you say, “come over here.”
“I’m in love with the maid,” I say.
“I know, but we can still pretend.”
“What for?” I ask, and really look at you—you in your broken entirety, pale fingers clasping a jar of Vaseline, an expectant quiet. I can tell your puffy brain is flipping through a Rolodex of key words and phrases that used to get me to bend over in whatever direction.
But now you’re too stupid to convince me of anything—now I know facts are facts, but only if we let them.
My gravity shilly-shallies, and I can feel Oahu begin her slow ascent from the Pacific’s brine.