In Tripp’s 4 Runner I sat shotgun as he swerved in and out of Hilo’s lazy afternoon traffic. The contact lenses in my eyes were burning and the air from the open window made the little veins in them throb and pulse. Tears streaked down my face and it seemed all I could do was sit back and clamp my eyes shut. To have my eyes shut was to feel less pain.
“No fuckin’ fall asleep in dis car bra. Going miss everything,” Tripp warned as he passed the papaya root pipe. To him, hitting the pipe was as mandatory as staying awake, if not more so. He exhaled two lungs full of smoke into my face, smiled, and reached out the window to catch the humid breeze in his palm. This was Hilo, Hawaii.
“Going miss everything,” he said again.
Today the sun was a glob of marmalade rippling like a mirage over the Pacific. As simple as a pacifier, and as pacified as suicide. On days like this the town was quieter, like the beauty of it was so strong that it humbled its animals into silence. And somehow they all hated me less. Or they tried.
There was a war going on outside, I think, at least that’s what I was hearing. Either that or the downbeat of the reggae in Tripp’s 4 Runner was like grenades upon detonation. If you asked Tripp, he would have said it was both.
“Get coke in the back if need,” Tripp offered in an attempt to medicate my fast setting eyes. He told me he was just kidding, but he wasn’t. The coke was in the back to keep me from sleeping. In the center counsel was a fifth of Sauza. The pounding reggae and my setting acid eyes— and I could see with the steady approach of a storm cloud that soon we would be out of our minds.
Whether we were friends I was not sure. The longer I lived in Hawaii the less I knew where I was. Hilo was where I slept, where I daydreamt, but I struggled like the rest to swallow that this was not my home. I was neither happy nor sad, I never knew where I stood, just that the person to my left felt the burn just the same as I did. And that was all it took.
Then it was dark. At first I thought it was the storm cloud covering the sun, but once it had passed there was only the moon weeping over a tragedy it was witnessing or perhaps predicting.
In the center counsel the Sauza bottle was half empty. I reached for it and the tequila changed from clear to gold and back to clear. Tripp was staring at me, his hands completely off the wheel. I could feel the music in my heart but I couldn’t hear it. Tripp was grinning, grinning like a nightmare.
“Aloha,” he offered. “And how long will your visit with us be?”
His smile remained.
“It doesn’t really matter does it?” I asked unsettled.
“Mahalo,” he grinned.
I grabbed the bottle, swished it around, and turned it upside down into my mouth. I growled and passed it to Tripp, who poured it into his hair. The tequila oozed down his long black locks and shined like the sweat of a penny. Leaking from his eyes were white tears.
“Bra we are da pigs” he said. The liquid from his eyes became brighter like white magma. I looked for the moon.
We are da pigs. We are da pigs. We are da pigs.
I couldn’t tell if I was hearing thunder.
“This doesn’t feel right. It should be storming,” I said.
“And we don’t have no ivory. Just da heart.”
“Should I be driving?” I asked.
“Bra depends on how you like die.”
The storm was approaching— the kingdom of clouds shedding its initial feathery tears onto the 4 Runner, kissing the window and clinging to us. Tripp wiped his eyes.
“There is a war going on,” Tripp murmured. The song was Black Roses but something in Tripp’s tone told me he wasn’t talking about the music and the downbeats.
“Will it ever end? The war?” I asked.
“Depends on how you like die.”
We were doing ninety on highway 19, tearing up the Hamakua coast on the way to a party. The music was so beautiful, reminding us of a time that never once existed for either of us. A time that never could. The silhouettes of bending palm trees swiftly passed one after another and out of my sight.
Tripp turned to face me and his grin was wide and he was silent. I grabbed the tequila and he ripped it out of my hand and placed it back in the center counsel. His grin spread wider.
“Can offer you some complimentary passion juice?” he asked through his clenched teeth. “Some macadamia nuts?”
I rubbed my eyes and focused on the ignited tears brimming in his eyes. The car followed the bends of the road even though Tripp’s smile remained locked on me. We were approaching the Lapahoehoe gulch and beginning the sharp left turn.
“The road,” I said, “please.”
“Bending bra,” Tripp whispered. I watched the tequila accumulate in golden droplets at the bottom of his hair.
“Where are we going?” I asked. Tripp clenched his fists and teeth and the veins in his neck bulged. His cheeks inflated with furious breaths. He revved the engine, and down the hill of the gulch we accelerated. It was as though Tripp intended to drive straight into the cliffs at the bottom. I reached for one last drink but the Sauza was in his hand. The rain was pounding and I could feel Tripp staring at me, not the road, and there was nothing I could do about it.
“The makings of a war—” Tripp roared but was cut off by the collision.
Our journey had just been rattled by something in the road. We had crashed into something so huge our faces had smashed off of the dash and Tripp’s car was now in the opposite lane. Instead of the roaring engine and heart-thudding reggae, the air we breathed was now occupied by a dense silence.
Tripp tore off his shirt and ordered me to follow him while licking the blood off of his swollen lip. There was excitement in his tone. His sleeve tattoo glimmered in the moonlight like the ink of a seals eye, and then it floated off of his arm and began rising into the infinite painting of midnight. I watched it rise as slow as a feather's paradox and separate like smoke until it was one with the sky.
"That fucka musta been huge bra," he announced with a hurried walk.
The 4 Runner's engine was clicking as it cooled. In the distance were the high pitched croaks of lustful evening frogs. But I heard something else in front of the car. Something huge. Something breathing.
"Owning his terrain, bra."
"Who?" I asked.
"Fucka must have been in charge. This is his land."
I heard the struggled breathing of an ancient beast, snorting for air.
“Don’t you get it?”
I could only stare. Tripp pointed to the source of the breathing: a boar sprawled in a pile of its twisted robust limbs. Smoke rose from its snout which had been shredded by the front of the car. The smoke eventually spread into the sky and joined Tripp’s tattoo. I listened to the hog wheeze and gargle on its blood. One of its large bottom teeth had been chipped in half while the other dangled off its face, attached only by a few bleeding fibers. Its eyes were wide open, full of panic and we could tell it had something to say, something of pertinence but there was nothing it could do about that. The boar knew, and so did Tripp, that it was fighting a losing war.
“Was not supposed to be like this, ah?” Tripp said, not to me, but the dying pig.
Its hooves, large as human fists, clicked madly on the road. Its eyes darted to me and to Tripp and then back to me. The greasy hairs surrounding its eyelids were caked with blood. It heaved to survive.
“Gotta make it quick,” Tripp said, and the magma in his eyes had ignited again, this time streaming down his face. His voice was stern. And Tripp disappeared.