The Hawaiian Lady

She came down the corridor of the plane, her eyes scanning the seat numbers. She stepped closer and closer into the economy class section until finally she stopped in front of my row. She was wearing a green floral print blouse with khaki Bermuda shorts. The wrinkles on her face, especially around the mouth and eyes told me that she was well past the prime of her life. Her shoulder length hair, tinted a faded red, rested around her face with several rebellious strands standing. With her thin arms she grabbed her biggest carry-on and hauled it into the cubby above our seats.

I watched her as she turned to me and opened her mouth to form the words, “Do you mind if I sit here?” I glanced down to where she was pointing and saw my duffel bag sitting on  her spot—23C. With a friendly smile I moved my duffel bag from her seat, “Of course not.”

For a while we sat in silence waiting for the plane to take off. Every time my eyes caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window she seemed lost in her thoughts, her eyes fixated on one spot at the seat before her. I was afraid to interrupt but the awkward silence combined with my curiosity took a hold of me. “What brings you to Ecuador?” I said.  She then looked at me and replied, “I’m going to the Galapagos islands.” My eyebrows raised; Charles Darwin, old with a comical beard, riding an abnormally large turtle crawled across my mind’s eye. The image scattered as she continued, “I just need one more flight.”

She then explained to me that she had been traveling the whole day since four o’clock in the morning. She had started off in San Diego, landed in Los Angeles, took a flight to Miami, and now was on her way to Ecuador, where she would spend the night only to take off in the morning on a small plane to the Galapagos Islands.

“How come you’re going alone?” I asked.

I seemed to have touched a sensitive subject for she chuckled nervously and said, “I can’t wait on anybody anymore.” She seemed to be referring to a man in her life. Later she revealed that her ex-husband and she divorced three years back and she had been alone ever since.

Our conversation stalled as the plan began to move slowly, then rapidly. We fell into silence anticipating the take-off. Personally the take-off is my favorite part, but when I looked over at the lady sitting in 23C she had her head up facing the ceiling with her eyes shut. Once the earth tilted and the horizon was straight again, she asked me about myself. I told her the same old same old: that my name is Edysmar, fifteen years old, in high school, and visiting family in Ecuador. I quickly changed the subject by asking her more about herself. She began to loosen up and told me, to my surprise, that she was born in Hawaii. I pictured the stereotypical bronze-skinned woman in a grass skirt, but the image in my mind differed greatly from the Caucasian woman sitting next to me.

“Can you hula dance?” I asked.

She smiled and began to move her hands smoothly and delicately in waves. She looked peaceful while doing it; the muscles in her face relaxed and she smiled with her eyes closed in reminiscence. I asked her to teach me, then the half-hour lesson began.

While I was practicing the hand movements of the hula dance, she described to me the state of the world in her youth. She spoke of the wardrobe, the scandalous music, and gave depth to the history of our world. I listened in awe.  The world was so different then and I felt cheated by time. Certainly, I was born in the wrong year. I thought about the 60s, 70s, and the 90s and began to feel nostalgic for an era I never go to see. I enviously told the Hawaiian woman, “I wish I was born in your time.” She merely looked at me through her glasses and said, “Oh dear, your generation is not as bad as you think; you just have to keep your eyes open.”

With that, I fell into silence for the next hour.

The terrain of Ecuador began to show underneath as reminder that the flight was coming to an end. I had fallen asleep and had woken up with the woman still next to me.  Some small talk took place but I still couldn’t shake off what she had said to me before. The plane touched the ground and then came to a stop. Then the slow process of getting off the plane began. We hadn’t said our good-byes yet because all the passengers had to walk in the same direction, but when I caught a glimpse of my family I turned around and waved good-bye to the woman I had spent the last few hours with. She smiled and waved back. Then we set off into different directions. However, her words kept ringing in my ears, even to this day. I still feel cheated by whatever force is behind my great mishaps, but I now keep my eyes open to absorb the beauties of my era for when the time comes I’ll be able to share some wisdom to the youth when I am well past the prime of my life too.

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