'Iokepa and I have spent the last week in the Florida home of a bright, sweet, and talented young man. ("Young," now defined, as somewhere between the ages of our four children.) He was a stranger, and he opened his home to us.
He was, we discovered, in those intense, blazing, first moments of a romantic relationship with his counterpart--a lovely young (to us) woman.
Watching them; overhearing them (the house was not that big); witnessing: The rush of affection, the insistent phone calls, the all-night giggles, the mid-day rendezvous, the crammed work and play schedules--how could we not remember?
We were not young when we were swept by the universe off our respective feet. But we were swept nonetheless. We remember well, the intensity, the uncertainty, the passion, the sleepless nights. We remember those feared impossibilities: "Do you know how unlikely we are?" And the antithetical certainty that they could be overcome. "Do you intimidate a lot of men?" We remember.
It has been more than eleven years since a brief Christmas vacation to Hawai'i tipped my carefully organized and orchestrated life back on its heels.
He was a the strangest of strangers, this 'Iokepa Hanalei 'Imaikalani: Hawaiian to my Jewish; physical to my life of the mind; a man who, for goodness sake, talked to his long-dead Grandmothers.
But the attraction was immediate--undeniable. Andwe recognized the symptoms in the couple we shared the house with this week.
I spoke. "Ahh, the courting dance....
'Iokepa spoke. "Courting rituals--like the whales and the birds--are only that. Just because you court, does not mean that you mate. Obviously--there were three other men lined up for you."
I had forgotten. The night before our destined, sunrise meeting at an ancient Hawaiian temple, the woman I'd shared the B&B with on that long ago vacation, had lined up a bevy of eligible bachelors. 'Iokepa upended her unspoken plans.
"For us at that time," 'Iokepa remembered, "It was a pure emotional process. We didn't know if it was going to stick. We had no commitment. We were just absorbing the feelings.
"But now," he said, "I have down what you like and what you don't like; what is pleasing to your eyes and your ears; what fills your soul.
"And, yes, the road here can be pretty lumpy."
I sighed, and looked at the courting couple.
"I wouldn't return to those weeks for anything! And I don't just mean all that came after that I couldn't foresee: The ten years sleeping in tents and car seats--going hungry."
"No," 'Iokepa answered quickly. "But I wouldn't trade them for anything either."