lapsed, relapsed

21.3114° N, 157.7964° W



What do I know of relapse? in terms of love, relationships, and always returning. What do I know of overdosing? as equated to drowning; submerged; too far gone. What do I know about any of this? as if in my 22 years I have come to know something of substance, abuse, narcotics. As if I may have come to understand anything about loss; about loosing; or about letting go.

The year after I was born, the year our father died, 1992, there was a hurricane. Hurricane Iniki. We lost our home, which happened to be a 72’ foot Schooner, Crystal Anna. She splintered on shore; but Gemini, our 64’ foot Catamaran, didn’t. Chaos, and amidst this chaos, you, my big brother Chimo, were left alone on the catamaran; arms linked to the bolted legs of a cabin bench as our catamaran nearly-capsized, heaving, then lolling herself upright, limping on the 30 foot shore break swells, as you trustingly waited (what else could you do?) for our young dad to swim back through the hurricane waters to rescue you. And of course, he did.

Someone, some tourist looking on from the beach, happened to capture the whole thing on video; our father diving in, swimming to Gemini and to you, while Crystal Anna hit the beach, splintering, tumbling, lapsing. One day, months later, it arrived in the mail, this VHS recording of Hurricane Iniki and our family.

Having this moment recorded; fast-forwardable, rewindable and pausable, made us feel powerful as children. We could fast-forward through the bits that churned our guts, edit over what made us feel queasy. We fast-forwarded to the sections with glimpses of our mamma, 3-year-old Oliver and I huddled on the beach, shocked and waiting for our papa and you to return to shore. You, being the oldest, were often the one in control, and would fast-forward to sections in the tape of our papa, and pause at the faraway, television-fuzzed images of him. Our papa didn’t die in the hurricane; he almost did, instead he died a month later, had a shallow-water blackout while freediving. He dove too deep, pushing himself.

This VHS tape was a time capsule for us; in it we could see our papa, and imagine that he still existed somewhere. We could fast-forward, and rewind and pause him, on this tape we saw him as heroic, as our personalized sea-god, eternalized in death and in the form of this videotape.

This became a sort of game, a show-and-tell to our friends, for our classmates.

‘Look what I survived;’ little you would brag, and would let the tape crawl in slow motion as Crystal Anna smashed against the golden sand.

Iniki [in Hawaiian translates as] to pinch, nip; sharp and piercing, as wind or pangs of love.

In Hawaiian mythology, the demi-god Maui fishes the chain of islands from the sea. Maui goes fishing with his brothers and he hooks the bottom of the ocean, he knows he’s hooked on rock bottom, but tells his brothers to paddle, paddle, as hard as they can, telling they’d hooked the biggest fish in the ocean and needed all their strengths to reel it in. They believe him, and with all their force, they paddle-paddle-paddled. He tells them to not look behind them at what is immerging from the sea; of course they do. And when they do look back, they see the one single island broken into 8 separate islands.

Another version of the myth has Hina, goddess of moon and water, appear only to distract the brothers from their task, as no one can resist the beauty of this goddess. And although Maui has warned his brothers that if they look behind them, the island he is fishing out will collapse. They look back of course any way, and Maui’s fishing line snaps, and the one island Maui had been pulling up shatters into a chain of 8 disconnected islands.

It began with cocaine, a casual, relatable habit. You then dappled with shitty, readily available crack. You moved away from our family home at 16, tired of restrictions. And with a continuous supply of liquor at your always-sunburnt lips, you left. After a year fishing in Costa Rica, you’d shaved your head, inked yourself in tattoos and developed a nasal drip that had you constantly snort-snort-snorting to keep whatever that sniffle was lodge deep in your cranium cavity. And after a season fishing up in Alaska, you’d burnt your esophagus raw and started puking blood even after a sip of liquor. At 20 you moved back into our mama’s home, and even after finding yourself a baby-mama and having a kid of your own, you’re still there in our mother’s space, almost 28. Our mother’s spare bedroom became your dope retreat. You started shooting up oxycodone. Needles, spoons and tiny blue pills littered our lives. There were days I thought you might trade your truck, or your right arm, or your little sister, for just one more hit of _____.

Then heroine. Then whatever you could get or whatever you could shoot up. You tinkered with crystal methamphetamine – batu, or ice – Hawaii’s choice of drug. I didn’t know anything about meth before you, only how deteriorates the body of its hosts freakishly fast. I didn’t known it was possible to shoot up crystal meth until I saw you doing it. Until I traced your track marks with my fingertip, blood-dusted dots blazing red with tropical infections. You are always scratching and chewing at your skin, as if you intend to consume yourself, beginning with your fingertips, the top of your hands, nibbling your way down your inner arms. I hadn’t known it was possible. I was young; I was unaware.


Sailing from Big Island to Maui, 30 nautical miles, 10 hours, across the Alenuihaha Channel; a channel known to be one of the world’s roughest, with constantly unpredictable seas. Winds the night of our departure pushing at 40 nautical miles an hour, and swells at 20 feet. Because the channel is pinched between Mauna Kea on the Big Island (from sea-floor to summit a 30,000 foot volcano, the tallest volcano in the world) and Haleakala (11,200 feet from sea-floor to summit), the seas are forceful. The weather funnels through with such force it seems as if the entire Pacific Ocean is trying to squeeze itself between the islands.

In 2013, Captain Jake and I set sail on Gemini from Big Island back to Maui. It was be a sleepless night, leaving Honokahau harbour just after sunset, awake through the night, navigating our way, all sails out and racing, arriving to Maui late the next morning. Almost everything I know about sailing I have learned from Jake. Jake learned almost everything he knows from my Auntie, who learned everything she knows from my father. I feel safe with Jake, sailing the Alenuihaha and learning, as if I would from my father, about the forces of the sea and how to navigate within it. We watched the stars, we watched the moon sloshing around in the unstable sky, we watched the squalls pull through the channel. Most of the waves were racing with us, tugging us along with them towards Maui, but some would sweep from the east and wash over the bow, drowning us at the stern with a heavy waterfall of rushing ocean. Jake would duck in advance, always predicting which waves would run over the sixty feet of ship and back it to the back to drench us. I was not always the smooth dodger, and soaked our papa’s fowl weather gear within hours.

Back in the salty-sailor days of Hawaii, and still now, sailors who sailed across the Alenuihaha would tattoo skull + crossbones on their neck; proof of the passage.

Your first day out of rehab, the first time around, you waltzed your way to a tattoo shop and inked a skull and crossbones on your neck, as proof that you lived through one of the world’s roughest channels.

You’ll been clean for two months, or half a month, maybe a week, or just a day.

But I’ve noticed a pattern; you relapse.


One thought on “lapsed, relapsed

  1. Wonderfully written – I wish you a future with the written word, and your bro C, a future staying clean! Small wishes from a Mama really…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s