© by The Lavender Quill, 2002
Warning: the following story contains graphic descriptions of male/male sex between consenting adults. If that sort of thing bothers you, or you are a minor, or it is illegal for you to read this type of content under the laws of your area, dont read any further.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people or events is purely coincidental.
What do you mean, I said. What happened?
I got home from the nursery and he wasnt here, said Kenji. His car is gone.
Oh shit, brah!
Hes not at the nursery, is he?
Belatedly, I looked at the couple in the shop. They both looked at me, a little shocked at my language. I smiled at them apologetically, and they went back to browsing. They were haole tourists, so I switched to Japanese, not wanting to be overheard any further and figuring it unlikely that they spoke Japanese.
Continuing in rapid Japanese, I said, There are customers in the shop. I am surprised the vehicle even started.
To my knowledge, Masashis car had not been driven in over a year, when his drivers license had expired. None of us had reminded him to renew it. We would have sold the car, but Masashi seemed to be comforted by its presence in the driveway. Though it hadnt moved in ages, Masashi still washed it every week or two.
Kenji caught on to what I was doing and switched to Japanese too, I did not think he still had a set of keys. Nick is on his way to the house. He said to make a list of places Masashi might go, places he remembered. We have to go search for him. I need your help. I could tell by Kenjis voice that he was struggling to hold himself together.
I will be there as soon as I can, I said, trying to be reassuring. Do not worry yourself. We will find him. All will be well.
Thank you. Please hurry.
I will. Goodbye.
I hung up the phone and smiled at the customers, trying to look nonchalant.
Sorry, I said, switching back to English. Minor family issue.
I found a felt tipped marker and a pad of paper behind the counter, then hastily made a sign saying the Hitohana Hinata was closed early, and please visit again tomorrow. I taped it to the inside of the glass door, and turned off all the exterior lights and signs. The customers finally made their selections, and I locked the door as soon as they left.
I cleared out the two cash registers and locked the money in the safe in the office. I put Koko, the cockatoo, in his cage for the night, making sure he had enough food and water. I made one quick pass through the rest of the tents and buildings, and decided anything else could wait until later. I also looked around to see if Masashis car was hiding anywhere. It wasnt.
I jumped in my Rav4 and drove like a maniac back down to Kahalui. I was feeling very guilty, blaming myself for Masashis disappearance. I screeched to a stop right behind Nicks Lexus and ran into the house.
Im sorry, I burst out as soon as I saw them. I shouldnt have left him alone. I, I
Its okay, Trevor, said Kenji. Nobodys blaming you. You did the best you could. You thought he looked all right when you left. We all know he can change from day to day, even hour to hour.
Here, said Nick, handing me a piece of paper. I split the list in two. Kenji will stay here in case Masashi comes back or calls. Ive written down the license plate number of his Buick at the top of the page.
Kenji handed me his little cellular phone. I didnt have one. Take this, said Kenji. Nick has the phone in his car. If either of you finds anything, call me here, and I can put us into a three-way conference call.
I looked at the list: A bank, a drug store, addresses of some of Masashis old friends (many of whom were deceased), the cemetery where his wife is buried, his doctor, a park he liked.
Uh, guys, I said. Does anyone think maybe we should call the police?
I dunno, brah, said Kenji, blowing out a breath in frustration. Im kinda scared that if the police get involved, they might call family services or something and make us put him in a home. He sat back at the table and dropped his face in his hands.
We know what Masashi looks like, said Nick. We know the places hes most likely to go. I think were more likely to find him than the police. I think we should try on our own first. If we check all the places on the list, and still come up with nothing, then we can think about calling the police.
Leave it to Nick. He was the most logical of the three of us, and he seemed to have a good plan.
Yeah, okay, I said. Let me look at your list, Nick. Ill see if theres anyplace I can think of that Kenji missed. I looked it over. Between the two lists, it looked pretty comprehensive, and was logically divided, mine to the west of Kahalui and Nicks to the east. Looks good to me. I handed Nicks list back to him, and Kenji stood.
Lets go then, said Nick. We got less then two hours before it gets dark.
We all got phones, I said, hugging Kenji. He trembled slightly, and it made my heart break. Just call us if you think of any place you missed, or if you need anything else.
Kenji sniffed and let me go. He blinked at me forlornly, but didnt say anything.
Nick and I quickly went to our cars and drove off. For more than an hour, I drove from one place on my list to the next, franticly searching for any signs of Masashi or his car. I circled each location by a couple blocks, not sure where he might park. At one point, I thought Id found it when I spotted a Buick at the cemetery, but it had different license plates, and when I looked closely, a different colored interior than Masashis. I called Nick, just to burn off some tension.
Howzit? I asked.
No sign of him. You?
I wasnt surprised. He would have called if he had. No, me neither. I sighed loudly in frustration. We gotta find him, brah.
Kenjis just starting to come around. I cant imagine how bad it would be if something happened to Masashi.
I know, I know. I dont even want to think about it. He was clearly as frustrated as me. Just keep looking. Its not dark yet.
Yeah, yeah. I just got a couple places more to check, then Im heading for the Iao Valley. I stopped in front of the address of a deceased friend. The house had been torn down and a new one was under construction. I looked around for the car, but found nothing. Did you guys try calling the hospitals? You know, in case hes, like, hurt or something, and cant remember who he is?
I already thought of that, said Nick. Kenji called Masashis primary doctor before you got there. He was going to call the hospitals while were out driving around.
Oh, I said, hurrying to my next destination. Okay then. Call me if you think of anything else.
Yeah. Later dude. And he hung up.
I checked the rest of my addresses with no further luck. My last destination was the Iao Valley, a large popular park part way up the mountains west of Kahalui. I gunned my Rav4, wanting to get there before it got dark. I watched for the Buick, but didnt see it. When I was about half way there, Kenjis cell phone rang, and I dug it out of my pocket.
It was Nick.
Trevor, he said, sounding excited, I found his car!
Where? I asked. Have you called Kenji?
Its in the parking lot of the Kaahumanu Center. He sounded a little less excited. I didnt call Kenji yet. That damned mall is huge, and Masashi could be anywhereincluding in a bus, on his way home.
Yeah, okay. Maybe we better not call him yet.
Can you come and help me look for Masashi?
Fuck, I said, trying to find a place to pull off the road. Im half way up Iao. Itll take me a while to get back down there. Call me back in, oh, fifteen minutes or so, and well figure out where to meet.
I hung up and stuffed the phone back in my shorts. Looking around briefly, I pulled a precarious U-turn right in the middle of the road, tires chirping in protest. An indignant driver honked at me, but I ignored it. He was just mad, not in any danger. I floored it back down the hill as fast as I could, quick-shifting the gears through the corners. After fifteen minutes, the phone still hadnt rung. I started to get worried a little, but it didnt really matter. I was still a ways from the mall, having got stuck in some traffic when I hit the edge of town. Normally I embrace the slower pace of life in Hawaii, but it sure is a pain if you are in a hurry to get somewhere.
At last I pulled into the vast parking lot of the Kaahumanu Center. The Kaahumanu Center is a large modern shopping mall like you would find in most big cities on the mainland. It is the only one like it on the island. Having very little need for a modern shopping mall, I dont often go there myself. I found a parking space and cut the engine.
I was getting a little worried about Nick. He should have called by then. I pulled Kenjis cell phone out and called Nicks number. It rang through to his voice mail. Grrrr. Almost as soon as I hung up, the phone rang in my hand.
Trevor, said Nick. Where are you? There was music and a lot of noise in the background.
In da kine parking lot at the mall! Where are you? I just tried to call you.
Im inside the mall. Im at a phone booth near the food court. Unlike Kenjis small hand held phone, Nicks cellular phone is built in to his Lexus, so he couldnt carry it with him. I found Masashi! Hes standing in front of the Maui Taco.
I jumped out of my Rav4, not bothering to lock it, and began walking rapidly toward the nearest entrance, Kenjis phone still held to my ear.
I tried talking to him, said Nick, but he didnt recognize me.
Well at least you found him. Does he look okay? Does he look hurt or anything?
I think hes okay. But hes just standing there with a blank stare on his face. I can see him from here. He hasnt moved since I found him.
Okay. I think we should call Kenji. Hes probably worried to death, and we probably need his help.
I think so too. Ill call him now. You can find me by the phones, right?
Yeah, Ill find you. Bye.
I hung up just as I got the doors. I broke in to a trot as soon as I was inside. I darted past people, heading for the escalator.
Hey! Watch it kid! someone shouted at me. I ignored them and kept on going.
I get mistaken for a kid a lot. A consequence of being so short, I figured. I expect Ill get carded at bars until Im forty, unless I go bald or something first. When I finally got up to the second level and over to the food court, I spotted Nick at the phone booth. He waved at me and hung up the phone.
That was Kenji, said Nick, nodding at the phone as I walked up to him. Hes on his way. Theres Masashi. He pointed unnecessarily. Id already spotted him.
Yeah. I see him. I pondered. Now what? Our big panic had been finding him. Now that we found him, I wasnt entirely sure what to do next.
Im going down to meet Kenji at the mall entrance. You have the cell phone, so you keep an eye on Masashi. If he goes anywhere, follow him. If you arent here when I get back with Kenji, well call you on the cell phone to find out where you are.
What if he goes somewhere in his car again?
Nick grinned. I pulled the valve stem out of his front tire. That car aint goin anywhere very fast. I didnt want him driving off while I was in here looking for him.
Good thinking, brah, I said. We both watched Masashi for a minute. He still hadnt moved. Dya think I should go try to talk to him?
Nick shrugged. Cant hurt. He didnt recognize me, but he might recognize you. You spend a lot more time over there than I do. You practically live there sometimes.
He recognized me at lunch time, even though he was pretty out of it when I got there.
True. He gave my arm a friendly squeeze. I better get downstairs. Dont lose him, whatever you do.
Ill steal his cane if I have to, I joked.
No, it wasnt a particularly good joke, but I was desperate to try to lighten things up. Nick didnt laugh, but he did give me a grin. He squeezed my arm once more, and then walked off.
I took a deep breath and walked over to Masashi. I walked a big arc, so that I approached him from the front, giving him plenty of opportunity to see me, if he were inclined to look, or if he recognized me. When I stopped in front of him, he still stared vacantly toward the Maui Taco, giving no indication that he knew who I was. I tried bowing to him.
Hello Masashi, I said.
He blinked, and looked at me, but didnt respond. Was there a glimmer of recognition? I dont know.
Its me, I said. Trevor.
Tlevow? he said.
Well, at least he was responding, though he sounded weird. Like maybe he had a stroke or something. Then it dawned on me; maybe he was reverting back to Japanese. Hed always insisted on speaking English at his house, even though Japanese was his first language. Ive heard that is common among Nisei. But if he was reverting to Japanese, it might explain his difficulty with my name. Japanese sometimes have trouble with rs. So I switched languages and tried again.
Are you here to get something to eat? I asked in Japanese. Did you enjoy any of the shops?
He turned to face me then, and his eyes sharpened a little.
Have you seen my grand-nephew Kenji? he asked in Japanese. I am trying to find him. He likes to play games here.
I stared at him for a moment, probably looking just as blank as he had a few minutes ago. Then it clicked. For a few months shortly after Id met Kenji and Nick, we used to hang out at the mall almost every day, feeding an untold number of quarters into games at a video game arcade. We eventually moved on to other past times. Apparently so had most other kids, because the arcade had closed down a couple of years ago. But for a while, we would go there right after school, and Masashi would sometimes pick us up after the nursery closed for the evening.
Kenji will be here shortly, I said. I am sure Kenji will be pleased to see you.
Repeating words had helped earlier, so I tried to work Kenjis name in as often as I could. There seemed to be no immediate danger, now that wed found him, so I was content to just stand there and talk to him until the other guys came back. After a few minutes, Masashi looked at me, perplexed.
Trevor? he said, pronouncing it right this time. Almost I did not recognize you. You have grown? You look different.
He was trying to match me with the picture he had in his head of me when we used to hang out in the mall. I may be short, but not as short as I was when I was fifteen. And Ive filled out quite a bit too. I was pencil thin back then.
A little, I said. Kenji has grown some as well. I tried to prepare him for a Kenji that didnt match his mental picture either. I continued to chat with him. Not really about anything in particular, but talking seemed to ground him a little.
At last Kenji arrived. He noticed we were speaking in Japanese, and it didnt take him long to figure out what was going on. Masashi, though still confused, seemed greatly relieved to see Kenji. Now that Masashi had accomplished what he had sought out to dofind Kenji, we had little trouble getting him out to Kenjis car.
Once Kenji got Masashi into the passenger seat and closed the door, he quickly came over to where Nick and I were standing. He gave me a set of keys.
Heres the spare keys to the Buick, said Kenji, switching back to English. We cant leave it here or theyll tow it. Park it somewhere in the neighborhood, but out of sight of the house. If he doesnt see his car, maybe he wont think about driving it.
Think maybe you ought to sell it? asked Nick.
Kenjis eyes darted around in indecision. I elbowed Nick.
Dont worry about that now, brah, I said. Just get Masashi home, and well figure out what to do with the car tomorrow. We dont gotta decide what to do with it right this minute.
With a relieved look, Kenji got in his car and drove off with Masashi. Nick and I went to get Masashis car. When we found it, we both stared at the flat front tire for a minute.
Damn, said Nick. Now I wish I hadnt pulled the valve stem.
Nah. You were right. It was probably better to make sure he didnt drive off in it. I sighed and pulled the keys out of my pocket. I hope his spare tire has air.
It took a while. The two of us managed to change the tire and put the spare on. Then we had to do a car shuffle. I drove the Buick while Nick followed in his car. I parked it a block away from Masashis house. Then Nick had to take me back to the Kaahumanu Center so I could get my Rav4. By then it was getting pretty late. We both got out and stood silently for a minute in the parking lot.
Hey Trevor, said Nick. Are you okay?
I guess, I said with little enthusiasm. Im glad we got him back. But I still think I shoulda maybe said something to Kenji after lunch. I was trying to keep it light, you know, so he wouldnt worry too much. But I just made it worse by letting Masashi take off like that.
Oh, come on, Trevor. You cant blame yourself for this. Masashi wandered off because half his brain cells are fried from Alzheimers, not because you let him take off.
None of us are experts on this disease, Nick pressed. Were learning as we go. The doc said it isnt very predictable. Unless one of us is willing to babysit Masashi around the clock, shits gonna happen that we cant predict.
He pulled me into a hug. I sank gratefully into his embrace.
Our little Trevor, said Nick. Has a heart bigger than Kenji and me combined. We both know that you would never do anything to harm us. Or Masashi. You did the best you could with what we know. I probably would have made the same call.
He kissed the top of my head and held me. If anyone besides Nick or Kenji did that, it would normally send me into a minor rampage. It is one of those annoying things people sometimes do to tease that reminds me of how short I am. Like so many similar things, however, I know that Nick does this as a gesture of affection, not as a commentary on my stature.
Thanks Nick. I said.
Hey, we were gonna get together tonight and talk, said Nick.
Oh yeah, I said. Damn, brah. I forgot all about it.
I sighed. I was in no frame of mind to have a serious conversation with Nick about where our relationship, if we were even having one, was going. And I realized that I was no longer as worried about it. As crazy as the evening had turned out, everything between the three of us seemed as normal as ever. We had all pulled together to find Masashi and get him home.
It can wait, I said. Im gonna crash at Masashis tonight, in case he needs any help.
Yeah, I figured you would. Im going home. I have classes in the morning and I still have a little homework to finish.
We hugged each other again for a minute.
Call me if you guys need anything, he said, breaking our hug. He got in his car and drove off.
I stopped to get take-out at a small Vietnamese restaurant on the way to Masashis. I was famished, and I figured Kenji probably hadnt eaten either. I was sure neither of us would be in the mood to fix anything. When I got there, I could hear noises coming from Masashis bedroom. A few minutes later, Kenji came out to the kitchen and slumped down at the table.
I got him to bed, he said. Ill call his doctor in the morning.
I shoved some food across the table to him.
Eat, brah, I said.
I handed him disposable chopsticks from the bag, and we both ate in dejected silence. When we were done, I put leftovers in the refrigerator, and threw the rest of the boxes away. I went in to the living room, and found that Kenji had moved to the couch. I sat heavily next to him. He looked at me, his eyes red and moist.
What am I gonna do, Trevor? he said.
I dunno. Ill go in to the nursery tomorrow. You take him to the doctor. After that, well figure something out. Tuesday was usually my day off, but I didnt care. I could surf another day.
Kenji slowly slid down into my lap. I felt his shoulders shake as he began to weep silently. I said nothing. I knew from experience that words were not what he needed from me. I just held him and let him cry, stroking his hair softly. I confess to shedding a tear or two myself. Eventually, he stopped. He sniffed a couple of times as he regained his composure. Finally, he sat up.
Thanks, brah, he said softly.
You dont have to thank me, Kenji. You and Nick are my best friends. You know Id do anything for you.
I know, he said. We sat silently for a while. Finding Masashi at the Kaahumanu Center got me thinking. I remember we used to have so much fun all the time. Id forgotten about how we used to go down there and play video games and hang out all afternoon. He smiled, staring off, lost in his memories. Then he sighed. Ive been depressed so much the last year or so, since, since William died. I must not be much fun to hang around any more.
I thought for a moment. Being friends isnt about playing video games, Kenji. Youre fun sometimes, like at Nicks party, and youre getting better. Im sure some day something shitty will happen to me, and I know you and Nickll help get me through it.
Kenji gave me a strange smile. You had more fun at that party than I did, he said.
What do you mean? I asked.
You and Nick? In the grotto? His smile grew, and he wobbled his eyebrows meaningfully.
Oh, that. I looked at my lap, embarrassed. Did Nick tell you?
Nope. He said. Then he laughed. I went up there on Saturday to bring the torch and the orchids back down. I found the condom.
Oh, man, I said, even more embarrassed. How gross. Im sorry. I should have cleaned up better.
Kenji laughed even harder. Finally he said, I knew hed taken someone up there. I was just guessing it was you.
I looked at him, and then smacked my forehead. Doh! I said in my best Homer Simpson imitation. I looked at him in mock hurt That was a rotten trick.
It worked, he said. So? What was it like?
Im not telling, you perv!
Oh, come on. We know everything about each other.
Was he good?
I looked at him. This was a little unlike quiet Kenji. I could see he wasnt going to let up.
Of course, I said. Youve seen what he looks like.
Looks can be deceiving.
Maybe. It was pretty awesome, but but a little weird.
Well, not, like, kinky weird or anything. Just well, unexpected. I turned and looked at Kenji. Dont you think its strange that weve known each other all this time, and none of us have ever had sex before?
Not really. You and I didnt really start dating for a while when we were first coming out. Then I found William, and then, well He ground to a stop and shrugged his shoulders. You probably could have slept with Nick any time you wanted to. Hes always liked you. You just too insecure about being short.
I am not insecure, I said indignantly. Realizing that sounded ridiculous, I said, Am I?
Brah, he said, eyes wide. Come on.
Okay. Maybe a bit, I admitted. Do you really think I could have slept with him any time?
I love you Trevor, but sometimes you totally loko. He shook his head. Think about it. Nick has slept with a whole lot of guys that he liked a whole lot less than you or me.
Oh. I never thought of it like that. I keep thinking I have it all figured out, you know? Then I keep finding out Im wrong. Maybe I am loko. I slid over and leaned against his shoulder.
Nah. Just normal.
He sighed. For a while we leaned against each other in silence, taking comfort from each other. I had been worried that sex with Nick might upset the balance of friendship the three of us shared, but Kenji didnt seem bothered by it at all. Maybe my dad had been right. I shouldnt worry about things so much. I had almost nodded off when I felt Kenji take my hand in his. He shifted a little, and I came a little more alert.
Trevor? he asked.
Hmm, I mumbled.
I looked at him, and our eyes met.
Would you said Kenji. Would you kiss me?
(To be continued.)
I love receiving emails. Accolades, encouragement, suggestions, comments, and corrections are welcome and gladly accepted. <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Other work by The Lavender Quill can be found on the web at <http://lavenderquill.tripod.com/>.
Please consider joining the Lavender Quill Yahoo Group.