Wish You Were Here: A Novel: Chapter 29

Drunk Socrates

Once we docked in Honolulu, in Oahu, and Chucky and I were cleaning up down below, we heard a voice from the dock. “Well, hello there, handsome castaway.” It was my mother bantering seductively with my dad. Chucky looked at me and dry-heaved.

“Mom!” I screamed from the bottom of the stairs. Her face lit up.

My dad was already on the dock, hugging her. Chucky and I both jumped off the boat and joined in on a big group hug.

My mom squeaked, “I can’t breathe, and the three of you stink.”

“What are you doing here?” Chucky asked.

“I missed my family.” She looked at my dad. “I missed my buddy.” She placed her hands on his bearded face. “I like this . . . rugged look.” She winked. I envied my mom and dad in that moment, maybe for the first time ever.

I slapped my brother on the back. “Well, Chucky, I say we get out of here.”

We left my parents so they could be alone and Chucky and I caught a taxi to the North Shore, where we proceeded to get drunk on the beach. I kept telling him he could head back to Waikiki, where there was more of a party scene, but he stayed with me.

“I like this version of you, Charlotte. You’re fun.”

We rode bikes along the road from beach to beach. I sat on the sand at Pipeline in the warm, breezy air, watching the surfers. The water was impossibly blue and the ground was so solid beneath me that it made my own body feel electrified . . . alive.

I bought twelve cheap T-shirts, ate two pieces of haupia pie and a glazed donut from Ted’s Bakery, and devoured a basket of shrimp from a food truck in Kahuku before we headed back to our hotel. When Chucky left me in the lobby, he said, “Today was awesome.”

“Yeah, I had a great time. Wasn’t it kind of cool to see Mom and Dad like that, all in love?”

He squinted. “What do you mean? They’ve always been like that.”

“Well, I guess you lived with them longer so you probably saw it more.”

“Maybe.” He looked into my eyes for a few seconds—something brothers and sisters don’t really do until they’re older; when you’re young, you’re too busy tormenting each other.

“What up, Chuck? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You’re gonna find someone else, Charlotte. It’s admirable what you did for Adam, but you still have a lot to offer. Don’t give up. And don’t settle for some schmuck.”

“Adam changed me,” I said, looking past Chucky into the distance.

“I think life changed you.”

“Okay, drunk Socrates.” I smirked.

“It doesn’t really matter. Mom and Dad set the bar so high. I think that’s why you and I have waited so long to find someone to commit to.”

“We’re not even thirty yet, Chuck.”

“I know, but I’m getting there, you know, to that point of no return where no one will be good enough because I’ll be so set in my stubborn ways.”

“Well, at least you know it. Still, I wouldn’t call your late twenties the point of no return.”

“I want to be young with somebody. That’s why Mom and Dad work; they have the fantasy of themselves. You need that shit when you get older.”

“What does that mean?” I said.

“Ask Mom; she said that to me once. I didn’t get it then.”

He started to walk away. “Wait! Let me get a hug.”

He turned and hugged me instantly. It didn’t feel weird.

“Get some rest, Fatbutt.”

When he kissed my cheek, I giggled. “You too, Shitbag.”

 

THAT NIGHT, IN the privacy of my own hotel room, I had a dream that Adam and I were sailing on the calmest, bluest water. He was lying on the deck with his hands propped behind his head, watching me with a smile on his face. “What are you looking at?” I had said.

“You.”

I startled awake at a loud knock on the door. I threw on a robe and swung it open. It was my mom, wearing a sailor hat and saluting me.

“What are you doing, crazy lady?”

“Captain,” she said.

I ushered her in. “What’s this all about?”

She came into my hotel room and sat on the bed. “I don’t know what you did to Charles, Charlotte, but he got on the first flight out this morning. He said he’s going to get Jenn, that girl he sees off and on all the time. He’ll meet us in Bora-Bora.”

“Really? What a quitter.”

“Well, that means you get me, your new deckhand.” If I could package the way she looked that day, in that hat, saluting me and wearing the most colossal of cheesy grins, I believe it would do more for depressed people than most pharmaceuticals.

I smiled and said, “I’m happy, Mom. I doubt you could be any worse of a deckhand than Chucky. I didn’t do anything to Chucky, by the way. He said he wanted to be with someone while he was young because of something you said to him. That’s why he went back, I think.”

“Oh.” She looked genuinely shocked. “I didn’t think he got it. I mean, I didn’t really explain it to Chucky in a way that would be clear.”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

She looked around my room. “Are you gonna make this bed?”

“The maids do it. Quit trying to change the subject.” I sat down in the desk chair across from the bed and swiveled around to face her. “Well?”

“You know my friend Carol?” My mom was talking about her high school friend who had never gotten married or had kids. She had a few long-term relationships but none that lasted more than a couple of years.

“Yeah, I know Carol.”

“Well, she was over at the house one day and had asked me if I regretted getting married so young.”

“Okay. I mean, twenty-one wasn’t that young back then, was it?”

“No, but I mean twenty-one is young no matter what.”

“Cut to the chase, Mom.”

“I told her no. I think my exact words were, are you kidding me? Do I regret marrying Jerry when we were in our twenties, lean, beautiful, and dumb? Hell no.”

I was shaking my head. “But Chucky—”

“I told Carol I had no desire to have awkward sex with strangers, nor do I reminisce about the awkward sex I did have with strangers before I was married—”

“Mom!” I yelled.

“Just listen. It all goes to shit for everyone anyway. At least I have memories of being young and sexy and doing it all night with your father.”

I stuck my hand out. “Stop, Mom, please.” It was not what I expected.

“Cut the shit, Charlotte, and listen to me. I tried to explain this to Chucky, in a less graphic way, of course. Apparently, he got the gist of it, although I think it might have taken him a while. I have memories, shared memories with your father.” She tapped her index finger on her temple. “I have this up here and that goes a long way when you’re trying to ignore your own gray flabbiness. I know how hard this year has been because of . . .”

“You can say his name. Adam.”

She chuckled. “I was thinking about the boat, teaching your dad to sail, and Dora, the little canine therapist. I think Adam might have done more for you than—”

“I know,” I said instantly. There was no need to talk about it any longer. We understood each other. “I totally get it, Mom. I get what you’re saying about Dad and marriage.” I might have appreciated the less graphic version more, but oh well.

 

MY MOM WAS seasick for the first four days on our trek to Bora-Bora. I felt so bad for her, but she made it through, got her sea legs, and eventually became a pretty good deckhand. The trip was smooth. The weather was good for the entire three-week journey from Hawaii.

When we arrived in Bora-Bora, where Helen was to be married in three days, we docked the boat quickly, headed to the overwater bungalows, and checked in. I chose one as far away from my parents as I could—not because I didn’t want to be near them, but because I figured they’d want their space after so long at sea.

That night, I met Helen and Roddy in the resort restaurant.

“You look amazing, especially for being on a boat for over a month,” Helen said, as we walked to our table. I was wearing a flowing white sundress and sandals. My skin was tanner and my hair, lighter. Helen looked different, too. She was glowing and Roddy was smiling from ear to ear, both of them radiant.

“Well, you guys look pretty darn good yourselves.” We all hugged and then sat down.

After we ordered food and drinks, I said, “I got a fuchsia dress to wear for the ceremony, I hope that’s okay.” I popped a piece of shrimp into my mouth.

Helen looked at Roddy. “That should go fine, right? What is Seth wearing again? Khaki shorts and a black shirt or something?”

I coughed; the shrimp went flying across the room. “Excuse me, what?”

Roddy frowned. “Yeah, khakis and a black shirt. Is that okay?”

“No, it’s fine,” I said. “I just didn’t know he’d be here. I mean, I didn’t know he was going to be in the wedding.”

Helen’s eyes were wide, but Roddy looked irritated. “He’s my best friend. He’s the best man.”

“Helen didn’t tell me.”

“You didn’t ask,” she countered.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “It’s fine. It’s your wedding.”

“Well, it’s not like you two don’t get along,” she said.

“I just haven’t seen him. I haven’t said anything to him.”

“Well, it’s perfect then. You have three days before the wedding to work everything out. He’s coming in today,” Roddy said.

“Is he bringing his girlfriend, too?” My stomach was doing somersaults. I felt like heaving shrimp all over the table.

Helen looked at Roddy pointedly. “Who’s his girlfriend?” she asked.

“He doesn’t have a girlfriend, I don’t think.”

I huffed. “Well, I’m sure he doesn’t tell you everything. I met some Sara girl who had his dog at the hospital.”

Roddy and Helen looked at each other and smiled. Helen reached out and took my hand in hers. “Charlie, Sara is Seth’s sister. Tall, blond, boobs?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, his sister. See, there’s still so much to learn about him.”

I will admit now that there was something familiar about her.

“She was taking Obi-Wan to Children’s,” Roddy added.

“Oh . . . so he doesn’t have a girlfriend?”

“Not that I know of,” Roddy said.

I wasn’t convinced, but at least I could rule out Sara. I was also confused as to why I cared. It wasn’t really my business. Seeing Seth no matter what was going to be awkward.


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