Where fire fell

“Swim dis way! C’ mon!” This crazy Hawaiian in a sarong whom I paid 20 bucks to take me out surfing at night says. It’s my very first time on a surfboard and I’m on my belly paddling as hard as I can in warm black water. “We need to swim past dat jetty and stay dher. Dah tide will keep pulling us back.” We’ve stopped and I’ve propped myself up to sit on the surfboard. I’ve never quite experienced anything like this. There’s so much activity, so many lights on the shore from towering hotels. So many starbursts from far off boats out on the horizon. Yet it’s quiet and hear only the sound of gentle waters. I wonder for a split moment if this is what paradise in outer space would feel like.

After a few moments of a quiet and beautiful void, we hear an admonishing whistle from the blackness of the shore. “We need to move! De tide is pulling us out and we need to stay outta sight from dah shore patrol. We technically not s’poseda out hereah.” Of course that makes this even more worth it. “We’ll nearly be undaneath da fireworks and will get some fallout upon us.” So we move. Laying back on my belly to start paddling further out and following my instructor.

He’s guided us back to a good spot and out of the sight of shore patrol. I’m back to sitting up on the board, flowing with the rise and fall of an ocean so smooth. All the lights from the towers distort off the water that remind me of my time in Dubai. I hear a splash and see my instructor is doing yoga posses on his board and happily falls into the water when he starts to lose his balance.

There’s a calm solace about everything especially a silent moonlight bleeding on a black ocean. A whistle, a streak of upward light, an explosion of red and sparkle, the Friday night fireworks show on Waikiki Beach have started.

I’ve seen this show before, from the beach that I can hardly see from here. Before long the beach has a perpetual sparkle of camera phone flashes. Staring up at the bursts, I think about how many people on earth will ever see this from where I’m floating. This exact spot in the middle of the Pacific.

My mind is both clouded and empty, amazed and dormant. One by one and sometimes two by two streaks fly and explode, bang and fizzle out into the night. My impromptu instructor is doing all kinds of tricks on his board. I’m sure he’s seen this show hundreds of times and stands on his board before doing a back flip into the water. He looks like he’s having so much fun.

For a few seconds a violent finale of bright in the sky erupts. The ground and beach flash and the ocean turns white for fractions of seconds and as soon as it starts, it ends. It’s quiet and then I hear the sound of cheers on the beach from the crowd I cannot see.

It’s over and the fallout drifts down to cloud and obscure the lights of the hotels. “Let’s go bruhda! Before we breath all dat fire fall.” Back on my belly, and with haste I paddle towards the shore once again. That fire fell fast.

“You did a good job out dher! Come back and see me anytime brah!” my instructor says. After a wet handshake, a hang loose sign, a few laughs and an incredibly genuine smile from the both of us, we part ways.

What a great time. I can still hardly believe what just happened as I’m heading back onto the busy streets, noticing the Chart House restaurant is still there. Muffled by years and compounded experiences are the sounds of a powerful car and the apparition of a younger guy in his favorite blue shirt powering through the corner and slowly cruising by in a white muscle car into the foundation of a fancy hotel he once stayed.

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