I do this on airplanes. I invent lives for fellow passengers. Oncologist headed to a conference. Chef being flown in for a family wedding. With the band. Bachelor party. Accountant who loves her job. Accountant who hates his wife. Sales guy. Scientist. Grad student. I peg them. I couldn’t peg her. Reading magazines. Very, very pregnant, late-twenties/early thirties, Latina. About to burst (life) forth. Public health? Dentist? Teacher? Impossible to say.
“What brings you to Hawaii?” I couldn’t resist.
“I’m moving here today.”
“Today? As in after this flight?” Incredulous.
“Wow. That’s amazing. Will you have the baby in Hawaii?”
“Yes. My boyfriend, her father, is meeting me here in a few months with my twin three-year-old daughters and my 14-year-old son.” Unflinching, clear-eyed, open book. (Which I love.)
“Wow.” Beat. Three kids plus one in the oven. Not (yet) married. Moving to the islands that are farthest from any land mass on the planet. Brave was how I should have pegged her.
“We live in Oakland. My son, Zion, is struggling in his high school. He has ADHD and is on medication. It doesn’t help. Every day is hard. We came here to visit my brother in Honolulu. Zion swam in the ocean every day. It calmed him. Made him a different kid—a happy kid. I talked to his doctor. Salt water helps some people. He needs to be near the water, so we are moving.”
We talked for another half hour or so. Her plan was to live with her brother while she found an apartment for five, including the newborn, who would be named Ella. They have a little money saved up. She would figure out the job thing. It would all fall into place. Her calm, open, expression stayed with me.
I followed her off the plane as she walked squarely and firmly into her new life, noting that she didn’t look back.