Photo: My view from Gwithian Towans Beach ~ May 1, 2019

I still can’t believe I’m here. With him. After thirty years apart.

Allow me to paint the back story.

Me and The Dude met in our home town of Hawaii back in the late 80s as twenty-somethings with no fear and a taste for freedom. Our chemistry was instant and palpable, taking us on adventures off and on the island. We’ve met up in Mexico, Los Angeles, and later pedaled our bikes on cobblestone streets though Europe by way of Eurail passes and youth hostels.

I always held a special place tucked under the vest for The Dude. This was a young man who was fearless and fascinating, generous and loving as well as a pain in my ass – trying my nerves almost as much as I did his. Because of him my thirst for the unknown was quenched and a desire to expand my life beyond the restraints of living on an island became my focus.

The Dude was around for my early days working as a dancer in the strip clubs of Waikiki. He respected my work schedule but liked to pop his head in for a show every now and again. He watched me as the adoring boyfriend he was as I weaved my hips on stage, the same way I would snap photos with joy, watching him carve his surfboard through countless waves.

He was romantic in unordinary ways and complimented my humor, which is what I remember most about this man who was my first boyfriend.

Then as with every young couple, our relationship began to fade in the rear-view mirror of time as we moved forward on our journeys through life.

My stripping career moved on and my choices stayed reckless. Between my heavy drug use and continued self-sabotage, my downward spiral of darkness was turning me into the person I have now spent decades learning from by way of her mistakes.

I had no idea what was to be made of The Dude.

Then one day this changed thanks to the internet and her helpful ways of reconnecting people from our past.

Hearing his voice on the telephone for the first time in years threw me. He was now a grown man with an accent, a result of living outside the U.S. for three decades. I struggled to find the person I remembered in his voice until we laughed – then it felt like home.

When opportunities bubble up through the surface of success, we should always take them. At fifty, I am able to afford, both emotionally and financially, to take myself on vacation. After our communications grew stronger, so did my desire to visit.

One very long plane ride and drive to his town later, we are physically reunited and I was terrifed and excited, nervous and impatient.

Would he still see the nineteen year old on stage? After several more surgeries on my facial scars to help remedy the scarring I suffered as a teenager from cycstic acne, would I expect him to notice? Am I going to recognize him?

I was about to find out.

~ ~ ~

Some of my personal journal during my stay:

Journal Entry 1 –

Today is Tuesday and it feels like Thursday. Makes me happy to know I will be here two more days.

The time is going by, and although it never changes speed it makes me crazy when I stop to think about how slow it can feel; like when you are waiting for the doctor to phone with tests results or sitting in a dentist chair. And yet when we are on holiday or even just hanging out having a laugh, we find ourselves looking at the clock in wonder at how it could already be 2:00 am.

Today – on this journey of visiting my past, time for me is my friend. She knows it’s been over thirty years since The Dude and me have laid eyes on one another. I have so many words percolating, but for now, I can only say ‘it’s a trip’.

Journal Entry 2 –

We are older. Our bodies have changed with age, but are even more beautiful now as they have withstood painstaking circumstances. From his being run over by a car and nearly losing his leg, to my cancer battle and brain aneurysm diagnosis, our gratitude has flourished. We appreciate the little things because we’ve survived the big.

We are still surviving.

Journal Entry 3 –

Sitting in a local pub enjoying a pint and chatting, I listen to another of his unbelievable stories from the past 30 years.

His sparkling blue eyes haven’t changed at all and his blond locks are now weaved with hints of age. My fingers find their home rubbing the nape of his neck as we drive along the Cornwall coast. The waves provide a mesmerizing show as the local surfers try to show Dude how it’s done (he knows).

The lines on our faces serve up stories of living and loving; patchwork pieces of life of which we have lived three decades apart. We’re grownups now with big people problems but when we laugh those two kids from Hawaii who shacked up in a van in Mexico are all I can see.

Hanging with a loved one from our formative years is amazing but the real treasure is in the gift we receive from ourselves as a result. When we are able to lift the veil of our past, forgive ourselves and celebrate our naivety instead of replaying the ‘should’s on a loop of regret, we relax. We take joy sharing memories only we would know and marvel in the ones we share that the other does not remember at all.

~ ~ ~

The days flew by and I’m back on my long journey home across the Atlantic.

Tears trace the curve of my smile and I am not at all bothered by the woman sitting across me in the opposite row. I don’t need a tissue, I feel like saying. Although I miss him already, I am actually happy. I know I will see The Dude again – this beautiful friend of mine who will always have my heart. But this next time, it won’t take as long.

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