“I’m telling you it’s not like him. Maybe something happened to him.”
“No, Bro. Nothin’ happened to him. He just didn’t show. I mean he didn’t show all day. I waited for nothin’.”
The two middle-aged men generating this conversation are walking toward a park bench overlooking the shores of Waikiki.
One is wiry, of compacted frame with salt and pepper hair, haphazardly shorn into a crew cut. This is Bro. He is missing a few front teeth. He is wearing what appears to be a basketball uniform made for an NBA center. The silky bright red shorts come down almost to his ankles. He has a tattoo on each bicep. The design appears to be a floral pattern, but nothing recognizable.
The other man, also of the same lean build and about the same height, is beyond tanned. His skin is cracked, darkened and etched by many hard years and exposure to the sun and the elements.
His hair is slicked back with a little duck’s tail reminiscent of the greasers in the ’50s. Greaser is wearing a short-sleeved white shirt with the sleeves rolled just a bit — also in the style of the era, and revealing a tattoo on his left arm. The inked image appears to be a classic sailor’s anchor. He is wearing knock-off designer jeans and flip flops.
“I’m telling you, Bro,” he says, “I’ve been waiting all fuckin’ day. What time is it, like 5?”
There are two park benches ensconced comfortably underneath a scraggly Banyan tree. One bench is unoccupied. The other has an unassuming occupant, an elderly man who could play the part of a scholar right out of central casting. He has a white goatee, he is wearing round spectacles and he is reading a very thick book.
Greaser and Bro decide to sit with the scholar. Now we have, from left to right, Greaser, Bro and Scholar. Scholar is doing his best to remain consumed in his literature, but undoubtedly he knows that as long as these two are accompanying him, his task will be all the more difficult, if not impossible.
If Scholar is listening to the conversation — and how could he not — he is probably smirking at the irony of Greaser and Bro enacting a variation on the theme of Beckett’s masterpiece, Waiting for Godot.
Greaser’s speech is slurred and slow and it becomes clear why when he pulls a 16-ounce can of Pabst Blue Ribbon out of a plastic grocery bag.
Greaser stands up, apparently to negotiate opening his liquid refreshment, and then he sits down. He is fidgeting until he takes the first swig.
All is quiet for a moment and then Bro re-ignites the conversation.
“Maybe something happened. It’s not like him to not even call.”
“I called HIM!” says Greaser. “And all I got was an answering machine. Didn’t even sound like him. “
“What did it say?” asks Bro, plaintively.
“I dunno. Couldn’t even tell,” says Greaser. He takes another gulp of his beverage. “Maybe it was a wrong number or something.”
Behind Greaser, Bro, the Scholar and the Banyan tree, the sun appears to be negotiating its descent with a puff of clouds hugging the horizon. Surfers and swimmers are basking in the amber light and the waves are gently lapping the shore. The waves are inaudible, overpowered by the din of traffic on Kalakaua Avenue.
Tour buses are gunning their engines and spewing diesel exhaust. They seem to be competing with myriad motorcycles, apparently designed for two purposes: to make a lot of noise and add more fumes to the air. Delivery trucks of every kind make impossible (and no doubt illegal) turns, while street vendors with monotonous tones chirp their offerings, amplified by tinny speakers. A pan flutist attempts to compete with a spin class that has the windows to the studio wide open, blasting a thumping bass beat that seems to suck the oxygen out of mid-air.
Greaser and Bro seem oblivious to it all, consumed in being either insulted by or concerned for their no-show friend.
“He’s a creature of habit,” says Greaser. “It’s not like him.”
“Did you call?” asks Bro.
“Of course, I called. And all I got was a busy signal. Not even a message.“
“All day?” asks Bro.
“All fuckin’ day,” says Greaser. “All I got was a busy signal. No message.”
“Whataya goin’ do?” asks Bro, who seems more upset than Greaser.
“Go home,” says Greaser.
“Fuckin’ ruins the day, though,” says Bro.
“Gone from bad to worse,” says Greaser, who bends down to pull something from his backpack. As he leans downward, a lanyard — the type conference-goers wear to identify themselves in a crowd, swings from his neck.
Greaser pulls the backpack on and gestures to Bro to get moving, probably to the nearest establishment serving alcohol. As they leave, Scholar seems to sigh in relief.