IMR: Prologue: The Whole Story
The Apartment, Waikiki, Hawai`i
Hapa's debut album, ubiquitous as it is, was the soundtrack of our first few months together. That was over three years ago.

Jen and I met in Hilo. Our first date was to see "Schindler's List." Continuing the theme of romantic, uplifting films, "The Piano" came a few dates later. We didn't bat an eye. Though we were soon spending nearly every free moment together, and were (in retrospect) clearly retarded for each other, we dumbly presumed the other had no interest. We were resigned to being very good friends.

But after dancing around the subject for months -- and after a seperation during Spring Break found us both missing eachother in a more-than-a-friend way -- we were cornered by Sherry, a mutual friend, to admit we were an Official Item.

We cemented our couplehood with a somber talk and our first, nervous kiss shortly after midnight on April 1.

April Fool's Day. Our relationship is rich with chuckles like that.

From that night on, Jen and I never slept alone. I took up residence in her roommate-free dorm room in the girls-only wing of Kanilehua. Things progressed pretty quickly from there.

Summer hit and quickly raced past. She went home to her family in Ocala, Florida. She then came back early to visit my friends and family in Honolulu before we returned, more in love than ever, to Hilo.

By that time, I'd been hired as Editor-in-Chief of "Ke Kalahea," the UH Hilo student newspaper. But the Hilo pace was that of a snail compared to life as an associate news editor at "Ka Leo" (the UH-Manoa daily, where I'd worked for my first three semesters in college), and we still had a lot of time to spend together.

Just about every other week, we'd take the two-hour drive up the Hamakua Coast, through Waimea, and down to Hapuna Beach. We must have seen two dozen of the most spectacular sunsets, driving back, stopping for loco mocos at Ken's House of Pancakes. We took trips out to Rainbow Falls, cuddling under the thick canopy of trees.

We'd drive to a small lookout just north of Hilo to sit and watch the stars and the city lights. We'd even drive aimlessly around the town, tooling through the airport loop, slowing and turning off the car lights to experience complete and utter darkness.

We also loved to tour Hawaii Volcanos National Park. Late one night, we ventured past the ranger line and hiked to the edge of the lava bench (an insanely suicidal move, to say the very least). We stood, our faces burning, and watched the earth glow and the waves roar and scream as it crashed into the youngest shore on earth.

My recollection of that breathtaking romantic scene was published some months later in a book about kissing.

That semester -- Fall 1994 -- also found Jen with a roommate. Fortunately, I had a roommate with a cohabitative girlfriend, whose mutually accepted presence eventually allowed for Jen's moving in as well. Four people in a room built for two. And our suitemate just happened to be our Resident Adviser. Not surprisingly, the living conditions eventually became a little unbearable, so the four of us moved into our own apartment -- a two bedroom place across the street from campus. "Ke Kalahea" was thriving, and I was obnoxious enough to hire Jen as "Office Manager."

You could say we were a bit obsessed with each other. Back then, there was not a single two-hour stretch in which we didn't see each other. And we didn't mind one bit.

Then May rolled around. My friends back at "Ka Leo" at UH Manoa called to beg me to apply for the top spot there. Having to work for any of the other candidates for Editor-in-Chief, it appeared, was to them a fate worse than death. Over Jen's strong reservations, I applied. I figured I didn't have a chance -- as far as anyone in Honolulu knew, I was a country hick.

I got the job.

To say Jen was upset would be an understatement. Her deep-set aversion to long-distance relationships had claps of doom echoing in her head. When I climbed into the taxi that would take me to the Hilo airport (though she was again returning to Florida, I had to leave before she did), she cried for hours.

Yet somehow, we persevered. That summer I made half a dozen carefully mixed, personally deejayed tapes, and wrote so many letters and e-mail that the season's correspondence overflowed a large box.

She again visited me in Honolulu -- this time in my own apartment in Waikiki -- for a few weeks as the summer wound down. Then she returned to Hilo alone, but still my girlfriend.

Of course, loving a woman 200 miles away wasn't a walk in the park. Our mad longing for each other had me flying her in to Honolulu every other week, my juicy "Ka Leo" editor paychecks disappearing as fast as I got them.

It became a ritual. Pick her up at the airport Friday night, cram in as much of each other as possible over the weekend, then drop her off at the airport before the crack of dawn on Monday. Every morning when it was time to go, she'd cry. On the drive to the airport, she'd grip my hand 'til it went numb.

Finally, she decided to transfer to Manoa for the Spring of 1996. Giving up a comfortable degree program and financial aid, we got a loan from my mom and she signed up for dance, biology, astronomy.

She didn't do very well.

She dropped out, worked a horrible three weeks at Blockbuster, before nabbing a job at Tower Records. Late shift, 4 p.m. to midnight.

Thinking back, given how the next few months would go, what was to eventually come seems almost unavoidable.

With "Ka Leo" consuming my days and my volunteer work on the internet consuming my nights, I already had very little time to share with Jen. Meanwhile, her work schedule left only a tiny window during which we'd spend any conscious time together. It was the inverse universe of the year before.

The average day? I'd wake up at 7 a.m., Jen still passed out, and head to school and work. At 3 p.m., Jen'd leave home for work. At 7 p.m., I'd get home. At 1 a.m., I'd pick Jen up, and by 3 a.m. I'd be out. Her days off were often in the middle of the week, when I'd be wrapped up in "Ka Leo" or internet work. My days off -- weekends -- were often spent at home alone, watching the bricks in the wall not move.

Eventually, things began to break down. We were growing more and more frustrated over seeing so little of each other. Jen, who thought the time I'd been donating to my internet projects was consuming potential couple time, only occasionally voiced her unhappiness. I, meanwhile, now see I failed to really hear her even when she did.

My panic alarms went off far, far too late.

By the time I started seriously pressuring her to at least secure the more merciful shift she always said she'd get -- say, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- she was already beginning to like the late nights with the crew that was self-admittedly the most obnoxious and dysfunctional.

After weeks of nagging, she got her day shift. Her new coworkers were stiff and cranky, but at least she got home before the sun went down.

Tragically, failing to recognize the sacrifice Jen had made, I remained mired in my routine of spending four, five hours a night researching on the internet. Many an eve was spent with her sewing or reading while I typed late into the night.

Suffice it to say, I wasn't doing right by her. She switched back to the night shift to, I soon learned, get closer to someone she thought would.

Things got ugly fast. Sure, I was finally giving her all the attention I could spare. But while that afforded us some of the best days together we'd ever had, the unavoidable rift that had grown between us for months also made for some of the worst. Then, on Valentine's Day — the one day we perhaps allowed us to imagine that things would be all right — we were involved in a major accident while driving out to a late-night dinner. It was an event that changed our lives forever, and an event that, at the time, seemed to be the final blow to our frayed relationship.

We broke up. She moved out. Okay, I made her move out. It was perhaps the lowest moment of my life. (One that also ruined forever the friendship I had with the woman who ended up taking her in.) I was reeling, crushed under both the aftermath of the Feb. 14th wreck and the messy end to what once was a fairy-tale three-year romance. To cope, I threw myself completely into the long-shot project some former "Ka Leo" staffers and I had concocted to publish an alternative, anti-establishment campus newspaper. Jen, meanwhile, tried to move on, getting set up on a multitude of dates by her new host and single-life mentor.

We managed to ignore each other for weeks.

Then, she called to ask me to take her back. Feeling unusually prideful, I said no. Soon afterward, though, I called her to ask her to come back. It was her turn to say no.

Ultimately, we couldn't stay away from each other. And yet, we knew it wasn't healthy. As summer began, during one of our long, silent, teary-eyed meetings, I offered to send her back home to Florida. She accepted.

And when I put her on that plane, even though it broke my already broken heart, I found some solace in thinking it was the right thing to do. Our love, and her wacky Hawaii experiment, had ended badly. To heal, we desperately needed to be thousands of miles apart — out of each others' life, finally and forever.

Not a month later, though, I got the call. And what seemed like a downer of an ending suddenly became one hell of a new beginning.

Note: This retrospective has been both edited and extended from its original (April 1998) form.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 6 April 1998 · Last Modified: 11 April 2002