The Fish That Swim up the Waterfall
At Akaka Falls, on the Big Island of Hawaii, there is a fish called the o’opu alama’o. These fish are born in the waters above the falls. Their babies drift in the current all the way down the falls, down the river, and out to the Pacific Ocean. There, they grow into adult fish.
When it is time, they begin to swim back from whence they came, up the freshwater streams toward Akaka Falls. At the base of the waterfall—which is more than four hundred feet high—they do an amazing thing. Using a sucker on their bellies, the fish climb up the sheer cliff wall, painstakingly making their way up and up and up, until they reach the top of the waterfall. There, they hatch the eggs of the next generation of o’opu alama’o, new fish that will make the same journey.
The o’opu alama’o, you see, understand that life is a cycle. We could all learn from these fish. Sometimes we must hoist ourselves up waterfalls in our own lives, back to our origins, back to where we began.
DEADLY TRAIN ACCIDENT IN VIRGINIA
Sixty-eight people were killed and hundreds wounded in a commuter train accident on the Northeast Corridor from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, on Monday. The train unaccountably derailed, and the first two cars careened into the mountainside, killing sixty-seven passengers along with the train conductor. Eight passengers remain missing.
Authorities have not announced the cause of the accident and are withholding further details pending further investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Vigils are being held for the victims in Philadelphia and Washington.
i know it’s been a while. i was just thinking of you randomly today and that time we followed the sea turtle. remember how we thought we could chase her all around the world? bet we could have, if your parents hadn’t called you in for dinner.
are you still mad at me? i hope not, because i miss you. i’m not mad at you anymore. i’m sorry for ghosting you. truce?
When I open my eyes and sit up, everything is dark. My brain is cottony, and my eyes won’t focus. I can’t remember where I am or how I got here. I’m not afraid. I mostly feel … empty.
The warm air is humid and heavy. Beads of sweat trickle down my back, even though I’m wearing a thin tank top and jean shorts. I take a deep breath. Then another. I am sitting on the bare ground, hard and bumpy. There are rocks, sharp and pointy as blades. Impulsively, I slip one into the pocket of my shorts. Protection.
When I stand, I hit my head on something hard. A sloping roof? A shelf of rock? Has someone kidnapped me and taken me captive underground? I should be terrified, but I’m mostly confused and curious. Something about this place seems familiar … but whatever the memory is, it remains out of reach, like wisps of clouds passing through my brain, impossible to grasp.
Gradually, my eyes adjust to the dimness. Black walls of rock surround me. I begin crawling forward on my hands and knees, a strange anticipation fluttering in my chest. If I’m lost, why do I have this hopeful feeling? The rocks graze my bare knees and sting my palms. My eyes blink against the darkness. And then, I see it—a shaft of light, up ahead. I crawl faster.
The roof of rock slopes up and up until I find myself in a large dark chamber. A shaft of light streams down through an opening in the ceiling, like the Pantheon in Rome, which I think I’ve visited before, or maybe I’ve just seen pictures. Right now, my memory isn’t working all that well. It feels as if I’m half-asleep, waiting for the details of my life to come into focus.
Suddenly, a figure steps into the shaft of light. I freeze. His back is to me, but there’s a spotlight on him, like an actor onstage. There is something recognizable in the way he carries himself: the breadth of his shoulders and the slant of his hips. As I scoot a little closer, the rock falls out of my shallow pocket and plunks onto the ground. A soft thud is loud in this hushed chamber of stone. The boy turns, glancing around.
When I see his face, my breath catches in my throat.
The sight of him brings a memory into focus: the last time I saw him in person, three years ago. He looks exactly the same as he did then.
He stares in my direction, but his expression is utterly blank. Does he recognize me? Can he even see me in this darkness? Or is he looking past me, lost in thought? I stand, ducking my head to keep clear of the ceiling. I am about to call his name when he steps out of the light, vanishing as quickly as he had appeared.
I slip the rock back into my pocket, and then I follow him.
The last time Kai and I talked, it did not end well. I was angry with him about something. And he was upset with me too. He was so upset that he said he needed space and hung up the phone. Thinking about it now makes a rain cloud sit heavy in my chest. Why would I ever fight with Kai? He is so easygoing and gentle—he never argues with anyone. God, I must have done something terrible to actually make him angry. What did I do? How can I make it right?
I need to catch up to him so we can talk. Then I can explain, or maybe he can explain to me. And then I can apologize. And then things will be right between us again.
When I reach the shaft of light, I tilt my head back and gaze up. The light filters into the rock cavern through a round hole about the size of a dinner plate. Through the hole, I can glimpse clear blue sky. Wisps of cloud skitter past.
With a flash of recognition, I know exactly where I am.
The lava tubes.
Our place, mine and Kai’s.
Three years ago …
“Meet me tonight at the lava tubes,” Kai said. His brows were knitted together, his tone urgent. His fingers lightly touched my hip. “So we can, you know. Catch up.”
“I’m not sure,” I hedged, glancing up at my parents in the distance. They were distracted, gathering our snorkel gear and dumping our dirty towels into the laundry bin at the resort kiosk. Expecting me to be following right behind them. If I didn’t hurry, soon they would notice my absence and start bickering.
“I don’t even remember how to get there,” I said to Kai.
“Don’t worry, it’s simple—I bet you’ll remember as you go along. Follow the path along the edge of the golf course. You hit the parking lot, and the path turns to gravel and veers down to the lava tubes. You can’t miss it, really. I still go there all the time.”
All the time. His words made me flinch inside, which surprised me—I didn’t have a crush on Kai. But then why did I hate to imagine him bringing other girls there? Maybe because the lava tubes were special: the hideout we had discovered as kids, the place we had spent those magical summer hours dreaming, pretending we would run away together. Silly plans. Childish games. Still—it hurt to think of him there, without me. With someone else instead.
I turned away. “Look, it was great to run into you, but I should go … ”
“T, please.” He touched my shoulder, and I couldn’t help myself. I paused, turned back around to face him. “It’s our place,” he said. “Remember?”
Our place. The look in his eyes was so earnest.
“Fine,” I whispered. “I’ll see you there. Midnight.” Then I reluctantly pulled away, heading up the sandy hill to my waiting parents.
I’m not buried in some scary underground cave. I’m somewhere familiar and safe: the secret hideout of my childhood. As I gaze up at the bright-blue daytime sky through the round hole in the rock roof, memories come flooding back about a different sky I once glimpsed through that hole—night, star-studded.
Kai is here somewhere. I need to find him.
In the distance, a faint glimmer of sunlight marks the cave exit. I plunge toward it through the darkness, memories of that night swirling through my mind. Memories of the last time I was here, three years ago...