Honolulu, Bus 13: Short Story by Nette Hargreaves
She sits at the stop waiting, clutching a backpack and guidebook. ‘Go to the valley of the owls’, her spirit guides had said.
It seems odd, thinking about spirit guides while waiting for public transport.
At last, a bus pulls up. ‘Wrong direction’, the driver tells her. ‘Other side of the road, 10 minutes.’
It’s getting warm, the gentle morning breeze giving way to the sun beating down on the corrugated roof of the bus shelter. All this waiting feels like wasting time. Maybe she should have just gone to the beach, relaxed on a blanket with a good book for a few hours. But the valley of the owls gently calls…
‘It’s a long walk’, the driver says as she gets off at the other end. ‘You’d best wait over there for another bus to take you to the entrance of the valley.’ The other bus only runs once an hour, a passer-by informs her. But you best wait, because it’s a long walk.
Impatient, she starts walking anyway. Residential areas in Hawai’i, much like on the mainland, are not made for walking, so she moves by the side of the road, crossing over people’s front lawns.
It begins to drizzle, then pour. Seeking shelter underneath the thick canopy of a magnolia tree, she looks ahead to the valley shrouded in low clouds. ‘Well, what were you expecting?’ She sighs at the realization that a rainforest is called a rainforest for a reason.
Behind her, sloping back towards the sea, the sun is shining brightly. Maybe the beach and the book… She pulls on her hat and trudges on, periodically glancing over her shoulder checking for the miraculous apparition of the once hourly bus. Nothing.
Another lone walker comes towards her, drenched. ‘Do you know how far it is? she asks. The woman stops to wring water from her long ponytail. ‘I got as far as the road that leads to the valley before I was caught in a torrential downpour. I thought it would be an easy hike, but I wasn’t prepared for the weather, so I decided to turn around. Good luck.’
She checks her watch, already over two hours since she set off. She’s supposed to be back soon and she hasn’t even arrived. ‘Just go back, it’s not meant to be’, her head offers. ‘Just keep on a little while longer’, her heart counters softly. ‘You’ve come so far already…’
Squish, squash, moving forward. Squish, squash, looking back.
At last, a bus pulls up to take her the last few miles to her destination. She steps off and crosses the road to enter the hiking trail. Within minutes, all traces of human habitation have vanished as the valley opens up, invites and encloses her, the rainforest teasing her with its lushness and tranquillity.
She stretches her limbs as if to open herself up, inhaling the vibrantly green air, squinting through rays of emerging sunshine towards the muddy path ahead.
Squish, squash, her white trainers sinking into the thick volcanic earth. Squish, squash, up the washed-out trail to the soul-cleansing waterfall in the valley of the owls.
She feels her mind and body relax in unison as she embraces the serenity of her surroundings: ancient trees towering towards flecks of blue sky glimpsed through their thick foliage, raindrops collected like pearls on pale lilac orchids, a stream gently cascading beside the path. Squish, squash, her feet wading in the orange soil.
Today, this is where she is meant to be. The beach and the book can wait for another day.