It had been a long and sluggish week, but Saturday evening had finally arrived.
Thinking back, it was Jan. 16 2003 that I first bumped into her — literally. Attending the first University of Hawaii football game of the season was a major deal for locals, but after a hearty four hours of tailgating, I was more excited for the roasted corn-on-the-cob waiting on the concourse level inside. Hawaiians are notorious for making unusual sounds with a conch shell or cooking a pig at luau, but they truly roast some mean corn.
After making it through the gates, I ran as fast as my flip-flops would allow and still ended up 12th on line for the Cob Shack. Nearly 20 minutes passed before I finally had a husk clenched in each fist. Spinning away from the butter, salt and seasoning station, my focus intent on devouring perfect bites, and smack!
I had collided head-on with someone carrying a tray full of Longboard Ales.
The impact projected my arm straight up, forcing the corn to slap against my sunglasses — coating the lenses in butter. I ripped the shades from my face and wiped ice-cold beer off my cheeks in utter disgust. After opening my mouth to apologize, I realized the enormity of the situation.
Standing before me was the most stunning woman I had ever encountered during my time in Honolulu. She was attempting to dab spilled beer from the Colt Brennan jersey barely covering her dark, smooth Hawaiian skin. As I stumbled for something to say, her flowing brown hair and shiny lips flickered in the sun, which made things worse.
“Holy jeez, I’m so sorry,” I groaned through pepper-spackled teeth. “I turned around so fast that …”
“No, no, don’t apologize. It was completely my fault,” she cut me off. “The beers, I was too focused on balancing the beers, and never looked up.”
Feverishly cleaning my glasses, I stammered, “Well, uhm, … here, how about I buy you some, some replacements?
“What about your corn?” Both ears sat worthless on the concrete.
“Oh, don’t worry about it.”
“Please, I’ll get you another corn and then maybe … we can split a pitcher?” she asked with inviting eyes.
I looked around; trying not to appear too thrilled, “Yea, yes, yes, definitely.”
Easy as that.
We spent the next hour exchanging banter in the concourse bar before setting up a proper date for tonight. And here I am, walking to the door for the second encounter with Noel, in something that would only happen in the movies.
In one fluid motion, I skipped up the steps and tapped the doorbell. Two minutes later, someone other than Noel opened the door, so I retreated the flowers behind my legs.
“Hello, I’m here to pick up Noel,” I announced, but quickly realized that something was wrong. This person – maybe Noel’s roommate – seemed out of sorts. She just stared at me, as suddenly, her already red-tinted eyes began to well up with tears.
“Ohh, jeez, is everything okay. Am I at the right house? I’m Zach and have a date with Noel.” I stepped back quickly and checked the house number again.
“You had a date set up with Noel for tonight? I guess there was no real way for you to know then.”
“Yea, tonight, Saturday at 8. We met last weekend. No way I could possibly know what?” I returned.
“There really isn’t a real proper way to explain a situation like this.” She looked at the ground and struggled to get it out.
“Know what? I’m very confused, this is 87 Palm, right?”
“Noel was in a serious car accident earlier this week,.. an,.. and she passed away.”
“What?” I asked, smiling in utter shock, thinking this was all a big prank. “Look, wait, seriously?”
“Yes,” she muttered.
“Look, uhm, I’ve never really been, or had anything like this happen before, If she just didn’t want to go out, you guys didn’t have to go through all this trouble. Making up such a big story.”
“No, I’m serious, it was all over the papers. It’s obviously been a rough week, and like I said, there was no real way for you to know,” she said, wiping the tears. “I’m sorry.”
“Wow, uhm. Yea, you’re right. I’m sorry,” I stuttered trying to think and remain polite. “Again, I’m really sorry. Here, have these.” I handed her the flowers and stepped back down the stairs.
Walking away, trying to put the pieces together, I couldn’t help but think the chances.