There’s a lava lake below us gurgling and sputtering orange molten fire. You and I gaze into the crater.
Up here on this lookout, we’re surrounded by beautiful couples so much younger than us, in their Hawaiian shirts and breezy cottony dresses. Some of these kids are fresh off their nuptials at the beach resorts along Kona. Their hands move easily around each other’s waists, their smooth faces lit by the orange glow from below.
Three years ago, a rift ruptured on the flank of Kilauea, and all the lava inside oozed down the mountain, slowly engulfing the forest and the neighborhoods below it.
Three years ago, I confessed my infidelity to you.
We sat side by side on Dr. Johansen’s black leather couch, leaning on the his-and-her throw pillows.
He gets mad when I ask him about it, you said.
Why does she still want to talk about ancient history? I asked.
Dr. Johansen flashed her Cheshire Cat smile at me, and I knew she was going to say something that would be difficult for me to hear.
What you did caused Ying trauma. She’s responding in a way that’s understandable for someone who’s suffered serious grief and loss.
It made sense. Why you sometimes snap at me for no reason. Why you get angry if I don’t call before coming home. Why the awful memories still keep bubbling up for you so many years later.
At the end of our session, Dr. Johansen told us to go away somewhere together, to relax and have fun. You’ve done so much hard work here, she said. You’ve earned it.
During the twisting drive around Crater Rim Road to get to the volcano, you yell at me the whole time, saying I’m taking the curves too aggressively. Like I’m on a mission to make you sick to your stomach. Instead of yelling back, I find myself mentally sifting through the distress tolerance acronyms Dr. Johansen taught us. STOP and TIPP, the P for “paced breathing.” Inhale, count to five. Exhale. And I even remember to validate. Yes, it’s difficult to be in the passenger seat on such a long, winding road. I feel so bad for you.
We are old and we are both not skinny, unlike the svelte young volcano worshippers around us. Yesterday, when we did the Kohala zipline, we honestly worried whether the steel cables could support our middle-aged weight. Each time right before you leapt off one of the platforms, you said, Bye-bye Max, I love you. When I watched you flying over the deep green canyon, wearing your bucket helmet with the GoPro on top, screaming and waving your arms, I couldn’t believe how beautiful you looked.
Go ahead and turn to him, Dr. Johansen had said, her spectacles glinting. Ask him.
You looked me square in the eye. The leather sofa creaked.
Max, am I enough for you?
Yes, you are.
Can I trust you, that you will never be unfaithful again?
Yes, you can.
The honeymooners drink champagne from plastic flute glasses. There’s a guy playing a ukulele, and everyone’s dancing on the wooden platform, like they haven’t any burden in the world.
You and I watch an orange dome of fire inside the crater, rocketing lava high into the air. In the three years since Kilauea erupted, the crater has been slowly filling itself back up.
I feel bad for the people who lost their homes, I say.
That’s Pele’s power, you say. She destroys what was once there, and creates new land on top.
The earth beneath us starts to shake, a seismic rumble. The ukulele player stops mid-song. The partygoers scream.
Your legs wobble, but I catch you.