Hoku always ate the whole apple, even the core.
Nearly a decade ago I called him stellar buns. One phrase from a language of inside jokes.
The first time I realized I wanted Hoku for a best friend he had shaved his head and pasted a few long black strands of his dad’s hair. He painted his body with ash, and was wearing a loin cloth, crawling around for the entire day as Gollum. He ate a whole fish in the parking lot.
Hoku was my first love and my first kiss.
A few years later he ended up living with me, becoming part of my family. We had so much fun, going to dance class/Anarchist Freedom Choir and sitting in hottubs with my dad, making a lot of pizza and playing Dr. Robotnix Mean Bean Machine. We did everything ironically, like the rule that we had to wear coats and blast the heater when driving on Fridays during summer. We shared every detail of our lives with each other under the stars on the trampoline. Teenagers in love.
Hoku got over me but was still living with me. He became cold and apathetic toward me and one evening I punched him. He is the only person I’ve displayed physical violence toward.
That was a long time ago. Hoku and I had continued to be dear friends for years – hanging out occasionally when in the same country. We still spoke the same language.
When Isaiah died Hoku said that every person has the right to decide whether or not they should go on living on any given day.
Any number of times I have heard Hoku say “I am content, I could die right now.” He was that kind of person.
Hoku was never well known for being careful.
Regardless, it was a huge shock to find out he had died falling out of a building in Chicago.
Grief is alive in every cell. A sweep through the gut and sternum, each time I look at it it goes higher into my heart, I wonder why it is white, I stumble, I almost throw up, I lie down and sob. Heart has broken poisonous.
Kristen called me to tell me the news. I wept in the street and a neighbor near my work carried me into her house. Her dog licked my face and she poured me a glass of vodka and tropical juice. She and her roommate had also both recently lost close friends.
Kristen dropped her phone “more like threw my phone” when drunk so now people can only hear her when she turns on speakerphone. She wound up with the responsibility of telling people the news and listening to us cry on speakerphone.
I pound the table till my hands are bruised.
At first I couldn’t sleep. Hoku was slightly transparent and I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Two snakes escaped, one green and one purple. They wound around each other and moved as a unit.
Will texts me a picture of intertwined snakes, brings me gin, and four Daifuku cakes. I can’t tell if I am drunk or sleep deprived or just sad. Suddenly, I am able to perform the type of clerical task that I am usually incapable of, writing long-standing emails and going to the post office.
On the way to the post office Vince sends me a sweet text, as do Amelia and Megan. Their kindness, and the reminder that Hoku is dead, erupt in an explosion of tears that my conscious mind barely comprehends. I become aware that Will is holding my hand and wondering what to do. I give him directions to the place on Otero where the real estate catalogue is hidden.
It is still there.
“How stupid that this 2005 Real Estate Catalogue is here and Hoku isn’t.” I say. “This doesn’t matter at all.”
“It does matter” says Will. “Mementos matter to people.”
In highschool, with my first group of best friends, we used to all write each other letters. We liked to collect free real estate catalogues around town and draw hearts around the realtors faces, discussing what we would say when we would prank call them. We wrote letters to one another with markers, passing a single catalogue back and forth until it formed a book of correspondence. This is how some of our most serious discussions went. I ended up with a box of many of these communications, as well as letters, art, and poetry Hoku made me. I don’t know when I’ll feel ready to look in that box again.
Throughout this trajectory, we invented performance art, conceptual art, and polyamory. Alex and I walked each other home across town, sometimes turning around to walk the other home once one of us had reached our destination. Hoku and Kristen broke up in the wilderness outside our high school. Hoku’s dad led us in talking circles. We all played sardines and sang the whole time.
We also invented irony. We sang Spice Girls and Aqua and did literal dances. We drove everyone crazy by coming up to them and demanding: “Is that seven flowers on your shirt? 1! 2! 3! 4! 5! 6! 7!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” We read “The Hot Flash Club” in installments whenever it was raining.
Hoku and I hid one of the 2005 real estate catalogues with the pink flowers on the cover into a small tube on a fauxdobe bench outside of someone’s house on Otero. We said that as long as the catalogue was there we would love each other.
For the first time in a long time our old group of friends got together. There was a period of several years where we were one person. We’re different people now and it was poignant for loss and nostalgia to commingle. We laid in a big pile like we used to and sang the songs we used to sing. Once Hoku told me that his favorite song was: “Find the Cost of Freedom” by Crosby Stills and Nash. We cried as we sang that song.
When sitting with Mark Mikow, the most influential teacher at our high school, he mentioned that Hoku once stated that it is pointless to be sad when someone dies because the person who dies can no longer feel anything, or something to that effect.
A few months ago I asked Facebook how matter becomes conscious and Hoku responded with a book recommendation, which he later rescinded stating that neurophysics is dense as shit (or maybe dense as the matter it’s comprised of). I had already bought the book however and was looking forward to discussing it.
“Matter coming together UNconsciously to create CONSCIOUS beings, which technically is what happens, is SOOOOOOO much fucking more miraculous than Consciousness steering Matter to become Conscious. And why would it even need to, if it was already Consciousness itself? There wouldn’t be a need for matter.” – Hoku
In a correspondence with Grannia Hoku said: ” …I got this amazing sense where I vanished and didn’t exist for a little bit and realized that the state of not-experiencing is blissful as hell. And though I’ve never grokked being scared of death so much it reminded me that there really is no need to be cuz it’s blissful, and it also made me grok how I completely have been responsible for every ounce of pain and suffering or joy and ecstasy I’ve ever felt, no matter how much I blamed the external influences. I grokked all this before, right, but this gave me a reminding jolt in my bones and not just my head.”
I’ve been practicing not thinking.
My thoughts mostly oscillate however, waves amplified by emotions. “I’m working on this new art project called grief, I’m actually really into it.” I say to someone who asks what I’m up to at a memorial. “I’d just like to tell you that whatever you’re feeling is incorrect, the way you are grieving is wrong.” I say to a group of friends. “Hoku hated beer” I say as more friends bring beer. My sarcasm has reached new heights. Grannia said her last words to Hoku were: “Have a nice trip.” I replied: “See you next fall.”
At the memorial I led the circle of 97 people in a “Hoku choir” which was the last hilarious thing Hoku taught me. I was in the middle of pulling a long joke on Hoku last time I saw him and I could barely look at him because I knew he’d see through it, but now I wish I’d let him know the punchline. Alex also quoted Hoku at the memorial, with something Hoku often said: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” and buried his face in the dirt. The image of Hoku’s mom, Sadhana, with ashes covering half her face will always be emblazoned in my mind, but you can’t take pictures in a dream (or when your phone is out of battery). The most raw and inspired finish to the ceremony was Sadhana, who threw Hoku’s ashes in everyone’s faces.
A few days after the memorial I went sunburnt to Megan Burn’s going away party. My friend Jaymin asked how I was and I answered honestly, as has been the trend lately. He didn’t know that Hoku and I had been friends but told me about a dream he had recently where Hoku and I were dancing by swinging around each other at a wedding, and that he knew we were the two getting married. Then I was gone and only Hoku remained.
Jewels of memories with Hoku keep appearing: how we made my dad an ironic expressionist art film for father’s day, or when Hoku made a movie for me before he left to travel, and hid it among the DVDs he was loaning me – the time we went to the mini-field outside my house, lay in the illuminated purple grass, and laughed hysterically for eternity.
I am attached to memory. Dementia and death scare me equally and for the same reasons. Memory is the force behind the construction of a self in time, in spite of memory being fundamentally reconstructive. It is odd to think I am the only one who remembers my first kiss now, or any other number of moments on which Hoku and I conspired.
One June 12th in 2005 Hoku and I were waiting for our friends to get out of their respective jobs and went to hang out at the Rose Park. We climbed the tallest tree and sat in the highest branches. We talked about our histories with the wonder of discovery. We had both read Animorphs as kids and wanted to finish the series now that we had outgrown it. Hoku had lived all over the world and told me about his time in Australia, floating across a lake perfumed by eucalyptus. I associated the green and gold freckles in his eyes with the scenes he described. Over the course of 3 hours our faces got closer together, our eyes moved more quickly, and our noses touched. By the time I was experiencing the softness of my first kiss I no longer had a concept of time.
Such Great Heights.
Sarah, the person who invited me to her house when I learned the news, asked me what my favorite thing about Hoku was. My first thought was that how Hoku was not afraid to show who he was and what he felt through his eyes.
One night when I was 15 or 16, but I imagine I was 16 because maybe Hoku was wearing the “Moon Princess” skirt, we were spending hours staring into each other’s eyes as we so often did. In a moment something shifted. Hoku said the gray wall he had built around his essence had cracked and we had witnessed what he refered to as the “small pink blob” within.
The past several days every time I sleep a hundred years go by. Nothing ever made sense, then it made less sense and I felt more than ever that life is a process of loss. Now I feel like I have to change the way I view the world. I don’t know what life or death are, or what I am, but I know what love is.