by Stephen Pirsch
"Maybe today will be the day; the day she talks to me," thought the haole. He daydreamed of being with her, but she had never talked to him, and she rarely looked at him. Sometimes he wondered how she knew he was in the store.
At 5 PM. he started the habitual walk two blocks to the Foo bakery for warm, fresh bread...and her - the the rarest jewel in Wailuku, Maui. Unusual and beautiful, yes, but that was only part of the attraction. He simply had to be in her presence - partly out of hope, but certainly not out of anything rational. She gave him no encouragement.
She was very tall and light skinned for a Chinese girl, and the haole fantasized that maybe this could give him a chance, since she was taller than most Chinese men. No matter, she had ignored him three days a week for months. She was exotic, and seemingly unattainable. The haole had been politely businesslike, trying unsuccessfully to draw her into small talk. "Today will be different," he thought, and he had thought about it a lot.
He was living at the Seven Seas Hotel and Bar where he worked
weekends as a bartender for a free room, and worked most weekdays on a tuna
boat. He worried about being perceived, by the girl, as a tourist who would
soon leave. He ambled along the cracked sidewalk of Vineyard Street, past
The Bungalo; a dilapidated, sixty dollar a month rooming house, and the aging
Wang Chow Movie Theater. He entered the small bakery, and, as always, there
she was behind the counter, eyes down, busy organizing bakery goods. He always
felt stunned when he looked at her, unable to avert his gaze. Time seemed
to slow, her skin smelling faintly sweet among the pleasant odor of fresh
bread. She quickly grabbed a soft, warm loaf of bread and the haole gave her
the exact change. He felt her fingers slide like blown air to the end of his
hand. "God, he thought, one touch and I'm almost crippled!" The
haole felt his forehead start to bead with sweat. He resisted a strong urge
In a voice seeming to reverberate inside his head, he made the speech he had practiced, "You are very, very beautiful. Coming here is much more than just the bread. Seeing you is the high point of my entire day. I wish we could get to know each other."
She blushed strongly, as she continued to look down, and the haole could see her breathing had quickened. He felt panic. "S***! She feels trapped. I've embarrassed her. Now she's going to always be uncomfortable around me. Probably a hundred guys have told her she's beautiful," he thought.
"I'm sorry, he said. It's just that...well...it's just,...well...I just like being around you so much! I know you didn't encourage me. I'm sorry if I embarrassed you." He felt as if he was going to sink into the earth. His feet were melting.
Nothing. No further reaction. Her eyes were still down, and
everything was dead still.
"I'm sorry," he said as he backed out of the store.
The haole laid back on his bed and thought about the encounter over and over. "Damn," he thought. "I wonder if she is going to hate me coming in there now?" "Maybe I shouldn't go in there. I should have just tried to be friendly, but no...what a dumb ass!" He continued to replay the event in his head. He was sure she was either going to ignore him even more than usual or just not even do business with him.
Two days later at five PM, the haole, walking full speed, entered the Foo family bakery. He was determined to quickly try and get the bread and leave without any complications. She grabbed the warm bread and he handed her the exact change.
She ignored the money and said, "That's ok." The
haole, confused, continued to hold out the money.
She said, "It's a gift, from me to you."
The haole stood and stared from the bread to the girl and she continued to look at him. It all seemed so easy...as if they had know each other for years. She had previously rarely glanced at him and she had never spoken to him.
He said, "Oh...ah...really?..you...your so.. so kind. I was afraid I had ruined any chance of getting to know you."
With a steady gaze she replied, "No, you didn't do that."
"What's your name?"
"Ming Yih, Ming Yih - did I pronounce it right?"
"Yes, very good,"
"I'm Henry," It seems so great just to be able to talk to you - it's like the greatest luxury ever."
"It is very nice," said Ming Yih.
The conversation continued in this manner for many minuets that day and continued pleasantly two more days. Ming Yih would not allow the haole to pay for his bread now. More and more he looked forward to being with Ming Yih in the bakery.
"Maybe today will be the day", thought the haole. "Maybe Ming Yih will go out with me." He was almost positive she would say yes. At eight AM he approached Ming Yih with a hand picked bunch of half opened Hibiscus flowers.
He handed her the opening blooms and she said, "For me?
So pretty! She quickly looked to the side smiling slightly; as if she was
not sure she was allowed; then looked down, attempting to be solemn; then
looked up, smiling broadly, bouncing slightly, and said, "Thank you,
thank you. So pretty!"
He thought, "oh...yeah, she'll say yes now."
"Ming Yih, will you..."
Just that moment Ming Yih's Grandmother, who the haole had never
seen before, came screaming out of the door from the back of the bakery.
"Wa chow su sen nong when pu!," screamed the old lady. "Hong weshung shu chi nog!,".she screamed as she pointed a gnarled finger at the haole.
The grandmother grabbed Ming Yih and pushed her roughly into the back of the bakery. She glared at the haole a few moments then walked through the door and slammed it.
Two days later, at five PM the haole entered the Foo bakery,
and as usual, Ming Yih was there. She looked at him and quickly glanced behind
her at the open order window which linked the back bakery to the front. She
handed the haole a loaf of bread and like a shriveled dragon slayer out ran
the screaming Grandmother.
"Wa chow su sen nong when pu!" She grabbed Ming Yih and slapped her repeatedly on the arm while dragging her through the door to the back. To some, this would have looked comical, because Ming Yih was at least a foot taller than her Grandmother.
The haole went back to the bakery many times in the hope to
see Ming Yih, but now the Grandmother watched the street for him. The back
of the bakery had windows with a view to the street. She pulled her Granddaughter
out of the front when she saw the haole walking towards the bakery or coming
in the front door. He tried sneaking in at unusual times but it the Grandmother
was ever watchful. Even when the store opened and closed Ming Yih was chaperoned
by the Grandmother. The haole was told by Rodrigo, a local Portuguese friend,
that Chinese girls were only allowed to go out with or marry Chinese guys.
Rodrigo said, "No can da kine pake girl, haole boy. Da kine kapu. Portugee mobettah."
Finally, the Grandmother won. The haole never talked to Ming Yih again and only saw her once. A year later, he, and his recently met, future wife, Patricia, drove an old Volkswagen Beetle through a light rain up the winding road from the windward beaches. Suddenly Ming Yih appeared out of the lush, wet vegetation, walking towards them down the sidewalk. The Haole quickly waved at her. It seemed to him she was in slow motion and much closer than she actually was. Ming Yih looked at the haole and then looked at Patricia. Ming Yih's face turned from wide eyed wonder to disgusted and dark as she stopped walking and looked at the ground. The haole watched her motionless body from the rear view mirror until Patricia screamed, "look out!," and jerked the wheel away from the oncoming car.
"Who was that?," said Patricia.
He sneaked one more glance in the mirror before they went around a curve.
"Ming Yih," he said. We...I...She...I wanted to get to know her but her Grandmother had other ideas."
"Oh...She's very pretty," said Patricia.
The haole could see through the raindrops that Ming Yih had still not moved. He felt he should not be allowed to be happy.