Na Leo Lele


Creative Writing Contest 2021 Finalists

Hailey Smith
Hailey Smith
Sally Rizzo
Sally Rizzo
Travis Antonacci-Short Story/Fiction
Travis Antonacci
Makensy Peiffer
Makensy Peiffer
Ceriann Jerves
Ceriann Jerves
Javlynn Mexia
Javlynn Mexia
Shabd Edralin
Shabd Edralin


First Place: Sally Rizzo, "One Eye Open"
Second Place: Hailey Smith, "Tincture"
Third Place: Javlynn Mexia, "Details of Her"

About Sally Rizzo,

I was born in the Big Apple and raised barefoot + wild in the Endless Mountains region of Pennsyl-tucky. I lost my parents multiple times, but found myself in the process. I’m a proud mama, having given birth to two, and now raising three. I run fast & long, until my toenails decide they’ve had enough and pack their bags. In a past life, my name was once translated to “one who dances with squirrels.” I am known to travel alone across the world, returning weeks later with garlic tattooed on my right bicep. I want to save the world but can’t decide how. My therapist recently referred to my thoughts as organized chaos. I smiled. It made me think of the universe. I’m never really quite sure if I should insert a comma or end the sentence all together.

One Eye Open

Five before six,

distant crowing and the wind softly blowing,

snuggled up in our pillowy nest,

safe from the world and all it’s mess.

The lingerings of yesterday's full moon,

casting it’s warm glow over us,

with just enough light to see mama’s milk

dribbling down baby’s little mouth.

Barely clothed,

my breasts are out for her ease and comfort.

My long postnatal jungle hair,

all over us,

like a welcoming blanket…

. . . zZz . . . Zzz . . . . . . zZz . . . Zzz . . .

I start dozing off to follow my precious little angel

into her dreamland....

. . . zZz . . . Zzz . . . . . . zZz . . . Zzz . . .

But wait-- what’s this?

My body reacts,

call it pure motherly survival instinct.

Subconsciously reaching over, firmly but loosely,

I grasp something.

Something of which could have easily passed my hardwired security unit.

Something like a dancing wild strand of loose hair in the early morning breeze but


An ancient, perhaps primal line of defense,

sounded the alarm before I am even conscious.

Nonchalantly, I throw whatever tripped my maternal alarm system to the side,

as if I were shooing a house fly.


Our snuggly, sleepy, slumber is now broken,

As one of my suspicious eyes opens.

“What the hell was that?”

I am awakened after hearing the soft “thud”

of the body of the intruder

that was hugging my neck.

My aim couldn’t have been better.

After hitting one of the wooden slats of the baby’s crib,

it quickly recovered in hopes of finding safety

from THIS mother.

Half blind and barely awake,

I fumble to find my phone for light.

To the delight of no one alive, what do I see?

But a very cuddly,

yet poisonous,

baby centipede...

Searching for warmth

in our nest.

Good morning.

About Hailey Smith,

I am 18 years old and in my third semester at KCC. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, usually short stories on my mom’s old laptop when I was a child. I discovered the world of poetry in 7th grade and was enraptured by the melodic sounds and deep emotion words could convey. My favorite style of writing is prose poetry, which is usually very dense with heavy emotions and derived from personal experiences.


The fluorescent glow of the yellow street lights carved your

face Luminated cheekbone, eye, lips, nose

Casting the other half into a darkened pool of

shadows The world froze over

The stars held their breath

The tree’s branches stood as figurines

I, too, held my breath

Your eyes a lighthouse

Marooned lungs

The beam of light a soft reflection of my youth

Your pupils cradled soft pink hues

Of a Sierra Nevada sunset

My childhood tincture

Culminating moments

Resounding in this empty two a.m lot’s

quietude But the silence belonged only to this


The world released from that icy grip

The stars and I exhaled

As the branches suddenly began to resume their slight

quivering, I found land lay converse that beacon

And I, myself, the lightship

Today I drove past that parking lot

The negative space surrounding your post

The streetlights no longer cut and divided your face

I watched selfish families amble through the park

They would never know of mountain ranges or hues

Today the sound of children’s laughter replaced the air hung with reminiscent

silence They would never see how dead the streetlights really were

Today I watched an unrepenting life

About Javlynn Mexia,

I am an 18-year-old student at Kauai Community College. I’ve enjoyed writing for my entire life as it has provided me an escape from the real world. I’m still quite amateur, but hopefully, you enjoy my writing.

Details of Her

The toes of her rest on the floor, light and gentle with its chipped red polish contrasting the dark oak.
The thighs of her mimic the Creation Of Adam as she stands tall. Its hairs tickled by the breath of God pushing through her window.
The hips of her dip at the middle, creating a small crater in between the well-hidden bone and the tops of her thighs.
The stomach of her spills over the Calvin Kleins she wears shyly. They contain the art of the first child she bore when she was twenty-eight.
The breasts of her droop about five inches above her navel, still ripe from the feasts of her children who have since grown to be teenagers.
The arms of her rest at her side, the muscle stealthily covered by her skin. You’d never guess they lay there.
The head of her stands in pride as she stares intently at her reflection as her long, curly hair settles lovingly at her forearms.
The heart of her beats with compassion, red and tender, just like the love she felt for all around her.
The eyes of her gaze at the body that God had gifted upon her, the body that she filled to perfection, even though she hadn’t seen it when she was young.
The body of her imitates art, the likes no one has seen ever before. It was created with Cherished materials. And though people may not take a liking to the body of her, it didn’t matter. She knew that her body was not something that most people sought after, but she was content with the vessel she was given. And that was enough for her.


First Place: “Ode to Kauapea” by Hailey Smith
Second Place: “Battling the Stigma of Bi-Polar Disorder” by Makensy Peiffer
Third Place: “Behind Closed Doors” by Ceriann Jerves

Ode to Kauapea

Sitting on this beach in March, I remember sitting here a year ago. The rain ate at my skin then, and I fled to the shelter the false kamanis and ironwoods provided. Now, sitting on this once familiar beach, I am introduced to its true name in 'Ōlelo': Kauapea. The ears of war. Yet, this time I am told to not run from the rain. I am told to sit in it. I am told to determine if it is a state I wish to exist in, and then thank the trees that wave me into their embrace, should I choose to accept their shelter. I am shown how to drink from the spring that bubbles up from the ground and how to pick out the native threads that veinate this cliffside. 'Akoko makes herself known, and her leaves are dipped in blood. I become aware of the synchronicity 'Ōlelo' brings to the world around me. I stare in awe as I am taught with such patience the power Pōhuehue yields in the depths of her roots, but I am told not to speak of this knowledge for fear of Them ripping her out of her home. I learn the sacrality of this knowledge I am bequeathed.
I recognize my growth as one my earthly ancestors that surround me have fostered. The plants and rocks that came before me seem infinitely wise and the preconceived concept of their inanimacy becomes wholly naive. As I lay my head on a rock and let the sand cover my body, I feel held. I cry with the love I have been relentlessly shown, the knowledge I have had the constant privilege of observing. I enjoy looking lovingly on the past versions of myself, the one who was afraid of being alone and felt out of place in a world she was made to adore. And I look lovingly on the present versions of her, one who is still afraid of being lonely and feels insufficient at times because of the expanse of knowledge she has yet to learn. But I know that these versions are all me, even as they shift and fluctuate, because I have observed nature’s transient methods, and yet she is always sure. As the mahina will continue her phases, will wax and wane, she will still return to her full state, as the future versions of myself will. I have recognized the great responsibility that is being human; furthermore, the responsibility that has been bestowed upon me upon stepping foot on this sacred ʻ ina. To protect and conserve the gifts she has given us is to fulfill an essential shade of our humanity. It is to know the essence of our purpose. Through the chlorophyll painted forests, the momentary glimpses of albatross gliding over a brooding sea, xanadu waters reflecting ancient trees, I was brought back to a part of myself I didn’t realize I had forgotten. I was brought back to a religion I only had tasted as a child. I have felt the voice of god and her presence in these still moments. It is a love so sweet and genuine it has changed me forever, for it is the ignition to the feeling of being alive.
Nature reflects the faces and manners of those I feel drawn to and love. She reflects the best attributes I encompass. She knows no calamity. During the times in my life when I was estranged from nature, I still felt her light through the gentle guidance that radiated from their faces. They always intrigued me, yet I couldn’t decipher the reason their spirit was so alluring to me. Now I see clearly their reflection mirrored in the crumbling waves and symmetrical ferns. The knowledge they possess whispers to their ancestors, those who worshipped and served the Earth with an unrelenting passion. They smile down on their navigation of plant beings and kiss them from all sides under the azurite waters. I know these people were sent to me, to help and to guide me, and I recognize my responsibility and obligation to drink from their words like the rain the sky provides.
I stand in reverence to the supreme power that radiates from the ground beneath my feet and howls through the forests. I feel my fear transform to surrender and respect as I listen to the secrets the wind carries. I hear the resounding echoes of “E Hō Mai” as mine and my soul sister’s voices intertwine and carry to the heavens. She sings the words to me and I follow, she teaches me the importance of asking permission to enter sacred land. She teaches me to pay attention to the way places make me feel inside. Her peace centers me. The chant reads “Grant us the knowledge from above/ Concerning the hidden wisdom of songs/ Grant us these things”. I feel still and full of love speaking to a kindred soul. And although his acquaintance is new earth side, I have the knowledge of a transcendental friendship, proceeding and surpassing this lifetime. Without these people, I would not have met nature, or myself, in the ways that I have. It is this beach that I have sat at two consecutive, rainy Marches in a row, and many in between, that I experience these relationships. This deepening, these revelations. It is here I practice spending time alone for the first time, reading poetry about the stars and allowing the art to flow from my fingers. It is here I experience the divine feminine and masculine, it is here I feel immersed in the eternal pools of Nature, and of god. Within me, without me.

About Makensy Peiffer,

I live on the west side of Kauai. I have always enjoyed languages and studying etymology. I am majoring in Exploratory Education and also enjoy Culinary Arts. In my free time I like to make new recipes at home, hike, play soccer, and attend church. I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this contest. Kauai Community College has been such a blessing in my life to further my education. I love this island and all its people. Mahalo and God Bless.

Battling the Stigma of Bio-Polar Disorder

In society being diagnosed as bi-polar is viewed as an illness and mental disorder. People who have a brain functioning in this way tend to struggle with judgement and ignorance from others. In order to dispel the stigmatism associated with this disorder we must get people to understand what it means to be bi-polar. It is not just an illness or mental affliction but a unique way to approach the world with a heightened sense of creativity and emotional depth. Studying psychology has really opened doors for me on how people behave with psychological disorders such as bi-polar type one. This is different from type two because full manic episodes are experienced and happen for longer periods of time. In the textbook “Exploring Psychology”, it refers to this disorder as being a constant fluctuation of extreme happiness or motivational creativity and intense depression or lack of purpose (Dewall and Myers 546). I found this concept very intriguing and wanted to study more about it.
There are several members of my family who have bi-polar disorder type one. I learned this is passed on through genes and has the highest likelihood of showing up in each generation’s genetics compared to other mental disorders. My mother and grandfathers on both sides of the family have been formally diagnosed. My mother is someone who has always expressed herself through emotion and appreciates the arts. She was a choir director and beautician for most of her life. My grandfather enjoyed sculpting figurines for his train sets and developing miniature cities at home to display his train collection. Having interests in the arts and living life through emotions is a key factor for those who have this disorder. But these are things I loved most about my family. It made them different and showed all the new hobbies and interests you can achieve if you follow your passions. A lot of people in town enjoyed going to my mother’s salon because of how personable she was. She always had an eccentric attitude and loved to talk. It wasn’t until her mid-forties she began to struggle with her work routine. Running her own business for ten years took a toll on her brain and she eventually had a breakdown. People asked why she closed her hair salon and what was wrong with her. I did not want to answer for fear of judgement. But eventually, the town found out about her doctors appointments and treated our family as “the crazy people”. It affected my mother so much that she wanted to move far away. This is why we now live in Hawaii. I was angry at the stigmatism displayed by people in our hometown towards my mother. They loved her presence until she was identified as bi-polar.
In the magazine Psychology Today it talks about students at the University of Virginia who have bi-polar disorder and meet regularly. In this group they discuss the weekly interactions experienced with those who are insensitive to this matter. It frustrates students when they hear someone say, “Oh she’s got emotional issues and is so bi-polar” (Federman). Just because someone is emotional does not make them bi-polar. It also does not excuse the fact that in this instance, being bi-polar is used as a derogatory remark. In this article it states, “Individuals with the disorder usually feel some degree of shame and guilt as a consequence of their recurrent instability. They often feel like they are bad, weak or inadequate. These feelings become confirmed through disparaging comments from others who insult emotional people as being so bi-polar” (Federman). I could not agree more with this statement. My mother is constantly telling me how shameful and sorry she is for acting strange at times in front of others. I used to feel angry at her because I just wanted a mom like everyone else. But after further research into this topic I realized this is just how her brain works and it is out of her control. Instead of condemning my mom, I should be accepting and show her love because this is who she is and it is not going to change.
After digging deeper into the concept of being bi-polar I have come to a conclusion on how to improve this area of my life. People with this disorder must be more open about it so others can become less ignorant. The more an issue is talked about the less foreign it seems. If I am going to help get rid of this stigma, I need to have more open conversations with my mother about how she is feeling. I should also confront those who negatively refer to this disorder and inform them joking about this matter can be very harmful and hurtful. You never know what people around you are dealing with so it's best to always be sensitive and mindful. The less mysterious bi-polar disorder becomes the more progress can be made towards dispelling the judgement and ignorance in our society.
Works Cited Federman, Russ, Ph.D. "Dispelling Stigma: Revealing Your Bipolar Truth." Psychology Today, 28 Feb.2010,  Accessed 22 Apr. 2020. Myers, David G., and C. Nathan Dewall. Exploring Psychology. 10th ed., New York, Worth Publishers, 2016.

About Ceriann Jerves,

I entered this contest to share an essay I wrote in my junior year of high school. It tells the story of what I went through while living with my father.

Behind Closed Doors

Life has thrown many obstacles my way that I've had to deal with on my own until now. The biggest obstacle I have faced in my life was when I was living on Hawai'i island. The years I spent on this island took away precious time I could have been spending with my true family. I was put into one of the worst situations possible. Couple months after I turned 9 I went to visit my Father on the big island. Little did I know that this wasn’t going to be just a visit. It was going to be a life altering event for me. The day my father told my grandparents I wasn’t going to be living with them anymore not only broke their hearts but mine as well. The first few days after my father allowed me to speak to my aunt and grandparents, but eventually he started monitoring my conversations, that's when he told me I could no longer speak to my family from kaua’i. After he told me this I was very devastated. Then fast forward a couple of weeks I started my first week of 4th grade which was when the whole ordeal of abuse started. Things like him getting mad at the tiniest reasons like me forgetting to do something or even me trying to take a snack to baseball practice. Then he started beating me, the things he would do to me made me feel unsafe,distrust,and now to this day it makes it hard for me to trust other men. When he did start to abuse me and my sister Hazel he would choke us and punch us in the stomach and he would often burn my sister with a car lighter. When my stepmom left6 to go live on Oahu with her sister he started getting really violent. He would beat even the smallest peep of noise. Eventually he decided he didn’t want me and my sister so he sent us to live with my grandfather. Which was actually better than living with him because me and my sister were allowed to do more things like hanging out with our friends. We were also allowed to do things we weren’t allowed to do with my father. But eventually this happiness came to an end because CPS found out what had happened to me and my sister and they came to pick me up. The person they had found this out this information from was in fact my sister. The 2 years I spent in foster care ok but my foster parent wasn’t always the nicest she would call me names all the time. Most of the time she would call me a bitch or she would call me retarded. But the great thing was I was able to come home to Kauai. But before I could be able to live with my aunty I had to move into another very unstable house with a family member who was mentally unstable. This person would always tell me and her daughter, my cousin not to open her windows because this person thought that people were watching us. At the end of me living at this house this person went into the foodland and got arrested for going into their breakroom and eating all the workers' food. But the CPS were able to find out that the aunty I’m living with now lived here on kauai and placed me with my aunt. For most of my freshman year me and my aunty had to sign a lot of papers so my aunt would be able to adopt me. That April of my freshman year my aunt was able to adopt me and ever since then I have learnt to deal with my problems even though sometimes it may be hard. What I learned from my experiences is that you should never keep things behind closed doors especially if people who are involved are being hurt in any way.

Short Stories

First Place: “Five Stars" by Travis Antonacci
Second Place: “Character” by Hailey Smith
Third Place: “A Perfectly Horrible Day” by Shabd Edralin

About Travis Antonacci,
I grew up on the south shore of Long Island, New York. Two weeks after I graduated from high school I booked a one-way ticket to Kauai to attend KCC. In December of 2019, I graduated with my Associates in Science - Creative Media. Since then I have been actively working on finishing my other remaining general education courses so I can seamlessly transition into a bachelors program at UH West Oahu. During my time at KCC I have worked in the Department of Marketing and Outreach as a graphic designer.

Five Starts

Warning, depictions of substance use, suggestive language, sexual themes, and graphic language. They were rushed out of their gaudy five star hotel rooms, thrown into piano black limousines and dumped out in the industrial loading docks of the arena. The vibrations and roar traveled through the floor all the way backstage. A buffet of debauchery, hidden from prying eyes. The incandescent light bulbs of the green room created orange shadows on the bands’ faces. Cigarette smoke stained the walls. Spilled whiskey and beer made the floor audibly sticky. Piles of dollars and poker chips of various denominations scattered the room. Top shelf booze and gourmet meals abandoned for rather unrefined cheap thrills. The smell of athlete’s foot, leather and diesel fuel punctured the dense smoke. Lethal amounts of nicotine was the only substance that truly sufficed their appetite. Fans of all shapes, sizes, and colors stood anxiously just outside the door much like the bitter soulless on-line at the Department of Motor Vehicle or the Post Office.

A strange grey man with horn rimmed glasses kicked down the door with the intensity of a brick passing through a glass window. “Marone! Jesus! It looks like a bomb went off in here. Can you guys even perform? You look like you went ten rounds with Tyson. No... We can’t have a riot out there... Are you guys ready or am I going to have to drag your corpses out there?” A cartoony deep voice echoed, “ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the band that saved rock and roll. Fresh off the release of their third number one album. Here are- The Pacific”. The singer moaned with the despair and timber of a terminal cancer patient. The drummer tapped and shook like a child with attention deficit disorder. The guitarist couldn’t bother to lift his eyes, bloodshot and empty. The bassist anxiously paced around the small room and downed gulps of dirt cheap whiskey. They were all dressed in ragged jeans and overpriced tshirts

The tour and press schedule was not what wore them out; the constant bickering and the consumption of a galley of substances is what did them in. They lost their youthful glow and impish smiles. They had aged years in a matter of months.

Surprisingly, the guitarist took control. He grabbed his shiny and luxurious Gibson Les Paul and headed for the door. The band followed his lead and kept mere steps behind him. No set list or plan for the show, they thrived on the chaos and that uneasy feeling. The strange vibrations grew. The cascading sea of people pushed towards the stage like a storm surge against a jetty. The psychedelic lights began the sacred event. Pyrotechnics exploded like napalm. Cameras flashed and blinded the band as they staggered onto the stage. The tsunami like sound wave of the first distorted power chord might as well have been the Big Bang. The eyes of all that witnessed widened and blossomed.
There was a reason why they were considered the best band in the world. They were more than an event. They were more than just sound and rhymes. They were in fact legends of both their time and their generation’s minds. They held a prestige greater than gold or royalty. Their execution was hypnotic. Their attitude was primitive. Their music was loud.
Clammy sweat poured off of the band’s foreheads. They couldn’t hear each other over the audience and sharp rolling feedback. They leaped into an electrified and pushed version of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” - by The Rolling Stones. The security militia clashed with battons against the hyped crowd. The smell of gunpowder filled the dank air. The entire arena had a radioactive glow from the stage lights. The roaring crowd blasted past the volume limits of towering one hundred watt amplifier stacks after every song. At one point a guitar string popped from the verocious playing. The guitarist launched the instrument into one of the amplifiers. The guitar broke in three large jagged pieces. He stood facing the crowd holding the battered Gibson, smashing his fist into his chest, resembling a victorious gladiator.
An hour of intensity followed. The crowd seemed to grow and expand like sponges absorbing water. Two encores to prevent a bloody siege. When the music finally stopped countless people rushed from all areas asking for autographs and pictures. My ears. My ears. My ears - had been bitten by a rattlesnake snake, the venom pulsated relentlessly. The band sloppily signed as much expensive merch that they could. They posed for a million selfies with snot nosed, overly enthusiastic, ass scratching teenagers.
When they returned backstage they practically collapsed from exhaustion. The press funneled into the small, suffocating room. Reporters repeated the same tropey and braindead questions - What is it like to be considered the voice of your generation? Your sound is very retro, who are your influences? Are the rumors of drug addiction true? The singer interrupted the interrogation with the anger of a raging bull - “We don’t answer questions until we spend some quality time with our fans who paid real money to be here… Send in the backstage pass crew”.
As strangely as the band appeared they made their exit. The after party made the bands’ previous havoc look like a nun on her prom night. Hundreds of twisted deviants. The whole scene resembled Dante’s depiction of hell in “Inferno”. [ - This information has been redacted at the band manager's request - ]. I thought to myself- How can one sleep after a night like this? How does a hotel room turn into Caligula’s palace?
When the party eventually burned itself out, the band was left with thirty-two thousand dollars in damages to the twelfth floor of the hotel. I don’t know how you can get that evil, almost vinegar smell out of carpeting and linen. That poor housekeeper, God’s work. They need to reformulate Clorox just for this bands’ messes. Awaking at Noon the following day was a David and Goliath level task. It took a cattle prod to raise the singer from his hibernation. Against all odds, the army kept its schedule and made it to the next city on time and relatively coherent. The rest of the marathon of a tour went down as such. Sold out, packed arenas in every state, jaded musicians, and lawless parties. It was a miracle that everyone survived the depraved onslaught. I constantly found myself thinking that maybe this behavior is what killed the genre in the first place. The band members were only in their mid twenties but they had already lived a lifetime. I wonder what was accomplished from this circus. A few unplanned pregnancies? A few cases of drug resistant chlamydia? A seven figure income for a handful of twenty something year olds? Everything and everyone caught in the wake of this band gets obliterated, but the ride is truly extraordinary. The feeling one had is comparable to the expression of the pilot riding the nuclear bomb at the end of Kubrick’s “Dr Strangelove”. Hell, what a ride. A twisted, disgusting, brutal ride. My review stands. Five stars. The must see band of our generation.


When I was small, I danced with my imagination and lived in a world that was carefully, considerately, Christianly, constructed. My mom figured my life’s prospects would be much too much pain for a young girl to handle and made an attempt to protect me in the only way she knew how. She gave me a pristinely perfectected pretend playground as a replacement. In this reality, I had a consistent father who never did drugs or told me he would come see me and leave me waiting by the window, staring out at the road and waiting for a car that never came. In this world, I had a father who gave me a stuffed animal as damage control when my real dad failed me like this. I lavished in this world, and regarded the alternate reality with a resentment that hollowed my soul. When my mother told me my father was back in jail, I wrote him a letter. This letter was inscribed on the empty front pages of a pocket sized Bible. I begged my father to please please pray and come to God because he loves you and if you don’t, well, don’t you know, Daddy, you’re goin to Hell!! And I hadn’t forgotten to carefully, considerately, Christianly, circle all of the topics some careful, considerate, Christian publisher had organized Bible verses under, meant to help with that specific unchristian ailment. Among these words circled lay depression, addiction, drugs, alcohol, desolation…
My mother got pregnant with me at 17 and was forced to work and go to school full time. I spent lots of time in daycares. I remember the feeling of walking into that grey place, the way it seemed to empty my insides and paint them a hue that matched the walls. Awake before even the sun rose, I’d lay on a bed in a room that looked an awful lot like the ones they show in orphanages on the television. My mind holds one fond memory of this place warped by the oxidation of time, like rust settled in a drain. My dad visited with my mom to retrieve me from that bleak, dry place, an emergence of color amongst the dull stretch of his absence. I remember him kneeled next to the swing set I sat on, unaware that this would be one of my only memories of him. He looked in my eyes and gave me a necklace. I remember my mom’s rants about him being a “disneyland dad” on the way home, her voice a confusing contrast against the desperate love I saw sewn in his eyes.
Painfully fragmented memories connect the seemingly vast spaces of time before my dad’s death. A phone call in the park after not speaking to him for years. Hot, suffocating tears on both ends, not being able to get a word out after hearing the first sound of his voice and him hearing mine. But I couldn’t tell my mom about this, and I lied about knowing who the unknown number calling our house phone was later that night, because why did I want a relationship with my deadbeat father when I had a new dad and a new pristinely perfectected pretend family? By now I was a bit older and hadn’t seen my dad for months and months, yet my child’s sense of time told me it had been lifetimes. My new dad had adopted me at this point, and in the process of that I was asked to call my real dad and ask him to relinquish his rights as father so I could take the last name of another man, because, well, his just wasn’t good enough. At that age, I didn’t realize the depths of anguish this question caused in the ocean’s of his mind. Now, I can still hear the hurt that echoed in his voice when he said yes, granting my request because he knew it’d allow me to feel like I belonged to someone. He knew he couldn’t be what I needed at that time, but I know now he so badly wanted to be. A week after this phone call, my adopted dad was mowing the lawn at our new house and heard something wrap around the lawn mower’s belt with a clang, it was the necklace.
10th birthday, ripped up a letter he sent me in anger. Why wasn’t I enough to put down the drugs? What happiness could they give him that I was incapable of? 11th birthday, couldn’t use the ammo of a false promise against him anymore. He finally sent me that book he always promised to write me. Did I ever call him and say thank you? 12 years old, got an instagram, found his account, saw a few posts of old pictures of us together, telling me he missed me and one day he’ll hug me again and please don’t forget about me. I scoffed at this, believing that his absence of communication and new daughter signaled an inherent issue of my own worth. Why wasn’t I worth a phone call anymore? I waited silently.
2 months before my 13th birthday I’m finally mustering up the courage to tell my mom I would like to see my dad because there’s things I want to ask him and talk to him about now that I’m older. I keep an image of us getting breakfast together and me forgiving him fossilized in my mind, an image I’d never see alive. July 7, 2016, I’m taking a shower and hear the phone ring. Mom picks up. Starts crying. Someone’s dead. Ask her who it is. It’s your dad. Drug overdose, just like we always knew would happen. I go back in the shower and sink down the wall and let myself fall into the drain and don’t come out again for many years. Later, all the stories I’ve heard about Hell fill up my head and drown me in their midsts. Is it true that people burning in Hell for all eternity can see me living my life? Years later I reread the book he sent me for my 11th birthday, which was all about our eventual reunification.
Years later I pour over his poetry and am told that my writing uncannily resembles his. Years later I’m told he was ordered to stay away until I reached out to him myself. Years later I’m told he was going to reach out and try to rebuild our relationship a few weeks before he died. Years later I’m told his heroin was laced with fentanyl, he didn’t wanna die. Years later I meet my half sister, 7 years old and left with no one but an agoraphobic mother.

Years later I receive his ashes at the age of 18, after initially rejecting them. Why did I deserve these fragmented pieces of my father when I rejected him when he was whole? Years later I present one of my father’s writings to my creative writing class, telling them it is my favorite piece. Years later the computer screen I’m typing on becomes blurred and ineligible and the tears come like the shower head I once sunk under.

About Shabd Edralin,

I was born on O’ahu but raised here on this island. It’s my first year of college even though I’m 23. I enjoy all outdoor activities as well as the occasional slumping in front of the TV. I entered this contest to buy lots of Costco pizzas.

A Perfectly Horrible Day
I remember every vivid detail of that horrible day. The nightmares haven’t subsided and sleep is at an all time low. I cry and plead to whatever higher power lies in the heavens saying “Why me?” No answers are returned but more questions arise. You might be asking yourself, “What terrible ordeal did I suffer on that day?” The answer is an age old tale- I met a girl. On that day, I went on a scuba diving tour. These boat charters take the divers around different sites along the coast of Poipu, here on the island of Kauai. The boat left Kukuiula harbor at seven a.m. I’d explored several tours with this company before so I was familiar with most of the staff and crew. Once I arrived, I began to unload my “gear” when an unfamiliar voice asked, “How are you doing?” Unenthusiastically, I responded with the classic, “Good, how are you?” I turned to make eye contact with whomever was conversing with me and saw a girl with a mask over her face. Currently, it’s a law here in Hawai’i for all individuals to wear a mask out in public due to the CoronaVirus or COVID-19. To be friendly, I asked what her name was and she muttered something but it wasn’t audible. I laughed and said “What?” Once again she repeated something that sounded like an ancient mesopotamian dialogue. Confused more than ever I said again “I’m sorry, what are you saying? I can’t hear you.” Realizing the mask was muffling her voice, she lowered it and said, “Michelle.'' At that moment, my mouth dropped open as I admired her perfect facial features. I said “Whoa.” Of course to cover up, I continued with “That’s a cool name…” Okay people cut me some slack! I wasn’t expecting one of Hawaii's deities to be hiding behind that piece of cloth. After we exchanged pleasantries, I assembled my scuba equipment and began talking to the other forgettable extras in the play of my life that day. As I attempted to board the boat I was blocked by Michelle who was standing in front of me. She put her hand out and firmly said, “So I see you have a record of leaving the group, venturing off alone and disappearing for the majority of the dive.” I interrupted with a laugh and proudly replied “Oh, there’s a record on my file? Thats awesome!” Michelle as you could imagine wasn’t impressed with my response; she continued “I’m going to rip the mask off your face if you get separated from me!” Not wanting to suffer Pele’s wrath I conceded and agreed to her terms. That paid the toll and off we went.
After our first dive, I knew in the wise words of my favorite substitute teacher, “You done messed up AY-AY-RON.” But this time Mr. Garvey was speaking to me. Michelle gave me one rule to follow which ironically was to follow her. During the course of that fifty minute dive, I’d wager only five of those minutes were spent in a close proximity to her. I get distracted easily and wander off to different interest points. As I placed my feet back on the rocking boat, Michelle once again stood in front of me. I was certain she was going to kick me off the boat for insubordination. I braced for impact but instead she sarcastically said, “Wow, that was you on good behaviour?” She’s good! I thought to myself. I never left her side after that. As the tour neared its end, Michelle asked “How old do you think I am?” In my defense, I’m an idiot. I proudly said “Aren’t you like thirty four or forty five perhaps late fifties?” Immediately, Michelle corrected me “I’m twenty six!” I hadn’t even considered that there was such a small age gap between us. After several moments my brain processed that information and I smiled. I genuinely thought I stood a chance at winning her heart. But then, that thought was impaled by my witty remark, I said seconds before. Realizing the damage done, I made a desperate attempt to recover. I threw a bone “Wow, you look really young for your age…” Well, it’s safe to say Michelle isn’t a dog because she didn’t fetch that sorry excuse for a compliment. Instead, Michelle saw through my ploy and whacked the final nail in my coffin with the response “Shut Up!” I finally met my match.
The diving day had ended and we were back at the dinky harbor where it all started. It was there that the second most famous resurrection event took place. I walked over to Michelle and asked “Hey, when you have a second I’d love to get some advice from you.” Believing it was going to be based on scuba diving, Michelle gladly responded “Of course, what’s up?” I looked into her beautiful brown eyes and said “What does a guy like me have to do to get a girlfriend as pretty and perfect as you? I’d like to know so that I can work towards that and set it as a goal for myself.” Michelle's face immediately turned dark tomato red as she was caught off guard. That didn’t stop her from speaking truthfully, “Umm I’d say be honest, to be a gentleman and have a sense of humor and love of life” As if the words weren’t enough, Michelle ended with the world's most adorable smile. I stood in awe as I looked intensely at her. I wasn’t expecting such a genuine answer from the mouth of that heavenly girl. I thought to myself ”Wow, a real one” I realized that I didn’t stand a sliver of a chance at winning her hand. A sudden feeling of discouragement poured over me and it started to rain. Both sad and wet, I admitted defeat. I must have looked just as visibly dead as I felt inside because Michelle nervously said “We all have things to work on, just keep on trying!” I must have been the tallest object nearby because it felt as though lightning had struck me! That thought only confirmed what I’d whispered seconds ago “Wow, a real one!” Suddenly, the feelings of hope and determination were reinstated. I replied thankful, “Yeah, I have a lot to work on but one day I’ll become that person.” Michelle smiled, laughed and shyly said “I bet!” Whoever the idiot was that said lighting doesn’t strike twice obviously hadn’t met Michelle.
Since that day to the best of my ability, I’ve slowly begun working on that promise. It hasn’t been easy to say the least. No, the events that took place that day weren’t as horrific as I may have led you to believe. On that day with the encounter of that girl, Michelle, I found myself motivated to become more than I was yesterday. Hoping that in the future I can proudly say, “I’ve become that person” And to hear Michelle once again say…”Shut Up!”