«Contemporary Plays by Women of Color is a compelling collection of new and recent works by African American, Asian American, Latina American and ...»
He’s tall. Surfer shoulders. Cinnamon brown skin. Dark, glistening curls. He throws back his head and I see those eyes… KALI How’s it?
MARY Dis my son, Darren Kaalii Kahalapuinoa. You can call him Kali.
KALI I’s hoping you’s going stay. You like go body surf sometime?
24 BRENDA WONG AOKI
NARRATOR A few days later… BRENDA (Locks bathroom door. Mimes puttting on a bathing suit that’s too tight.) Mom’s bathing suit… (Singing) Little surfer, little one. Make my world come all undone. Do you love me? Do you? Surfer girl. Surfer girl. Surfer girl. (Exits bathroom. She’s at the beach.)Kali, Surf’s up!
BRENDA Take off my glasses? I can’t see. Talk loud. You first. Here I come.
Oooh! (Shivering) This is fun! Way out there? Okay. Okay. (Propelled by the surf. Reenters water.) Dive into the curl? Oh yeah! Wee, this is fun!
KALI Now wait for da curl and just before she breaks ride ‘um in like…Weeeee!!!
(He demonstrates very professionally.) BRENDA I got it. I got it! (Treading water) Now wait for the curl and just before… Not yet. Not yet. Too late! Wipe out! (She wipes out and begins to drown.) I’m drowning…K-K-K-K-K-Kali! Help!
NARRATOR Big brown arms holding me up and Kali says… KALI You know girl, ya gotta make friends wit Mada Ocean. We do this everyday and bumbye she let you swim.
NARRATOR So the summer passed, the salt water helped my eczema, the swimming helped my asthma and I got thin…ner. On Kali’s 14th birthday, we heard there were six footers down on Huntington. So we went there… BRENDA Kali, looks dangerous!
KALI Yeah! (He dives in and swims with strong, steady strokes.) BRENDA Oh no! He’s caught in a rip! Kali! Kali! Kali!
NARRATOR To a lifeguard… BRENDA My boyfriend’s drowning.
NARRATOR It was the first time I said “Boyfriend.” I said it again.
BRENDA My boyfriend’s drowning!
GUARD (Mimes binoculars) Looks Hawaiian.
BRENDA He is.
GUARD He’s big.
GUARD: He’ll make it.
BRENDA No! He’s drowning. And he’s my boyfriend!
Kali! Kali! Kali!
NARRATOR Finally the rip plays out and Kali swims to the shore. (Mimes swimming) He stumbles onto the beach.
KALI Hey, girl, how come you no call da lifeguard?
BRENDA I did! I did! You okay?
KALI Gee, girl…funny kine. I like almost drown!…On da Island da old folks say da fisherman will always make it home when his wahine is waiting…you saved me!
THE QUEEN’S GARDEN 25
NARRATOR That night Aunti Mary gave a big luau for Kali’s birthday. Kali and Smoke had stayed up all the night before making kalua pig. They dug the pit right in the middle of her rose garden.
SMOKE So, Brenda, this is what we call an imu.
NARRATOR It’s Smoke, Kali’s skinny Guamanian buddy.
SMOKE Feel these rocks—they’re warm, but underneath they’re hot. That’s what cooks the pig and when it comes out it’s gonna be good!
NARRATOR (Makes flip-flop sound) Kali, in his ancient rubber thongs. He’s carrying a shovel in each hand.
KALI Smoke, brah. Come on. Take da rocks off.
SMOKE Yah, okay Kali. I’ll be right wit you. So Bren, me and Kali been doing this kalua pig thing since his ninth birthday. Kali and me, we’re tight. Ain’t that right, bro?
NARRATOR Smoke practically lives with Kali and Aunti Mary. I don’t know what happened to his folks but he lives with his uncle, who he doesn’t get along with. So Smoke’s here all the time.
SMOKE You know, when I was small, before my folks died, we lived down the street. I’d seen Kali, but I didn’t know him. But my mom, she was friends with Aunti Mary. At the funeral, Aunti Mary gave me a big hug and said “Come visit.” And I never left. Ain’t that right, Kali?
NARRATOR But Kali’s not paying attention. He’s shoveling hot rocks.
SMOKE Man, you don’t never listen to me.
KALI Come on, brah. Take the rocks off.
SMOKE Okay! I’m takin’ the rocks off. See, man, I’m takin the rocks off!
KALI Smoke, watch where you’re trowin’ dose rocks before you…Owww!
BRENDA Kali, you’re bleeding! Aunti Mary, Aunti Mary!!
SMOKE It was an accident! I was takin’ the rocks off and I just got really into it… KALI You got into it alright! Jumpin’ around like a monkey.
SMOKE A monkey, man! You callin’ me a monkey, man?!! How you gonna call me a monkey when you hangin’ out with The Rash!
BRENDA The Rash? You calling me The Rash?! Kali, he called me The Rash!
KALI Smoke man, don’t be callin’ Brenda no rash. What’s up wit chu anyway?
It’s me and you, brah.
SMOKE No it’s not! Now it’s you and her! You ain’t got no time for me!
MARY Ow! We get hurt feelings! Smoke, stop it already wid da stink eye. You, Kali, Brenda—we’re “Ohana”—family.
NARRATOR And Aunti Mary hugged that scrawny little boy to her huge bosom and Kali says… KALI Come on, brah, ain’t no big ting. Let’s get da pig out.
SMOKE I’m wit chu bro. I’m wit chu… NARRATOR Ding! Dong!
MARY Oh! Here come da Islanders! Uiva, Toji! Morrie! Come in. Eh Birtday Boy, you and Smoke—hurry up! Time fo eat!
26 BRENDA WONG AOKI NARRATOR Kali and I ate tons and tons of that sweet, smokey meat. Then we collapsed.
KALI Hey, girl? Big 14. Almost a man, ah? Da sky’s the limit! (shaka) NARRATOR As we lay there in Aunti Mary’s garden…the only rose garden on the Westside…I could still feel the rhythum of the waves…Kali, smelling fresh and clean, gave me my first kiss and I thought… BRENDA I LOVE kalua pig!
NARRATOR It’s 1968. Kali and I are now going steady. The first day of high school, we’re bussed out of the Westside. Across the bridge. Over the FLOOD CONTROL to: Long Beach Polytechnic High School “Enter to Learn, Go forth to Serve.” Poly—cyclone fence, huge concrete buildings—on the quad 3, 000 kids. Kali helps me find my class, straightens my glasses, kisses me goodbye and disappears down the hall.
(KALI gives Westside whistle.) I go inside. Take a seat. No Westsiders. The Bell rings. In front of me, this white guy. Not like Morrie Goldbaum or Big Mike but really white.
STEVEN Hi there!
NARRATOR He’s handsome. With wavy brown hair and green eyes. Like a Kennedy!
STEVEN I’m Steve Newcomb and this is my girlfriend Sherry.
NARRATOR Sherry—sky blue dress, golden hair. She smiles at me.
BRENDA I wanna be her friend.
NARRATOR Then the teacher walks to the front of the class.
JUDY Class, I’m Judy, Judy Sloane. But in this class, I hope you’ll call me Judy.
Oh! Look at you! Look at you! You’re nervous! Of course! You’re sitting here in Lit. 1, the gifted class, thinking, “Oh my god! Am I gifted?” Don’t worry. You are. Now; most of you know each other but there’s one person I know you don’t know because she just got here. Hai Nyugen from Viet Nam.
HAI (With a French accent) In Viet Nam, I read Cyrano de Bergerac, Les Misérables et Madame Bovary. I look forward to reading the literature in your great tongue.
JUDY Thank you, Hai. If there’s one thing I want us all to learn, it’s how to live together in peace. So this semester I’ve decided, we’re going to study Utopian literature. Utopia. Does anyone know what that means? Tommy? A ride at Disneyland? No. That’s Autopia. Utopia is a place where people live together in harmony. Your first reading assignment for the semester: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Class dismissed! Brenda? Can I speak to you for a minute, please? Brenda, I think Hai could use a friend.
BRENDA Why me? I’m not Vietnamese.
THE QUEEN’S GARDEN 27 JUDY But you’re Oriental! Put yourself in her place. You’re in a new country.
No friends… NARRATOR So everyday, I sat next to Hai trying to dress and act so that everyone knew I was not like her—F.O.B. Fresh Off the Boat. After school… BRENDA Kali!! I loved my classes. Judy, that’s my teacher. We just call her that. She’s like a real person. Well, how were your classes?
KALI I don’t wanna talk about it.
BRENDA Why not? Who’s in ‘em?
KALI Smoke. Da kine Westside guys.
BRENDA I was wondering where everybody went! What’d ya do?
KALI I don’t wanna talk about it.
BRENDA Why not?
KALI No more. ‘Nuff already! (Pause) I’m not retarded.
KALI Not, ‘kay? Not! I’m in da kine Twelve o’Clock High.
BRENDA What! Why?! You’re not dumb! You just sleep in class. You can’t help it. You work at night.
KALI I said, I don’t wanna talk about it! Pau already! (Pause) I hate working at Curry’s. Bus deeshes. Take out trash. Da boss. He tinks I’m Mexican. “Toll da Mexican kid to wash the toilets.” Pilau!My mada’s grandfada, was da highest chief in Kauai! We come from royalty. Dey don’t know who I am!
Dey don’t never know who I am!Dis class, dis Twelve o’Clock High, dat’s for
losers, play checkers, read gung fu magazines. Today we get one guest lecture:
army recruit guy! Junk! Dey wish dey could forget about us. Dey wish we would just disappear.
NARRATOR Sherry, her boyfriend Steve Newcomb and I had become friends.
One weekend Sherry invited me to her parents house for a garden party… SHERRY Brenda! I’m so glad you’re here. No one from the Westside has ever been over before. Don’t tell my mom where you’re from. Okay? It’s no big deal. Just don’t.
I love your hair. It’s so ethnic. Mine just kinda hangs here. You know who’s gorgeous? Your boyfriend! God, he is so sexy! I love the way he walks. But I can’t understand him. Can he speak English? Hey? You guys on B.C.? You know —Birth Control? You mean you’re not using anything?
BRENDA We’re not doing anything. We love each other.
SHERRY Oh, God! That’s SO ROMANTIC! Steven wouldn’t stay with me for a second if he couldn’t screw me. Com’ere, let’s have some fun tonight. Let me dress you. Please! Come here. (She opens closets.) All these old clothes!
AAAHH! Yellow? No, no. Make you look sour. Orange? No. Red? Too bold.
Green! Try it!
BRENDA Wow, store bought green satin.
SHERRY Keep it!
BRENDA Oh, no. I couldn’t. It’s too nice.
SHERRY It’s you or Good Will.
28 BRENDA WONG AOKI BRENDA Oh… Thanks… NARRATOR That night… La la la la…la la la la (Singing Brandenburg No. 5) The garden filled with tiny little lights. Jasmine. Gardenias. And pink Chinese lanterns swaying in the breeze. La la la la la la… All the people so refined and elegant. Sherry smiled and smiled at me. And I felt like a princess. La! LA!
(Sings a Smokey Robinson type doo-wop song as transition)
NARRATOR On the weekdays I was a model minority. But on Friday nights I was a Westside Warrior. We had graduated from The Islanders. My homegirls and I would—(Mimes the following: Eye shadow, lipstick. Mean looks.
Putting on fishnet stockings. Stuffing bra. High heels. Rats hair. Hair spray.
Dances. Snaps.) And Honey, we were ready!
We’d go down to homeboy Smoke’s garage. Rug samples on the cement—wall to wall. Over here’s an old couch that everyone likes to make out on. And back there is a naugahyde armchair that no one likes cuz when you move on it, it sounds like this: (farting sounds.) Over here’s a lamp with a tee shirt on it to keep the lights low and back there me and the girls would spin 45s and talk about… HOMEGIRLS (Singing) Nothin’ you could do could make me untrue… NARRATOR And this is where one day I bring my new friend, Sherry. As our guest, my homegirls give her the naugahyde arm chair.
SHERRY (Fart sounds as she sits) I’m honored. So this is the “inner sanctum.” (fart, fart) Well, where are the “Homeboys”?
NARRATOR At this very moment they’re waiting, in black jackets with “Warriors” embroidered in blue on the back. Kali’s in the middle. Smoke to his right. They’re waiting…for the Corner Boys… (WARRIORS whistle street signal.) KALI Get ‘em.
(WARRIORS fight choreography) NARRATOR The garage door opens. Enter Smoke…and Kali with a big gash in his head. All the girls run to me… HOMEGIRLS Brenda! Look at your ole man! Look at your ole man!
NARRATOR I Say… (BRENDA has asthma attack.) NARRATOR But Sherry says… SHERRY Kali! We’ve got to get you to a hospital… KALI What she doing here?
SHERRY Kali, if my presence offends you, I’ll leave. But first I really think we oughta get that head looked at. My car’s right outside and… NARRATOR All of us said “Car?” And after that Sherry was cool.
And this is where we learned the “ole lady” thing: Wipe off the blood, the sweat and the dirt. Get the men something to drink. Listen to their war stories… GIRL 1 God, you’re tough.
GIRL 2 You should’ve seen my ole man. I think his nose is busted.
GIRL 3 Honey that ain’t nothin’. My ole man got cut!
THE QUEEN’S GARDEN 29 GIRL 2 Wow!
NARRATOR…turn up the hi-fi, turn down the lights and (singing the Miracles’ tune) OOOOH! OOO-OOOOHHH! La la la la… Kali smiles and he only smiles when he dances or fights. We dance.
KALI (Sings) You’re my past, you’re my present, you’re my future, GIRL!! One day, one sweet day, we will bee-e-ee! And we’ll live togedda, fo’evah… Like da wada to da sea… BRENDA Kali, say “water.” KALI (Singing) Like da wada to da sea!!!
BRENDA Kali, do you have to talk pidgin all the time? Say, “water.” KALI Wada.
BRENDA No. WAAH-TER.
BRENDA Say, “I’d like a glass of WAAHTER, please.” KALI Mo’ betta, I get da wada myself den waste my breaf asking.
BRENDA Do you want to be in Twelve O’Clock High forever? If you don’t learn how to speak good English, you’ll never graduate!
KALI Some folks, need odder people graduate ‘dem. Me, I graduate myself!
(Singing) Like da WAAH-DAAH to da sea Hey, girl! Your skin, someting funny kine!
BRENDA What? Is it my eczema?
KALI (Shrugs) It’s white.
BRENDA It’s rash.
KALI But it’s white!