“You like play chalk?” I asked.
“Excuse me?” she asked, as if she hadn’t heard me.
Looking into her eyes, trying to connect, “You like play chalk?” I repeated, sure that she would understand, or somehow recognize me.
I wore a gray hoodie over a black dress that was really a beach cover-up and with my still sandy feet and salty stiff, salon red hair I looked very different than the ten-year-old tow-head I was thirty years ago.
If it weren’t for the newspaper clipping I carried I wouldn’t have recognized her either. She stood almost five feet tall, still the same olive toned skin, brown hair and soft eyes. Dawn Bicoy, all grown up, singing in a jazz band at Makaha.
I felt like I was speaking a foreign language, and I was. I was speaking pidgin English, the language of my childhood. It was the language of jacks and jump rope and Barbie dolls, the language of eating guavas and li hing mui and running from imaginary wild boars. It was the language my parents hated, the language I needed to know to fit in.
* * *
The neighborhood we lived in was new and all the families were young with kids. Our house had the best view of a distant Pearl Harbor, the result of an architectural misunderstanding—or so the story went—that put our house a good ten feet taller than any other in the neighborhood. Dawn’s family moved into our neighborhood last. Their house was custom built and had a swimming pool.
My new best friend Dee Dee Wong and I weren’t sure if she were a boy or a girl so we walked arm in arm around the cul-du-sac, once, twice, maybe three times. We stared at this kid sitting on the low lava wall that defined the Bicoy property.
Dawn was the first to speak. “You like play chalk?” she said. Dee Dee and I looked at each other and shrugged, walking towards Dawn, her outstretched hand holding a piece of chalk.
We sat on the sidewalk and began to draw.
* * *
“You like play chalk?” I repeated. Dawn looked confused. “I KNOW your mother told you we were coming,” I said as I watched recognition light up Dawn’s eyes.
“Oh my God,” she said. “Jennifer?”
“Oh my God,” she said again. “I’m gonna cry.”
“Me too,” I said, laughing, crying, smiling as we hugged. “That was the first thing you said to me. Don’t you remember? We drew with chalk on the sidewalk in front of your house.”