by Kim Steutermann Rogers
You hear again the radio calls, reporting the lost airship, called Bird of Paradise, hoping to be the first pan-Pacific flight from the mainland to Hawai‘i. You promised to wake your wife to bear witness. You also promised to love and care for her.
You pour kerosene into the well to keep the light burning atop its eighty-five foot tower. You crank weights up a tube in the center of the room from six flights below to keep the French-made lens turning, throwing off its characteristic double flash every ten seconds, guiding mariners and ships at sea. You hope for the sound of the tri-motor and whistle of propellers slicing the air amidst the squalls arriving in sets like the waves crashing in cataracts one hundred eighty feet below.
You remember. You remember the summer you met on a beach not far from this rocky peninsula where you sat on sand as soft as her hair. You remember the spicy vanilla scent of the maile lei she draped over your shoulders when you made your promises. The sigh from her lips when she said she couldn’t feel sensation on the pink patches of skin on her cheeks, when the bumps arose on her nose, when the ulcers on her feet made it impossible for her to walk.
You stare futilely out to sea for something, anything. You pray for a miracle. You see a faint blinking of light through the crepuscular morning’s dark clouds. You acknowledge some miracles do happen, some prayers are answered. You see as the airship emerges from a bank of clouds and dips its wings in thanks. You race out on the lighthouse’s catwalk, wind whipping, waving your arms, and calling your wife’s name, Kainani, over and over until you’re all sobbed out.
You wish again the wasting disease had found you instead of taking her from you part by part.
About the author
Kim Steutermann Rogers spent a month in Alaska as a fellow at Storyknife Writers Retreat in 2016 and, again, in 2021. She was recognized for “Notable Travel Writing 2019” in Best American Travel Writing. Her science journalism has been published in National Geographic, Audubon, and Smithsonian; and her prose in Atticus Review, Bending Genres, Hawaii Pacific Review and elsewhere. She lives with her husband and dog in Hawaii. Read more of her work at kimsrogers.com and follow her on social media at @kimsrogers.
About the illustration
The illustration is Hawaiian Airlines' "We Are Hawaii" poster, by Walter Landor & Associates, 1974. In the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.