Kona, Hawaii - 2013

I always tell people that I stalked my husband into loving me...

Picture this, if you will.

Its just another day in Kailua-Kona, a sunny tourist town on the west coast of Hawaii Island, where the streets are heavily trafficked with the flapping sound of cheap flip-flops on sandy, wet concrete. Its cruise ship day, and I am finishing my front of house shift at the dinky little coffee shop I work at on the dock. This town is renowned for one thing ...Kona - coffee. So naturally we are slammed as tourists doting aloha shirts, fresh off the boat (literally) are flocking to their first chance at a hot cup of volcanic bean juice. Not that ours was particularly any good.

I am just 19, working two or three jobs, living on tips, driving a beat up old 1999 Toyota Carola and barely surviving while I find my way freshly out of high school, and going through a break-up. My best friend is the store manager, most of the time we are getting into trouble for changing the music on the speakers of the café (or playing our own too loudly in the back) making one-too-many complimentary lattes and arriving to work in my pjs at 5am.

Life is mostly un-complicated, fun was always a priority and the rest of my stressors mainly came from living on a balcony, in an apartment with too many roommates - but that's a story for a different day.

This particular Wednesday, we had an interview set up for a new barista, my friends first real shot at playing manager and being in charge of hiring new help. She was nervously clicking her pen on & off as the appointment time got closer and closer, intermittently checking her interview questions with each passing minute. Then, the moment that changed my life forever - in walks Cash. Dressed in a purple button up, bowtie and doting the most vibrant blue-green eyes I have ever seen. I watch as they shake hands, and sit down for their interview, finding any excuse to wipe the coffee bar down...again. Shoving my way to greet anyone in the front so I can get a better view of my eye candy for a few minutes, completely un-interested in actually performing any of my duties. As they wrap up their meeting I watch Mickayla say goodbye and make her way to the back where I am eager to hear how it went, and who that handsome stranger is. So I pry - "We should hire him." and she retorts "Jaz, he is WAY over qualified." to which I say "So, beats the under-qualified bar we have set so far."

And we laugh it off together.

A few days later as I am wrapping up yet another under-whelming shift, and I see Cash walk in the door to begin the on-boarding process with our afternoon manager, and I'm STOKED. I fix my hair, smooth out my top and try to wipe any sweat smeared makeup away.

As we pass each other in the back I introduce myself with arms full of refills for re-stocking, he introduces himself as Cash - what a cool name - and I followed up with the cring-iest flirty line of "I like your tattoos - makes me want to get more."

So yeah.. Anyway.

Before long, I learned I wasn't the only one with eyes on him, our scheduling gal was also competing for Cashs attention, and how convenient that all she had to do was change the schedule so they work most shifts together. This means my flirt was in hyper-drive for the few days I knew we shared the morning. Those days got me up a little earlier and I definitely didn't show up in my usual pajama pants/change in the freezer door routine.

I learned he was fresh to the island, from the PNW where he was a A-list chef, military veteran and is living in his parents vacation home down south.

College degree, check.

Life experience, check.

Own home / Own car, check & check.

This one was a catch, considering 90% of the dating pool in Kona cant check a single one of those. This is one you can take home to the folx, and I knew that my window was short before someone else swoops in.

I was trying hard to hide my devastation when Mickayla informed me that my crush just handed in his notice, he had found a higher paying gig down the strip a ways. So... I have 2 weeks to make my move. Challenge accepted.

The weeks to follow consisted of laying down the groundwork. Making plans after work with Cash and Mickayla often, casual dinners at a dive bar for taco Tuesday (where I fought to get a seat next to him) and casually getting dressed up to stop by his new place of work. As we all bonded into a solid friend group, I recall feeling moments of bliss I never knew myself capable of. For the first time, I felt like I genuinely belonged, my company was accepted and wanted, I had made real lifelong friends with a diverse group of genuinely kind people. A stark contrast to the way my roommates often made me feel, where we acted more like rival siblings than people who were friends. Throwing things, brutal honesty, stealing things from our rooms, were commonplace practice and this felt like the polar opposite from that. I knew then, that it was time I moved back in with my family and save up for something better, so I put in my 30 day notice and packed my bags. At least I will have my own room with a full roof and save some money in the process, living with my bachelor brother aside.

While I settled into my new routine, I awaited approval of my Facebook request to Cash, somewhat worrying about the time that had passed since, and if I was too forward or too young or too eager. But I told myself he must not be on FB that often and thats just more points to his cool factor, this was very early into Instagram's existence, mind you. Eventually, I was approved and it then became clear as to why he hesitated. I could see via - stalking his photos (aye) that there was another layer of depth to this person I was pining for, he was Trans.

I now know, that I am most likely pansexual because I saw nothing differently after learning that fact about him. I understood how nerve wracking that would feel for him, and I wanted nothing more at that point, than to make it known abundantly clear that I. Like. You. - A LOT. Maybe a few hours had passed, before I got on my samsung straighttalk phone and texted Cash something like "Thanks for the fb add - I think its pretty cool that you can pull off that level of hawtness as both genders ;) " or something along those lines - Im smooth, right?

I wanted to say I am all in for who you are as a whole,

....and you know, I am down for whatever happens... ;)

Pictured, in no particular order..

The Menehune crew, First valentines, my 20th birthday, Green sands and a few adventures in-between.

JULY 4th

Independence day. The whole Ali'i drive strip is a zoo. Cash had already started his new job at Lava Java and was working in the back, desperately trying to keep up with the demand of all the patrons here to enjoy the firework show with food and drinks. They ran out of ingredients to make half of the menu, as Cash is also trying to learn it and maintain some form of order. I am house sitting for relatives in their nice suburban home just a ten minute drive away.

I did my hair, best attempt at makeup and threw on a crop top / tight skirt combo and headed down to the Cafe. Cash and I made loose plans as he was scheduled to get off around 9pm - long after the crowds filter off the streets of this otherwise sleepy town. I arrived at sunset, posting up just out of his earshot, chatting away with his co-workers, sipping wine with his bosses who stayed behind for rush hour, as if I absolutely belonged there. When someone asked if I was Cashs GF I didnt miss a beat in saying "Yes, I am!"

So you can imagine his surprise when the waitresses came in to say "Cash, your girlfriend is here!"

A quick peer around the corner revealed who they were referring to - and he didn't so much mind.

I wish I could say that I left at an acceptable time like the rest of the general public, but instead ya girl hung around alone overlooking empty streets not willing to give up my chance at a solo hangout. This was my moment and as my favorite rapper once said "you only got one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment." So there I was as 8pm rolled around, and 9pm, 10pm came and went, and finally the clock struck almost mid-night. My wine with the boss turned into a joint with the night crew. If we are being totally honest I thought about cutting my loses a few times but convinced myself I could hold out another half hour, and another one, and so forth. I got to know his new co-workers and determined it was a significant downgrade from our crew over at Menehune. Cash emerges from the kitchen back-door, thrashed from a 16 hr day and covered in food particles and grease but still so handsome. My chest erupts with butterflies, as he scans the faces still there and lands on mine. A mixed look of surprise, confusion and what I imagine was pure exhaustion. Looking back I am certain there was nothing he wanted more than to go home to his shower and bed but here was my ass waiting for my date he casually signed up for.

I said goodbye to the half drunken, haggard male co-workers of his and we made our way to the parking lot, where Cash had his parents blue Odyssey van parked in the lot. I got inside and we sat there with music playing and just chatted about life experiences, favorite bands, and other minuet details. This went on for maybe an hour or two before I released him to get a few hours of sleep before his next shift - a 45min drive away for him. As we began saying goodnight, I braced myself for a kiss. Kinda what I was after, if I'm being honest and in my experience that was the expectation. But somewhat to my dismay we left it with a hug. I recall making my way back to my car disappointed, but also thinking "what a gentleman."

Some time passes before I learn Cashs birthday was coming up - my specialty.

Mickayla nailed us a deal with the tour company across the street from us - free coffee/lunch for free tickets to the submarine tour of Kailua-Kona bay with a plus-one. So I tell Cash not to make any plans because I got something up my sleeve for his first birthday on the island.

July 13, 2013

I am rushing out the door of my childhood home in south Kona. Beach bag containing a towel, wallet, clothes, toiletries and some recreational drugs, draped over my shoulder sloppily as I rip open my car door. I am late. The submarine leaves at 8:30 and I still have a few stops to make, so I throw my corolla in reverse and speed out to the nearest grocery store. I run in and grab a solo cupcake and a pack of candles, before hauling ass to the pier where I am to meet the bday boy. By the time I arrive and park, I see I have beat him, but just as my texts ring "Be there in 10!"

As I begin scouring the car for my lighter, I see the familiar blue van pulling into the lot searching for a stall to park. I peer around the overhanging tree branch offering little shade, and motion him over to a stall near mine. As he parks, I am hastily ripping open the candles and lighting this cupcake so when he walks around my rear panel, there I am singing happy birthday while simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief. A birthday cupcake sounds small but to me it was everything. We make our way to the dock chatting, where I reveal what we are doing for the day as we order a latte and check in.

First, we go on this exotic submarine adventure, meet our mutual friends at my favorite beach, followed with dinner on the strip and ending with a romantic evening back at his place (i.e. my first sleepover)

We spent the afternoon swimming in crystal clear water under an unforgiving sun. A monk seal graces us with her presence, the day is going by perfectly as we try to conceal any inkling that we are romantically involved. Even though it was pretty obvious to everyone that was present considering not a day went by that I wasn't gushing about him. We made it through our subpar- over priced dinner and left our friends to carry out the portion of the evening that I had been long awaiting.

I followed his van through the windy dark backroads I grew up on, listening to the one song I remembered he said he liked on repeat, until we reached the top of his road, which was too steep for my poor little car to manage. I parked her out of the way on the street and hopped in the van with everything we needed for a good time. Down, down, and down we go to nearly the last house at the bottom of Kona Paradise, and pull into a zig-zag paved driveway. The house is on stilts, with a balcony overlooking the water so close you can taste the salt in the air. As he opens the door, I see three bedrooms, a beautiful open concept kitchen with vast screen doors letting in the cool ocean breeze, and the entryway to the master bedroom. I follow Cash in and set my things down as he hops in the shower of one of the most fancy bathrooms I've seen, door closed I may add.

I can't tell you what we took, or where the next few hours went because its all a blurr now. But eventually we took the 5 minute walk from the front door, to the small black pebble beach - appropriately named for its smooth, ocean polished lava rock pebbles with green sparkling olivine crystals imbedded in them. We laid on 'sand' and absorbed the warmth they held from the blazing sun earlier that day, while staring up at a spectacularly clear sky. We talked about heartbreaks and family, future goals, and Hawaiian Folklore. I perhaps over-shared at times but I felt so drawn to be 100% transparent to someone for the first time. No hiding, no persona, just me. Raw, unapologetic, all my cards on the table, me.

I wanted to know that he was ALL in too, and if he wasn't, it was early enough not to break my heart.

I just wanted him in my life in whatever capacity I could.

We both weren't looking for a serious relationship, yet here we were pretending that wasn't were this was headed.

I noticed a glow coming from the Kings Trail far off in the distance, which seems odd for the middle of the night, with no sound traveling.

Then, I could have sworn I heard drumming or chanting and that meant it was time for bed, you don't wanna get in the path of night marchers.

We made our way inside and the next thing I remember was him dropping me back off at my car, as I headed home.

We had our first official date soon there-after where at long last - I got my kiss.

As the story goes...

The months that followed were something of the likes of 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall" a whirlwind of romance and drama and many nights on the ocean facing balcony, having deep conversations wrapped in each others arms. Time with him was placed above everything, to a self detrimental level at times. Slowly I began leaving little things at his place, phone chargers, toothbrush....shampoo even.

One afternoon we found ourselves on the living room couch, *not watching a movie. I am memorizing the length of his lashes, the different hues of aqua green in his eyes and I can hear my mind whisper the "I love you' that's hanging at the tip of my tongue. But instead I revert back to my usual " I am falling for you." instead, I didnt want to be the first one to say it. Cash brushes my hair aside and says "Are we going to keep saying that forever?"

and smirks at me like a dare.

"You mean instead of...?" I counter, playfully winking back.

"I love you." - He said.

and the rest is history still being written.