June 29, 2020 – Mililani, Hawaii
Meeting a partner is difficult enough as you age, but even more so in this time of social isolation and masks. I’ve given up on the dating sites, at least for now—they seem to attract either scammers or those with personality issues. Right now, my main goal is to find a permanent home for myself. Arizona is out of the question—don’t want to chance running into my ex, nor do I want to live in isolation. I’m afraid I’ll turn into an eccentric spinster living by myself in a tiny trailer, surrounded by cats and memorabilia from the past.
One of my goals in coming to Hawaii this time was exploring the Big Island. I’d heard that property was cheap over there, at least on the rainy Hilo side. Several months back, I met a guy named Bruce on a dating site. But, with him on the Big Island and me in Washington, it wasn’t possible to meet in person, especially with the covid situation. So we waited—we both agreed that, without meeting face-to-face, we had no real way of knowing if we’d be compatible.
Exploring the Big Island while visiting Bruce was the perfect solution. I’ve always wanted to live in harmony with nature and his home is the perfect example. He built it with his own hands and lives completely off the grid. He collects rainwater, piping it down the hillside into the house he built himself and gets all his power from solar panels. With 45 acres of land and twenty head of Red Angus cows, he’s never short on food. We messaged a bit before meeting, but nothing substantial. He didn’t seem anxious to talk about anything of a personal nature and I didn’t press him. A self-proclaimed “hippie”, he seemed like a mellow and kind guy and I was looking forward to meeting him. At the very least, I thought to myself, I’ll make a new friend and have a chance to explore the island.
Of course I hoped it would be love at first sight. We’d find romance, work on the homestead together, and live happily ever after in perfect harmony with nature. He was a couple of years older than me, but that was a good thing, I told myself. After all, I haven’t had much luck with younger guys over the past twenty years. So, I landed on the big island of Hawaii that day with high expectations.
He’d offered to pick me up at the airport and drive me to the car rental place—then I’d follow him to his homestead. I wasn’t anxious like I was that day when I met Diego for the first time. My Italian ex-boyfriend and I had opened our hearts up to each other long before meeting, so there was much more at stake. If the chemistry hadn’t been there I’d have been crushed, but fortunately it was. I wish I could say the same about Bruce. As he stepped out of his old Nissan pickup, my heart sank. That indefinable something that attracts a woman to a man just wasn’t there. Ok, I told myself. Just deal with it. At least you’ll have someone to explore the island with.
We drove for what seemed an eternity through a scrubby jungle landscape before arriving at his place which was literally in the middle of nowhere. He took me for a tour. The house was big and open, with a huge kitchen he’d designed himself. He was building as he had time and money and it wasn’t finished yet. Though everything was built to perfection, there were no personal touches—no photos, no pictures on the walls, and not much in the way of furniture. A round table with four chairs sat near the kitchen, and that’s where we spent most of our leisure time. He’d warned me in advance that it was primitive living, but after camping out for a year it didn’t bother me.
The bathroom situation turned out to be a challenge. There were two outside toilets, a flushing one to pee in, and a composting toilet to poop in. The composting toilet sat off to one side of the garage, surrounded by three walls. I quickly discovered that the flushing toilet wasn’t the best place to pee at night, unless you had a fondness for frogs. The small brown, black-eyed coqui frogs had been accidentally introduced to the Big Island in the 1980s and, not having any natural predators started breeding in huge numbers. For some reason, they liked to invade the bathroom after dark. The first night, I discovered one of the little critters perched on the toilet seat. I wasn’t about to sit on it, so I went back in the house to tell Bruce. His reply wasn’t encouraging.
“Just knock it into the toilet and flush it down. Don’t worry, it won’t die. It’ll pop out the other end of the pipe.”
I pictured the poor frog, stunned as it landed in the middle of the meadow somewhere. I could handle flushing it down the toilet, but not pushing it in—I wasn’t about to touch any part of the frog with my hands. I walked out into the grassy meadows and relieved myself. Over the next few nights I flushed several of the little critters down the toilet, but there were a couple who just wouldn’t go down. They were too big and strong and would cling desperately to the side of the bowl. They weren’t always in the toilet bowl, sometimes they sat on the wall right next to the potty staring at me with their beady black eyes. Most nights I peed outside and tried not to drink too much.
Like Nick, Bruce pushed himself to the limit. He’d work on his tractor for much of the day, spending the rest of his time doing odd carpentry jobs for neighbors. He was quirky, but not in an outgoing way like Nick. Bruce was a strong believer in healthy eating and followed the premise that all illnesses and ailments were caused by poor diet, that genetics played no role. He didn’t seem interested in getting to know me. Was it because he sensed we had no connection or was he just shy? I couldn’t seem to figure him out. At times he’d talk about his past, but never about anything personal.
“My ex lives up there in the cabin,” he told me. “It’s where we were living when I started building the house. I’ll take you up there before you leave.”
But his promises never materialized, maybe because it would have been awkward introducing me to his ex—if she truly was his ex. One day, while helping Bruce move the cows over to their new pasture, we stopped to talk to one of the neighbors. As we left, she turned to Bruce.
“Tell your wife I said hi.”
What was really going on with this guy? Was he still in a relationship with the woman in the cabin? Was that why he hadn’t taken me up there?
But I can’t complain. He was kind and gracious, taking me on a tour, feeding me, hosting me, providing me with a comfortable bed to sleep in. I love the Big Island, its spaciousness, its variety of vegetation and climates, and I left with a plan to buy land in the Pahoa area (southeast coast). Some may consider me crazy, given the close proximity of that area to the Kilauea volcano, currently considered to be the most dangerous volcano in the United States. It’s in an effusive stage right now, meaning lava flows, not explosive eruptions but who knows when that will change. During the last lava flow of 2018, hundreds of houses were buried, though nobody was killed. The lava flows fairly slowly and there’s plenty of time to escape.
Our meals during my visit to the Big Island were sparse. Bruce follows a low carb diet and eats more meat than I normally do, but it was amazing beef from his grass-fed cows. In fact, it was pretty much a keto diet that we subsisted on for 8 days. I figured since I’d already started, I may as well finish the switch over to this extreme low-carb diet and see if I could lose the extra 10 pounds I’d put on since I got back from Arizona. I plan to stick to it and, if it gives me more energy I’ll make it permanent.