It is a choke point, this Likelike, its name the opposite of the English 'like.' Okey, the pronunciation is Hawaiian, with the syllables repeated when sounded off. But visually so different from what happens, if you get the drift, when you get to this highway having this Likelike name.
For Likelike is some place people hate to go to, pass by, and get caught in. The flow of traffic is horrendously slow I can write a poem just by being angry each morning. Like this morning that at the early hours of sunrise, at 7:00 o'clock, the traffic flows so drudgingly slow and cars turn to turtles with their speed of between one to five miles per hour if you are not on a complete stop.
Traffic logic tells you of the culprit: two freeways converge on Likelike that has only three lanes so that from two freeways--the H-1 and H-3--with ten lanes combined, you are left with three at this Likelike choke point.
It is a horrific bottleneck, this Likelike chokepoint. When you are at some spots that are elevated like the one that is close to Leeward, you see the cars practically crawling, inching slowly towards the bottleneck until kingdom come. And the fast rising morning sun gives you all the glare you do not need to navigate the road awashed with the colors of the monring in these parts. When you reach the Pearl Harbor, you take in all the blue and blue green colors, take them all in as if they are food for your weary soul. You memorize the ripples of the water, calm and calming at this time.
Each day, I bear witness to this kind of an image of slowness, of drudgery. Each day I am bored looking haplessly and helplessly at this sight, and with the knowledge, certain and secure, that I cannot do anything to untangle the knots. I am wery because I could have spent this same time writing some pages or two for a novel I am have been working on, the novel about immigrant life in this land.
I look inwardly.
I look at our lives as migrants and immigrants.
Many of us here in the United States are living lives like that chokepoint in Likelike.
We begin from some ten-lane kind of enhusiasm, huge dreams, colorful ambitions. We even promise to our kith and kin that if we made it here, we will surely send them the mighty American dollars they need--because that is also what the kith and kin expect--the dollars remitted to them from abroad.
As I inch my way to the chokepoint, I imagine all the other migrants, immigrants, and exiles like me.
I imagine their families left behind, the children looking for the warmth of the love of their parents who are away taking care of other children or building other people's homes.
I imagine the nights and days the children would like to play their role as children before their parents and I can only swallow my tears: I choke when I think of these images even as I imagine my children trying to figure out the choking consequences of my absence.
There are nights I could not sleep as there are nights I am rattled off by a bad dream.
Once, I had a nightmare and I woke up in the middle of the night. I had to grab the phone and call home right away. Once too, I called up my wife in the wee hours of the morning to ask her to put a cross with her spit on the forehead of our youngest.
A, these dreams. They come in full color but they also come in black and white. Fear of the unfamiliar and the unknown is what grip the exile, any exile, in strange lands. Really now. Home is where you find rest and quiet.
I look at our lives again, and the lives of the other immigrants. I see the likenesses here, the parallelisms. Like this Likelike of a highway that you do not like, immigrant life--or that perennial eking out that chokes your life speed. The bottleneck chokes your desire to reach your destination soon and fast.
I think of a way to get away from this Likelike. I think of using the side streets of Honolulu to get to Manoa Valley where the university is, this site of sacrament for a wandering Ilokano like me--and Bien Lumbera the national artist has asked that question to me about my being a "prototipo ng Ilokanong lagalag," a phrase I like repeating, as if it were a kernel of a sermon.
But the side streets I have yet to learn.
A Solver Agcaoili
U of Hawaii at Manoa
Oct 27, 2006