“Careful there” Austin points out a wobbly rock as he and Maania venture ever deeper into the Hawaiian rainforest. It’s a blue evening, the result of the Pacific sun’s last rays splashing upward off the dense green canopy. The warm atmosphere breathes golden light and holds it, pursing it’s lips before blowing the stream into lingering clouds. Pale blue light settles over us and mixes with damp greenery and rabid mosquitoes. Maania’s crimson gown streaks the darkening jungle with a bold punch of color, Austin lifting her over tangled logs with ease.
Lauren and I first met Maania while I was in flight school. For all of us this was a period of wide eyed optimism as we, newly graduated, surveyed the world before us. Nobody could predict the journeys and challenges next five years would hold.
The shadows lengthen and dappled light sways across Maania and Austin’s faces. An F. Scott Fitzgerald line floats in the air, “Their eyes smiled across the room for eachother.” Austin has an easy way about him, comfortable, with lively eyes, but with the subtle gravity of a doctor. His easy bedside manner banter and smile distract from how he guides Maania up small hills and over fallen brush. Maania’s eyes smile back at her husband as if they share a secret, as if each glance were to confirm an inside joke. She moves confidently, her gown and the arching trees giving the impression of gliding through an airy ballroom.
Austin is a medical doctor, he chatted about a local Hepatitis break with a casual ease as if he were discussing his favorite sports team. This is important because Maania is fighting a rare cancer, though you would never know it by looking at her. Her eyes hold the fire of a prizefighter, her posture and gait belying an inner toughness of one who quite literally battles her own self. This was the intangible hanging in their gaze, friendship born of struggle. Their mannerisms, words, and knowing glances held a poignancy, an intensity of love. I was struck by the vulnerability in Maania’s eyes and the tenderness on Austin’s face as they posed effortlessly. On this humid Hawaiian evening the mosquitoes were out in full force, yet never approached these honeymooners, it would be….unseemly, an affront to the moment.