Hula, by Heidi Turner
There’s nothing inside my coconut bra but the tourists don’t need to know that. They watch my hips, and the men grab their wives’ hands like they’re saying, “es, yes, this is art, this is culture, this is what we came to Hawai’i to see,” but I’m dancing Tahitian and wearing the wrong kind of skirt for this dance because it’s the one the manager likes best on the Sunday girls. When I first started dancing at the mall, the two coconuts were almost overlapping, and they’d pinch the skin on my sternum when I would move my arms too fast, but now I just put a couple pairs of socks inside each coconut half so that my chest doesn’t chafe, and once I go up a cup size I’ll be able to wear a strapless bra and a fabric band like the big girls. It’s a secret that everyone knows but the audience: there are never any boobs in the coconuts. Those with nothing to hide, hide their nothing inside the shell bras, and those with chests cover them entirely with the jaunty printed fabric left over from that year’s Aloha shirts.
When I dance, the musicians call me “Naupaka,” after the creeping ivy that grows over the sand dunes, but I think they do it cause it sounds like a drumbeat when you say it, and that’s the way my kumu says I step on stage—boom boom boom, and then my hips hit the sixteenth beats instead of the eighths, and my brother says I’m getting too old to dance the fast songs for the tourists. A bead of sweat rolls down my back while I step forward, backward, points of compass, and dip to the floor on one leg. My skirt splits along the seam, right where it’s supposed to. I smile and bow and collect my $100. Not bad for a weekend dancing. But my brother is right—when I wear the band I’ll learn the slow Hawaiian hulas, and maybe I will learn to make people cry because I dance beautifully, and no one will grab their wives’ hands when I come on stage.
Heidi Turner is a writer and musician from Maui, Hawai'i. Her work has been published in Abstract Magazine, Cirque, Barren Magazine, and Hawai'i Pacific Review, amongst others. She currently lives in New Hampshire.