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Big Island Love

Big Island Love

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Published by GoodMenProject
On why opposites attract, why I like people in only small doses, and why, in the end, I can't outrun my DNA.
On why opposites attract, why I like people in only small doses, and why, in the end, I can't outrun my DNA.

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Published by: GoodMenProject on Feb 24, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Tom Matlack 
“We just got back from three months of driving a rented RV along the coast of Australia,” Kensaid, eyes gleaming.“It was amazing,” added his wife, Gisela, a South African woman in her late 30s with a beautifulface and brazen crew cut.Just before meeting our new best friends, my wife, Elena, and I had been sitting at the bar inKona Village, a family resort on the big island in Hawaii, watching a mommy and baby humpback
After they arrived, Elena kept asking them detailed questions, clearly convinced that we wouldsoon be heading to Australia
way.“Imagine a population smaller than New York City, spread out over a country as big as ours,”Ken explained.“What are the beaches like?” Elena asked.“Pristine,” Gisela responded with a British-sounding accent, “if you saw ten people that wouldbe a busy day.”“Wildlife?” I questioned weakly, trying to play along, but disturbed by the direction theconversation had taken.“Kangaroos everywhere,” Ken said. “But the coolest was a Koala Bear wanderin’ from one treeto the next right beside the RV. He stretched halfway up before climbin’ the rest of the way andgoin’ back to sleep.” “That’s so cool!” Elena said enthusiastically, her wheels turning. During our seven-year marriage,we had been to Florence (twice), Athens, Paris (twice), London, a dude ranch (four times),Florida (countless times), New York City (countless times), Laguna Beach (for a month once),Los Angeles, Dallas, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Sedona, St. Lucia, the Bahamas, and nowHawaii.As much as I really liked Ken and Gisela, this whole exchange set off a familiar terror that was
a hulking former swimmer and rower, I still had my fair share ofdemons. I was still alone in a certain sense, not by choice but necessity.
obsessive compulsive with
Gisela had mentioned port-a-potties and campground showers and my mind had somehowconnected the strange bathroom protocol on a three-month road trip in Australia to Nicholsoncoming home to pull a bar of soap from his medicine cabinet (stacked with nothing but soap),rubbing his hands under scalding water, dropping the bar in the trash and repeating the processover and over again, exemplifying extreme germ phobia. He even brings plastic silverware tothe one restaurant he patronized.
perhaps the smartest man I
Yale. But he has to arrange the chairs in a certain way at family gatherings and becomes visiblyupset when food is served in a way that doesn’t meet his expectations. He is not as extremeas Jack Nicholson in the movie, but his obsessive-compulsive tendencies can lead him to dark
to pain me as an adult. There are certain behaviors that he simply can’t control; but mom alwayswished he could.
three months
of driving a rented RV along the
coast of Australia
crowd at the bar. I graduated from high school a year early to leave home abruptly at 17,determined to escape my parent’s relationship. Yet now, at 45, the terror had me thinking that
experience away from home.Kids are playing four square and tether ball and jumping off the dock during free swim  in achorus of boyish delight. The late afternoon sun shines on the lake at Camp Becket. But I’min the dark back corner of my lower bunk, crying hysterically, my head buried in a pillow so noone can hear me.I had been brave all day long. I had awoken disoriented; why was I in this strange place?I somehow managed breakfast in the dining hall, woodworking, swimming, lunch, nap, andarchery. But after suppressing my angst, I felt like I was going to burst. I made my way back tothe cabin to be alone.“Tom, you alright?” Stuart, my counselor, asks softly from the doorway. I look up, my eyes red.“Let’s go for a walk, son.”
a few days later, my parents tell me that it’s important that I stay at camp for my own good.I bravely make it through a month, realizing I can swim and run faster than any other kid my age.But the open wound hasn’t healed by the time I get home. It has only festered.
alone. And I do like doing the same things repeatedly (obsessive compulsive?). I ate, drank,earned money, exercised; all to excess. Having overcome those addictions over a decade ago,my current vices include coffee, ice cream, and my Blackberry. I struggle without a normalroutine; change of any kind is excruciating. I am not always at ease socially.I’m 19 and in the back of a U-haul van in the fetal position, trying to fall asleep. There’s an openkeg at my feet; the stench
I am on the rowing team’s “Hose & Hike,” which consists of piling into a van on a Saturdayafternoon, drinking beer en
then waking up Sunday morning to hike up and down a mountain.Inside, my rowing teammates are playing strip twister. I have had another meltdown. I thought,wrongly, that I could handle the trip. So I snuck out of the party to try to calm down and getsome sleep.After my divorce 14 years ago, I dated some nice girls (and some clinically insane ones too). Butnone captured my attention the way Elena did. We were engaged in two months and married
designation. Think lesbians, pot, protests, FBI surveillance, and endless community meetings.Elena grew up in Bronxville, New York. While I was getting arrested with my dad for committingacts of civil disobedience at Westover Air Force Base, Elena was becoming a debutante.
She mentioned she wanted to see it and I immediately booked the trip to please her. After twoplanes, a van, a ferry, and a taxi, we found ourselves on the very tip of Capri in a room with anamazing terrace overlooking the limestone masses, the Faraglioni, jutting out of the TyrrhenianSea.
I like
small doses

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