Today we went to a local burger shack for teri burgers and when the cashier asked for my name, for the first time ever I said “Leina'ala” instead of LA, or Lisa, or any of the other fake names I usually give. She nodded and wrote it down, ‘okina and all, and a few minutes later when our order was ready the tita working the grill called out “Leina'ala!” in perfect pidgin cadence.
An hour or so later I walked past a father and son talking over ice cream. The boy said, “if you say 'Lane’ it sounds like 'Leina’, dad. Laaane. Leeeina. Lane. Leina.” The dad nodded and asked, “like Leina'ala?” as casually as he might have said “like Sarah?” or “like Jennifer?” (except that would be dumb because those don’t sound like Lane).
Hawaii isn’t home for me, not really, but there is still a special sense of belonging here that I’ve never felt anywhere else. My name is a burden (though one gladly borne) in my regular life, something friends, colleagues, even my family struggle with. To hear it said perfectly by two strangers in the span of an afternoon? This is a strange magic.