My Kind of Town
Don Chapman

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

It’s all in the stars

» UH-Windward

Jennifer Hira was not one of those women naturally attracted to a man who wore a uniform. And if Lt. Joe Matsuo, USMC, had been wearing his regular cammies or his dress blues, maybe she would have had a different reaction that day. Instead, he was wearing Surfah rubber slippers, black Nike basketball shorts and a gold tank top that read "Hug A Marine" and revealed bulging muscles and smooth brown skin. I could definitely hug that, Jen couldn't help thinking.

"You in line for astronomy?" he'd said, flashing a confident smile.

As opening lines go, it was about as lame as they come -- on account of the big sign that read "Astronomy" on a desk about five people in front of her. Lame as it was, it had the desired effect. It was an opening.

"Uh-huh," she said, returned the smile. "Which class are you signing up for?"

"Basic beginner. In academics, I think they call it 101."

Again, a seriously lame attempt at humor, but Jen found herself giggling. "Me too."

By the time she reached the head of the line, they'd exchanged the barest of personal details -- she was working on a nursing degree and taking this as a fun elective; he was a Marine who liked to take extra classes, in part because he enjoyed meeting "regular people," in larger part because the modern Marines looked favorably on the careers of highly educated officers -- and Jen was thinking, I like this guy. And she knew why. He wasn't Boy. The father of her 3-year-old daughter Jesse. If ever there was a more aptly named person, Jen couldn't think of it. Boy was too busy hanging out and being a braddah to bother with parenting. And then there was this Marine, a living symbol of responsibility and discipline. OK, a hot symbol, but still ...

"Oh, hi, Fatima," Jen said as a beautiful young woman joined her. "This is Joe."

He was, Fatima knew, the friend of the Marine who had signed up for her journalism class, the one she would recruit for her mission against America. She smiled, nodded.

She was, Joe saw, the girl his buddy Baz thought was Muslim, and said was his future wife. He knew not to shake her hand -- it was inappropriate for a Muslim woman to be touched by a man outside her family. "Howzit."

Later, after Jen and Fatima signed up for Astronomy 101 and were standing in the Biology line, Joe and his friend Baz had to pass them on their way out. "See ya," Joe said with a big smile, doing the Marine strut.

"OK, see ya," Jen replied, smiling back.

Baz and Fatima smiled, shared a glance, then averted their eyes.

"I'm no fortune teller, Fatima," Jen said, admiring the strut from the back side, "but I see double-dates coming into our lives. Soon."

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Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek. His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin. He can be e-mailed at dchapman@midweek.com

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