Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 18, 2016

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween! 73 Nights Left! "The time before we met"

I was in the wrong frame of mind when I was pulled over by a police officer in Manoa in the parking lot of the
shopping center. Fifteen minutes before that I had pulled over just outside the cemetery so that I could answer a text message; I didn’t notice that this same officer had driven past me three times. When the text was over, I started my car up and made a turn with the intention of heading to Grace’s Inn on Beretania Street. Their Kalua pork lunch plate was the best because they smoked the meat. I just happened to glance in my rear view mirror as I passed the old pre-school and saw the same police officer parked in the front driveway.  His personal car with the flat rectangular blue lights on the roof practically leaped out of the drive way and on to the street; my instinct told me that I was going to be pulled over for something. There were four cars between the Toyota 4 Runner and myself but by the time I had pulled into the parking lot at the Manoa shopping center, the SUV was right on top me, flashing blue lights and all. Just to be safe I kept my hands on the steering wheel and did as the officer said, license, insurance and registration. He took my information with him and returned to his car and was back in less than a minute,

“We usually don’t see Hawaiians in nice cars parked on the street here in Manoa. It just seemed a little suspicious,” he said.

“I pulled over and parked to answer a text rather than text and drive, that’s all it was.” I answered.

“You’re sitting in a nice car, bit you’re dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and slippers. You can understand why someone would find that a but suspect? Right? ” he reasoned. “Especially in this part of Manoa.”

His name is embroidered on the flap of his right breast pocket, “Kitagawa.” There’s a million ways this conversation could have gone, I could have recounted Japanese and Okinawan immigration to Hawai’i and Pearl Harbor and all those other things. Like I said earlier, I was in the wrong frame of mind. But this was not a cashier at the market or a bank teller that was giving me bad customer service, this was an officer of the law. I’m sure that his suspicion of me was merited by his previous experience with other Hawaiian men who looked like me who owned expensive vehicles such as a Porsche or a Mercedes or one of those tricked out Cadillac mini-buses as I like to call them. Yes, of course, people like that driving nice cars in an affluent Manoa neighborhood would definitely come across as suspect.
Yes, considering the socioeconomic status of native Hawaiians it might be a surprise to see any one of us driving anything more expensive than a suburban; that is unless you are an entertainer or a bishop estate trustee.

Besides, If I didn’t come to some kind of compromise with him I was probably not going to get my license, insurance and proof of registration back; at least that’s what I thought. Better to be smart and live to fight another day.

“You’re right,” I nodded. “I see your point,”

He handed me my papers back and wished me a good day and with that he was off. I must have screamed every swear word I could think of and then some as I drove out of Manoa and got on to the freeway. Every injustice that had ever happened to my people boiled over inside of me and I was furious, furious that even in our own home we are still treated with criminal contempt. It’s a hard pill to swallow, it’s even harder not to stay angry. But how could we not be? I couldn’t even enjoy the lunch that I was so looking forward to at Grace’s Inn because of how the acidic hate churned my insides around to the point that perhaps only some kind of retaliation would quell the storm. A short time later my plate of food and my drink sat right in front of me but I wasn’t even paying to attention to it. Who could I talk to? Who would understand? Who would even care?

“I understand,” it was a voice that came two tables from my left. It was a Hawaiian man dressed in a very nice coat and tie. He had a plate of shoyu chicken and salad in front of him and a large drink cup that was filled to the brim.

“Excuse me?” I replied.

“I can hear your thoughts, I understand what you’re feeling is what I meant to say,” he replied.

“Thanks,” I answered as I grabbed my food and got up to leave. “ I’ll take my thoughts elsewhere,”

“No, no, no brah! Serious brah, serious kine!” He said as he waved me over. “You’re mad because of  that police officer who pulled you over. No freak out brah, come sit down. If you no talk about ‘um and get ‘um off your chest going eat you up brah and you going home and get mad at your wahine and das no good brah, come sit down. Come.”

I sat across from him and purposely gave him a look of disdain or at the very least a look that told him he was wasting my time. He could probably tell that I was vexed by my body language but hearing my thoughts? I doubt it. He more than likely had driven past and watched me get pulled over in Manoa. It was just a coincidence that I happened into Grace’s Inn where circumstance dictated that he was seated there as well. He was a well dressed and highly skilled con man at best; or an insurance salesman.

“Do you know why I wear a coat and tie all the time?” He asked.

“Because of your job?” I shrugged my shoulders.

“No, it’s because of the same reason that cop gave you a ticket. The way you’re dressed and the type of car you drive don’t match. The two together don’t fit the Manoa demographic, that’s why.” He said.

“You dress in a coat and tie because of me?” I was being sarcastic in the hopes that it would piss him off. I was pissed off so why shouldn’t everyone else be?

“Look at me, I’m a dark skinned Hawaiian man just like you. When I dress this way, people treat me differently; at the bank, at the store, at the mall, even at the airport.” He said. “Of course, I can’t dress like this at my Aunty’s house. She’d make me go home and change my clothes.”

I still gave him the same look.

“How upset are you about this cop?” He asked.

“Very upset, well, about the situation more than at the cop himself. It’s not his fault, I know they’re trained to probably profile people a certain way,” I replied.

“C’mon, you’re pissed. You’re furious. That cop humiliated you and you want something to happen to him, something real bad,” he said.

“No I don’t, I don’t. It’s not his fault,” I answered.

“Is that how you feel, or are you trying to convince yourself that that’s how you feel?” He was pushing now.

“No, that’s how I feel. I really do feel that way.” He looked at me as if he were searching for something in the back of my thoughts.

“Feel what? Angry?” He pressed.

“No, I feel that it’s not his fault,” I stated.

Just then, he extended his hand to me and said, “I’m Boy by the way, Boy Napualawa.”

I took his hand and shook it as we were both reminded that we had skipped any formal greetings.

“I’m Lopaka,” I replied.

“There are things that we as Hawaiians cannot change; it’s the same with people. All we can do is change ourselves and the way that we move about in the world,” he smiled. “I understand your anger, I’ve been there. As mad as you were; somewhere within that toiling flame of rage you realized that what that police officer said to you was not his fault. It’s just the way he was either built at the academy or in his upbringing. Realizing that, in spite of how unfair the situation was; that’s wisdom. That’s compassion, that’s aloha.” Boy said.

“This is not the kind of thing I want for my children one day,” I said quietly.

“If they are anything like you brother, you won’t have to worry,” he assured me.

“What do you do?” I asked him. “What’s your job?”

All he did was reach in his pocket and pull out a stark white business card with a phone number on it.

“Anytime you need to talk, just call that number,” he said.

I was about to reach in my pocket to retrieve my wallet but Boy raised his hand and said,

“I don’t need a business card Lopaka, I know who you are,” he smiled.

“You do?” I was surprised.

“Doing the right thing is what drives you brother, it’s what keeps you in the light,” he said.

“His name was officer Kitagawa; I thought to myself that I couldn’t attack him on the grounds of race because the Japanese suffered injustices too, especially after Pearl Harbor. I felt that I had no right in that capacity; I just had to accept what he said and move on.” I said. “That would just be compounding one problem with another problem.”

All Boy did was return a knowing grin as he raised his eye brows at the same time.


It didn’t occur to me until the drive home that I had just met someone whose name had been a whispered myth for many years. They say that he worked outside the law and was unstoppable if anyone ever crossed him. They said he made things happen, bad things. Things that even caused union bosses along with the crime bosses to fear him; or at the very least stay out of his way. As for the law? They knew Boy all too well; he was their ‘go to’ when certain cases came up cold. Word had it that Boy Napualawa was unmerciful when it came to stupidity, disrespect and plain human ignorance. That is not to say that Boy’s disdain for such a thing was limited to the color of someone’s skin or their nationality. Stupid was a frailty of human nature, regardless. However, Boy was also known for his great compassion and insight.

I wouldn’t find out until years later that officer Kitagawa pulled Boy over an hour before he would give me a ticket. He stopped Boy at a four way intersection toward the back of Manoa just before the elementary school; Boy was in his Mercedes CK100 when officer Kitagawa drove up along side him and directed Boy to pull over on Lowrey Street.

“This is a new one!” Officer Kitagawa said as Boy rolled his window down. “A Hawaiian man in a suit and tie driving a Mercedes! You work for Kamehameha Schools?”

“No,” Boy was courteous.

“You must be a politician then?” Officer Kitagawa asked.

“No, I’m not,” Boy smiled.

“Oh, you must be a banker then? First Hawaiian?” The officer grew visibly agitated.

“No, I’m afraid not,” Boy said.

“Well, you must do something that requires you to wear a suit like that and drive a car like this? I mean you even talk like a haole!” Officer Kitagawa’s face was now visibly red and his hands were clenched as they rested on the car door.

“Officer, I apologize If I’ve offended you in some way. I can take my tie and coat off if it will make you feel better?” Boy’s hands were up as an indication that he offered no resistance and that he had no intention to invite any kind of harm.

In a flash, officer Kitagawa pulled the car door open and simultaneously unlocked Boys seat belt with one hand and attempted to yank Boy out of the vehicle with the other, but Boy didn’t budge. He sat there calmly with his hands still up. However, try as he might, officer Kitagawa couldn’t get Boy to move. He made several attempts to move the occupant from his car until utter frustration compelled him to step back and draw his weapon.

“Get outta the fuckin’ car right now!” He screamed.

With his hands still raised in front of him, Boy effortlessly stepped out of his car and took a step to his left.

“Officer, you haven’t told me why I was pulled over nor did you ask me for my drivers license and proof of registration and insurance,” wearing a stoic expression Boy spoke with a calm and even tone.

“Turn around and face your vehicle now!” Officer Kitagawa screamed.

Boy carefully looked at the officer until they locked eyes; he had to make it a point to hold the officers gaze before he said anything further. Once that was achieved, Boy spoke to the Kitagawa that was locked deep inside.

“Your father’s family never accepted you and your siblings because they didn’t consider that you were full Japanese even though you pulled more of your father’s side. They treated your mother like she was a third class citizen because she was Hawaiian; they insulted her right in front of your father but he did nothing to protect all of you. Nothing. Overtime, you began to hate her too and you blamed her for all of your pain and you wished that you had a Japanese mother instead of a Hawaiian one,” Boy began.

“What?” Officer Kitagawa shot back. “Shut up! Right now, shut up!”

“You ended up hating your siblings too because of that, but the one you really hated was yourself. You couldn’t change who you were, or who you’ve become,” Boy continued. “So you’ve spent your life trying to appease your Japanese father because you want his love and approval so badly but he won’t give it to you. It’s not because he hates you, it’s because you look most like your mother and it reminds him too much of how his cowardice sent her to an early grave.”

“No,” Officer Kitagawa was sobbing now, “no, no stop. Just stop,”

“You have to know Blaine, that none of what happened to you and your siblings in your life is your fault. Being the oldest Japanese son is a tremendous burden, it is. It can be terribly unfair. None of that is your fault,” Boy shared.

“Who the fuck are you?” Officer Blaine Kitagawa holstered his gun and did his best to fight back his tears but to no avail.

“Just someone who understands,” Boy confirmed. “You’ll never be rid of your pain until you make amends with your mother,”

“She’s dead,” he sobbed.

“Her body is dead, but her love is not. Besides, doesn’t your mother have family?” Boy asked.

Blaine inhaled before more tears came, “Yeah,”

“You can start there,” Boy nodded.

Blaine gestured at Boy indicating that he could go back to his car but another question suddenly came to him, “What about my father?”

Standing next to his opened car door, Boy replied, “The only approval you need is from yourself, your father was never given the tools to deal with his guilt. He just doesn’t know how; that isn’t your fault either.”

“Who are you?” Blaine asked.

Boy asked if he could reach into his pocket and remove his business card from his wallet,

“Yeah, yeah of course,” Blaine replied.

It was the same blank card with a phone number on it and Boy had offered Blaine the same words that he would later offer to me,

“Call me anytime you need to talk,”

When officer Blaine Kitagawa pulled me over an hour later, I hadn’t the slightest inkling as to how much his demeanor had changed since his encounter with Boy Napualawa. I kick myself now to even think how sarcastic I was when I encountered Boy at Grace’s Inn. However, considering Boys’ calm exterior when facing more extreme circumstances, my behavior in his presence was a mere spec of dust on the nail of his pinky finger.

Lesson learned.