Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 22, 2016

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween! 69 Nights Left! "The Day We Met"

When my father died I was only six months old and he, myself and my mother were at Kapi’olani Park enjoying and afternoon picnic. The lauhala mat which was made by my grandmother and passed down to my father was spread out on the grassy field where my mother placed me for a short second so that she could put the food packages down. Realizing that she’d forgotten the utensils, she asked my father if he wouldn’t mind going back to the car to get them.

“It was a good day,” my mom would always begin the story this way whenever she would recount the events that transpired.  “It was a long overdue family picnic because your father and I hardly had the same day off,”

She remembers sitting me on her lap and feeding me pieces of minced grapes and pitted cherries. A few minutes passed and my father wasn’t back yet; our picnic spot was under a large canopy of trees but we weren’t that far enough that my couldn’t see where our car was parked. Yet, she couldn’t see him.

“Where is he?” She asked herself.

Nearly twenty minutes went by before she finally slung her purse over her shoulders and carried me at the same time as we headed back to our car. At first, she couldn’t find my father anywhere until she almost tripped over his feet. His upper body lay beneath the drivers side of our car. She could only see his hips and legs. Other park goers who were nearby heard my mother’s screams and came to see what was the matter. A few people helped calm my mother down while one other person called 911; when the ambulance arrived they told my mother that there was nothing physically wrong with my father . He hadn’t been assaulted or run over; it appeared as if he’d literally dropped dead.

Later findings would reveal that my father died as the result of a brain aneurysm.

“When I think about it now,” my mother would say, “it might have been worse if he had died in front of me. It was better that he went the way he did.”

This is how my mother recalls the details of that day; however, if you ask her anything about my father before that, you’ll get a verbal paint brush description of a Hubert Vos or an Alex Ross. Her words were never more life like than when she remembered my father with a rendering of shadow and light, form and texture, color and shade. Her memories were her canvas, her words were acrylic or water color, pen or pencil. Sometimes there were only words on her palate, no paint brush. There were nights when her friends were over at our house for a few drinks and I would be in my room watching television and the high shrill laughter from the party would capture my attention and I would sneak into the living room in order to see what the big deal was. It was my mother surrounded by all of her friends from work, she had them hypnotized as she described the first time that she and my father had met. She had them in stitches and everyone laughed until they were in tears, but once the humor died down, she began to recall the first time that they were intimate.

“It was tender and slow, like he’d come upon something undiscovered and he wanted to appreciate his new find,” she trailed off at that moment and couldn’t finish. They were all crying together now, everyone. They all seemed to know him too; obviously long before I was born. They weren’t just being nice, the comfort they offered my mother came from a pain and sorrow which they all shared.

So, when my father comes to me in my dreams he is as vivid as the way my mother describes him. Colorful, strong and gentle at the same time. He wears a broad smile with a countenance that was lively and vibrant, but as dreams go, the entire encounter lasts for only a few seconds.

Tonight, I fell asleep at the very moment that my head rested on my pillow. In a flash my father stood in front of me in my dream but it was more than just a moment in time and it was different. This time he spoke to me.

“Something bothers you ?”

I was stunned, it was HIS voice! He was not a made up recipe that was comprised of the residue from my mother’s stories.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Tell me,” he asked.

“Mom always remembers the day you died so clearly, but she never talks about the day you met. The real day, not the one she makes up,”

“Ask her,” my father’s voice was soothing, “be honest when you do ask her and she’ll tell you everything,”

The following day after school I took the bus to my mother’s office and asked if I could wait for her until she was done. It was good timing because my Mom didn’t have too many things to do that day and so she got off earlier than usual. We hardly had moments like this where it was just she and I together. We had an early dinner together at Happy Days restaurant where I very calmly asked her,

“Mom, how did you and Dad meet?”

“Honey, I’ve told you that so many times already,” she replied.

“Only after you had some wine,” I said, “then you get all poetic and mushy. Can you just tell me now? Without the wine?”


My father was Ben Kanae and my mother’s name is Ruby Shen. They both met at the old Moose’s Bar on University while they were in their sophomore year of college at U.H. My father had a penchant for meeting the wrong types of women and my mother often ran into men who wanted to be in a relationship without any real commitment. Ben and Ruby were two people who lost themselves in their passions, and so it was with love. Like a single mother supporting three children, Ben and Ruby could not invest in anything that was a part time commitment. Sitting at the bar with the intent of self-immolating by drowning their sorrows in green bottles of Mickey’s, both Ben and Ruby were suddenly struck with the internal biological urge to relieve themselves. Ben swiveled his stool to the left and Ruby swiveled her stool to the right; whereupon the two literally ran face first into one another.

That was their first kiss.

“What the hells” “Watch where you’re goings” and “Fuck yous” were exchanged between the two before they both fought through the massive crowd of people and finally found their way to the facilities. Ruby quickly shut the door behind her and began to do her business but did not notice that the door was still unlocked. Ben already had his belt unbuckled and his jeans button opened when he tore the bathroom door back and was prepared to urinate; he couldn’t hold it any longer. By the time he’d realized that Ruby was sitting there it was too late, a bit of micturition trickled out and caught her on the sleeve of her blouse. Without a second thought, Ruby punched Ben in his particulars and sent him sprawling backwards where he fell to his knees and simultaneously writhed around in pain and wet himself. Ruby pulled herself together and rushed out of the bathroom.

A few days later while Ben occupied an empty table in the student lounge at U.H., he noticed Ruby siting alone by herself rummaging through her wallet. He could see her meticulously counting out whatever change she had left so that she could buy a soda but by her body language, it was obvious that she was short a few cents. Taking in a deep breath, Ben gathered his books and his nerves and walked over to her.

“Hi, I’m probably the last person you want to see but I’d like to apologize, if you’ll let me,” Ben said.

“I don’t even know who you are,” Ruby said as she shook her head.

“Sure you do,” he half whispered. “The other night at Moose’s, you know the bathroom?”

“Oh my god!’ Ruby said as she pointed at Ben, “ You’re the bouncer that threw me out!” Her hand covered her eyes as she continued, “I’m so sorry, I hope you’re not still mad that I spit on you?”

“What?” Ben was confused.

“I don’t know how I pissed all over myself but I was so stinkin’ drunk that night, I don’t even remember how I got home! Oh my god, I’m really the one that should be so sorry!” Ruby was practically begging for forgiveness. Was she really serious? Was she really that sauced that night that she couldn’t recall what happened? Ben decided to just go with it.

“Why don’t you let me buy you lunch and we can call it even? How’s that?” Ben asked.

“Well okay,” Ruby replied. “But just to be upfront with you, none of this is going to go any further than lunch okay?”

“That’s fine,” Ben replied.

“Otherwise, I’ll punch you in the nuts again,” with that she winked at Ben and walked off toward the cafeteria.


My mother remembers that my father only ate a plate of two cheeseburgers with a side of french fries. The soda that came with it filled a cup that looked like an over sized plastic coffee mug which happened to be on special for that day only.

“It’s unusual the things you remember,” my Mom would say. “I had the mixed plate and a Ginger-Ale, I was trying to be cool but I hated that drink.”

Ben inquired as to why she was present at Moose’s bar that evening and my mother told him that she’d grown tired of being every man’s emotional whipping post.

“I was a maternal psychiatric prostitute, I was there to listen, sympathize, spread my legs and cook breakfast in the morning. I couldn’t talk about my own problems or concerns because for some reason, guys like that don’t want to hear it. It’s all about how damaged and hurt they are; it gets old after a while. So, I was at Moose’s to drown my sorrows in liquor, get drunk and maybe meet some guy who would take me home and let me make breakfast for him in the morning, blah, blah, blah,” Ruby shared. “What about you?’

“Me?” Ben replied. “Ah, I just keep running into women who seem normal in the beginning but actually end up being very abnormal, that’s all. What about you?”

“What about me?” Ruby asked incredulously. “What do you mean? I’m not abnormal!”

“No,” Ben smiled, “I mean what are you doing here in school? What’s your major?”

“Oh,” Ruby replied feeling deflated. “I’m here for law school, I got a scholarship and everything so if I mess it up my very traditional Chinese parents are going to kick my ass.”

“By the way, I’m Ben,” my father said as he introduced himself.

“I’m Sheryl,” my mother replied as she reached across the table and shook his hand.

“Well Sheryl, either you’ve stolen Ruby Shen’s books and steno pad because that’s her name written all over it, or you’re name isn’t really Sheryl?” My dad smiled.

“You pissed all over me the other night, how do I know that you’re not some weirdo who goes around pretending to be drunk so you can urinate all over women while they’re sitting on a public toilet? A girl’s got to be careful these days you know?” Ruby eyed Ben carefully.

“But yeeeet you let me buy you lunch, so you can’t be as offended as you’re pretending to be, am I right?” Ben asked.

“Can I ask you something?” Ruby queried.

“Sure,” Ben replied.

“Are Hawaiian men normally uncircumcised?” Ruby asked.

“Shut up,” Ben quipped sharply.


Later that afternoon when all of his classes were over, Ben was leaving the university and driving into Manoa when he saw Ruby standing at a bus stop. It was starting to rain heavily so he pulled over and called out to her,

“Ruby? Hey come on get in, I’ll give you a ride!”

She didn’t move but instead called out from where she was standing,

“See? This is where I accept a ride from you and then you take me somewhere and kill me and I’m never seen or heard from again!” She shouted.

Everyone else who was standing at the bus stop looked at Ruby like she was crazy but at the same time they were trying to mind their own business. Ben turned his car off and put the four way blinkers on and got out of the vehicle; he’d had enough abuse for one day.

“Ruby Shen, I’m tired of playing this charade with you! You get in this car and come home to me and our children right now! Now, I know you think that your Law School professor loves you and is going to make you his wife, but all you are to him is a maternal psychiatric prostitute! You’ll listen to his problems, sympathize, spread your legs and in the morning you’ll make him breakfast; it’s a vicious cycle. Come home to us please Ruby, we all miss you. Our children need their mother and I need my wife, please? Get in the car honey and let’s go home?” Ben begged with just enough affectation that it was completely believable to everyone else waiting at the bus stop. Opening up the passenger's side door, Ben gave Ruby his best puppy dog eyes.

She walked right past him and mumbled, “Asshole,” before she got into his car.


My mom sat there crying with her chopsticks in her hands. I felt horrible now, I didn't mean to make her sad.

"I'm sorry Mom," I was crying too.

"It's okay, it's what I needed. Oh my god I can't believe how embarrassing that was," she laughed.

"I know Mom and I'm sorry, I know we're in a public place," I apologized.

"No, honey it's not that," she reassured me. "I'm talking about having to tell my SON about all the details of how your father and I met! It's kind of embarrassing,"

"At least I know now mom, now I have a memory of him too," Dad was right. All I had to do was be honest with her and she told me everything.


Later that night my mother woke up to go to the bathroom and she nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw someone laying there next to her. It was my father.

'It's okay Ruby, it's me. I'm not here to hurt you," he told her.

" I dreaming or something?" She was half scared and half happy.

"No Ruby, it's me, I'm here for just this short time," he said.

"How? How are you even here?" I know my Mom; in her mind she was trying to put all of this together so it made sense to her.

"It's partly Pono, and it's partly you," Mom's reaction to my Dad's short answers was typical. He always made her fish. He never put the catch on her line, it was too easy. He always wanted her to appreciate the journey.

"Even as a ghost, you still do that," she shook her head.

"Pono had to ask that question during dinner tonight because you had to remember the night we met. Not wanting to recall that time is what has been keeping me from coming to you so that I can finally tell you that I love you," my Dad smiled. "The last thought on my mind before I died was about how much I loved you and Pono. The both of you filled my world and made me so happy Ruby; you still do even now."

The flood gates opened wide at that moment and years of pain, grief and mourning freed my mother of everything she held in. She fell into my father's arms and as he held her and rocked her back and forth, he slowly disappeared particle by particle. By that time my mother had fallen asleep. The next day was like the first day for her, she was renewed and re-focused. Later that evening Mom decided that we should eat out again and so we were back at Happy Day's where she had her favorite; cold ginger chicken.

"I had a dream about your Dad last night," she said.

"I know, he told me," I replied as I ate my duck and plum sauce.

My mom paused for a second and looked at me ever so briefly and then gave me a smile that lit up her entire being. I couldn't keep myself from smiling either.

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