Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 10, 2016

"Blue Eyes"

It's not easy being part Haole and part Hawaiian, especially if you pulled more of the Haole side from your father. Being skilled in the fluency of the Hawaiian language and culture is a shock when people hear you speaking in your mother tongue and see that you are skilled in hula and traditional wayfinding. Yet, you stand before them a red haired blue eyed looking Haole. Others in this situation deal with the issue and don’t let it bother them because they have a strong sense of who they are and where they come from. Some don’t or can't, some wear it like clothing and let it become the fabric of their personality and more often than not, the insecurity of it all leads to drinking and different kinds of substance abuse, and in the most extreme cases, it leads to suicide. That’s me, I’m the latter, sans the suicide. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a feel sorry for me thing, it’s about getting to that point in your life where you’re done taking any more shit from people who think you’re a doormat. Sure, I had insecurities about being born more white in a Hawaiian family and yeah, there were the jokes that came with it. I just wanted to belong, I wanted to be accepted but I always wanted acceptance from the wrong people, and instead, I got shit on. That’s the truth of it, and like I said, I’m not here for sympathy. My siblings just leave me be, they don’t bother me too much, they just love me for who I am. My mother, she’s tough and she’s tough on me because she wants me to toughen up. But I catch her in those rare moments where she can’t see me see her crying. It’s not her fault and I always remind her of it.

It was one of those days where you’re standing in the checkout line at the market and you’re not really thinking about anything particular. You watch the clerk make small talk with the person in front of you and you’re waiting your turn. The girl at the checkout counter is new because this is the first time I’ve seen her as a cashier. She’s dark-skinned and looks like she could be a mix of something local, maybe Hawaiian, African American or something Polynesian. When we lock eyes as my turn is up, I see that she has blue eyes and they’re not contacts. The person before me is about to walk off and the cashier calls out and reminds the person that they forgot their change. It’s a local looking guy in his mid to late forties. He tells the cashier,

“Just put ‘um on the counter, I no like one niggah touching my hand,”

The cashier doesn’t back down, instead, she’s pissed.

“Excuse me? Who’s a nigger?” She asks.

“You,” the local man replies. “You Popolo right?”

“I’m Hawaiian, African American! ” She snaps back.

The local man is now offended, “Eh! No talk to me like I stoopid! Look you! What kine Hawaiian you? Why you wear blue contacts for?”

“It’s called, ‘Waardenburg syndrome’ but there’s no point in explaining that to you because you don’t look like you a cracked a book since your last blood test,” she smirked.

“What?” The local man replied. “I not on crack!”

Before the situation can escalate, a manager intervenes and escorts the local man out of the store. Luckily, there were a few people, along with myself who would vouch that the fault was not the cashiers and that the man was being outright obnoxious. When things calmed down the cashier apologized and rang up my purchase. “Lei” that was the name on her name tag.

“No need to be sorry,” I told her. “I’m Irish on my father’s side and Hawaiian on my mother’s side. Guess which side I pulled?”

She looks at me for a second and says, “Didn’t you go to that charter school in Halawa?”

“Yeah,” I chuckled.

“I was in the senior class when you were a freshman, I think I remember you,” she laughed. “You filled out, I recall you were a little chubby back then.”

“Thanks,” I said sarcastically.

“But look at you now, all tall and everything,” her smile didn’t stop.

I turned and noticed that a line had already formed.

“I better pay for my stuff and get outta here,” I said.

She rang me up and gave me my total, “That’s eight dollars and seventy-five cents,”

I handed her a twenty dollar bill and grabbed my items and made my way out of the store. The parking lot was empty which was a relief, it was easier to get into my car and leave, rather than wait for traffic.


So, I’m a loss prevention agent at a local superstore. I’m not at liberty to say where but our symbol is a red bull's eye. Get it? It was close to noon and I was going through my daily routine and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary when all of a sudden someone taps me on my shoulder from behind. I turned around to see Lei standing there with a big smile on her face.

“Oh hey,” I was surprised. “What are you doing here?”

She pulled out an envelope and removed a receipt and eleven dollars and a quarter, which she placed into my hand.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“The other night you said you wouldn’t have a problem with me placing your change in your hands. But you left before I had a chance to do it,” she giggled.

“How’d you know I worked here?” I was dumbfounded.

“You were standing in my line with your uniform and name tag on, “Lu’uwai”. Now she was laughing at me.

“Oh my god, I’m an idiot. I’m sorry, well uh, thanks for coming all this way to bring me my change,” I nodded, unsure of what else to say. “I appreciate it,”

“No problem,” she replied. It was obvious that she was waiting for me to say something else, but I here I was the loss prevention agent at a loss for words. At the same time that I blurted out something about going to lunch, she blurted out the same thing.

“I’m going on a lunch break in a couple of minutes, you wanna hang out?” That was me.

“When’s lunch? You wanna go eat or something?” That was her.

We were both laughing at the coincidence or at least I was, I’m sure she thought I was awkward and uncomfortable. I suggested Mac’s she said Jack’s but we settled on Taco Bell. We ordered our food and I parked under the airport overpass where we ate and talked at the same time. Spending those forty-five minutes with Lei was like continuing a conversation that was left to pick up a few days ago. It easy to be myself for once, I didn’t have to worry about how I would have to respond to yet another lame Haole joke or a dumb ass remark. Her jokes made me laugh from my gut, like a true jovial laugh that I never knew existed. I had to catch myself for a second and apologize, I was suddenly worried that I was coming off like a goof, but that statement only made her laugh harder. I couldn’t help myself but laugh along with her.

“So, your reddish curly hair and blue eyes come from your dad?” She asked.

“Yeah,” I moaned. “I mean it’s obvious,”

“But, I think you have your mother’s face,” she squinted her eyes and looked at me closely.

“Who do you look like?” I asked her.

“I’m Hawaiian on my father’s side and African American on my mother’s side,” she confirmed.  “It varies, sometimes people can see my mom’s features and other times they can see my father in me. Depends on my mood I guess,” she took another bite of her taco and nodded.

“What’s Waardenburg syndrome?” I asked. “You mentioned it to that asshole the other night,”

“It’s a genetic condition that changes the pigmentation of your skin or your eyes. I’m not sure where I got it, so I always joke that one of my Hawaiian ancestors hopped the fence with a Greek sailor,” she laughed. “So, if and when I have kids or my kids have grandkids, it might be passed down somewhere in the gene loko wai.”

Looking at my watch I realized that I had 10 minutes to get back to work. “Yikes, I gotta get back to work,” I sighed.

“Okay, best not to get in trouble for being late,” she agreed. “I gotta get back and take a nap. I’m on for the graveyard shift.”

“Oh really? Glad to know that, I’m a midnight munchies kinda guy myself,” I told her.

“Really? Why are you up so late?” She asked.

I shrugged, “I like to write poems and stuff, I’m better during the late hours.”

“You should come to see me on my break tonight, let me see some of your stuff,” she was smiling that smile again.

I got that pang of insecurity again, like how I get when my mother keeps bugging me to let her read my poems. “Ah, I dunno,”

“No, C'mon! Seriously, I mean for real. I write stuff myself so I won’t make fun of you or anything. I mean I get it, I get where all those words come from...I promise okay?” She was serious now because she must have seen my frown.

“Alright, I guess so,” I agreed but only begrudgingly.

She asked me to give her my phone number so she could text me as to when her break would be. When we got back to the red bull's eye superstore, I dropped her off at her car and we exchanged a ‘bruddah bruddah’ handshake. The rest of the day was uneventful, what with a few military officers wives demanding that the Filipino cashiers not speak their native languages to each other because they were sure that the Tagalog conversations were about them. One of those military officers wives turned to me and said, “Can you believe these people? Don’t they know that this is America?”

“Actually, we’re an illegally occupied nation,” I spoke in a very articulate manner.

“What?” The women squealed.

“Our Hawaiian kingdom was illegally overthrown by a group of white businessmen. Even our becoming a state was illegal because there was a larger opposition to the idea of statehood by petition. Those signatures against statehood were erroneously added to the lesser number of signatures that were for statehood.” I said.

“How could that be possible if Hawai’i is already a state today?” She huffed and puffed.

“Indeed,” I winked.

The woman shifted her weight to one side and gave me a look of disgust, and stormed off. However, before leaving this store she made it a point to appraise the store manager of my rude behavior. Of course, I was told about the woman’s complaint.

“I’m surprised that she would be upset?” I was playing dumb.

Tara was one of those no bullshit taking kinda store managers that everyone loved but she’d nail you to the wall if you were wrong. She was good people.

“I’m afraid to ask, but why are you surprised?”

“She started to talk to me about manifest destiny and I shared my thoughts about it,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders.

“Really?” She was mocking me now.

“Yeah,” I feigned innocence at this point.

“Lu, if you were my own son I’d manifest my foot up your ass. I feel sorry for your Mama.” She said in her southern accent. “Get back to work,”


About 4:23 in the morning I got a text from Lei telling me that she was about to take her break in a few minutes and that I could meet her out in front of the store. It was easy for me because I lived literally five minutes away. I printed out a poem that I’d been working on and was still nervous about sharing it with anyone but what the hell. There were a bunch of others as well, a whole collection practically, but this particular one that I’d been putting together felt like the one that I could share.

A short time later I pulled up in front of the store and she jumped in with a large shopping bag.

“What’s all that?” I asked.

“You treated me to lunch today, so I made dinner,” She was smiling again. “Just some chopped steak, Kona coffee gravy, and some vegetables. You DO eat vegetables right?”

“Oh yeah sure I do, but wow you didn’t have to go out of your way,” I was amazed.

“No worries man, I love to cook,” she reassured me.

Man, she really did love to cook, she was armed with a couple of large Tupperware containers with the food in it, two thermoses filled with peach iced tea, some napkins and a couple of forks and knives. Awesome, glorious or ono were not the right words to describe Lei’s cooking because there were no words. It’s just one of those experiences that make you feel like the food threw you down on the bed and had its way with you. Yeah, I guess I felt used by chopped steak and vegetables but I didn’t mind. I was willing to feel cheap again.

“It must be good because you haven’t come up for air once,” she laughed.

“Don’t interrupt me,” I told her. “I’m having a food epiphany,”

“You sure it’s not an orgasm?” She couldn’t help herself but crack up.

“Don’t mock me, this is how music, art, and great architecture was created!” I mocked her.

We had a good laugh and went on about finishing our late/early dinner. Lei took the Tupperware and cutlery and put it back in the large plastic bag.  We were relaxed now and taking our time as we sipped on our peach iced tea. I reached in my shirt pocket and handed her three folded up pieces of paper without saying a word. She took the papers and gave me a thoughtful look as she opened it up. She was perfectly still and only her eyes moved, I was concerned for a second that she was not breathing. When she was done, she looked at me and broke down crying.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! What did I do? I’m sorry!” I had my hand on her shoulder and kept apologizing profusely.

“No, it’s okay,” she was trying to compose herself while she grabbed a bunch of napkins and wiped her tears away.

“Did I do something wrong?” I was really worried that my poem offended her.

“I know this, I feel this because I’ve been through it. I lived it,” she replied quietly.

“Holy shit, thank you! I thought I pissed you off,” I was so relieved.

“Dude, you have to share this at one of my slams, it’s really good! It is!” She was gushing with enthusiasm.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I stuttered.

“C’mon! I’m just gonna bug you until you say yes!” She was insistent.

“Okay, but you do it, not me,” I said.

“No! This is yours to do, not mine!” She was horrified.

“No, I trust you,” I assured her.

“Wow, really?” She was thrilled.

“Yeah, why not,” I said. “I’m not a stand in front of a crowd kinda guy,”


The venue was called, “The Place” it was a real casual location where just about anyone could come to offer a slam poem. Be that as it may, the crowd was a younger gathering and the one rule in the house was that there was no talking when an artist was on the stick. Finger snaps were encouraged rather than clapping but sometimes a slam artist rocked the house so thoroughly that the audience lost their cookies and would whoop and holler like the second coming. I sat through an hour of angst and unresolved issues that passed itself off as a poem and wondered how or why these people haven’t already killed themselves? There were sympathizers in attendance who obviously lived through the expressed horror of having to wake up and brush your teeth or dealing with unhappy parents who yell at you to get a job. These were the life problems which made these slam poets contemplate suicide? Things are tough all over I guess.

Lei finally came on and approached the mic, there were vocal sounds of approval and a room full of finger snaps that sounded like bacon on a frying pan.

“When I read this poem it had no title, but I decided to call it, “Blue Eyes” it’s written by Lu’uwai Farmer,” she gestured to me and bowed her head. Closing her eyes, she let her entire body take a breath before she began.

“It’s the color of my skin that I wear as a sin
like the color of my eyes
blue as the skies
my mother is Hawaiian of pure blood
and heritage
and I’m only half
of what I should be
the ancestral bud
through a sacred marriage

My father was Irish of red hair
so wild
and I am his son
and mild
learned of chants
of stars and of dance
learned of a culture
and sweeping romance
but I am a stranger
In a room filled
with ‘Oiwi
the only white one
In the crowd
where my own
people pretend
not to see me

The sky is blue
my eyes are too
because my mind
Is filled with questions
of who

Who am I
In this skin
of white
to die
from within
On a moonless night
I wish it were I
sightless with
the absence of light
In the midnight

There was a second or two of silence before everyone broke protocol and began to give a resounding round of applause. I was certain that Lei was in trouble but even the master of ceremonies forgot formality and gave Lei a big hug. When she left the stage she made a beeline to my table, but even before she got to where I sat I met her halfway and took her in my arms. I think we were both in tears but even before I had a chance to thank her, we were already locked in a kiss. We didn’t stay for the congratulations and drinks, she followed me back to my place where we sat on my floor and talked for the rest of the night. We fell asleep at some point and I remember waking up later on and driving to 7-11 to get Lei an extra toothbrush. I sent her a text to let her know where I’d gone, just in case. When I got back, she had breakfast ready; eggs, bacon, and fried rice. I got us a couple of large cans of ice tea and we had a seat and ate in silence. We cleaned up after we were done, then Lei took her toothbrush and went to the bathroom.

“I have to get home to change before I go to work,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied.

I walked her to the door and something came over me and I kissed her. She kissed me back and that’s when we made love. At this point, I can either get descriptive or deep or both. Was it lust mistaken for sex or was it sex born out of a commonality?
I will say that during the throes of passion Lei said she understood my poem because she’s the one in her family who is the dark-skinned Hawaiian while everyone else pulls a lighter shade. She said growing up with everyone’s hurtful comments only made her stronger, but the hurtful words still lingered. Making love with Lei gave me a feeling of being free from judgment, free from worry, free from my own self-deprecation. I think that’s when I finally realized that I loved someone more than myself, I realized that someone else’s happiness meant more to me than my own.

That realization was about to manifest into three magic words but because of kismet or whatever the hell you want to call it, we said it at the same time,

“I love you,”

There was no nervous laughter or the obligation of a 7-Up. Instead, there was an exchanged look of not being surprised at all. After I finished the first time, I was still aroused and continued to make love to her, even after Lei was done, I continued to kiss and caress her until we made love again. Eventually, we agreed that we had to stop, otherwise, she was going to be late for work. When she left there was no agreement between us to either call or meet later. I had to get to work myself, so I showered and got ready to head out.


She sent me a text later in the day,

“I get off at five, what are you doing?”

I answered, “I’m going to my mom’s for dinner, you wanna come?”

“Sure,” she replied with a big smiley face.


I can only describe the look on my mother’s face as one of shock and simultaneous happiness. I introduced Lei to her and while they exchanged greetings I looked around to see that no one else was home.

“Where is everybody?” I asked.

“Hula, which is where you’re supposed to be,” she smirked.

“Aiyah,” I deadpanned.

“You dance hula?” Lei looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah,” I replied. “And I’m good too,”

“Really?” She looked at my mother for confirmation, who nodded in the affirmative.

“Sit down, I’ll make your plates so you can eat real fast before you go,” my mother never let us leave the house without eating first. Lei got up to help her and my mother looked at me with a big smile.

“No worry bebe, you can help next time. You go sit down and eat.”

I wasn’t sure if my mother was pleased that I was with a Hawaiian girl or just pleased with the fact that I was with someone at all.

“You Hawaiian bebe?” My mom was always to the point.

“Hawaiian-African American,” Lei replied.

“Are those contacts you have on?” Always to the point my mom, no filter.

“No, it’s a genetic condition...” Lei began but my mom was already on point.

“Waardenburg syndrome,” my mother confirmed.

“How’d you know that?” I was floored, to say the least.

“Instagram,” my mom winked at Lei and they both laughed. “Who’s your Hawaiian side?”

“Makana,” Lei replied.

“From Kaua’i,” my mom confirmed again.

“Oh no,” I groaned. “Don’t tell me you’re gonna say that we’re related?”

“No, you’re not related,” my mom shook her head. “But if you’re smart, you’ll make me a mother in law.”


Meeting Lei’s family was a different tone altogether, they weren’t too sure about me until Lei’s baby sister walked up to me and spoke Hawaiian. When I replied with no problem, that’s when the tension in the air disappeared. Things eased up even more when Lei’s parents found out that I was Hawaiian on my mother’s side. It was a humble dinner and I ate everything on the plate and after I helped to wash dishes while Lei put them away. When it was time for me to leave, Lei’s father bid me a firm good-bye but did not extend an invitation to return.

Again, no problem.


It went on like this without any real snags between myself and lei. I forgot about my skin color because Lei loved me for me, I felt the same way about her that’s for sure. Our commonality was that we were both Hawaiian and we loved our culture and we loved who we were in that pool of Hawaiians who had pride. So, our pigmentation was a bit off, so what? That was manini in comparison to the big picture. My family could see the change in me and they liked it, especially my mom who one day asked me, “What’s different about you?”

“What?” I was confused.

“Something ‘oko’a but I can’t put my finger on it,” she gazed at me for a second.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

“Ah!” She jumped. “You don’t brood anymore like you used to, your dark cloud is gone!”

I just smiled and continued eating my breakfast. I was happy to see my mother happy. Her worry lines were now lines brought about by smiles and not frowns. The gray in her hair suited her more now than it did before when there was so much on her shoulders, including me. She was never sure if I would ever come to terms with what I looked like as opposed to who I was inside, but Lei helped me with that. I realized that the white skin and the Hawaiian blood inside me were one and the same. It was who I was, I stopped looking for an external answer and began searching for what I needed in myself because that’s where all my problems and my joy stemmed from.


I was the only one who could control that, no one else.


One night, Lei called me she was very upset. I had to get her to calm down so I could understand what it was that she was saying. She explained that she wasn’t able to go to college right out of high school because she had obligations to help her family out financially. So she got a job at the market, but she always wanted to major in Hawaiian studies at the university. Once things at home were stable, she applied for a scholarship and didn’t hear anything back. Earlier today she was in the middle of cleaning the kitchen when she came across a letter that stuck out from underneath the fridge. It was from the university, her scholarship was approved, but the letter itself was dated from a year ago. Within that letter was tucked another letter addressed to Lei in regards to her scholarship money, which she never received.

“Remember that time my parents said they won a contest from Pleasant Holidays to go to Vegas?” She asked me in tears.

“Yes, I remember,” I replied.

“There was no Pleasant Holidays contest to Vegas, I called that office to confirm. I waited ‘til my folks got home and I confronted them, babes, they stole my scholarship money and took a trip to Vegas!” I knew by her voice that she was completely destroyed.

“I’m on the way,” I was pissed and I was going to fucking go off on her parents.

“I’m already on my way to your place, I’ll see you in a little while.” she was still sobbing.

“Okay hun, I’ll be right here,” I hung up then and I waited. Unfortunately, I had a long work day and I was probably a lot more tired than I was angry. I left the lock off on my front door and I fell asleep. I woke up later when I felt Lei nudging the edge of the bed and she was standing right over me.

“Here,” she said as she held her hand out. There was something that she wanted me to take.

“What is that?” I asked her.

“It’s eleven dollars and twenty-five cents,” she said. “You forgot your change at the market.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right,” I said as she put the money in my hand.

“Remember that day when you said you’d have no problem taking the change from my hand?” She smiled thoughtfully.

“Yeah,” I said. “I was flirting, I dunno if you got the hint or not,”

“I got the hint,” She replied. “I think it was at that point I knew that you and I were going to end up together. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just knew.”

“Everything okay? How are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” she confirmed. “I’m gonna use the bathroom but can you do me a favor?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, I was still a bit groggy.

“Can you come to get me? I’m right before the king street exit after university, I just got into a bad accident but I don’t want to die there. I want to die in your arms.” She was very matter of fact as she said all of this while heading toward my bathroom. Then I saw the light go on, and I didn’t hear anything else. It took me a second or two to take in what I’d just heard.

“What did you say?” There was no answer. “Lei? What did you say? I didn’t understand?”

I walked into the bathroom and it was empty, no one was there. Then I heard her again from the living room.

“Hurry up Lu! I’m dying, I don’t have long,”

I jumped out of my pants and found my living room empty too. Before I knew it, I had grabbed my keys and drove to the humane society parking lot and climbed down the embankment and onto the freeway. Her car was there and it was mangled really bad with another car facing toward it. Witnesses said that a car was coming the wrong way, exiting up the off-ramp, the driver was drunk and he hit Lei’s car head-on.

He lived.

Lei was lying in the road about twenty feet from the impact, her body was broken and her blood was everywhere. Traffic was backing up now and a few people were already pulled over in order to try and help as much as they could. Others were on their phones calling the authorities. I sat down and took her into my arms and held on to her, slowly rocking back and forth, reminding her how much I loved her. For one brief moment, her eyes opened and she looked at me and managed a smile and mouthed the words, “Blue eyes”

She died right then.

I became a blubbering mess and cried and screamed hysterically because a literal part of myself was gone.


 It sounds kinda weird but Lei was cremated, that was her request. Unbelievable that her parents got that right, but there’s a little sprinkle of her that I keep in a vial on a chain around my neck. Later on, the following year, I applied for a scholarship for Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii and I got it, can you believe that? It's good, though, this way we can see this through together side by side.

 The other night I went to that slam poetry club called, “The Place” but instead of offering a poem, I asked the manager if I could sing a song and dedicate it to Lei. They said why not?

I adjusted the mic and pulled it a bit forward and began to pluck the bass strings on the guitar,

“In the twilight glow, I see her
Blue eyes cryin’ in the rain
When we kissed goodbye
and parted,
I knew we’d never
meet again

Love is like a dying ember
Only memories remain
Through the ages
I’ll remember
Blue eyes cryin’
In the rain”

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