Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 9, 2017

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2017 #84


“...Pakalana na’u ho’okahi ‘oe...”

Her hands, her fingertips, the way of her hand holding mine or holding anything for that matter, had a gentle grace to it. There was a supple beauty in which her hand would strike an ipu heke but not for the sake alone of striking the gourd instrument but more so to draw out its sound, its potential. It’s the hope of what it could be when worked in the right manner. She was the same way with people, even when they were beset with the worst of characteristics, she saw the lotus flower that lay beneath the muck and mire of their inner pond. There was an instant when she used to work at an architectural firm just off of Fort Street mall, it was the end of a long day and as she came down the office stairwell which led down to Hotel Street, a lone thief hid just beneath the steps. The moment he saw her take the bottom stairs,
he grabbed her from behind and pointed a knife to her throat and demanded her money.

She shook her head and said in a very even tone, “I know your mother and like her, I’m very disappointed and heartbroken.”

The thief screamed at her to be quiet and give up her money but she would not relent.

“If you stab me and take my money, it will be the same thing as stabbing your mother, but if you don’t care about your mother then do it, stab me and take my money.” Within less than a minute she had the thief in tears, a minute later he gave up his knife to her and she sent him away with a few dollars and her phone number written on a receipt from Rada’s Piroshki.

“If you get to a point where you’re desperate and you feel like you’re going to do something like this again, call me and I’ll come get you.” She was absolutely serious and within a month, that thief was off the street, and a month later she helped him find a job. Today that man is no longer a thief but owns a house and is married with four kids, all thanks to her.

So you’ll understand why it’s hard to see her this way but all I can do is hold her hand and assure her that I am here; she’s opened her eyes a few times and has looked directly at me but hasn’t really seen me. Her thoughts are magically taking her eyes on another journey, somewhere earlier or later in her life. Wherever it is, it must be quite the adventure because she has not woken up from it since she’s been here. The doctors and nurses say that it is not much else they can do except to let her ride it out, and so we’ve decided to keep her at home. Now and again her arms will rise from her side and her hands will begin to hula to some unheard music that is playing in her mind, but I am keen enough to recognize the motions and I have a slight idea as to what the song might be.

“...Pakalana na’u ho’okahi ‘oe...kou hanu ka u’i li’a nei la...”

Even with her eyes closed, the smile on her face comes alive and her eyebrows raised in accordance with the emotions of the lyrics. Her hands lead the direction in which her head turns, be it left or right, down or up or pulled back to emphasize a hand motion that might represent a mountain or the heights of pleasure from sumptuous lovemaking.

“...e maliu mai ku’uipo...e maliu mai ku’uipo...”

I find myself smiling and crying simultaneously; smiling because I can feel the range of her emotions as she expresses this hula while laying stricken and sick in a hospital bed. Crying because the hula she dances is for the one of whom she loved in the days of her youth. He would never return her affections because his family was upper-class Hawaiians who would never dream of letting their son date a Hawaiian girl that they considered a ‘Kua’aina lopa’ or a backcountry bumpkin whose backs were made dark by toiling in the sun. She would allude to him now and again in allegorical terms but nothing more, she would never marry after that. Not to say that she did not have her share of suitors who clamored at her door, begging for her hand in marriage.  She did of course, but even after all these years her heart never recovered from that rejection.

The hula has come to its completion as the hand motions now express the ‘ha’ina’ or the conclusion of the song and the hula. Her head bows and her smile fades and she falls back into her pillow, her arms fall to her sides first then her hands come to rest in a folded position over her tummy. I lean down to kiss her forehead and she releases her last breath of life. There is not a second to express my grief at the loss of someone who meant so much to countless people because the entire house is suddenly filled with the smell of Pakalana. The aroma is so profuse it makes my head spin and I find that my legs won’t hold steady for some reason. The lights in the house don’t go dark but their brilliance comes to a slow fade while the double latch to the living room doors comes undone. Slowly they creak open with a low audible moan, and from without the doors, I can hear the soft murmuring cessation of the ocean crawling up on the beach and slowly pulling back into its long endless waters. This is strange as our house is in the middle of Kaimuki, where the ocean itself is three miles away. Standing in the door there appears a tall chunky man in a dark suit, he is old and gray and sports a double chin but does not seem to be bothered by his looks. He gazes beyond me and slowly lifts his hand to wave at someone,

“Clayton, you’re so old and very fat!” The voice that comes from behind me is surprising and I find myself jumping in the air. It’s my grandmother walking past me straight and upright as if she was no longer affected by her condition.

“Nina,” the man replies with tears in his eyes, his arms out to my grandmother ready to receive her. “I listened to my family my whole life but I was never happy, but I am now. I’m free of them and I can tell you for real that I’ve always loved you.”

The ghost of my grandmother is now her young ravishing self who runs into the arms of an equally young and stalwart Clayton, that Hawaiian boy who stole her heart years ago. He lifts her into the air and then bares her in his arms. He kisses her for what seems like an eternity until they finally exit the doors of our home and disappear into the night. I turn to see my grandmother’s lifeless form on her bed, she looks like she is asleep and not at all stricken with the stiffening of the muscles which happens after one dies. I can still hear the cessation of the ocean outside my door and it comes to me as to why this sound is present even though we live a long distance from the ocean. It is the symbol of the ebb and flow of life and death, an unchangeable reality that my grandmother did not fear but readily accepted because she knew who would be waiting for her in the end.

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