Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Mar 13, 2018

The Life Giving Son

At 53 years old, Leiana worked a full-time job during the day at the Seafood Bar in Kawaihae and a part-time job on the weekends as a ticket agent at the airport in Kona. Her only real hobby was feather lei making, which she learned from a group of lei makers and lauhala weavers at Hulihe’e palace.
The women she learned from told her how important it was to have a clear mind and heart while making a lei because the essence of oneself would be contained in work. Ill feelings or thoughts, however, would prevent the lei from being completed or, at worst, the result would be very “Kapulu” or careless. When that happened, no matter how far along one had gone in making their lei, especially a feather lei, the entire lei would have to be taken apart, and the person would have to start all over again. It was a frustrating thing to happen to anyone. Some would give up and never try again. Others would take in a deep breath and give it another go. This is what the older women were always looking for. Not so much at how someone fell, but how they would recover after falling. This would tell them who was worthy enough to continue to the next level.

It was what Leiana needed, and it was why she took to the art so quickly and why the older Hawaiian women took to her so quickly and accepted her into their circle. At that time, she was 15 years old when she first moved to Kohala. She was quick to learn and was always watchful but never spoke unless she was spoken to. When she had a question about anything, it was still pertinent to what was going on. Most of all, she was respectful and humble. But Leiana had her own reasons. She needed something to help her forget. The making of feather lei allowed her to put aside her heartache for at least a while as she wove the different colored feathers in a descending layered style one on top of the other. Her fingers gained a supple touch, and her eyes now held focused attention to detail. And so, it was in life. Nothing escaped her notice. She had already been trained on how to see, listen and feel with her heart and her inner being when she was under her Uncle’s tutelage while living on ‘O’ahu, long before she moved to Hawai’i island. She was successful at this for many years. However, in these last few months, she found herself slipping for some reason. Her mind would begin to wander off in the middle of making a lei. The throbbing pain of years gone by would reverberate through time and find its way into her hands and cause her to misplace a feather or to tie two half hitches instead of one. She sat in her car now, in the parking lot of the seafood bar, where she was just about to start work.

“Please,” she prayed. “Let my hands be guided by your Mana today and not by anything else that might cause me to make mistakes.” She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “ And please, please, please, keep the memories away. I don’t want to remember.” Her eyes began to fill with tears. “I’ve done a good job so far of forgetting. Please, please, I just want to forget..”

At that moment, Leiana felt the torrent coming, but she took another deep breath and held it in for a few seconds and slowly let it out. She had it under control. The last thing she needed was to show up for work a complete emotional mess. If that happened, she knew that she would never survive the day. One more deep breath, and she had it in check.

Just up the road at Pu’ukohola heiau, Ola Mahi spoke with a man who sat in his truck in the parking lot of the state park. In his left hand, he held on to a piece of red shammy cloth that was wrapped around a small wooden image which appeared to be black in color. In his right hand, he held a .38 caliber pistol. The man’s eyes were red with rage as he stared straight ahead toward the ocean.

“So what bra? What you going to do?” Ola asked.

“I go inside that office and I going shoot Kayla then I going shoot myself and me and her going be together with Ku. Ku is the one who commanded me to kill her.” The man said.

“O.k.” Ola agreed. “But what about the other people in the office? Get Aunty Fran, she old bra, and she gets kids and grandkids. You going shoot her too or what? And then Uncle Pete, you going shoot him?”

“No.” The man said. “I told you bra. I only going shoot Kayla and then myself and we going die with Ku.”

“Who is Ku? That’s the ki’i you holding on to?” Ola asked.

“Yup. This is Ku bra. He’s da man.”

“Oh, Nah, bra? Das really Ku?” Ola was enthusiastic now. “Wea, you got him from?”

The man finally turned and looked at Ola. “Bra, right from underneath dis heiau. Get one unda water sea cave bra. I wen go dive down dea one day, and I found ‘um. Da ‘ting was calling my name. “Manuel,” la dat.”

“I tell you what bra just so nobody in da office gets hurt, I go bring Kayla ‘ova here and den you can take care your business wit her bra. Hows dat?”

“Shoots bra.” The man agreed. “She go brah.” Looking at Ola, the man smiled. “See bra? See?”

“See what bra?” Ola asked.

“Ku is talking to you now! He is helping you understand my strategy.! See bra I knew you were right with Ku bra, I knew it!” The man was beside himself with laughter.

“Eh, bra. Before I go inside, you ‘tink I can see Ku real fast kine?” Ola asked.

The man was more than willing to share his wooden image of Ku now that he’d found a fellow believer.

“Oh, yeeeeeeeaaaahhh, bra! Of course, bra! Of course!” The man gingerly handed over the wooden image that was wrapped in the red cloth. Ola received it in his hands with reverence as if it were Kamehameha himself giving it to him. In a flash, Ola grabbed the wooden image and hit the man on his left temple and knocked him out. Quickly opening the door to the truck, Ola took the pistol from the man and lay him down across the front seat. He called the workers in the office to let them know that everything was o.k. He then called the police and, afterward, stayed with the man until they arrived. Looking at the small wooden image of Ku, Ola said.

“Sorry, Ku. I guess this guy didn’t see the made in Taiwan sticker on your feet? ”

The office workers came out to see what happened and were shocked to see the man laid out cold across the front seat of his truck. Kayla cried because of the fact that she was almost killed by this crazy man.

“Who the hell is this?” Ola asked her.

“His name is Lyle Manuel. I made the mistake of bringing him home one night after we met at the bowling alley. He didn’t understand that it was just a one-night thing. Thank you so much, Ola! Good thing you happened to be here!” Kayla said.

“You should thank Aunty Fran and Uncle Pete. They’re the ones that let me come here to do research for my students at U.H. Hilo. If it weren’t for them letting me come here today, you’d be dead.” Ola said. Kayla stepped forward to hug him, but he grabbed her and redirected her to hug Fran and Pete.

After the police arrived and took Lyle away, Ola drove down to the seafood bar for an early dinner and a dirty martini. When he arrived, he found that the establishment was half empty save for the waitress who sat behind the counter, making a feather lei.

“Hi!” The waitress said. “Just take a seat anywhere you like, I’ll be right with you.”

Ola took a seat at the counter.

“I think I should sit here. You look like you’re concentrating really hard. I almost hate having to order dinner.” Ola smiled.

“That’s nice of you.” The waitress replied. “What are you having?”

“Uh,” Ola replied. “I’ll have the ‘ahi steak and the green olives and a bowl of poi.”

“Very good,” The waitress said. “Coming right up.”

As the woman left the counter to go and place his order, Ola examined the feather lei. One end was fastened to a small ribbon, which in turn was tied to the back end of a large steel clip that was locked on the counter.

“Interesting,” Ola said. “It looks like a lot of work.”

“It can be.” The waitress said. “But it’s also very therapeutic. It helps to calm you and clear your mind.”

“You obviously have a clear mind, this is beautiful,” Ola said.

“Thank you. That’s the second compliment you’ve given me. One more like that and I’ll start to think that you’re trying to get a free meal.” The waitress laughed.

“I’m sorry.” Ola smiled. “My name is Ola.”

“I’m Leiana.” The woman said.

“Do you mind if I play a song on the jukebox?” Ola asked.

 “Go right ahead,” Leiana said.

Ola looked through the list a couple of times and finally chose 173. Returning to the counter, Leiana reminded him that he hadn’t ordered a drink for his meal.

“Originally, I was thinking about a dry martini. But now, I think I want a peach flavored tea.” Ola said.

“Do you want that with some rum or just mild?” Leiana asked.

“Mild is fine. I still have to drive back to Hilo.” Ola said.

Just then, Linda Ronstadt’s voice began to echo from the music machine.

“Hey, mister, that’s me up on the jukebox. I’m the one singing this sad song. And I cry every time, that you slip in one more dime, and play me singing the sad one, one more time…”

“Prisoner in Disguise,” Leiana said. “That’s a great album.”

“You know this album?” Ola asked.

“I was still in my teens when this album was released. And what is that supposed to mean? Do I know this album? This was when music meant something. Songs were based on real people back then. It had the real soul to it. Today, it’s just a lot of noise.” Leiana said.

“This album was all I had when I was about 6 years old. I was sick a lot, in and out of Children’s Hospital. At home, I had to stay in my room a lot and rest. All I had was an old record player and that album.” Ola shared.

Leiana looked at Ola and said,

“You’re almost like an old soul, sort of like, you’ve been this way a few times.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Ola laughed. “My girlfriend says I’m too much like a kid; sometimes, it drives her crazy.”

“Order’s up!” The cook yelled from the back.

Bringing his dinner to him, the waitress noticed that Ola was still closely examining her feather lei.

“Would you like to learn how to make one?” She asked.

“I don’t know if I even have the patience for it. It seems like, if you make a mistake, you should stop to go back and fix it before you continue. Kind of like how life is. Except that some people never go back to fix their mistakes, they just continue as if nothing happened.”

“That’s exactly right,” Leiana said. “One mistake in making feather lei, and you have to take it apart and start all over again, no matter how far along you are. That’s patience, and it shows character.”

Ola looked at her thoughtfully and said, “Can I get back to you on this one?”

Leiana replied, “You’re not obligated, don’t worry.”

“No,” Ola said. “I want to check my schedule and make sure that it’s good with my girlfriend. We’re both teachers at U.H. Hilo, so we hardly get a chance to spend time together.”

“Aiyah you,” Leiana said exasperatedly. “Bring her! This could be something that the two of you could do together! That way, there’s no misunderstanding if you were to come and learn by yourself!”

“Oh! Oh yeah!” Ola laughed. The dinner hit the spot, and as Ola neared the end of his meal, he asked Leiana if she minded if he played another song on the jukebox.

Smiling, she said. “Why even ask now?”

“Mahalo,” Ola replied. Just as he pressed number 181, his phone rang, It was his girlfriend, Kailani. Looking over at Leiana, he signaled to her that he was going to take his call outside and that he would be back in a second.

Leiana began to bus his table; the next song echoed from the music machine like a voice from the past. She had meant to have that particular song removed from the jukebox, but because so few people came into the establishment at this hour, she’d forgotten about it. Now here it was playing with its steel guitar accompaniment and stand up bass and slow ‘ukulele and guitar.

“Ua Noho Au a Kupa I Kou Alo, a kama’aina a’e I kou leo…I have stayed and become accustomed to your face, and familiar with your voice…”

It was too much for Leiana to hear. She quickly walked to the Juke Box and unplugged it for five seconds and then plugged it back in. She would apologize to Ola and explain that for some reason, that particular song gets stuck and never plays all the way. He would have to make another selection.

“Please.” She prayed. “I asked for no more memories, but you’re not listening. Please, I beg you, please.”

The family gods and the myriad of akua and Kini akua would not heed Leiana’s prayers. Something had been set in motion that night at the seafood bar that could not stop until in unfolded like a beautiful piece of Kilohana. Leiana was the key to it all. However, in a small way, one of her prayers would eventually be answered, and then her life would never be the same.

“That was my girlfriend, Kailani. I talked to her about it, and she says it sounds exciting! She’s all for it.” Ola said.

“See? As long as you communicate, everything works out smoothly. So, what brings you to Kawaihae? Hilo is a far drive.” Leiana asked.

“I’m here doing research up at Pu’ukohola. It’s part of the final exam for my class. I’m going to bring them here, and they are going to have to tell me different aspects of the history of not only the heiau but about this location in general.” Ola said.

“Oh, like storytelling. Ha’imo’olelo.” Leiana agreed.

“Right,” Ola said. “That’s exactly what it is. I don’t want them to just give me a report on a piece of paper. I want them to be transported to that time and place. I want them to make me smell the smells and feel the wind on the back of my neck. I want them to make me feel the wind raise the mist from the top of an incoming wave and carry it to me as it touches my skin and leaves a sheen of saltwater on it. That’s what I want them to do.”

“Wow,” Leiana said. “That’s a tall order for a bunch of college students.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of overkill.” Ola laughed.

“You know, not all of them are gonna get it? You have to be ready for that. It’s easier to encourage them to do it the best way they know-how under their own capabilities.” Leiana thought about what she’d just said and apologized. “How me, telling you how to teach? Sorry about that.”

“It’s ok. It’s an honest opinion, can’t argue with that.” Ola started to search his pockets as if he had lost something. “Dang. I’m out of quarters. I guess I missed my song, huh?”

“Oh,” Leiana said. “That song you always played skips. I think that it’s scratched or something. I’m probably going to have to take it out and replace it.”

“Too bad. It’s a great song.” Ola said.

“You like those old songs, huh?” Leiana asked.

“Yea, there’s something about them that makes me feel simple and easy, like home. Like I mentioned, when I was sick and home all by myself, a lot of those old songs were my friends.” Ola said.

“So then,” Leiana asked. “Where did you get your interest in Hawaiian music from?”

“Oh,” Ola smiled. “A few years back in school in the student lounge, I heard a girl singing that song. Her voice, the words, the intonation, and just the emotion of it, moved me. Can you imagine someone saying those things to you?

“Ua noho au a kupa I kou alo,
A kama’aina a’e i kou leo
Ka hi’ona a ka mana’o la i laila
I’ane’i ka waihona a ke aloha

I have stayed and become accustomed to your face
and familiar with your voice
The memory of someone attracts me there
Where the sweet water makes love flourish.”

“Who takes the time to tell someone things like that nowadays? Where does that kind of thought and emotion come from?” Ola asked.

Leiana put her head down as she pretended to stretch open her feather lei and examine it. All the while, she was really making her best effort to hold back the flood of tears that were on the very brink of bursting through.

“Well, look. You know the name of this place now, right? Call me, I’m here all the time and let me know when the two of you can make it back here ok?”

“O.k. I’ll do that. Thanks for everything! Sorry for talking your ears off. I just get carried away sometimes, you know? Anyway, I’ll call you tomorrow. Mahalo!”

As soon as Ola was out the front door, Leiana crouched down behind the counter as the tears came freely now. Her body heaved, and she couldn’t hold back her sobs. Raymond, the cook, quickly came out from the kitchen and knelt next to her and held her for a long time.

“I know,” Raymond said. “I know. It’s gonna be ok. It will, it will all be alright.”

“ I can’t control it anymore.” Leiana cried. “There’s nothing I can do to stop it, and things have been happening lately that make all these memories come back! Like this kid who walked in here earlier…..those songs he played on the jukebox. I don’t know what the hell is going on..?!”

“You know him?” Raymond asked.

“I have never met him until he walked through that door,” Leiana said

After the drive home to Hilo, Ola shared more details of the day’s events with Kailani. From Lyle’s determination to spend eternity with Kayla and Ku, to his exciting meeting with Leiana, the day seemed to have been filled with surprises which unbeknownst to Ola, had already seeped into his subconscious.

Later that night in Ola’s dream, he was back somewhere in the ancient time of our ancestors, where he saw himself running across a vast field of pili grass. He wore a rust-colored malo, and there was urgency in his haste as if he were running from something or someone. A moment later, a mob of people appeared running in close pursuit behind him, armed with sticks and rocks and shark-toothed weapons and spears, they’d meant to take his life. Ola’s dream self-stopped suddenly and delivered a brutal straight punch to the man running closest to him. The impact not only broke the man’s nose, but it shattered the bones just below his right eye socket and caused him to drop the short-armed spear that he was carrying. None of the mob expected something so horrific, and it’s what Ola was counting on. It brought him enough time to pick up the short-armed spear and to put a greater distance between himself and the crowd.

To his right, he noticed an opening to a lava tube that could only be seen if the wind were blowing the pili grass to and fro, but today the wind was not so kind. Ola quickly backed into the tube, all the while making sure that no one followed him in. A short second later, he could feel the thundering feet of the mob as it ran right past the opening. It gave him a moment to take a quick breath when Ola suddenly bumped into someone behind him. Ola spun around quickly, and with a short closed body stroke, he stuck the short spear into his assailant’s heart and killed him instantly.

However, in the heat of the moment, Ola reacted too quickly. There, lying dead on the ground with a short spear sticking out of his chest was no assailant, but a little boy who held on to a small ball of ‘olona. He had an unusual crescent-shaped birthmark on his left cheek, which would have made him more adorable had he still been alive.

Ola’s dream self was horrified at what he’d just done. In his mind, he became furious at the mob that pursued him.

“They did this.” He thought to himself. “They caused me to kill this innocent boy. If they want to kill me, then fine. I’ll take a few of them with me.”

Dashing up and out of the lava tube, Ola emerged just in time to see the mob in the distance. He put two fingers in his mouth and in one breath, gave a sharp, piercing whistle. The mobbed stopped for a moment, and turning in the direction of the noise, they saw him. They began to move at a slow trot but managed to build up momentum until they were running at a full pace.

Ola breathed calmly and walked toward them slowly. As soon as they drew closer, he made a sudden mad dash and ran directly into the middle of the mob and was engulfed by flesh and weapon.

A second later, he sat upright in his bed and let out a short yell, “Aaaahhhhhh..!!!”

Kailani rolled over from her sleep and gently rubbed his back.

“Is it that dream again?”

“Yea,” Ola said as he exhaled slowly. “I haven’t had that dream since I left home. I don’t know why it’s coming back all of a sudden.”

“Tomorrow, go ask Aunty Pua. She knows about dreams and stuff.” Kailani said, half awake.

Ola got out of bed and went into the living room to get some fresh air. This dream was a part of his past that he had put behind him along with other things. Why would it suddenly resurface now after all this time? Other echoes seemed to be reaching out to him through the thread of time, but he wasn’t prepared to answer. Not just yet, anyway. The past and the present were soon going to meet at the intersection of fate, and the road they would take toward the future would bring all three elements together in one place and time. How they get, there is the question.

The following day at 2:30pm the phone rang at the Seafood Bar in Kawaihae. Raymond answered the phone and heard Ola’s voice on the other end, asking for Leiana. She hadn’t expected Ola to call so soon, but she was happy to listen to his voice nonetheless.

“Aloha, Leiana! It’s Ola..!”

“Aloha, Ola! How are you?” Leiana replied.

“How is this Saturday? Is that day okay for you, or are you busy?” Ola asked.

“Oh, yes, that day is fine. We should start early because there are a few things you have to do before we start making the actual feather lei.”

“Oh, I see,” Ola replied, “How is ten o'clock? Is that too early?”

“Nine o'clock is better,” Leiana cautioned.

“Nine o'clock it is,” Ola said, “Where are we meeting?”

“Just come down, Mahukona Road and take the first left as soon as you pass the Seafood Bar. It’s not hard to find,” Leiana said.

“Alright, I got it. We’ll see you there!” Ola was excited.

“Aloha!” Leiana said. She must have stood there for too long while she gathered her thoughts about preparing everything for that coming Saturday because Raymond was watching her very closely.

“Stop thinking so hard. All you’re doing is showing those two how to make feather lei. It’s not a course in quantum physics,” Raymond said.

Looking at Raymond, Leiana replied, “Can you stop hovering all the time?”

“Who’s hovering?” Raymond said, “This is the kitchen, this is where I work. You’re in my workspace, and you’re not using your inside voice. People can hear you way up the road for chrissakes!”

“I’m doing it again, yeah?” Leiana said.

“Yeah,” Raymond answered, “Plus, you’re the only waitress I have who can handle the night shift. You can’t go around here having nervous breakdowns. I’m not a jackass because I understand where all of this is coming from, but when we have a full house up in here, you need to be on your game. I need you, Lei. I need you to be here, in your body. I’ll help you any way I can, but in the end, you’re the only one who can do it, makes sense?”

“Makes sense,” she said.

Raymond walked over to where Leiana was standing and gave her a hug. “You’ll be fine. Now c’mon, let’s get ready for the lunch crowd. Damned construction workers, it’s like feeding the Klingon Fleet!”

On the morning when Ola and Kailani arrived at Leiana’s modest home on Mahukona Road, they’d spent the first hour and a half cutting dyed goose feathers at an inch in length, and then saving the second cut of the feathers for another lei to be made later. It was not an easy task as they both had to use a measuring gauge that was made specifically for that purpose. Once that was done, Leiana first showed them a method in which every single feather was placed one on top of the other so that it fell in a downward spiral as each feather was fastened down individually by a piece of thread that was tied in a traditional half hitch knot. That exercise alone took up most of the day.

By the time they were done, Kailani had only progressed three inches with her feather lei. She showed Leiana the difficulty she was having in trying not to make the feathers bunch up one on top of the other.

Ola, however, had progressed a full 8 inches. He had made mistakes along the way but was patient enough to go back and undo his mistake and start all over again. Leiana made a note of that but also noticed Kailani’s feather lei.

“When I made my first feather lei at 15 years old, this is exactly what it looked like. But I didn’t give up. I kept at it until I finally got the hang of it. That’s a part of this process; it tests your patience and builds character. It’s like anything else Kailani, the more you practice, the better you get.”

“Yeah,” Kailani said, looking over at Ola, “we can’t all be prodigies.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie. He’s not a prodigy,” Leiana said, “He’s just ho’oio!”

The two women cackled laughing while Ola sat there unimpressed.

“It’s a shame how the naturally talented always have to be condemned for their god-given abilities,” Ola sneered.

“Oh, please!!!” The two women laughed.

“Hey,” Ola said, “It’s three o'clock. Shouldn’t you be getting to work, Leiana?”

“Oh my gosh!” Leiana screeched, “I forgot to feed you, folks! What kind of hostess am I?”

Rushing into her bathroom to change, she gave directions from the shower, “Go down to the Seafood Bar and order whatever you want! It will be on my tab! That’s an order! Not a request!

Ola and Kailani looked at one another and smiled. They were starving.

This became the regular routine at Leiana’s house for the next month. Often times it was Ola and Kailani who provided lunch, or it was Leiana who would prepare a meal. Eventually, the laughter and happy conversations would stop once every one set themselves to work. All three worked in silence but were keenly aware of one another’s presence. When one would make a slight mistake, that person’s breathing would suddenly change. Leiana, more often than not, would stop her own work to help either Ola or Kailani. If there was a slight glitch, she would undo the mistake and then let them continue. The day would end with a meal which would then lead into a long night of conversation and laughter. On the first Saturday of the following month, Kailani was not able to attend due to a friend’s baby shower, of which she was put in charge. Ola arrived at the usual time and, with less than an inch left on his feather lei, he wasted no time and went right to work.

“It’s a beautiful lei, Ola. That golden yellow color is a good choice for you,” Leiana said.

“Thanks. I never thought I would finish,” Ole answered.”Aaaaaaaannnnd… I’m done! Yes!”

“That’s very nice, Ola. Everything is even and well placed good job!” Leiana gave Ola a hug and laughed at the same time, "If you give that to me, I’ll tie off the end for you.”

“Sure,” Ola said, as he handed the garland of feathers to Leiana, “here you go.”

“In my years of limited experience,” Leiana was joking now, “I’ve seen many feather lei made. Some are exquisite. Others are okay. Some people make mistakes in the lei Hulu and just keep going. All of that is indicative of the person. It reveals their personality and how they live their life. That’s just the way people are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But rarely, there comes a person who starts out making a lei Hulu that is just beautiful, the choice of colors for the feathers are so rich and so tangible, you can almost taste it.”

Taking a deep breath, Leiana continued, “That’s a lei hulu you don’t ever want to end up making, never make that lei.”

“Well, why not?” Ola asked.

“That lei never gets finished. The circle is never completed,” Leiana said seriously.

There was a short moment of silence as Leiana stared off into space.

“I’m sorry,” Leiana said as she came back to herself, “I have to get ready for work. I’ll be right out.”

“Okay,” Ola said, “Do you mind if I peruse the contents of your bookshelf?”

“Go right ahead!” Leiana said as she disappeared down the hallway toward the bathroom.

Ola found that Leiana’s bookshelf was filled with many paperback novels about romance and mystery. There were books by Westervelt that were very old. Toward the bottom of the bookshelf were a few photo albums, but they were mostly filled with photographs of Leiana and a group of older Hawaiians who were busy making feather lei. As Ola opened the last photo album, an old black and white picture fell out and rested itself next to Ola’s foot on the floor. He bent over and picked it up quickly to look at it. The photograph revealed an old Hawaiian man with a shock of white hair and a full beard. He was dressed in a white kihei. Standing in front of him were two teenagers, a girl on his left and a boy on his right. They must have been no older than 14. The girl and boy were also dressed in white kihei as well. It didn’t take long before Ola recognized the face of the boy. Looking at the eyes and shape of the girl's face in the photo, it became apparent that this was a picture of Leiana in her younger days. Written on the back of the photo was the year, “1974.”

Just then, Leiana appeared in the living room dressed and ready for work.

“What’s that you got there?” She asked.

Showing the old picture to Leiana, he asked her, “Is this you in this picture?”

“Oh yes,” Leiana said, “I don’t know why I kept that picture, but I’ve had it all this time.”

“Who are they?” Ola asked.

“Well,” Leiana said, “The old man is our Uncle, and the boy next to me is my cousin. That was years ago, I haven’t seen them since.”

“The boy next to you is your cousin?” Ola asked.

“Yes,” Leiana exhaled, “My cousin Analu.”

“Andrew?” Ola was pressing now.

“Yes, Andrew,” Leiana replied, “Why?”

There was a momentary silence before Ola answered. “That’s my father,”

Leiana’s face suddenly became grave, “Analu is your father?”

“Yes,” Ola said.

“What’s your full name? Your full name?” Having asked the question and already knowing the answer in her heart, Leiana was on edge.

Without hesitation, Ola replied.


“No,” Leiana said, “No, this can’t be, No! Oh my god, no! It can’t be you after all this time! You have to go! Get out! Get out! Get out!” Pushing Ola out of the door now, Leiana slammed it shut and locked the door behind him. Sitting on the floor sobbing now, she could only scream, “Go home, Ola, please! Just leave me alone! I need time to think!”

Ola stood there, shocked and confused. He couldn’t figure out what just happened.

All Leiana could do was cry. This should have been the happiest day of her life, but it was too much for her to take. The gods had answered her prayers, but not in the way she had expected.

Leiana tried to be as calm as possible even though her emotions were getting the best of her. She gave it her best effort not to come off like a bitch to the young man who was now standing outside her door, confused and dumbfounded. He had every right to know why his father was in a picture that he had obviously never seen his entire life until now.

“Ola, I just need a couple of days to think, and I’ll call you okay? I just need to be alone right now.” Her voice was broken.

“I’m sorry if I said anything to make you upset! Please tell me what I did wrong?" Ola pleaded.

“You did nothing wrong. It’s just me, that’s all. I promise I’ll call you in a couple of days. Please go home now,” Leiana said.

“Okay.” Ola slowly stepped down the stairs and looked at the closed door for a second and then left.

The couple of days that Leiana promised Ola turned into a month. She wouldn’t answer his phone calls, and when he showed up at her house, she left him a note telling him not to come to her place or to the Seafood Bar. When Ola shared the incident with Kailani, she couldn’t figure out what had happened either. All they could surmise was that she knew Ola’s father and that they were cousins and that she freaked out. Everything else remained a mystery.

“Here’s the miracle that you’ve spent all of your life praying for, and when it shows up, you chase it away? And now you won’t take his phone calls, or you have ME chase him away when he shows up here? I don’t get it, Leiana?” Raymond said.

Leiana ignored him and headed straight toward the jukebox.

“Leiana, you can’t drown your sorrows in a bunch of heartbreak songs. You have to go talk to that boy and tell him everything! Leiana?” Raymond walked over to her and grabbed her by the shoulder and turned her around.

“No more sad songs Leiana., no more heartbreak! This boy is your chance to get rid of all that sadness!”

Leiana’s light brown eyes looked up at Raymond with an ancient weariness that weighed on her shoulders for a lifetime. She put a quarter into the music machine and pressed number 175. Looking at Raymond, she said, “Some people have comfort food, I have comfort songs,”

She walked off to refill the empty napkin containers and refill some of the empty ketchup bottles. A moment later, the B side of “Hey Mister” echoed out from the music machine.

“Well, it’s so funny to be seeing you after so long girl,
ah... but the way you looked, I understand that you were not impressed?
I heard you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress?
I’m not gonna get too sentimental like those other sticky Valentines.
‘Cause I don’t know if you were loved somebody, I only hope he wasn’t mine….
Alison, I know this world is killing you… Alison, my aim is true…”

Another evening shift went by as Raymond and Leiana closed up the kitchen and headed out to their cars in the parking lot. Leiana stopped in her tracks when she noticed Ola leaning up against her car with his arms folded.

“What is he doing here? I told him that I didn’t want to see him!” Leiana asked out loud.

“You can blame me for that one,” Raymond said, “This has gone on long enough, and you need to put some closure on it once and for all. You owe it to him. This isn’t a coincidence Lei. Get over there and talk to him.”

“You’re gonna pay for this, Raymond. I’m gonna tell everyone what your real name is!” Leiana scolded him.

“Yeah, but no one will call me Leslie to my face!” Raymond called out from behind her.

Approaching Ola, Leiana put her head down with her arms folded and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” Ola said.

His eyes told her everything. There was a hunger there for something that needed nourishment and clarity, “I’m not a stalker or anything but…”

 Leiana put her palm out to him and said, “Wait. Just wait. I better tell you here and now before I lose my nerve, so just listen, okay? Whatever you decide to do after this is up to you,”

“Alright,” Ola agreed.

With her arms crossed in front of her, Leiana took a deep breath and began.

“The family we come from, which includes you, is descended from the Pele line. We are a line of Kahuna who were healers, and our ‘Aumakua is Hi’iakaikapoli’opele, who is Pele’s youngest sister. Our method of healing was precise and, if not done correctly, could also be very dangerous. It was an art form called “Kupaku.” have you heard of it?”

“No,” Ola replied, shaking his head.

“It’s alright. Very few people have;  it’s the art of bringing someone back from the dead by capturing their spirit or their essence or however you want to say it, and put it back into their body.”

Nodding now, Ola said, “Like Lohiau?”

“Yes,” Leiana said, “Exactly like Lohiau. You see, a lot of our legends appear to be that just that, but that’s because our language is so beautifully ornate that something as simple as a leaf cannot be described as just a leaf. A Hawaiian person sees a leaf, and they describe it as a leaf attached to a branch. This comes from a tree whose roots are firmly planted in the earth, which is the body of Papa, the earth mother who receives nourishment from her lover, Wakea, the sky father who intimately gifts Papa with his fine misty rains. Do you see it?  You know our language, and you know the heart of our people, and you know that within the content of our decorative poetry is the truth. So… that art was passed down through the ages until the late sixties and early seventies. That’s when it was already dying out. It was a different time, and everyone was trying to acclimate and become more Americanized, and the people in our family had lost interest in anything Hawaiian. The very last person who knew this art and practiced it as it was taught to him by his grandparents was a very intense Hawaiian man known as Ka’aikuahiwi. Everyone feared him because of what they all knew he could do. Even the Police left him alone, and the church wouldn’t even touch him. In fact, whenever the local pastor saw Ka’aikuahiwi coming, he would make it a point to walk on the other side of the street. Ka’aikuahiwi had two younger siblings. His younger brother, John, was my father. His younger sister Melia was your father’s mother. That’s how he and I are related. He’s my first cousin.”

Leiana took a deep breath at this point and stood beside Ola. Unfolding her arms, she now began to slowly rub her hands on her thighs.

“Knowing that there was no one else left to pass down his knowledge to, Ka’aikuahiwi went to our parents, your father’s and mines, and he told them that he wanted the two of us to be his students so that we could continue his knowledge after he was gone. For as much as our parents were modern Hawaiians who were now trying to live and survive in the westernized Hawai’i of the early nineteen seventies, there was no way that they were going to refuse their older brother’s request. So, they consented, and, at 6 years old, our training began."

Leiana’s hands were together now as if in prayer. It was soon coming back to her, every detail, every smell, every feeling. She was in her past, watching it all unfold in front of her. The tears flowed without effort in very much the same way that the story of her life was now playing without pause.

“From school, we went home and did our homework, completed our chores, and went straight to being with our uncle. We learned everything by merely watching and listening. There was so much to learn about medicinal plants and which ones to use by a particular moon phase or a specific position of the sun. There was the use of certain kinds of seaweeds and sea creatures and specific types of land animals. And there were the prayers and the chants. Many of them were very long and had to be mastered line for line; there could be no mistakes. We assisted our Uncle in many ceremonies. Once, he brought back a young boy who died after he hit his head on a rock while diving off of a short cliff at Nanakuli beach. Although the boy’s body was lifeless, his spirit was still jumping off of the cliff at the beach. That’s where our uncle was able to capture it in a small bamboo container and bring it back to the boy’s body. He massaged it back into the body through the big toe. As we got older, your father and I were allowed to start with small things, like cats and dogs and a few mice. By the time we were eleven years old, we were allowed to go to a delivery room in a hospital where a baby was born dead. Your father was the one who found the baby’s spirit in the top left corner of the delivery room near the ceiling. It left the baby’s body just as it was being born. It was still attached to its previous life, and it didn’t want to be born in this life. Your father helped it understand that its last life no longer existed and that the people it knew and loved were long gone and that there was nothing to go back to. As sad as the spirit was, it agreed to go back to its new incarnation, and a new life was born. It was a fantastic thing to see.

The day finally came when your father and I were 14, and our Uncle was going to let the two of us lead the Kupaku ceremony for a man who had died of a broken heart. His spirit was captured in the folds of the dress that his beloved always wore. Even though she had thrown him away like common trash, he felt that this was the only way he could be with her. Our uncle captured his spirit in a long bamboo container; the rest was up to us. Everything was done correctly; all of the methods involving medicinal qualities and certain types of water to be placed in a particular kind of vessel were in order. The phases of the moon and sun were in correct alignment, as were the rains and winds. His body was wrapped with particular kinds of ferns and ti leaf. All the prayers, although lengthy were correctly given without a mistake, we waited and waited, but nothing happened.

The man’s body was still lifeless, and he never came back to himself. With the dead man’s entire family standing there watching the whole ceremony, my uncle became embarrassed and excused himself and us. He took the two of us outside and told us to wait. He returned back to the house and tried to complete the rest of the ceremony by himself, but nothing happened. The man didn’t come back. Even though his spirit was in his body, he didn’t reanimate. He was dead, and he remained that way. When we got back home later that evening, he was utterly furious with your father and me, and he beat us. He had already figured out what we had done wrong.”

“What was that?” Ola asked, “What could you have done wrong if all the proper protocols and prayers were done and all the elements were in order? What could you have done wrong?”

Looking at Ola through her tears but still smiling, Leiana said, “We fell in love.”

Ola placed both of his hands in front of his mouth and nodded. He understood now, and through Leiana’s words, he truly began to feel the essence of his beginnings. Wiping away the tears, he continued to listen as Leiana went on with the story of her life.

“We were all we had, we were with each other all the time, every day. As we grew older, we began to develop feelings for one another, and we began to discover... love. We never thought for a moment that our uncle would ever find out, but he did, and when he did, I was already four months pregnant. That’s why the Kupaku didn’t work at that time. We had to remain pure whenever performing the ceremony and well… you know. At that point, our training stopped, and our uncle took me away. I was forbidden to see your father after that. Needless to say, our parents were embarrassed, but I have to give my father credit, he did stand up for me when our uncle called me a whore.”

When Ola was finally born, all Leiana could do was sleep.

Two days later, Leiana’s parents broke the news to her. They were moving from Nanakuli and going to live on Hawai’i island in Kohala. They were ashamed of what everyone might think, and before they could cause any more embarrassment for the family, it would be best that they pick up and move. Leiana was already devastated that she would have to leave Analu behind, but that wasn’t the complete story.

Arrangements were made between Ka’aikuahiwi and Analu’s family that they were going to care for the child and that Analu himself would learn to be responsible for the child he helped create. Leiana would have no contact with the child or the family again.

On the day when the infant was put into the arms of his father, Leiana and her parents stood behind Ka'aikuahiwi while Analu and his parents stood in front of the door of their home.

“His name is Kalahikiola. That will BE his name. NO haole name. Don’t change it.” The old man said.

The child was sleeping as it lay in its father’s arms. Analu looked at Leiana, who was already insane with grief and heartbreak as her only connection to her true love was taken from her. It was the last time the two would ever see one another.

But the cruelty of the day was not over. It was Ka’aikuahiwi who actually got on the plane with Leiana and flew with her to Kohala. She was told that her parents would be joining her later, but they never came. They felt that it was Leiana herself who was the cause of their shame and that, with her gone, they would somehow be able to salvage their reputation in the community. Leiana was introduced to relatives in Kohala who were related to her on her father’s side. They were going to be the ones who would care for her and see to her needs. This was her new home, and this is where she was going to spend the rest of her days.

“I tried to kill myself several times after that, but somehow my family here knew what I was going to do, and they always were able to stop me. I spent my whole life wondering who you might grow up to be and that if I ever ran into you somewhere, would I even know that it was you? That’s why I took up making feather lei, to focus on something else and forget about my pain. I was doing great at it all these years, and then suddenly, in the last few months, all those memories started to seep through. That day when you walked into the bar, and you played that song, “Ua Noho Au a Kupa,” that’s the song your father would always sing to me whenever we were together. He had a natural talent for the ‘ukulele and a beautiful voice. That day, it was as if time reached out from the past. I should have known then. What I really wanted to tell you is that I’m sorry for interrupting your life. I realized that you were already raised by a woman that you grew up knowing as your own mother. I had no right to act the way I did, but I didn’t want to ruin your life. Do you understand? That’s the main reason why I freaked out and well….I just wasn’t prepared for this. I really wasn’t.”

“Well,” Ola replied. “you’ve done nothing wrong by telling me this. In fact, just hearing that story helps bring clarity to my entire existence!”

“How do you mean?” Leiana asked.

“The reason I was shocked to see that photo of the two of you and your uncle dressed the way you were is because my father is the most anti-Hawaiian Hawaiian there is! Everyone called us the coconuts behind our backs in Nanakuli! He wouldn’t allow me to do or associate with anything Hawaiian while I was growing up. In fact, whenever there was a Hawaiian program of any kind at school, he would always make sure that I was absent on that day. It was like that my whole life. He sent me to Saint Michael's School for boys and man on the day that he found out that there was a Hawaiian Studies program there, he lost his mind. He told me that to go to college in the mainland and to get a degree in business was the best thing to do. Forget about anything Hawaiian, do the thing that would make me money and make me successful. That’s what he pounded into me, day in and day out. I was a product of my father’s program.” Ola revealed.

“And yet,” Leiana said, “here you are, teaching Hawaiian Studies at U.H. Hilo?”

Ola nodded. “One day at the student lounge at U.H.Manoa back on ‘O’ahu, I was studying for an exam. From behind me, I could hear a bunch of girls chattering and laughing, but I didn’t recognize the language, but there was something about the language itself that caught my attention. It was lilting and poetic, almost like a song. I went over to the girls and asked them what language was it that they were speaking, and they all laughed at me. One girl, in particular, called me a coconut and said, “That’s the thing about Coconuts, They can’t even recognize their own native tongue,”
They were speaking Hawaiian, and they were right. I didn’t even know my own language. The girl who said that to me was Kailani. The second I saw her I was head over heels in love with her, every time I saw her after that I would ask her out, and she refused and always told me to leave her alone, but I never gave up.

One day I followed her to work, and to my surprise, she worked part-time at this pre-school. I waited outside for her, and before I knew it, the kids came out to play………………..those little pre-school aged children spoke Hawaiian………………………………………….something inside me happened that day. Something awakened within me. For a second, I’d forgotten about Kailani, and I went into the building and asked the director of the school if there was a way that I could volunteer there or if there was anything I could do just to be involved. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. It turned out that the only requirement at the time was that one had to be able to speak Hawaiian or be enrolled in a Hawaiian language course. Luckily, the school itself offered free Hawaiian language classes twice a week. I started attending those classes until I could get into a formal class the following semester. I loved volunteering and just being there, it was something about it all that fed my soul. Little did I know, however, that Kailani was watching the whole time. She finally agreed to go on a date with me, and by the end of the night we were both madly in love, and that’s when I decided to tell my father that I was going to change my major from business to Hawaiian studies.”

“How did that work out?” Leiana asked.

“Not good,” Ola said. “We got into a fight. He called me an idiot, which was fine, but then he accused Kailani of leading me astray, and he called her the “C” word. That’s when the fists started flying. I’ve been in Hilo ever since. I call home to talk to my mom and sister, but my father and I can’t be in the same room anymore. See, I realized that I had spent my entire life trying to please that man by fulfilling HIS want for me and my life, but I wasn’t really fulfilling my own life. There was no nourishment for my soul…”

Leiana was crying in disbelief. “It sounds like your father grew up to be our Uncle.”

“Yeah.” They agreed.

They stood there, laughing and looking down at the ground without really knowing what to do next. Suddenly a shout came from across the parking lot.

It was Raymond.

“For chrissakes! Hug your son Leiana! I’ve been standing here for almost an hour! Hug your son!!!!”

For the first time in 40 some odd years, after watching him being given away to his father, Leiana held her son in her arms again and all the pain, hurt, worries and sorrow came pouring out.

“I can’t believe that you are here after all these years, Kalahikiola! My son, my child. My life is complete.”

Leiana suddenly got dizzy for a second and lost her balance.

“Are you alright?” Ola asked.

“It’s been a long day, and I’m exhausted, too exhausted to drive. Would you mind taking me home? I’ll leave my car here and tell Raymond to pick me up tomorrow.” Leiana asked.

“Oh sure,” Ola replied.

“Raymond?” Leiana called out.

“Yeah?” He replied.

“Ola’s gonna take me home, and I’m gonna leave my car here. You can pick me up tomorrow?” Leiana asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Raymond said.

“O.k. Thanks!”

Ola and Leiana were soon in his car and headed out of the parking lot on to Mahukona road.

“I have to call Kailani and tell her what happened,” Ola said.

“Oh, yes, you have to tell her! This is nice; I’ve never had an almost daughter in law before.” Leiana said.

The two of them laughed again. The past caused so much pain and suffering now returned in the present to bring closure and heal itself, but not in the way that we would like to think.

. . .

Simon Aiona had just come from a long day and night of partying and drinking at his friend's house in Kamuela, where, by the end of the evening, his friend had cautioned him to stay over and sleep off the effects of the alcohol. Simon paid him no mind as he was one who always had to be in control. The more Simon kept convincing himself that he was in control, the more he began to doze off at the wheel. He was determined to get to his security guard job at the shopping complex near the seafood bar. Once there, he would just spend his entire shift sleeping.

By the time Ola’s car made the right turn onto Mahukona road, Simon was fast asleep at the wheel of his SUV as it headed straight toward the car that Ola and Leiana were in. The SUV blew through the main intersection just past Pu’ukohola at eighty-five miles per hour.

The impact was so brutal that it tore the front half of Ola’s Mazda 626 off and dragged it a mile and a half down the road. The back half of Ola’s car remained untouched as if nothing happened.
 Raymond was no more than 10 feet from the door of the Seafood Bar when he heard the horrific crash from behind him. The sickening sound of metal scraping the pavement filled his ears as he turned around to see the back half of Ola’s car in the middle of Mahukona Road. The front half was being pushed forward by an SUV while sparks flew about and lit up the night. A few other people who witnessed the accident were now running toward what was left of the two vehicles as the wreckage finally came to a stop near Kalaeolo Street. After running for quite a distance, Raymond was the first to arrive on the scene. Looking into the front cab of the SUV, he found the driver to be very much alive but out cold. Heading toward the tangled mass of metal, Raymond prepared himself for the worst. He inhaled three times before he finally peered into what was left of Ola’s front seat. There was blood everywhere, on the dashboard, the steering wheel, on the inside of the front door, and on the windshield, but the car was empty. There was no one there. Ola and his mother were gone. Now Raymond was overcome with the thought that Ola and Leiana might have been ejected from the car altogether. His insides were twisted with grief as he contemplated having to make the grim trek down the road to look for what was left of them.

“I hope it’s not worse than what happened to Christopher Pike…” He muttered to himself.

In the cab of his SUV, Simon Aiona came out of his drunken stupor and, out of habit, reached into his shirt pocket to remove his pack of cigarettes and found that there were only two left. Managing to get the one cigarette in his mouth, he now fumbled for the lighter from his jacket pocket.  His hand-eye coordination was crippled by the effect of alcohol, and so he dropped the lighter. It fell out of the front door of his car. Removing his seat belt, and swinging his driver's side door open, he lumbered out of his truck and gave a mighty sigh as he bent down to retrieve his lighter off of the pavement. Through his drunken haze, he noticed the wreck that sat tangled in front of his vehicle.

“What the f*&k happened?” He said to himself.

Flicking his lighter for the last time, Simon would never know that the spark ignited a fireball of flames that were the result of the fumes and the leaking gasoline from both vehicles. He would be engulfed in the massive explosion and burn to death. Raymond’s death was much more merciful as he was killed instantly and felt no pain. With the car fire now spreading even more full as the winds from the ocean blew in toward the wreckage, it would be hours before the police and firefighters would be able to find anything.

Leiana’s exhaustion was nothing in comparison to the blissfulness that encompassed her heart. She would have to make more homemade meals for Ola and Kailani and, at the very least, hope that they would include her in their wedding invitation should they get married. Catching her self for a second, she realized that she might actually end up smothering Ola. Looking at him now up close, as he drove his car out of the parking lot and on to Mahukona Road, she could see a part of herself and his father in him. After all these years of trying to forget her pain of losing Ola by storing those memories someplace far away, in the depths of her heart, the gods decided to reward her by returning her son. She would never second guess the gifts that the gods would bring; instead, she would accept those gifts wholeheartedly and without question. The sight of Ola at the wheel of his car turned into a blinding flash of light. She remembered hearing the sound of glass shattering, and afterward, everything went dark. When Leiana awoke, she found that her entire mid-section felt as if she’d been punched in the gut with a sledgehammer. It hurt her just to breathe, and every time she did try, she would cough up blood. Looking around her, she knew that she and Ola had been in a car accident, but she wasn’t quite sure as to how long they had been there. Looking over at Ola, she could see a massive gash on his forehead, and his entire face was covered in blood. His legs and feet were still facing forward as the upper half of his broken body lay in an awkward position.

Leiana knew then that her son was dead.

The grief that should have overwhelmed her at that moment was absent. There was a boiling sense of anger and frustration at the very gods who cruelly took away what they had just given. “They are not going to win this time.” She thought to herself. After all the years of suffering and praying to them for relief, there wasn't any way that she was going to allow them to win this time.

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