Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jan 9, 2019

Sister's Sacrifice

Too bad this drive is taking so long; here I am heading in a pointless direction where I do not care to go. Yet, as a result of the badgering and nagging of my older sister, I have to be there. Do you know what sucks even more? This is my sister’s idea but she’s not going, how’s that for shit?
I apologize if I’m not being clear as to what this rant is all about. My old wrestling coach from high school passed away and so the guys from the team called and said that I should attend the services but I flat out refused. Coach Edmund Chun was a complete dick with unresolved issues. However, my sister suggested that going to the old bastard’s funeral might help me resolve a few issues of my own.

I didn’t think so.

There’s definitely no love lost between me and the coach; maybe he’s not worth any of my ill will but if I got the news that he suddenly dropped dead or was killed in a car accident? It wouldn’t ruin my day. The services are at 1pm at the little green church in Hau’ula and it’s 11:58 in the a.m. I’m still thinking about turning around and heading back home; that’s when the bing on my cell phone chimes in and I see a text from my sister,

“Go to the services! Do not go back home!”

“Why do you give a shit?” I voice text her back.

“Because you’re insufferable as it is, and you need closure,” she texts back.

“Fuck closure, I don’t give a shit about this guy,” I am screaming texting at this point.

“Stop texting and driving,” she returns.

Hate her, just hate her. There’s a large open grass lot next to the little church where the neighbors are nice enough to let everyone park. It’s crowded and it looks like the better half of Hau’ula is in attendance. The tarpaulin tents are up and the smoke rising from the imu (underground oven) wafts the aroma of the steamed pig through the congregation and causes everyone to squirm in their chairs. It’s almost ready to be brought out and eaten and no one can wait. People are bunched up together outside on the lawn fronting the steps of the church. On the inside, it’s shoulder to shoulder and everyone including the good Pastor is sweating buckets. He’s a good guy Pastor Jacob; he used to be the resident drug dealer but ended up getting busted by the local P.D. That’s after his friends rolled on him in exchange for lesser time spent. He ended up losing everything and had to do a nickel in an Arizona lock up. That’s where he found god and changed his life. After paying his debt to society he headed back to the little green church in Hau’ula.

He’s been here ever since.

There’s my old teammates, overweight, balding, bags under their eyes and surrounded by wives, girlfriends, and kids; lots of kids. They’re full of smiles and meaningful hugs and how have you been and what’s ups; only slight remnants of who they once were can be traced beneath the crow's feet and the wrinkles. I make myself busy and keep the conversations short so that I don’t have to sit and catch up with anyone. I politely accept invites to their homes for dinners or lunch with no intention of ever showing up. My eyes are on the casket where Coach Chun lays with his hands crossed over his chest. He’s wearing a nondescript suit and tie which seems awkward; after only ever seeing him in his coach uniform I take this as a sign that he is indeed really gone. I make my way through the crowd of people until I am finally looking down at him. His casket is more like a cardboard box and the handles by which the pallbearers are supposed to carry him to his final resting place look more like handles on a common dresser drawer. This is the culmination of a life spent torturing and belittling hopefuls on a wrestling team; a life spent breaking them down rather than building them up. Of course Coach Chun had favorites and it was a painful thing to watch. His favorites were the ones who took advantage of him and treated him horribly because he let them. They were his state hopefuls, his national hopefuls, his Olympic hopefuls and they had no appreciation of him and did as they pleased. His hopefuls were indeed successful and in time went to state, nationals, and the Olympics.

Just not under his tutelage, but by some other coach. There was never an acknowledgment of his teachings, not a mention of his name nor a thank you. How’s that for shit?

For all that he invested in his hopefuls, not one of them is present today. For my former teammates who put in long torturous hours and suffered under his personal attacks and tirades and his hours of treating them like shit? Here they are; ever loyal lapdogs, arm in arm shedding tears, each with their own war story regarding Coach Edmund Chun.

I stand here now gazing at his withered form, it’s only a shell of what he used to be. He was a bull of a man and he had the strength of one as well, but now he lays here with too much makeup on his face and it gives him such a maudlin appearance that I almost half expect him to sit up in his coffin and lead everyone in a chorus of ‘Danny Boy.’

There is so much that I hated him for, but at this moment I feel nothing. My mind is reminding me that this is the man who purposely tried to destroy me at every turn and that I should light a match and set his casket aflame with him in it. In order to do that, I have to feel something, but my heart feels nothing.

Not an ounce of sentimentality moves me to place my hand on his, nor does the least inkling of sympathy crack a warm smile across my face. Thoughts of keeping the program handouts for the services as a memento never cross my mind and aside from my sister’s admonitions that I should be here today, I find that an umbilical bond to this man does not exist. I came, I paid my respects and now I am leaving.

I’m walking back to my car now after having been successful at avoiding any parting sentiments. Before I can open my door one of my former teams mates hands me a large plate of food wrapped in tin-foil. In his other hand is a plastic bag with a couple of drinks in it.

“You were the best of all of us and he treated you like shit,” Hiram Smith said. “I’m surprised you showed up! With everything that happened before, I don’t think I would have been here.”

“Just paying my respects, it’s the least I could do.…or wanted to do,” I replied.

“Coach Chun fucked these guys up so bad; made them so dependent on him that they didn’t even realize it. They still don’t. After high school, they couldn’t move on you know? All they do now is find excuses to have class reunions for every little thing,” Hiram shared.

“Why are you still here?” I asked him.

“I became a firefighter right out of high school like my dad and after paying my dues and putting in the time, I finally got stationed here in Hau’ula. Works out for my family, I don’t have to drive far,” he explained.

Hiram and I shook hands and said our goodbyes, “If I don’t see you after today; I get it. It’s not easy being the coach's son but you did good for yourself, you did. You got that to be proud of because you’re your own man. You didn’t let yourself be defined by how he treated you and that’s a good thing!”

“Yeah,” I say to him as I wave, “take care Hiram,”


I’m driving past Kahana Bay and the phone rings almost on cue; I put it on speaker.


“You did it!” My sister’s voice squeals.

“Yeah, I did it,” I deadpan.

“I’m proud of you, do you feel better?” She asks.

“Yeah, I feel better. Thanks for know?” I’m struggling but I think she understands.

“It’s okay, no worries. At least you can say you did it, I’m happy for you! Yay!” She laughed.

“I’ll talk to you when I get back home okay? I gotta drive,” I tell her.

“Of course, you go and we’ll talk later! Bye!”

Always the bright spark my sister; I didn’t get it as bad as she did. What I did get from my old man was less of what he’d intended because of her. She saved me from the beatings because he thought that I knew he was going into her room late at night. It used to be his habit to come into my room after and start hitting me with his belt just to shut me up. After that, she began to keep him long into the night, just so she could save me from the belt.

 It’s on days like this that the drive from Ka’a’awa to Kahalu’u lulls the spirit into a state of comfort where one feels as if all that troubles your life bears no relevance within the comfort of a 1966 Mustang fastback. It’s only when all that beautiful countryside melds into the Kahalu’u district that it becomes apparent that civilization quickly approaches. Another forty minutes later and I am sitting at the top of the Hawaiian Memorial Cemetery gazing at my sister’s headstone; I guess there wasn’t a way that I was going to leave this part of the island without stopping to say hello. The engraving on her headstone was simple; it contained her date of birth, her date of passing, and her name where the edges were decorated with lehua flowers intertwined with maile and mokihana. On the last day of her life, her system was filled with a variety of prescription medicines and many more different colored pills. Her last communication to me was by text and then a phone call. A former friend of mines was getting married and I was wrestling with the question of attending or going back home. We had a falling out but he called me at the last minute and wanted to bury the hatchet; I was still mad about not having any satisfaction. That’s when my sister sent me a text to not turn around and go back home but rather to stay the course and attend the wedding services and put closure on the matter.

After the reception, she called and congratulated me,

“You did it!”

By the time I’d gotten home and remembered to call her back, she had already passed away.
So, when things get tough and I start to fall off the grid, she calls me from beyond the ether's
and we have the same conversation. She always manages to put me back on the right path.

Like today.

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