Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 19, 2019

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2019 #44


Her best days were long past; the memories of the spotlight on the stage with a capacity crowd standing on their feet were now white noise in the most distant of yesterdays. The adoration and wonder of her otherworldly performances could be found in any video archive if one cared to search for them today. She could no longer wear the outfits and dresses that framed her once svelte figure, but wearing the loose-fitting muʻumuʻu was much more merciful.
Though older and wrinkled, strategically fashioned make-up helped people recognize her from the days of who she once was. Most others, like herself, went on to teach the hula, while others married and had families. The ravages of time did not seem to bother them; in fact, they accepted what age did to them and did so gracefully. She could do neither; yes, she was an incredibly supernatural dancer, but to teach it? No, it would only serve as a reminder of her denial. And then to marry and settle down? No. Stay with a man for a few years and then move on as vampires move when they outstay their welcome and are at risk of being found out.

She worked as a hostess at a high-end restaurant in Waikiki, where she regaled tourists with stories of the Waikiki that once was. Then, when the lone guitar player in the restaurant strums the intro to an old tune from Mahi Beamer, she glides onto the floor and performs the hula for which she becomes legendary. Afterward, the tourists were so taken by her that she would seize the opportunity to give them her true identity. So colorful was her tale that by the end of the evening, the tourists insisted on taking her to dinner the following evening. This was the way she manipulated people into allowing her to re-live her past. Management was okay with it as it brought in more customers. One evening, however, a group of visitors cared nothing for her stories of Waikiki and found her dancing of the hula offensive and uncalled for. "After all," they complained, "this is an exclusive high-end establishment, we did not pay to have any of the natives insert their culture upon us, much less perform their savage dance. The High-end is what we paid for, and the high-end is what we should have gotten. Someone needs to remind that woman of her place."

She was fired shortly thereafter.

One evening, she wandered downtown after having a long dinner alone at a Chinese restaurant. She had to walk off the soups and dim sum before returning home. Taking a shortcut through a small parking lot between Nuʻuanu and Bethel Street, she walked a block of makai and soon stood in front of the theater. The lights on the marquis were bright and colorful as always, and to her surprise, the front door was open. The box office was empty, and the ushers were absent. She thought there wouldnʻt be any harm if she peeked in and perhaps took a stroll. The house was empty and eerily quiet. The stage was bare except for a spotlight fixed at the center. She took a deep breath and let out a sigh; ah, the many evenings she danced on that stage and stole many a heart and received many a marriage proposal thereafter. Even the night when descendants of the Hawaiian royal family were in the audience, she was called upon to dance the encore for them. It was, Kuʻuipo I Ka Heʻe Puʻe one.

The applause was thunderous, and not a dry eye was present in the house as everyone stood on their feet. The memory of it naturally carried her to the stage, where she stood in the center and wept over what her life had become or did not.

"I saw you dance on that stage so many times," the voice echoed from the seats. With the spotlight on her, she could not see who it was. The owner of the voice came forward. He was a Hawaiian man much older than herself. He was tall, with a full head of white hair and dark wrinkled skin, which suited his look quite well. He wore work jeans and boots and a dungaree shirt.

"Oh," she blushed and let out a giggle. "Thank you, that was so long ago."

"I was here the night you danced,  "Pua maeʻole." Youʻll excuse me for being so forward, but that night was the first time that I felt the pangs of what true love might be." The old Hawaiian man placed his big, meaty right hand on his heart and bowed his head.

"Itʻs fine, you have nothing to be sorry for," she reassured him and made sure that he saw that she was still smiling at him when he looked up.

The old Hawaiian man turned his head and looked somewhere into the pitch black and then raised his hand. Would you mind doing an old man a favor by dancing to that song once more?"

The music was already coming through the loudspeakers. The sound of the piano and guitar began to rise, and soon, it filled the entire theater. It called her, the voice that sang the lyrics and beckoned her forward to dance and dance she did.

My flower, my never-fading flower
Ku'u pua ku'u pua mae'ole

You are my constant desire
Nou mau ko'u li'a 'ana

Your loveliness, I will always behold
He nohea 'oe i ku'u maka lä

And for all seasons
A no nā kau a kau

You are a beautiful woman.
Nani he u'i ka wahine lā

An adornment for your elders/ancestors
A he lei wehi no nä kupuna

My flower, my never-fading flower
Ku'u pua ku'u pua mae'ole

This song is for you.
Nou ku'u mele nei


The following morning, when the staff arrived to man the box office, they discovered that all doors to the floor seats of the theater were open. The large stage was lit by a single spotlight, and there, lying cold and dead in a casual muʻumuʻu with her purse nearby, was she, the hula dancer.—the one who, through her dance, accomplished feats of legerdemain. Now, she was part of the spotlight she craved for. orever.

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