Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 23, 2019

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2019 #40


"...I'm just a simple man,
  trying to be me, oh it ain't easy..."

Flying isn't my favorite thing. I don't like the crowds and I don't like the fact that while flying on a plane, you have no control over your destiny should it crash. Regularly, I'll open the magazine that's tucked into the pocket of the chair in front of me and I'll make it a point to read every article just to fill the length of time for the duration of the flight. Today I'm on a late afternoon leg to Hilo, so by the time I get there, it'll just be getting dark. There are only sixteen of us on the flight, ten of them are in first class, the flight attendants let the rest of us know its open seating. I opt to sit in the twenty-seventh row. While passing the other five people who are huddled around each other with three in the one row and two behind them, I noticed that they are somber in their conversation. The woman sitting in the middle of the three chairs is holding on to an urn. They're returning a loved one home to Hilo or somewhere within the vicinity. I take the aisle seat on the twenty-seventh and take my phone out and put it on airplane mode. The flight attendants go through their safety routine as I simultaneously read through the articles of Hana Hou. Normally, I don't drink anything during the flight but this time I ask for a can of the real thing when the cart passes my way. In my head, I'm thinking about the realtor that I'm supposed to meet tomorrow. He's good at what he does but he talks too much, I don't like people who talk too much because it usually means they're hiding something. I don't think this realtor's brain is wired that way, I think he just likes to talk. I just want to take one more look at the property outside of Hilo, close the transaction and get back home. I tuck the magazine back in its pocket and I happen to glance at the row across the aisle from me. There's a local man seated in the middle seat, he looks to be about thirty-five, forty' ish. He's wearing a formal pair of black shoes, dark slacks and a garishly brown colored Primo Beer aloha shirt. His hair is crew cut and his face is sunburnt. He works outdoors because of how big his hands are and because of the crow's feet on the corner of his eyes. He almost seems out of place, like he's not used to being so dressed up.

"Sorry sir, I don't mean to bother you," I sort of halfway lean toward him to make sure that I catch his attention. "I like that aloha shirt, I haven't seen one of those in a while."

He glances at me and returns a nod and a smile. That's probably all I'm gonna get but that's fine, sometimes people just don't want to talk. I know I don't most times. I sit back and clasp my hands over my lap and close my eyes, hopefully, I don't snore. I'm just on the fringe of falling into a deep sleep when I hear the voice of the man across the aisle. "I'm going home to see my family in Wainaku, my brothers Able and Phillip, and my sister Georgia. We getting old us guys, we figure we better see each before too late," He rubbed hand nervously on his pant leg. "Maybe I have time to visit friends too."

"Oh, so you grew up in Wainaku?" I asked curiously.

"Oh yeah," he replied. "But pretty soon was hard to find a job so had to move to Honolulu, but no can help, you do what you have to do."

What a tough-looking guy he appeared to be, he must have some interesting stories to share but I don't have time to press him for details. "How long has it been since you've lived on Oahu?"

"Last year, 2018 would make sixty years," He said in a very matter of fact manner.

"Wow, well I hope you have a great time with your brothers and your sister," I reached across the aisle to shake his hand and just then the food cart rolled between us. When it passed, he was gone. I looked up the aisle and he hadn't gone that way, but when I glanced back at the bathrooms, I saw the 'Occupied' light go on. He must have ducked in to use the facilities. I sit back in my chair and after about less than a minute, I doze off.  The next thing I know, I'm being nudged awake by the flight attendant, the flight has landed and everyone has de-planed. I apologize and retrieve my carry on from the overhead compartment and make my way out.

I'm taking the escalator down to baggage claim and I see a large crowd at the bottom of the stairs. From behind me, I hear screams and cries. I turn around to see the five people from the flight who had the urn with them. I walk down the escalator quickly to make room for the people behind me. Obviously, the crowd waiting for the five are family members. They all quickly fall into each other's arms and there are more tears and sobbing. I intend to head out to the sidewalk to wait for the realtor to pick me up, but the famous Hilo rain is falling, so I text the realtor to let him know that I'll be waiting undercover at the pick-up spot. As I take a few steps back so as not to get caught in the deluge, I happen to turn around to make sure that I don't bump into anything. That's when I see the gentleman in the brown Primo Beer aloha shirt seated on the rock wall. I smile and walk over to him, "Hi, is your family coming to get you or do you need a ride? I can take you to Wainaku, no problem,"

"No, no thank you," he reassures me. "My family is already here, I'm just waiting for them to hurry up, they take so long."

"What about your bags and stuff?" I only noticed now that he's traveling really lite.

"My family gets everything, thank you for your concern," he smiled and waved me off.

"I'm sorry sir," I apologize. "I don't mean to be niele."

Just then the crowd of people, including the five who carried the urn walk by. It's still very somber and I feel bad for their loss even though I don't know any of them. They're all huddled close together, each holding on to the other, some with their heads cast down while others whisper words of comfort. At that moment, something clicked in my head out of the blue. I didn't catch it at first because I was too busy trying to find out about my friend in the brown Primo Beer aloha shirt. I know, I just apologized for being niele, but now I have to know for sure.

"I'm sorry sir but on the plane, you said that last year was sixty years since you moved to Oahu?" I sounded like an inquisitive child now, asking a question I had no right to ask. Luckily, he didn't get upset and punch me out.

"Yes, sixty years," he confirmed.

"How old are you now?" I squeaked again.

"Thirty-five," he replied once more without getting upset. Good for me.

"But, if you moved here sixty years ago then wouldn't you be in your eighties by now?" Hearing myself answer the question sends a shiver down my spine. I'm covered in chicken skin because of the realization.

He looks at me and looks at the crowd that just passed us and he says, "That's my family, I have to go, nice talking to you."

He walks toward them and by this time they're heading left, toward the two 15 passenger vans that are idling near the sidewalk. He easily catches up to them because they're walking so slowly, I'm expecting them to turn and look at him or least for someone to acknowledge him but they don't. He just literally disappears into the crowd. No wonder why they never looked at him when they walked past us, I just assumed that they were all caught up in their grief to notice.

That's him in the urn, he's going back to Wainaku not to see his brother and sisters, but to be buried beside them. The him that I saw and subsequently conversed with was the best version of himself that his family remembers him as with still a bit of youth left in his hard-working frame. Just as the realtor pulled up, the two fifteen-passenger vans drive pass, there is a picture that is vehicle wrapped on the side windows. It's a picture of a middle-aged man standing in front of a group of tall potted plants, wearing a brown Primo Beer aloha shirt with black slacks, and formal shoes.

The caption reads, "Ezekial Pacheco 1927-2018. Beloved husband and father."

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