Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Apr 17, 2020

"Perfect Rice"

After years of experience, I've learned never to be in the kitchen when my mother was either awake or at home.

Which is pretty much the same thing. I'm losing my train of thought here; the point is, my mother always had this habit of coming into the kitchen and sitting at the table first. Then she would pretend to sift through the mail or read the newspaper. Then she'd thumb through her phone and pretend to ask me a question while at the same time walking over to where I was. She'd inspect the ingredients I had in small bowls around the sink, then, looking more with her nose than her eyes, she'd say, "What you making?"

"Omelet," I'd reply in a tone that was meant to make her understand that I didn't want to be bothered.

"Huh, I've never seen this kind omelet before, you making up your own?" She'd ask.

"Yes, mom," I would nod while doing my best not to raise my voice.

"How many eggs you using?" Her voice got lower.

"Four eggs, with a little bit of almond milk," I can't yell at her so that she'll leave the kitchen because I'll hurt her feelings. I can't ask if she wants to help me because she'll make me sit down so she can take over the whole process. All I can do is reply very nicely, 'Yes.'

"Make sure you whip the eggs well, so it turns out fluffy," she instructed.

"Yes, mom," I nodded again.

"What kind of extra stuff you putting inside?" She inspected the smaller bowls. "Huh, ham cubes, Portuguese sausage cubes, chives, mushrooms. Cheese? What kind of cheese you use?"

"Sharp cheddar," I raised my eyebrows toward the bowl with the shredded cheese in it.

"Where's the salt?" She mumbled.

"Over there by the microwave, the orange one," I raised my nose in that direction.

"Orange salt?" She shrieked.

"It's Himalayan salt, I just put in a pinch," I replied.

"So fancy nowadays this kind," she mused.

Finally, she was leaving the kitchen; I breathed a sigh of relief until she got to the end of the counter, then she stopped. Fuck, I knew it, the pot of rice. She looked at it first through the transparent lid, then she lifted it off the pot. She let the steam clear before she stared at it with the intensity of an old school Kyokushin-Kai sensei.

"Benny, what is this?" She moaned.

"What?" I replied again, doing my best not to let her know that I was at my limit.

"This rice Benny, get small lump here, small lump there. Good thing you only feeding yourself; otherwise, I throw away this whole thing and then start again," her voice, that sing-song tone in her voice, it drove me crazy. "Everything you do now, come last, the rice comes first. The rice always has to be perfect; if the rice not perfect and people see, right away, they can tell your life not perfect. Don't make me shame, Benny."

"Alright, mom," I said it more to agree with her, so she'd leave the kitchen, but it was never that simple.

"Benny," her tone softened. "Look at me, if you only pay attention to the eggs and all the extra, and you leave the rice for last, it's like your life. Don't forget the important thing first, do everything else after. Don't do backward."

"Look, mom, I'm sorry, alright? I'm sorry my life isn't perfect and that Susan and I are separated, and the kids are suffering because of it!" It call came spewing forth, I couldn't hold back anymore. "I'm sorry that I'm home and that I'm in your way all the time, I'm sorry that I fucked everything up!"

"Then dump out the junk rice, and make perfect rice," she left the kitchen.


I can't describe to you what today is like, but I'll do my best. From the moment we emerged from the Pali tunnel on the windward side, two things happened. One, our senses were greeted with the heady aroma of the ocean, it made all of us want to head straight to the beach even though we were not dressed for it. Two, a fine misty rain followed us from the top of the Pali tunnel until we arrived at our destination. It literally alighted itself upon us like a blanket, lending us a measure of comfort. My mom was a forward-thinking woman. Very progressive, very outside the box, and as you have already seen, very not afraid to speak her mind. That didn't sit well with the older members of her church, especially the older men. She was frustrated at how the church needed funds to function. Still, at the same time, the elder members rejected any suggestion she had that would help them become financially stable through various fundraisers. The mistake these men made with my mom was to tell her that she would be the best use to them in the kitchen with the other women, who cooked at prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Those men get an earful from her and a near beatdown. She also resigned from the church and demanded a full refund from their burial fund.

"No way I'm gonna be buried in that church graveyard with those assholes!" She proclaimed.

So here we are at Hawaiian Memorial Cemetary, not only laying flowers at her headstone but also, the perfect bowl of rice.

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