Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 31, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #92

It went quiet suddenly; I remember that—the kind of quiet when no one is home, and you're by yourself. I mean the kind of stillness where the ambient sound of traffic from the freeway near my house is gone.
Even the birds arguing with one another in my mango tree is gone. It's eerie and a bit unnerving. Ever so slightly, there is an almost inaudible knock at my front door. I wasn't quite sure if I'd heard it the first time or the second, but there it was by the third knock. I saw her standing outside. Behind her on the street was the FedEx truck she drove. Everything about her is a smile, her black hair neatly tied back in a ponytail, raised my eyebrow, the just-right color of brown on her neck made me exhale involuntarily, and her voice shook me to my feet.

"Mr. Kanagawa?" See? I told you, everything about her is a smile.

"I just need your signature right here, no need to worry about penmanship," for a mere second, she stood on her tiptoes with her hands clasped behind her back while eagerly observing my cursive. "Kanagawa, just like the painting."

"I'm sorry?" I wasn't sure what she was saying.

"You know, the famous painting of the rogue wave from Kanagawa, Japan?" She pulled out her phone and tapped in something and then showed it to me. "This one."

There it was, the block printing of the Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika, Hokusai.

"The rogue wave of Kanagawa," I mused as if I knew what I was talking about, but I didn't.

"Yeah, those rogue waves that come out of nowhere and just BOOM wipe you out when you least expect it," she laughed. "I just thought you know, you're name is Kanagawa, and the rogue wave is from Kanagawa…"

"Oh," I chuckled. "I think I get it."

"Okay," she smiled. "Thank you! Have a good day!"

I watched her skip down my steps, her ponytail bouncing behind her. Before she climbed in her vehicle, she turned and spread her arms out and struck a pose, "Bssshhhhhh! Wipeout!"
I laughed, she waved and drove off.

Thatʻs when all the noise returned, and I felt a sharp pain on the back of my head. It was my mom; she had been watching the whole time. "Oroka!" She called me stupid.

"What the hell was that for?" I squealed.

"You Kanagawa, girl, rogue wave," my mom pointed at the departing FedEx van. She could see that I didn't get it, which is why she shook her head and walked away, mumbling to herself. "Tonchiki." (numbskull)


The packed coffee shop on Kapahulu has everyone shoulder to shoulder, and that's while sitting at their tables. The line snaked out the door and out to the parking lot. The small table I found fit only my frame and so it didn't give anyone the idea that they and their friends could join me until they edged me out of my own space. It was working very well until she appeared in front of me, armed with a cup of coffee and doughnuts.

"Hey!" She squealed and smiled enthusiastically. The table next to mine emptied, and she quickly grabbed a chair before the next group swarmed in. Even then, they didn't get upset with her because everything about her is a smile.

"The FedEx girl," Somehow, she made it a table for two.

"I thought it was you, so I got some extra doughnuts and thought I'd join!"

I don't know how I knew, but I knew right away that her enthusiasm was not faked or put on. It's who she is. I also knew that this moment was like the first time she knocked on my front door. The sound left, the movement and nuance of everyone around us continued as it would in a coffee shop like this. I could see the tableau, but I couldn't hear anything, except for her.

"I still don't know who you are?" I chuckled.

"Oh yeah, I wasn't wearing my name tag that day because I was in a rush to get to work," she laughed and shook her head.

"I'm Ken," I bowed slightly and gave her a short wave.

"I'm Lori," she placed a sugar-glazed doughnut in front of me. We silently enjoyed our small meal and coffee, without any words having to be said. We must have invited the ire of customers in that coffee shop, hoping to find a place to sit. Soon, the establishment's employees came out to demand that seated customers buy something, or they would have to give up their seats and leave. Lori and I practically ordered everything on their menu until we decided to move on our own and find somewhere else to go. We ended up at a shady spot under a shower tree in the middle of Kapiolani Park. We talked about everything and nothing, but mostly, we spent a lot of time laughing. It was one of the best days I could ever remember. Besides having to use the bathroom at the park and then having dinner together, we continued to sit under the same tree until the HPD came and closed the park out at ten in the evening. I'm sure we would have spent the rest of the night hanging out if she didn't have to wake up early the next morning to attend a family brunch.

I finally got home at eleven in the evening. I wasn't but halfway to my bedroom when I heard my mother from the kitchen.

"You see the delivery girl today?" she asked.

"How did you know?" I was curious. "Were you spying on me?"

"No mo' sound when you talk to her?"

"Wait; what? How did you know that? You DID follow me!" I pointed at her.

"I dunno how you finish to the college," she sighed. "You so no clue all the time you!

"Mom, I don't have time for nonsense," I shooed her away. I guessed that pissed her off. Short of hitting me with the rice cooker, she let me have it with her thundering voice.

"You no tell me nonsense! The past lifetime you supposed to marry that girl, but you stupid! You miss your chance! This lifetime if you lose, you neva have a chance again! That's why no noise when you with her, that's a sign, she's your wife! Even though you only meet her now, she's your wife!"

Experience told me that to respond would only invite more of her temper, so I said nothing and went into my room and closed the door. That didn't stop her from continuing, of course.

"You almost forty, you know Ken? You miss this time, that's it for you, you know?"


Lori cut out of her regular Sunday brunch very early, saying that she had to meet someone. She told me later that her family scolded her for not inviting 'someone' to their gathering. "You can consider yourself invited," she shrugged.

We met up again and agreed to bring our homemade foods for the other to try for dinner. The cool shady spot beneath the shower tree in the park was perfect. "No fair, though," I told her.

"What's not fair?" She replied.

"Your food is warmed up leftovers from your family brunch today," I ribbed her.

"That's not unfair," she chuckled. "I made most of the food myself."

Affecting dramatic defeat,  I suggested that instead of using the park bathroom, we should use the one at my house. She readily agreed. I let her park in my space in the garage while I parked on the street. When we walked into the house, I went straight to our butsudan, offered a quick chant, and told her it was a part of my Buddhist practice. She noticed the butsugū and the funeral tablet on the inside of the butsudan. She also saw the formal black and white framed picture of the older Japanese woman next to it.

"So much strength in her features," she whispered with awe. "Who was she?"

"My mother," I replied. "You would have liked her; I know she would have liked you. Probably would have spoiled you."

"You think so?" Lori squealed with uncertainty.

"In the last few years before she passed, she was always on my case to get married," I laughed more out of nervousness than humor.

"I can see that," she regarded me thoughtfully and nodded her head.

"Me getting married?" I asked.

"Me marrying you," she confirmed. "Itʻs just this feeling."

"I guess my mom was wrong," I looked her in the eye.

"About what?"

"You werenʻt the rogue wave; you were the wake-up call."

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