Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 26, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #66

I spent many mornings sitting on an oversized love chair, watching and listening as Clara Kalaukoa played Suite Bergamasque by De Bussy. My lessons finished an hour before Clara, but I always kindly asked my teacher if I could stay to listen and perhaps learn from watching? I wasn't precocious like the other supposed prodigies whose hovering parents, my teacher, would not allow to stay while their child learned, no matter what their skill level. Besides myself, Clara's parents ignored the only other two Hawaiian children who took lessons from Mrs. Kitagawa. However, they made quite a concerted effort to ingratiate themselves into the Asian and Caucasian parents' company. I remember asking my mother about it, and she said that their behavior was not their fault. That it must have been taught to them by their parents, or perhaps it was self-loathing because of how they grew up.  "Like the piece, Clara is learning now. Do you know what 'Bergamesque' means?" My mother asked.

"No," I know. I had a perplexed look on my face because my mother chuckled and rubbed my chin.

"Bergamo is a place in Italy, and it's also a kind of dance. Claude De Bussy composed it in 1890 but revised it greatly before it was published in 1905. Clara's parents are like that, not happy with who they are, so they had to revise themselves to fit in. Clara helps them get into certain social circles, but really, they'll end up being looked down upon in very much the same way that they look down upon their people," my mom whispered. "So don't pay attention to them; just learn what you've come to learn and do your best."


I arrived earlier than most one morning because my mother was called into work. My piano teacher Mrs. Kitagawa was expecting me as my mother called ahead. She had me come into the large Kitchen where she'd already prepared breakfast. Her house was large and filled with many rooms and just as many living rooms. It may as well have been a museum. She was a widow and lived on her own. I assumed that after her husband died, he must have left her a vast amount of money. She was wealthy. "I'm sorry that we had to bother you so early, Mrs. Kitagawa; thank you for breakfast," I said sheepishly.

"It's alright, Kaleo; it's been so long since I've had company in the morning. How is your toast? I hope it's not burnt?"

"No, it's fine," I drank the freshly made orange juice after taking a forkful of scrambled eggs and fried rice.

"I made the orange juice myself; what do you think?"

"It's better than Tang," I nodded.

Just then, the doorbell rang, and Mrs. Kitagawa excused herself to go and see who it might be. "Keep eating, Kaleo; I'll be right back."

A second later, Clara and her parents walked into the Kitchen. Their conversation was lively until they saw me, then there was a pause. "This is Kaleo; he's here earlier because his mother was called into work."

Clara's parents ignored me and did not acknowledge my presence. They made sure that Clara sat as far away from me as possible before they left. How much larger could the kitchen table have been? They may as well have seated her outside on the lawn. Mrs. Kitagawa went to see Clara's parents and prepared the main living room for the day's lessons. Assuming she was like her parents, I said nothing to Clara and continued eating my breakfast.

"Hi," she whispered. "What's your name?"

I looked around for a second; I had to be sure that she spoke to me and not another student who'd arrived as early as we did. She pointed at me as if she were prodding my chest. "Yes, you!"

"Kaleo," I kept eating and didn't look up.

"I'm Clara," she waved ever so slightly and shrugged her shoulders. 

"Alright, finish up your breakfast," Mrs. Kitagawa walked in. "Just put your plates in the sink; I'll clean it up later."


Today, Mrs. Kitagawa worked on a new piece with Clara. She called it 'Arabesque,' another composition by Claude De Bussy. I had never heard it before, but it appeared that Clara already knew it. Later, I would find out that the Saturday morning classes were not the only ones that Clara attended; she had lessons with Mrs. Kitagawa six days a week. Clara was preparing to play with the symphony orchestra at the end of the month. She'd skipped her recital stage and gone straight to the main event, so to say. "Are you ready?" Mrs. Kitagawa asked her. Clara took in a deep breath and nodded. Mrs. Kitagawa then retired to another room and emerged with a harp. She wheeled it near the piano and took a chair in front of it. The large instrument seemed weightless in Mrs. Kitagawa's arms. She looked at Clara, raised her eyebrows, and nodded, "Five, six, seven, and...."

Even now, as I sit here all these years later, I can only describe what I heard that morning as a cascading sound of sheer beauty. The music was seamless and timeless; it made your body move without knowing that it was doing so. It took you away to your own Shangrila, your own Bodhgaya, and to your perfection. I could not tell where the piano began, and the harp ended, but I knew for sure that Mrs. Kitagawa and Clara were the instruments playing the instruments. The divinely inspired brought heaven into the living room of an old southern-style plantation home in the middle of Mānoa.

I was exhausted and spent at the piece's conclusion, but I never forgot it. It stayed with me for the rest of my life. Mrs. Kitagawa was so happy that she was crying. She hugged Clara, and she hugged me. She left to get us all some iced cold lemonade, and the second she was gone, Clara ran over to me and jumped on the chair. With a squeal, she squeezed me in her arms. I was mortified, and I didnʻt hug her back right away. "What's wrong?" She asked. "You're allowed to hug me!"

"I donʻt want your folks to get mad," I replied nervously. 

"Fuck them," she sighed and sat close to me. "I have a full-ride scholarship to Stony Brook in New York; I will be glad once I'm gone. They're a pain in the ass."

I was in shock, I was sure that Clara was of the same mindset as her parents, but I guess not. Mrs. Kitagawa returned with the lemonade and some sandwiches. For the rest of the time, the three of us sat and laughed together until my mother and Claraʻs parents arrived at the same time to pick us both up. "Hello, Everett," my mother greeted Claraʻs father. "What? You already forgot the person who tutored you through your senior year in high school so you could graduate on time?" I heard my momʻs voice echoing from the foyer. I didnʻt hear a reply from Clara's father, so I assumed that, as per usual, Claraʻs parents ignored her, but my mom wasnʻt having it. 

"Twat," she spat the word out like it was bad medicine. She apologized to Mrs. Kitagawa and thanked her for having me for most of the day. She also hugged and kissed Clara in full view of her folks.

 "Kaleo tells me that you are very gifted; how such a gift came from two idiot parents like yours is beyond me, but oh well!"

That was the last time I learned from Mrs. Kitagawa; my mother pulled me out even though Mrs. Kitagawa offered private lessons where Clara and I would not interact. My mother liked Mrs. Kitagawa, but after insulting Claraʻs parents the way she did, she knew I couldnʻt go back without Claraʻs parents retaliating on me. It was then that I also found out that my mother and Everett Kalakoa were old high school flames. She was long over it, but I guess at this point, she was over Everettʻs shit as well, and she let him know it. 



In 2006 Mrs. Ethel Kitagawa was found dead in her Kitchen by three of her students who had arrived early for a recital rehearsal. The medical examiner could not determine the cause of death, so she narrowed it down to natural causes. It seemed like she had exhausted every piece of inspired music she could teach, and once that was gone, she had nothing left. At least, that is what I like to think. 
A year after she graduated high school in 1985, Clara Kalaukoa went to Stony Brook College in New York. She excelled well beyond anyone's expectations. One night Clara was riding in a car with a few of her classmates who were coming back from a weekend on Long Island. It was raining, and the visibility was terrible. Along with her friends, she was killed in a head-on collision with a delivery truck with only one poorly lit headlight.

Mrs. Kitagawaʻs old mansion is still there, and it remains untouched. No one has dared squat there, nor has anyone dared to investigate for the old piano teacher's ghost. The place has always held some reverence in the community, so rather than tear it down, they let it be. A friend of mine, an attorney for the Kitagawa estate, agreed to let me walk around the old place once I told him my story. "I like nostalgia," he said. "If anyone asks, tell them I gave you the keys and told you to wait for me. Theyʻll understand"

Strangely enough, the neighbors saw me enter the front door; they simply waved and did their business. It's aged for sure; the wallpaper is cracked. That old musty smell has replaced the aroma of Mrs. Kitagawaʻs gardenia flowers, which she always kept in a carefully prepared lauhala basket. The giant Chinese ceramic pots that used to be filled with lilies are now black with tepid water and mosquitos. The love chair is still here; its cushions are covered by crochet material that was once white and pristine, but now itʻs yellow and aged. The piano lay on the floor, broken and mangled, a victim to the ravages of time.

 "No more music from you," I whispered.

"Hi, what's your name?" The voice came from behind me. I spun around to see Clara standing in the foyer. "Yes, you!" She pointed at me as if she were prodding my chest.

She crossed into the room where I stood, and as she approached the piano, it was whole again, brand new, as if it were born yesterday. She pulled the bench out on the wooden floor, and it made no sound. The ivory keys were sparkling white, and the black keys were like lacquer; she addressed the piano without hesitation and began to seduce the most beautiful music from it. The sound of a harp joined in at the first crescendo; it was Mrs. Kitagawa's apparition. She was as alive and youthful just as she had been all those years ago. It is the last thing I remember. When I came to, I was lying on the old musty wooden floor where Herman, the estate attorney, found me. "You saw them, didnʻt you?"

"Iʻm not sure what I saw," he helped me up to my feet. I was still a bit dizzy.

"Donʻt worry," Herman laughed. "Youʻre not crazy; that's the reason why the community wonʻt allow this place to be torn down. Sure, they know it is haunted, but they love the music. Nothing evil about that."


No comments:

Post a Comment