Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 18, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #13


I came to value certain things because of the occasion or the memory of it. Thus, my young life was when I loved a red aloha shirt that my uncle Walter bought for me, even though I wouldn't say I like aloha shirts.

I wore it to an event one evening on the sands of Waikīkī, where a floating island was built for a spectacular water show put on by a Buddhist organization, which was then known as Nichiren Shoshu America. The show, for all of its spectacular glitz, was also filled with proselytizing messages. It was way over my head. So, I became bored quickly and began playing in the sand; my uncle scolded me to pay attention to the show. Of course, I obeyed him because my parents were there too, and I did not want to embarrass them. Seated near us was another family; the father was a local Japanese man, and his wife was Haole. Their little boys couldnʻt care about the show; they were all about playing in the sand and running around. Their daughter, who was my age, was the most beautiful thing my thirteen-year-old self ever saw. I was more than smitten; I was dumbfounded. We stared at one another the whole time, never once exchanging a word. Aunty Mibo, Uncle Walters's wife, supplied the nori/ume riceballs and RC Colas. I shared one with the girl, and we sat there enjoying the show in our mutual silence. When the show was over, and it came time to go, we waved good-bye to one another. I didnʻt see her for a while after that, but I felt that the red aloha shirt that uncle Walter bought me would preserve that memory for some odd reason. 



I was a fully-fledged member of the Nichiren Shoshu Of America Buddhist organization. There were meetings of various kinds to attend, and there were prayers to recite morning and evening and the daimoku of Nam-Myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo to chant. One was encouraged to read the collective writings of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of the philosophy in the twelfth century. During the day, I worked a full-time job at McDonaldʻs; unknown to myself, the woman who hired me had also hired her daughter Nancy to work the same shift as myself. To my surprise, it turned out to be the same girl I met on the beach at Waikīkī six years previous. We quickly reacquainted ourselves and caught up on what had transpired in our lives from then until that very moment. It all boiled down to surviving high school. She worked during the day, and in the evenings, she was at Leeward Community College, getting her AA in Hospitality. For myself, it was just working, and Nichiren Buddhism at in the evenings. Our relationship quickly became serious; one night, we were early to drop her off at her night classes. "I have to tell you something before things get too deep," she rubbed my chest. "I got pregnant when I was a Sophmore; I have a little boy, heʻs three years old. Heʻs father isnʻt around, but I wanted to be fair and let you know."

"Oh," that was my initial reply. 

"You donʻt have to do anything, my parents help me, but Iʻm working and going to school so that I can take care of my son. I donʻt want you to feel obligated, or if you donʻt want to see me after this, thatʻs fine. Itʻs, not the first time," she was serious; I could see that having me around would be good but that she could do without me too if that became the case.

"Am I going to get to meet him?" I asked.

"Meet him?" She had a quizzical look on her face.

"Your son, it doesnʻt have to be right away," I assured her. "When youʻre ready."

Nancy gave me a big hug and kiss, "I love you so much," she smiled. Iʻll be done by nine." She walked toward the front of the campus and went to her class adjacent to the library. All was right in the world, and the girl I loved, she trusted me. 



Down the road from the Mc Donaldʻs where I worked was an outdoor roller rink. Today itʻs the NEX Home Gallery. It was my first Saturday night with Nancy and her little boy Sullivan, named after her grandfather, to whom she was very close. Nancyʻs parents were there too, taking pictures of their little man while he skated with his mother. I have to say; Nancy was quite the expert skater. I was adequate. Afterward, we found ourselves at Anna Millerʻs because although Nancyʻs parents were McDonaldʻs lifers, they didnʻt necessarily want to have that for dinner.  Sullivan didnʻt make a fuss or big deal out of anything. He was a happy kid, well contented when I remember it. The moment of truth came when Nancy and her mother excused themselves to go to the bathroom. That left Nancyʻs father Douglas and me to fend for ourselves while he tried to hold Sullivan and eat his pot roast at the same time. He put his fork and knife down and picked Sullivan up and held him out to me, "Do you mind?" 

"Uh, okay," I hesitated to take him from his grandfather. "Iʻm not sure how I uh..."

"Itʻs like carrying a puppy," Douglas laughed. "Just donʻt scratch his stomach,"

Before I knew it, Sullivan was in my arms. I held him to my chest, and he laid his little head there with no problem. Before I knew it, he was fast asleep. At that moment, I felt a deep love for Sullivan, and it felt more important than myself. I didnʻt understand how that came to be, but it was there like it was always there. When Nancy and her mom Wendy came back, they melted. The two of them exchanged a knowing look between themselves while Douglas sat there obliterating his pot roast. Sullivan woke up long enough to throw up on my chest, and then he went back to sleep. Iʻm certain that moment is when I was accepted into the family.  



I remember that it was on a dinner break at work. I was sitting downstairs in the employee lounge. It was Nancyʻs day off, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw her standing there at the entrance. "Come," she said. "Letʻs go outside." I followed her upstairs and out the back entrance. She held my hand, and we walked to my car. "Can you take me home?"

"Oh yeah, sure," we got in, and I fired up my Plymouth. Soon, I was driving Nancy to Foster Village. "Howʻs your day going?"

"Pull over on the side," she pointed. "Over here,"

Something didnʻt feel right, but I did as she said; I pulled over on Hāloa drive. I didnʻt even get the words out; she cut me off. "I canʻt be with you anymore."

"Iʻm sorry?" I squealed.

"Donʻt say anything, okay? Itʻs because youʻre with that Buddhist cult, my parents found out, and unless you leave that group, we canʻt be together," her demeanor told me that sheʻd made up her mind, or instead her parents made up her mind for her. 

"When we met that night eight years ago on the beach with that floating island off Waikīkī? That was a Buddhist event; you and your parents and your brothers were there," I explained to her, hoping sheʻd remember. 

"Weʻre temple members," she replied. "We have always been temple members since my grandmotherʻs time. I canʻt go against my parents. Just come to the temple side with us; otherwise, we canʻt be together."

"I canʻt Nancy," I shook my head. "Is our relationship this weak that we canʻt get past our philosophies?"

"Sullivan loves you, and you love him like your own; I see that every day and I donʻt want to lose that. Just join us, come to the temple with us," Nancy implored me.

"Nance, I canʻt," I replied with my heartbreaking as every second passed. That was the end for us, the indestructible us, the us that was soon to marry and live happily as ever after as possible—broken apart over religion.



I came to value certain things because of the occasion or the memory of it. Like the plain polo shirt, I wore on the night that Sullivan threw up on it at Anna Millerʻs. I kept that shirt in an airtight plastic garment bag and never washed it. Just looking at it from time to time reminds of what the unconditional love of a parent must feel like when you hold your first child. Nancy just turned twenty-three in January of nineteen-eighty-six. Sullivan was nine. They were on the freeway on Halloween eve going back to Foster Village. Terrence Volpe was blind drunk as he sped at a near hundred miles an hour passing the airport. The party at the restaurant row was not to be missed.

Terrence was sure he wouldnʻt leave alone by the end of the night. Alas, his overbearing and obnoxious personality, not only turned a lot of people off, but it also made him a social pariah. He buried his grief and loneliness in the liquor. When the bar closed, he stumbled through the parking lot and found his brand new Chevy Super Sport Monte Carlo. It pealed out of the structure and found itʻs way onto Ala Moana boulevard until it became Nimitz. By some miracle, Terrence was able to blow every red light until he got to the freeway going past the airport. His blessings ran out at that point; by the time he fell asleep at the wheel, he had already amassed one hundred miles of speed. When he plowed into Nancyʻs little Honda Civic, the entire car came apart, killing her and Sullivan instantly. Even today, I find myself praying that they went quickly and did not suffer. 

Sometimes, I know that my old Polo shirt with Sullvanʻs bile still sits tightly in that sizeable plastic garment bag in my closet. Sometimes, I can smell it like he threw up on me yesterday. Sometimes, I feel the warmth of his head on my chest, and I fall right to sleep. He helps me get there; he does. Thatʻs why I value the occasion and the memory.

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