Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jan 2, 2021

Keep On Keeping On

I was on the way to the beach house in Mokuleia, traffic was monstrous. While coming over the rise past Red hill, I could see the line of vehicles heading west; it had no end.

As irritating as slow-moving traffic tends to be during peak hours, you can imagine my surprise when I saw him standing on the grassy medium that separates the rest of the freeway from the Pearl City and Pearl Ridge, Aiea cut off. I pulled up onto the small strip of grass just past the EXIT 1c sign. I reached across and pushed open the passenger's side door; he got in and let out a nervous sigh. He began talking, but I was too focused on getting back on the freeway without getting clipped by an inept driver. I saw an opening, but I had gassed it too hard. We went sliding back onto the blacktop but I made it safely, nevertheless. I finally got a good look at him. He was a local guy, well dressed in a coat and tie. His shoes were impeccable, the kind you see spit-shined for either military or, in this case, the kind that the upscale local criminals wear. 

"Now that I think about it, I could have walked to the gas station and got help, but I gotta be at my next location right away, and I can't be late," he said.  "I'm not a nut case or anything, I promise you!" He looked around briefly while adjusting his tie and shooting out his cuffs. "I like this car; I haven't seen one of these in years; it's a Chevy, right? Eighty-six?"

I made no reply; I kept my eye on the road, but he kept talking. It went on like this for the next forty-five minutes. He talked about everything and nothing, but I kept it cool even though at specific points during our drive, I wanted to reach across and smack him in the nose just to shut him up. I couldn't even let the feeling of that temptation boil to the surface. I had to repress it by manifesting dead babies' images in my head; then I had to repeat that picture in my brain again and again visually. It must have worked because he kept rambling on without taking a breath. There was no hint that he picked up on it; maybe it's because the conversation was about himself. However, he began to go through my glove compartment but found nothing pertinent, just the car registration, insurance, and a how-to fix-it manual for an eighty-six Monte Carlo. I wasn't expecting him to rifle through my console though; I shouldn't have been worried either because it was just a bunch of old drive-thru receipts. Nothing harmful.

"According to these receipts, you do a lot of late-night runs for comfort food? Golden arches, jack-in-the-crack, Kākā Bell, the funny thing is, you always order the same thing from each place you visit. The menu never changes?" Thereʻs a slight pause now because of how heʻs regarding me with a bit of thought. "The time stamp on these receipts is always at one-thirty in the morning or a little bit after. Youʻre a nighthawk arenʻt you? Your days are busy, iʻm assuming, but when it gets to be late at night and itʻs quiet, thatʻs when all those uncomfortable shadows from your past come creeping and crawling out of your subconscious, am I right? Yeah, that deafening silence can sure stir the pot. Failed family life, a failed marriage, failed everything. That kind of silence is the proverbial mirror, and itʻs fucking hard to look at yourself, your REAL self. So, you drown in shit food late at night, driving aimlessly, crying, regretting...oh wait! This is me! Right here, you can drop me off on the side!"

I pull over on the side of the dirt road and let him out near the Waialua Sugar Mill. He thanks me for the ride but doesnʻt go for the handshake; instead, he gave me a short wave good-bye. Heʻs walking down the dirt road now, heading toward the Hongwanji. The urban legend says that when you see the devil on the side of the road, youʻre supposed to give him a ride no matter what. You take him to wherever heʻs going even though he doesnʻt give you a destination; you take him until he tells you where to drop him off. You cannot engage him in conversation; you drive and do not talk. I was fine until he told me I was a failure; urban legend rules or not, I donʻt take being called a failure very lightly. So, I broke the rules and ran him over, not once but a few times, to make sure, you know? Unfortunately, I did not know about the caveat. You kill the devil in this urban legend? You take his place. So, now you know what to do if you see me on the side of the road somewhere unusual or out of the way. Donʻt pick me up, just keep driving.

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