Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jan 24, 2022

Trigger 2022

The letter must have been up in our previously unknown attic for years before it was discovered.

We overstocked food in our pantry, so the rats found their way to our kitchen through the ceiling. That's when we heard them, and the following day we called an exterminator who followed the hole in the back of the pantry through the top and out to the roof. The rats climbed along the wire connected to our house from the telephone pole out on the street. The exterminator laid out traps in the pantry just in case and then also at crucial areas outside the house and under. In a short time, our rat problem would be solved. Presently, the exterminator notices a little square on the ceiling in the hallway between our room and the bathroom. He asked if we minded him checking it out? We had no problem with it, and that is when he came across a very old plaid colored lunch pail, the kind from back in the day. Upon dusting it off and opening it, we found an old envelope with a single-page letter in it. The ancient pungent aroma of a woman's perfume greeted us, and I know it struck me with a bit of melancholy; I don't know about anyone else who was standing there at the same time. "This is none of my business," the exterminator said. "This is your house, so you do with it as you see fit," he handed the old lunch pail over to my mother. After the exterminator left, we followed my mother to the kitchen, where she sat at the table and removed the letter from the envelope. There was no name or address on it, and when my mother pulled the letter out, I saw that it was composition notepaper with blue horizontal lines. The ink was black, probably from a Bic pen, and the penmanship was direct and bold, nothing fancy with swooping lines. A man's handwriting, for sure. This was why the letter's content seemed very out of character for whoever the author was. Our mother began reading it out loud.

'I agreed to meet you, and although you are upset and have sent me questions as to why I was not present, I tell you truthfully that I was. The restaurant was crowded, and I sat in a far-left corner with my back to the wall. When you entered, I was halfway stood up to wave at you, but you walked straight toward the tall blonde gentleman in the leather jacket, undershirt, faded blue jeans, and biker boots. My god, what a specimen of a man; he appeared as if he were straight from a movie. You hugged him and greeted him by my name, and then I saw the look of disappointment on your face when he honestly told you that he was not me. It was embarrassing for you, I could tell. But it helped me realize that meeting me after would be disappointing, so I quietly left. I walked right past you without a word or a glance. There were tears precariously balanced in your eyes. You blinked once, and they fell as drops first, then as a cascade of shame when it came upon you that you were in a public place. You were that lost in the hope that he, whoever he was, was me. You didn't see it because your back faced him, but he affected an unpleasant face at you and shook his head as if to say, 'Even if I was who she thought I might be, why would I be that person for her?'

I cannot account for the length of time I sat in my car recounting all the letters exchanged between us, asking myself about the familiarity that should have given us a natural recognition of one another when meeting for the first time. I was wrong, and I apologize.'

Our mother has always been a pillar of strength in our family, but to see her sitting there speechless, with her mouth agape and the tips of her fingers pressed up against her heart, wholly silenced and dumbfounded, caught us off guard. For a mere second, we were frightened. Her skin became flush, her eyes glassed over, and then tears fell unexpectedly. She took in a deep breath and let out a slow sigh while shaking her head. "Whew," she whispered. "I wonder what the previous letters were like up until this one?"


It was three in the morning when the five of us were awoken to the sound of a woman crying in our kitchen. First, Trudy, Mavis, and Lee thought it was one of them. Then, they thought it was mom. Mom thought it was one of my sisters, but I knew the sound of my mother's voice and that of my sisters. It was neither one, which meant that some strange person broke into our home just to cry in the kitchen. We all came out of our separate rooms and converged in the hallway, completely silent. We followed the sound to the kitchen with stealth, where the ambient light from the street lamps lit the space from the table to the stove and sink. No one was there, but the sound of the crying continued. The open letter was still there, sitting in the plaid lunch pail. Once mom turned the kitchen light on, the crying stopped. However, every night after that, the sound of a woman crying in our kitchen continued. Mom called a priest who blessed the house, but that didn't help. It only made the crying more mournful. She'd thought about burning the letter, and on the day she held over the eye on our gas stove, the flame would go out as if someone were blowing their breath upon it each time. One day at school, I told my guidance counselor about it because we were all at our wit's end. He said something very interesting. He called the letter a trigger object, which meant that it was associated with the person who owned it when they were alive. Now, they are still attached to it in the afterlife, like the letter in the lunch pail. Obviously, it's a woman who might have received that letter from the person whose heart she unintentionally broke, but because we heard her crying every night, it could be that her heart is broken too. This story has no happy ending because we moved out after only six months of living in that Makakilo house on Punawainui street. Mom was thoughtful enough to put the plaid lunch pail back in the attic. She taped a note to it that read, "Ghost attached to letter in this lunch pail. Do not open if you intend to have peaceful nights of sleep."

1 comment:

  1. I had the exact lunch box as a kid... I wonder what happened to it?