Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Feb 13, 2022

ʻŪemī 2022

Children were being randomly shot and killed.

Those who were not, who couldnʻt run fast enough to get out of there, were slaughtered on the spot. Whole families were being wiped out, but I could not see who the perpetrators were because they wore paintball masks and jungle camouflage, but their weapons and machetes were all too real. The assault lasted long enough that someone in the Kalihi neighborhood nestled up against the mountains called the police. HPD came in force, fully equipped. Whoever this semi-militant group was, they fired on the police the second they rolled up. HPD returned fire, and that was when the group experienced the full capability of our men and women in blue. The group was outmatched and outgunned. Perhaps they knew this, so none of them tried to surrender. Instead, knowing well that there would not be any way out of the situation, they took a few innocents with them. It was horrible and heartbreaking to watch. The police gathered the survivors and gave them water and snacks to eat in the aftermath. Many officers were overwhelmed by what they saw and needed a moment to gather their emotions to do their jobs. Other officers were not as successful. Walking through the compound, I saw an eleven-year-old boy wearing a white shirt three sizes too large for him. He had a pair of black jeans on with blood splattered on it, but it wasnʻt his. He was shell-shocked and lumbering more than he was walking. He was holding hands with what was left of his little brother; I approached him and gave him a hug, assuring him that everything was alright. He wasnʻt wounded or scratched, but his little brother? No words can describe it. In holding this boy, not understanding the reasons for what just happened, I began to cry. I couldnʻt hold it back. Finally, the boy returned my embrace and rubbed my back, "It's alright, mister, donʻt cry. Donʻt cry. Iʻm ʻŪemī," he said. "It's going to be alright." The way he spoke was as if he had lived through something like this before. I woke up right then. It was a dream, a horrible visceral dream where I could smell the gunpowder and the blood and hear the screams. My sleep the previous night was fitful; I could not get settled. Then, when I finally did, this horrible vision haunted my slumber.


I was in the chips aisle at Longʻs, trying to decide if it would be regular Ruffles or sea salt Ruffles. I felt each bag to make sure that some asshole didnʻt crush the chips inside so that all you got was crumbs after you bought them. So far, so good. I had three good bags and was about to walk to the snacks aisle to get a load of lemon peel when something caught my eye. It was so sudden that I did a double-take. I walked over to the next aisle, and there he was, in his oversized white shirt, black jeans, and slippers, holding hands with his little brother. The small one wore squeaky slippers, blue shorts, and a blue and white striped shirt. The two brothers were dark-skinned with neatly trimmed coarse hair. I said it without realizing I said it, and I almost apologized. It came out more as a confirmation rather than trying to get his attention. "ʻŪemī,"

He turned to me without pause and replied, "Hello sir, youʻre here now, arenʻt you?"

"Iʻm sorry," I said. "Iʻm here now?"

"I thought you were a ghost, but you saved my brother and me," he wasnʻt bothered. "He was badly wounded, but see? Heʻs fine now,"

"I didnʻt," I stuttered. "I saw you in a dream last night, but I never saved you."

"When we were in Indonesia, our little town was being raided; many of my people were killed," the boy said. "My brother Rama and I barely made it out, but your ghost appeared to us and saved us. A thousand thanks to you, sir,"

Just then, an older man came down the aisle and said something to them; the boy replied and pointed to me, and the older man shook my hand and hugged me. "Thank you for your spirit, sir; you saved my nephews,"

All I could do was express my thanks, but I had nothing significant to say because I was so dumbfounded. "Wait," I called out, and the three stopped and looked back at me. "What is your real name, Boy? Who are you?"

"You are such a funny person, sir," he laughed. "It's my second name after nearly dying. Before, I was Hanuman, but after you gave me a new life, I asked you for a second name, and that is the name you gave me. ʻŪemī. You told me that from now on, I should only cry in my dreams because, in reality, there won't be a need for any more tears. ʻŪemī."

As I tell you this story now, I only remember the events of my dream, everything else after? I am clueless. But an eleven-year-old boy from Indonesia whom I had never met before confirms that I saved the lives of himself and his brother and that I gave him a strange Hawaiian name. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Maximillian Photography

1 comment: