Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Mar 24, 2022

Aloha 2022

Poor? No. Homeless? On the verge. Relationship? No, definitely no.

The job I got hired for pulled a fast one; I was not getting paid what I was promised. Their excuse was that there was a probation period first, which they failed to mention in the beginning. It turned out that the longer I worked there, the more levels there were that I had to reach before I finally got paid what I was promised. Which never happened. However, I was stuck because I had no other options. The job I left for the one I was stuck at now would never take me back. Yes, I was royally fucked. I had no choice other than to stay and tough it out until I could get hired somewhere else. Going out in any capacity was not an option, so I ate loads and loads of instant noodles of so many different varieties. Who knew that there were so many brands of instant noodles? Especially at the Korean stores, those were very delicious! Those came in handy on the days when I had to sacrifice paying the utilities to make the rent. So, I spent a couple of cents on the hot water used for coffee at the convenience mart for instant noodles. One of those rare occasions came about when all the bills were paid, and I had more than an extra amount of cash left over to treat myself to some authentic noodles at the local saimin house down the road. I took my time, relishing the broth and the extra fixings, especially the hard-boiled eggs soaking in the uniquely prepared sauce. I bought a couple of draft beers for the road and then stopped for some soda and snacks at the mart. On my way out, a homeless person was sitting on a beach chair just outside his car door, a well-maintained 75 Oldsmobile. "Hey man, if I could just get your attention for a minute?" He wasn't that much older than me, dressed no different from me. In fact, the only difference between him and myself was a warm bed to sleep in. He was clean-cut and not wearing the grime that comes from a long while of not bathing. I just stopped, turned at looked at him. "What's happening?"

"I just need a conversation, is all," he said. "I don't want no food, no money, just some conversation."

I walked off to my car, put everything in the trunk, and went back to where the homeless person sat. He cracked a smile when I came back. "What's up, man? Ultimately, where is this conversation going? Are you gonna ask me to bunk over at my place until you can get yourself back on your feet?"

"Nothing like that at all," he assured me. "Just a minute or two of conversation, that's all."

"Alright," I agreed. "Because a minute is all I've got."

"When you walked up here, from the time you got out of your car, went in that store, stood in that line, and came out? I knew that you were at a difficult time in your life, and it probably sucks right now, doesn't it?" What the fuck? I had no time for this, and I would tell him by adding a couple of choice words, but he raised his hand and interrupted me. "Before you walk off in a huff and call me a son of a bitch and a mother fucker," he said. "I just need you to hear me out, that's all."

"You've got a minute before I add a bit more than just cussing you out," I warned him.

"Those circumstances you're in are very shitty, but you've got to acknowledge that maybe it was all your doing? Perhaps if you stayed right where you were instead of being lured away by money, you'd still be in a good place. But now that you are where you're at, just admit that's it's your fault, and everything will change for the better. That's all; that's all I have to say." 

"Oh fuck you, man," I scoffed. "Nice scam and everything, now you're going to tell me that if I want to know more, I have to pay for it, right? Right? You fucker!"

The homeless person was unfazed by my rant; he never flinched once. Instead, he shifted himself in his beach chair and reached into his fanny pack, and removed a thick, clean white envelope. "Sometimes people help us out, but that's a band-aid situation because we think about the next time? And the next time after that? Go quit that job; it's just sucking the life out of you," he leaned forward, grabbed my one hand, and put the thick envelope in it. "This will tide you over until you find another job; you don't have to worry about the bills. It would be smart to put some of it away, you know? Or invest it. There's twenty-five thousand dollars in there; you don't have to count it." He assured me.

"There's interest, right? How long before your goons come to collect cause you've been following me, and you know where I live, right?" I'm not stupid, so I handed him back the money, but he stopped me.

"This is no trick; that money is yours. You don't have to pay it back, all you have to do is reset, and you'll be back on the right path," he smiled. "Look, if you don't believe me, just take the envelope and walk over to your car and look on your driver's seat, and you'll have your answer,"  he pointed to my piece of shit car. "Seriously, go look."

I took a deep breath and regarded him like I had seen him for the first time. Like I said, he was no different from me except that he was living in his car. I walked to my car, opened the door, and looked in the driver's seat, and there was nothing there. This bastard, he was getting on my nerves. I stormed back to where he was sitting, and he and his 75 Oldsmobile was gone. Utterly gone in less than 10 seconds. There was no possible way this homeless person had time to pack up and drive off without me hearing his car startup, the lights go one, on the tires crunch on the gravel, and him driving away without seeing it all happen! I was confused, needless to say, so I went back into the mart and asked the cashier about that homeless person sitting in his beach chair next to his car. "That's an employee parking space," she told me. "It says so on the sign; my car is parked there every night." I went back outside, and sure enough, a compact Kia sat in that space.

"What about during the day?" I asked.

"Sir, it's employee parking twenty-four-seven," she emphasized the point and did her best to not get irritated.

"Thanks," I muttered and left. Later, I sat in my apartment having my drinks and snacks while thinking about what happened and who that guy might have been. Indeed, I was dreaming, and when I awoke, I'd still be in the same shit hole that I've always been in. However, I woke up the following day with the thick envelope of money sitting on the table. What the hell was going on? I paid off my bills first, and then I got a better-used car. As for my job, I gave my two weeks notice and immediately began looking for other kinds of more sustainable work that I would actually like. Believe it or not, that would end up being a driver for the city bus. The rest of the money I put away and invested. Today, I don't have to work if I don't want to, and I own a house. 


It was a Sunday, and I was taking a nice leisure drive around the Hawaii Kai neighborhoods to see some houses and admire the green valleys way in the back. I was driving along the soccer field where the residential homes are across the street on the left. There was a for-sale sign on the windshield of a 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass. I pulled over and parked, and walked back to where I had seen the vehicle. It was black with a tan interior, and it looked brand new. An older local Japanese man was in the garage, shining up a 4-runner. "Good afternoon," I called out. "I saw the for sale sign on the Oldsmobile, but I didn't see a price on it."

The old man walked out of the garage and extended his hand, "Wilbur Takezo," he chuckled.

"David," I replied as I took his hand and firm grip it.

"I'm letting it go for twenty; it's in perfect condition," he said while looking at the vehicle. "It was my wife's car, but I'm the one who took care of all the maintenance, changed the liquids and the tires and everything. But now that she died, it hurts too much to have the car here, you see?"

"Wow," I replied, and I got teary-eyed even though I met Wilbur a minute ago. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm like this; I don't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"You understand the loss; that's why," he said. "Only people who lost someone can know what it feels like." He patted my shoulder and looked me up and down. "You look like one good guy; I go sell this car to you if you want it cause I can tell you going take good care, that's why."

I went to the nearest bank that was still open until 1 pm, got the cash, and went back and paid Wilbur in full. I really liked that car, but I knew I could only drive it sparingly because of the ridiculous gas prices. However, I was living comfortably enough now that I could afford to own two cars. So one night, I was at the local mart where I stopped for some snacks, but since I wasn't in a rush to get home, I removed a beach chair from the trunk of my Oldsmobile and sat by the driver's door to enjoy the evening. It was a good day because I made twenty-five grand from a quick investment earlier in the week, and I just got in a check which I cashed and had in an envelope in my fanny pack, which I had completely forgotten about. I had just finished the last of my chips when someone drove up in an old 2001 Oldsmobile aurora. It was worn but working. The Hawaiian gentleman that walked out and went into the mart was troubled for sure. Just the look on his face and his stride said everything. I watched him walk around the inside, collecting his items and then standing in line. He needed help; I had to say something to him as soon as he walked out. I couldn't let him get into his car.

"Hey man, if I could just get your attention for a minute?"



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