Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

May 18, 2022

Remembrance 2022

Summer was only a month away, so the humidity had not yet arrived.

The day was overcast with fine misty rains falling here and there but no deluge. The wind was beautifully kind as it lay the minute rain upon us until it lay like a sheen of new skin. Perfect weather for a remembrance ceremony to honor the influence and impact that Shirley Mālie Richy had upon the lives of the people who gathered to express their love to her. I was the photographer hired to record these moments on camera and then put everything together digitally so that I could show it as a slide show video right before lunch. The beach was sumptuous with white sand and crystal blue waters; the wind bringing in the sea spray made the moment intoxicating for those who inhaled it. Grief and sorrow tend to bring out those emotions and desires. The proof was how the people interacted with one another, holding hands, longing looks, and coy whispers. Perhaps this is what Shirley wanted? Love and life. The rented weekend beach house is a few yards from the sand, mainly for family and close friends, but you know how these things work out. I wandered up to the oversized opened garage where everyone sat and stood, either eating or drinking or forgetting to do either because of how wrapped up they were in their conversations. Hawaiian people are exquisite, such natural beauty, and alive with every emotion that runs the gamut. Real, visceral people born from the earth they treasure and revere. Itʻs difficult not to fall in love with them, or at the very least, to bask in their aloha. 

"Youʻre not just taking pictures and video with your eyes, are you?" The voice surprised me, and I jumped a little. Well, okay, a lot. "Oh, you scared me,"

"Sorry," she apologized and extended her hand. "I didnʻt mean to startle you, but I watched how you use your camera. I can tell that you work through emotion and feeling and channel the mood around you."

"You havenʻt seen the video yet," I chuckled.

"Iʻm never wrong about these things," she said confidently. 

"You sure about that?" I was kinda flirting but kinda challenging her at the same time.

"What were you thinking when you were taking the pictures then?" She challenged back.

"Just how beautiful this place and all these people are," I replied. "It just grabbed me, and I began snapping away."

"Can I see?" She asked, gesturing to my camera, and I showed it to her. We had to sort of lean closer together so she could see the pictures on the screen. Gosh, she smelled good, like jasmine. Something about her skin made me want to caress it. Then I smelled the shampoo in her hair-wait; is that Wela-balsam? From the seventies? I looked at her again, but there was nothing unusual about her. Beautiful Hawaiian girl, about five feet eight inches tall, long black hair, a fitted full-length dress with spaghetti straps over the shoulders. Hmmm? Weird. "Everyone will be glad to see these," she smiled.

"What about you?" I asked her. "Can I get one of you?"

"No need," she waved me off. "You get plenty already." I took a picture anyway while she wasnʻt looking.

At that moment, the widower of Shirley Richy tapped me from behind and reminded me that it was an hour before lunch. "Ooo, yes! Iʻll be right back!" I ducked into my van, broke out my laptop, downloaded everything, and put the pictures together. Earlier, I parked the van at an angle to end up facing the garage. I glanced up randomly and saw everyone putting up the banner with Shirleyʻs picture on it, and I froze. It was the image of the girl Iʻd just met, the one who was giving me a hard time about the pictures I took. The one who won me over with just her natural scent. They unfurled the rest of the banner to reveal a more recent photo of Shirley taken a few months before she passed. Her hair was white, and the lines around her eyes showed her age, but it was still her. That same person. I said nothing to the family, especially the bereaved husband. I just hooked up my laptop to the screen and played the video. Everyone laughed and cried up until the last picture, which had them all in stunned silence. 

"How did you do that?" Shirleyʻs husband asked. "How did you superimpose her image to make it look like she was right here?"

"Trade secret," I lied. "Canʻt give it away; otherwise, someone will steal it!"

The husband laughed and slapped my shoulder. " I get it! I get it!"

I couldnʻt tell him that his deceased wife was right there, on the grass where we battled, and then had a good moment of clarity together. All the while never knowing that her spirit was with us the whole time.


17A Productions Presents

Lopaka Kapanui at Hawaii Theatre

A storytelling concert at the historic Hawaii Theatre. This master storyteller is one of Hawaii’s most popular teller of tales and has been in the business of scaring people for more than 20 years. Lopaka is terrifically skilled at provoking that sudden chill going down one’s back or causing the small hairs on your arms to stand up. Chicken skin is what we call it in Hawai‘i. Others might refer to it as chills or goosebumps. Sharing real accounts of Hawaii’s supernatural culture, Lopaka often leaves audience members questioning the darkness on their drive home and anxiously leaving the light on at bedtime.


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