Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

May 20, 2022

Sand 2022

Beach sand today is not the beach sand I remember as a kid.

It's clumpy and unkind. It won't let go of the remnants of tourists and their mainland habits. Cigarette butts, candy wrappers, discarded mini-bottles of sunblock, and the occasional ribbed condom. The beach sand from my childhood was fine like fairy dust, and it lived in every crevice of your clothing and body like it didn't want you to go home. So, it decided to latch on to every minute part of you so you'd be forced to deal with it. It was the best sand to bury your friends in, up to their necks. Man, it was hard to get out of it, though. Sometimes, it felt like it was trying to bury you of its own accord. I guess it's because it was our sand, our native Hawaiian sand. Not imported from Australia, Indonesia, and other foreign locations, but born here at home. The old man and I are the only two Hawaiians sitting on this tourist beach in Waikīkī. Everyone else is a visitor.

We lock eyes, and he gives me a nod, and I bow my head to him in respect to his elder status. He smiles and waves back. Soon a large tourist family gathers near him, plopping down their blankets, towels, coolers, and umbrellas, with no acknowledgment of his presence. Soon, the group's father approaches the old man and asks him if he wouldnʻt mind leaving? The old man looks at him and ignores him. At his side is a spear gun, and wrapped around his shoulders is a bag in which he will obviously place his catch. His full white beard and shock of white hair give him an appearance of nobility as it contrasts his dark skin. The father of the tourist family only sees someone who is an inconvenience and not someone who was there before they were. Finally, after much blustering, posturing, and general buffoonery on behalf of the visiting father and his family, the old man stands up so suddenly that the tourist father is taken aback and begins to back peddle. He is taller than the tourist father, wider, and naturally more muscular. The haole man visibly shrinks in the presence of the old Hawaiian man and retreats back to his pile of beach mats, towels, and his cowering household. Lessening the group with his glare, the old man walks into the water until he disappears into the waves. Even in his absence, the tourist family collectively gets up and moves somewhere else. I sit in my space enjoying my container of shoyu poke, poi, and a flask of ʻawa. No one bothers me, and I think it's because the entire left side of my body is traditionally tattooed with familial Hawaiian designs.

Some people stop to talk to me about tattoos; others ask to take pictures or take just them without permission but from a distance. Thirty minutes later, the beach is overcrowded with locals and visitors alike. Theyʻre here to take pictures of the sunset. By that time, Iʻve already moved to a spot on the wall where no one would bother me. A commotion is raised up from the crowd; there are gasps and eventually screams. A large fin has cut the water and is swimming straight towards the beach. All swimmers can do is get out of the way. Others run out of the water while the lifeguard pipes on the whistle and sounds the shark alert. The fin disappears just before the shoreline, and the old Hawaiian man walks out of the water with his speargun in one hand and a giant-sized ʻahi in the other. There is stunned silence; everyone gives him his space as he naturally parts the crowd. The tourist father, himself sunburned red along with his whole family, cowers before the old Hawaiian man and cannot meet his eyes. We acknowledge one another before he walks to his VW van with his catch and drives off. I stand, and I bow reverently to him with my hand over my heart. He bowed slightly and gave me a wave of his open palm. Maybe the beach sand has changed, and now the sand is not ours, native-born of our islands. But time has not changed the old Hawaiian man and his incarnation as an ʻaumakua. He is still ours, from our home, born of our people and our prayers to make him who he was a thousand years or so ago, and here he is today. A reminder that not all is lost and not all is gone.

credit: GoHawaii


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.


1 comment:

  1. Well written. I have seen ancient Hawaiians paddling off shore by torch light while oblivious tourists thrng waiKiki just a few yards away