Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 5, 2022

Ho'okele 2022

Gotta love my kids.

They were doing their best to quell the argument between my wife and me by distracting us with questions, getting us to look at a tour bus, or even the balloons decorating a car dealership as we drove by. It wasn't working. Lorraine and I were too far gone, yelling, screaming, and swearing in the confines of our family vehicle. Our kids had to be the parents when it came to the fights. We were two people from two different backgrounds motivated by lust, thinking it was love. Here we are now, the culmination of nearly 15 years of misery. Even as I yelled and screamed, a part of me was able to step back and look at the overall situation. It was heartbreaking. We were done, and our beautiful children would suffer from the fallout. I drove up the parking lot, getting as close as possible to the water.

Lorraine continued yelling and screaming while I got out of the van and retrieved my canoe paddle from the back. "Fucking son-of-a-bitch!" She spat at me while I hugged and kissed the kids goodbye. Lorraine peeled out of the parking lot and gave me one of the most muscular middle fingers I've ever seen. I turned and headed out to our wa'a (canoe) when I saw the entire regatta looking in my direction. I put my head down and walked briskly to where my team was gathered. I was only half paying attention to what was being said. I remember coach Mitch mentioning something about the third seat and everyone cheering and congratulating me and patting me on the back. I don't recall much as far as paddling out and then seeing the green flag signaling the start or how two clubs get disqualified for starting before the green flag went up. We were racing back at a breakneck pace and in first place. The crowd was going crazy, and all I could think about were my kids and how selfish I was. "What the fuck am I doing here?" I asked myself. " I should be with my kids; I should be trying to save my marriage and family." 

That's when it happened.

A rogue wave appeared out of nowhere and swamped our waʻa (canoe). The way it flipped the canoe was bizarre. It threw me out first, and then everyone else after, like a domino effect. I only had a second to see the ama come down on my head, which was when everything went black. The next thing I know, I am floating in the open ocean with no land in sight. The quiet is eerie, and even though the sun is overhead, it's not hot. In fact, it's very cool. I'm getting a handle on my surroundings, and there is nothing but the ocean. Where's my team, and where is the regatta? "Watch it!" I hear from behind me. It's our racing canoe, but it's only the steersman on it. He brings the canoe to a halt and waves, "Hurry up! Get in!" I take the third seat, and he tosses a paddle to me, but it's not mine. It's one of those old Koa paddles from ancient times. "Start paddling," he points to the horizon.

"Where are we going?" I ask him.

"Up to you," he replies. "You like go back to the race or like go save your family?"

"My family," I said.

"What about the race?" He inquires.

"I should be with my family," I replied firmly.

"Shoots," he nods his head. "Straight ahead, right ova dea! He points. 

We're paddling toward a parking lot overflowing with cars, and there's a hearse in front of a small building. "Your family waiting for you inside," he gestures with his head. I step out of the third seat, and the next thing I know, I'm at my own funeral services in my rash guard and swim shorts. My kids are devastated, and, the surprise of all surprises, so is Lorraine. However, some pock-marked asshole is sitting behind her, massaging her shoulders. I step forward and look at my corpse. Hair did, nice suit, clear face, but a huge dark mark on my forehead. That's right, I was hit by the ama. "What you like do?" It's the steersman. He's behind me, I'm back in the third seat, and we're back on the ocean.

"I don't know," I replied. "I thought I wanted to be with my family, but now I don't know after seeing that."

"Maybe you should finish the race and then figure everything out aftah dat?" He asked as if he already knew the answer.

"But we got swamped," I told him, sounding hopeless.

"But, you know how fo' huli the wa'a, right?" He looked like he'd always known me and my situation.

"Yeah, I know how," he replied.

"Good," he smiled and nodded his head. Then, he stood up, grabbed the ama with one hand, and flipped the canoe over, tossing me out of it. "You like save your family? Then, you finish this race!"

He paddles the canoe right on top of me, and the next thing I know, I'm in the water with my team. We've only got five minutes to flip it back over, bail the water out, and get back in the race. We had no time to waste. I had a big gash on my forehead, bleeding like a stuck pig, but I stayed in the third seat and finished the race. Together we got first place, swamped canoe and all. It was a big win for us. The paramedics were on hand when we got back to shore, and in no time, they had me sitting in the ambulance while stitching me up. Lorraine and the kids were there too. They convinced her to turn around so they could come back and watch the race. They saw everything, which is funny because, like I said earlier, I don't recall much until the canoe got swamped. What's funny is I can remember that delusion I had much more clearly than I could the actual race. Was it a delusion? A vision of some kind, or was it the result of being cracked on the head by the ama? I can tell you that the steersman's face was so beautiful in that he had the classic Hawaiian look, thick bushy eyebrows, full lips, and a natural smile as if happiness was as normal as breathing. It didn't occur to me as to who he was until the EMT was done with me, and with my wife and children in my arms, we walked past a portrait festooned with leis. The man in the picture was to whom the whole event was dedicated, the steersman.

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