Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 29, 2022

Aihualama 2022

The lush exuberance of lauaʻe lay across the forest floor like a finely woven makaloa.

The Mānoa wind lifts the heady scent from the dark green ferns and wafts it through my bedroom window so that by 7:30, the space is filled with its fragrance. This wakes me and moves me from my slumber, and with my blanket still wrapped around me, I shuffle to the large window frame and look out into the living tableau in my backyard. I did not see it immediately because it blended in so clearly that even the slightest movement could be mistaken for a bug or an errant breeze moving a thin branch on a tree. I did not see it immediately because my mind was still swimming in the memories of last night, swimming to nearly drowning, if I must be honest. This early in the morning, and the thought of it hurts. How do you close your eyes to not see the uncomfortable memory of it when it's in your mind? I wish I knew how. I must climb out my window to escape the residual everything from last night. My bare feet touch the forest floor. Every step forward is like a brooding violin whose sound only evokes further heartache with each pressing of the heels and toes. Finally, it becomes unbearable, and I have to stop, and that happens only briefly until I fall on my knees on the damp dirt and lauaʻe. A primal scream comes surging up and out of my body, one that I thought I never had in me. After, all I do is sob uncontrollably. 

The thing that I did not see right away was the one from earlier. I saw it now. Standing a few feet away from me, in front of a large old tree covered in deep brown with splotches of white moss here and there. She was dressed just like the tree; she was old with deep brown colored skin, wearing a kihei of the same color with splotches of white moss. Her long white hair was the same. She came forward, and her countenance was that of a mother who had been looking for her lost child in a department store.

"Mai," she stepped forward and, with her two hands, effortlessly lifting me up until I stood as firmly and confidently as I used to do when I was firm in my beliefs and convictions. "E hele kāua," her head motioned into the depths of the aihualama forest. She placed her open palm on my chest, removed the blanket, and let it fall to the ground. "Mai nānā i hope,"

She asked me to go together with her and not look back. I could not help but go with her; even though she was a stranger, going with her felt like the right thing to do, but I did look back. I saw myself with my blanket wrapped around me, but not around my body. Rather, in shredded strips around my neck. There I was, my naked self, hanging just inside my bedroom window with the rigor mortise already set in. I was blue; it reminded me of the odd blue color from those old Japanese lanterns during Obon season. 

"Mai nānā," the old Hawaiian woman said again. "Mai, e hele pū kāua."

I went, following close behind her. Up we went into the depths of Aihualama until the peaks were capped with a fine mist. There, she turned to me and held her arms open, beckoning me to come into her embrace. I went willingly until she and I, and everything else, became a part of the mist in this place called Aihualama.

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