Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 10, 2022

'Uhane 2022

I can't tell you why I suddenly started exercising because I don't know myself.

Just one day, I threw on my old tennis shoes, shorts, and shirt and went walking. I didn't go far on the first day, just to the end of the street and back. The next day, I went to the end of the road, walked one block up, and came back. It went on like that where I'd go a block further and further each day until I could walk the six blocks up the hill and back home. I always went at night because any time of the day to go was brutal, plus I'm old and fat, and every kind of movement that requires more effort than usual hurts the joints and cartilage. Six months later, I was beginning to show signs of losing weight. Yay, good for me, I guess? At the same time, my eating habits didn't change much, but the weight loss was a confidence booster. A year later, I was able to walk from my home in Kaimuki all the way to Kahala beach park. I usually arrive there at about one in the morning-ish.

I'd stop at the pavilion for a second, stretch out, stick my head under the cold water from the shower to cool down, and then I'd head back. Don't worry; I have my flask of iced water with me, so there was never a chance of me passing out from dehydration. I usually come across other late-night walkers who acknowledge you with a nod or a hello; others don't engage because of how I look and let's be honest. If you see someone who looks the way I do, that late at night walking in your direction, you'd hold your ground and keep walking or, at the least, cross to the other side of the street. One night, a little past midnight, as I was heading down Pāhoa passing Petrie park, I saw a local Japanese man approaching me wearing an old-style windbreaker over an old polo shirt. He wore plaid Bermuda shorts, brand new socks, and a beat-up pair of white converse. His hair was slicked back with V05, making him look like someone from those old yakuza movies from the 60s and 70s. We made eye contact, and he gave me the local-style raised eyebrow greeting. I bowed my head slightly and continued on. I passed the intersection of Pāhoa and Pueo when I saw him again; I thought nothing of it at first until I saw him for the third time again, Kealaolu and Kahala near the Waiʻalae beach park. My mind still had not wrapped itself around the bigger picture, but that did not stop me from stopping him. "Eh, you stalking me or what?"

"Why am I going stalk you, you stupid nigga Hawaiian?" He sneered. I was dumbfounded for a second. How could he say that, knowing what the Japanese in Hawaiʻi had to endure before and after Pearl Harbor? But I forgot, growing up, I witnessed and was a victim of racism from all ethnicities in Hawaiʻi, not just the Haole. I had to give myself a second and breathe before I said anything. I did not want to jump out of the gate with equal amounts of anger.

"Sorry," I replied. "I meant no offense; you look like someone I just passed three or four different times on my way here, that's all. I was confused; sorry again!"

"Fuck you," he replied. "Fucking filthy Kanaka,"

I bit my tongue and kept walking until I got to the pavilion at the beach park. I had to sit and calm down before I went to the shower spigot to cool myself off. "Brah," I barely heard the voice while the water soaked my head. "Brah!" It was him again, that guy. "You heard what I said? I said fuck you!"

"I heard you," I told him.

"Well then? What you going fucking do about it, asshole fucking nigga Hawaiian?" He was taunting me; he wanted me to hit him. He almost seemed desperate about it, like his life counted on it. I refused to engage. Instead, I walked away. He followed right behind me, taunting me until I was back on the corner of Kealaolu and Kahala. I turned to him and looked him right in the eyes, "I know what you are, and I know why you want me to DO something about it. You're an angry spirit, and you're trapped here, and the only way you can get out is to make someone else angry enough that they'll hit you. That way, they end up taking your place. That's not me; you go find someone else," I stepped forward, hugged him tightly, and told him that I hoped he could find his way home by some other means than anger. He stood there crying bitterly while I hopped in the ocean not less than a few feet away and cleansed myself by a Pīkai ritual. When I returned, the angry spirit of that local Japanese man was gone, and I fast walked all the way back to Kaimuki. Why? Because I was shit scared.

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