Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 27, 2022

Hoʻolauna 2022

 I am one of those people who does not mind eating in a public place.

However, I have to have my own corner booth or seat in the back of the establishment to enjoy my meal away from other patrons. I know, right? If that is the case, why even go? I get it, totally. I went to this place that served regular food and local Hawaiian dishes. I liked the variety. I especially liked the lau lau, which is why I went there a lot. The poi was good too. I did notice that every now and again, an old Hawaiian woman who was well past her best days would happen into the diner and wait at the counter, where the cash register was. The owner's wife, when she saw the old Hawaiian woman, would say, "Noho tūtū, alia ʻiki,"

The old Hawaiian woman took a seat at the counter and waited. Finally, a large plate with a pile of Hawaiian food was placed in front of her and she would sit there patiently and polish off the whole thing. No one bothered her, and anyone would try got a nasty tongue-lashing from the owner's wife. This went on for quite a while. When the old Hawaiian woman was done, the owner's wife would send her off with more food in a plastic bag. No money was ever exchanged. One night, I had difficulty sleeping. It was just one of those things where my brain wouldn't shut off. I got up, brushed my teeth, took a shower, and headed out to the diner, not knowing if it was open. It was a relief to see that the lights were on and there was a smattering of customers.

The owner's wife was on duty, and sitting at the counter in front of her was the old Hawaiian woman. I took my regular place in the corner and ordered corned beef and eggs with buttered toast, hash browns, and bacon. The ancient Hawaiian woman hadn't been sitting at the counter for that long when she finished her meal and thanked the owner's wife, who gave her a plate to take along. While turning to leave, the old Hawaiian looked in my direction, smiled, and gave a short wave of acknowledgment. It was entirely out of character, but I returned the salutation and continued with my late-night, early-morning meal. I walked to the cash register to pay my bill when I was done. While the owner's wife was reconciling the money, I off-handedly asked, "That old Hawaiian woman comes in here a lot. Has she lost her family or something?"

"No," the owner chuckled. "She's been on her own for a long time, and she is of sound mind and body,"

"Who is she?" I asked for the purpose of making conversation.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," the owner's wife said as she handed me my receipt. I didn't ask or push the issue any further. Walking to the parking lot, I got in my car and it started with no problem. I exited to the left of the parking lot, which led out to the main street on Beretania. Approaching the intersection, I got a red light, and at the same time, I saw the old Hawaiian woman hobbling along. I rolled down the passenger side mirror and called out, "Tūtū! Do you need a ride somewhere?"

She came over to the rolled-down window and said, "No, I'm fine! Mahalo for asking, but you know what? When this light turns green, no go right away. Take your time," she said, pointing to the traffic light as it turned green. So, per the old Hawaiian woman's instructions, I did not go through the intersection immediately. But the car behind me ran out of patience, pulled around me, sped through the green light, and was utterly creamed by an 18-wheeler that demolished it entirely. I was so shaken up after witnessing that horrible accident, and worse, I had to repeat what I saw several times to the police after they arrived. After, I drove back to the diner and sat at the counter for a cup of black coffee to calm my nerves. I shared with the owner's wife about what happened, and she just laughed. "That old Hawaiian woman saved your life," she pointed at me.

"She did, didn't she?" I was shocked, but yes, the owner's wife was correct. "Who is she?"

"Pele," she said. "None other than Pele."

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