Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 3, 2022

Server 2022

Appeasement is why I went to the funeral of a person I didn't care for because this person was a burden to our family. Her name was Alena Seresto, the youngest of her family of thirteen and the most spoiled and least traditional Filipino in her family. Went to college on the mainland, married someone from Minnesota, divorced after five years, and lorded the wealth of her alimony over her sisters and their families. The rest of her older siblings had long passed, so whoever was left got the unwanted pleasure of her company. Alena passed in her sleep after a long bout with liver cancer, she suffered terribly, and in the end, she died alone. Even under those circumstances, I had no desire to attend her services, but my mother told me I would go out of respect for the dead. So, I went, but I sat in the very back. 

While everyone got up to speak and struggled to say something nice, I snuck off to the lounge, where the servers had already put out the food. Lots of musubi without the nori, just the ume, my favorite. Shoyu chicken, teriyaki beef, sweet-sour pork, regular rice, and fried rice. Oh yeah, what a spread. I asked one of the servers if it was alright to make myself and plate, and she told me to go right ahead. So when I was done, I found a table in the corner with just one chair, where I sat to inhale my meal and then leave. But not without saying goodbye to my mother first, of course. 

"What are you doing sitting here by yourself?" I heard a voice ask from behind. I looked up to see a young local Filipino girl pull up a seat and place herself directly across the table from me. Her clothing hurt my eyes. The top she wore was a long-sleeved black and white with broad black stripes, the collar was pulled up vampire style, and she wore capris with pleated pockets. The belt she wore wrapped around her waist and then down to where it wrapped around her right thigh. Her heels were too high, and she wore her hair in a strange bob. "Didn't you hear what I said? What are you doing here sitting by yourself?"

"Eating," I replied.

"No shit," her sarcasm was cutting like she would fight me simultaneously. Then, looking at what was on my plate, she remarked, "don't they have better food than this crap?"

I ignored her and kept eating. She let out a long, bothered sigh and began tapping her fingers on the table. First, out of boredom, but now she was doing it purposefully to get my attention. "What?" I looked up at her, very irritated. 

"You never answered my question," she said.

"I'm here by myself eating because I wanted to be here by myself eating before the crowd files in, and then I can't be here by myself eating like right now," my tone was even and unwavering, and I kept it that way so she would get the hint. "Anyway, are the services over in there?"

"Psssh, services," she scoffed. "It's more like bullshit; they all hater her; they should just say what's on their minds, assholes,"

"I didn't care for her myself, but if I didn't come to show respect, then my mom would be on my shit," I said. "Why are you are you here?"

"I don't have a choice either; I have to be here," she sighed. "I'd rather be anywhere else but here,"

"Go get a plate before the crowd files in," I suggested. "Otherwise, you're gonna be shit out of luck. You know what? You stay right there; I'll get your plate for you."

"Well, that's unexpectedly nice of you," more sarcasm. 

"The quicker you eat, the quicker I can be alone," I smirked and went to make her a plate of food. I came back, and she was gone. So, I ate her plate of food as well. When I was done, I returned to the services to tell my mom I was leaving. I saw my mother now seated at the very back where I was. By her body language, I could tell she was over it; she was more likely ready to leave herself. I also noticed that irritating girl standing up against the wall directly behind my mother. She clutched a picture frame close to her chest, crying bitterly as if her heart had been broken. Which is understandable considering the circumstances. She went to leave and walked past me, nearly running into me if I hadn't made room for her. What caught my eye was the picture frame she held on to; in it was an old-colored photograph of a young Filipino girl in the pink of her youth, dressed exactly the way this irritating Filipino girl was dressed. Before I could comment on the weird incident, my mother grabbed me by the arm and pulled me toward the front of the services. 

"At least go see your aunty and pay your respects," she hissed at me.

I didn't argue; I just joined the long line of mourners and offered condolences to my cousins, Aletta's ex-husbands, and their succession of kids. Finally, we got to her casket, which housed her body. Every piece of jewelry she owned was around her fingers, wrists, neck, and ears. Her burial gown was orange chiffon with puffy laced shoulders. One couldn't see her hair too clearly because her head was overwhelmed by her large Ms. Kalihi Industrial crown from 1982. My mother shed tears and told Aletta how much she loved her. After that, there was a table next to Aletta's casket, which hosted a bunch of pictures depicting her various accomplishments, one of which happened to be the picture that I saw the irritating girl holding on to. "That's your aunty. While attending fashion design school on the mainland, she also worked full-time. That's when she was the Aletta we all loved, but little by little, after each divorce, she changed."

How do I tell my mom that the Aletta in the picture was the same person I spoke to in the lounge and that she got on my nerves? How do I tell her it was the same person I saw standing behind her, not less than a few minutes ago, clutching onto a picture of herself? And then, why appear to me of all people who didn't even want to be there? Life is so strange, and there are so many things that are not explained, mysteries that we will never understand. Like tonight.

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