Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Nov 19, 2022

1977 2022

There weren't too many places in Waipahu to park late at night and enjoy a dinner plate from Graces Inn with a jumbo-sized drink to wash down your mixed plate of shoyu chicken, Terri-beef, cone sushi, fried noodles, and corned beef hash.

So, the best place to drive was the lookout at Tantalus or the park. As a young person in 1977 'O'ahu, the car to go and be seen in was either a VW Bug that was all tricked out or the VW Van. If not, you might have been seen driving a Corolla or a Datsun. For me, it was the 55 chevy bel air that I inherited from my oldest brother Daniel. It was colored cinnamon brown, and by today's standards, it would appear to be too much of a big hunk of metal to be moving around as a daily driver, but back then, I only drove it on the weekends. During the week, I used the Dodge Dart that my dad hardly drove because he was in love with his Plymouth Fury. But I digress; we were talking about where one should park when a suitable space with a nice view of the city was unavailable in 1977 Waipahu. So, we're parked at the tantalus lookout, which has a nice view of Mānoa valley, and an even grander view of the city skyline, such as it was in 1977. The three of us got out of the car and placed our dinner plates and drinks on the hood of the Chevy. Emilio was glad to leave his house for a couple of hours, and Lori needed a break from being the perfect student. It was a Wednesday night, and the following day was a weird state holiday that happened to fall on a Thursday, which was dumb because that meant we still had school on a Friday. Emilio always ate with his hands; I hardly ever saw him use a fork or spoon. Because of that, I was mindful to ask the cashier for a bunch of napkins before we left Grace's Inn. As Emilio dug in, I handed him the napkins. "Oh," he said as he took it. "Thanks!"

"It's bad enough you wipe your hands on my car seats, but don't do it on your clothes," I told him. "You're gonna get ants all,"

"Yeah, yeah," he waved me off. "I can just throw 'em in the wash aftah,"

"Then you're gonna get ants in the laundry, and your mom's gonna be mad," Lori added.

"Maybe I'll just wipe my hands on your pants then?" Emilio laughed as he playfully extended his greasy hands toward Lori.

"No make," Lori cautioned him. "I'll stab you with my plastic knife!"

I went and got the boombox from the back seat, placed it on the hood, and turned on some Country Comfort. We enjoyed the music and ate together, enjoying the scenery and atmosphere. "What about you, Henry?" Emilio asked. "How's everything at home?"

"My mom is still sick," I shrugged my shoulders. "I help as much as I can,"

"She's gonna get better, right?" Emilio asked.

"We dunno; the doctor hasn't said anything," I sighed. "The nurses show up once a week; they don't say anything, either."

"We can come over and help if you want," Lori offered while she looked at Emilio.

"You say that now, but believe me, you'll change your minds once you have to clean shit off the floor," I nodded.

"OH!" Emilio shouted. "No talking about stuff like that; you know I have a weak stomach, you bastard!"

"Oh, right," I laughed. "Sorry,"

"I mean, if you need help, like cleaning, you know? Dishes, mopping the floor, laundry," she suggested.

"Let me ask you something," Emilio pointed his sticky rice-laden finger at Lori. "Do you even wash dishes, mop, and do laundry at your own house?"

"Of course!" She replied. "The first thing I learned to do was clean, cook, mop, rake, and do laundry from the time I could walk. What about you?"

"I do stuff around the house," Emilio defended himself.

"He's the only boy in his family, so he's very spoiled," I added.

"Brah, shut up," Emilio shook his head. "I do my part,"

"Anyway," Lori ignored Emilio and asked me again, "if you need help like that, just let me know,"

Luckily, the lady at Grace's Inn piled on the food earlier, so we were very full by the time we ate. We were just sipping on our jumbo drinks until our bladders were full, and we needed to find a bathroom. So we jumped in the Chevy and drove up to the park at the top. We all did our business, and in less than a minute, we drove back to Waipahu, but not before we stopped at the drive-thru for a burger and fries. I got Lori home first because I didn't want to make her parents worry. Emilio was second; he didn't live far from me, facing Lanakila Baptist at the top of Waipahu depot road. I lived in a duplex; one side was my room with a kitchen, bath, and bedroom. My parents lived on the other side. The following morning while getting ready for school, there was a knock on my door. It was Lori and Emilio.

"What are you guys doing here?" I was still half awake.

"Go get ready," Emilio said. "Let's go have breakfast before school starts,"

"Unless you've got eggs and bread and stuff, then I can make breakfast for us," Lori asked. Of course, I had all of those things in the kitchen. We all helped as much as possible, like with the toast and everything, but Lori did all the primary cooking. Breakfast at the table was excellent, especially with a cold glass of guava juice to wash everything down. Then, we jumped into the Dodge and were on the way to school. The day was like any other, class, bell, go to the other class. Bell, recess, go to the other class. Bell, go to lunch, blah, blah, blah. On the way to the snack trucks parked outside the school fence, Lori suggested that since Saturday was the following day, we should see a movie that evening. It was definitely a plan. By the time I was at home, I had already completed my homework and my chores and prepared dinner for my mom and dad. I was in the kitchen when the phone rang. I picked up, and it was Lori on the other end.

"Quick, look at the news," she urged. So I flipped on the TV and saw a report regarding one of our classmates who'd been murdered near our school. The back of her head was bashed in, and you could see her sneakers and pants around her ankles. 

"Oh shit," I whispered. 

"Come get me," I could tell Lori was crying. After I picked her up, we went to get Emilio; he was a big mess, too, and he had to get out of the house. We were driving to Grace's Inn, getting our plate lunches, and foregoing the movie. We parked at the Tantalus, lookout, and ate silently with our food in front of us on the hood of my car. This was someone we saw around school all the time, talked to her, stood with her in the lunch line, and saw her out and about. She didn't hang out with the three of us, but whenever we did see her, she was fun to know. Now, just like that, she was gone. I went and got the boombox out of the car and leaned it against the windshield. I pressed play and whatever cassette was in there from the last time gave us the music we were about to hear. The voice is singing about the east-end lights and muggy nights with the curtains drawn in the little room downstairs. That's all it took for the waterworks to come pouring forth; while the three of us looked at the Honolulu city lights. We lost it and cried for a long time. 

After that, Lori and Emilio began coming over and helping with whatever was needed. Raking the yard, cooking, cleaning, and mopping. Emilio and I did the same thing for Lori, as Lori and I did for Emilio; even though he was spoiled by his parents for being the only boy, they did appreciate it. After Clydia's death, we realized how important our friendship was, and we didn't want to waste a moment of it. We had no clue what our futures would be, but for now, we had each other, and that's all that mattered.


  1. The ending is powerful. For a moment in life, a snapshot, the friends had each other.