Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 12, 2022

Please Excuse Me 2022

Believe it or not, it was a slow night at Trappers in Waikiki.

I was nursing a whiskey neat; I deserved it after the year I'd had. An hour ago, it culminated at the airport where I had to put Adele Li on a plane to Hilo, never to see her again. It was one of those things that was fun while it lasted. Ours lasted a year until her family learned about us from Adele's aunty, who lived up St. Louis. She was on a Wai'alae bus passing the Queen theater one day. That's where she caught a glimpse of Adele and me leaving the place while holding hands and exchanging a smooch. It wasn't that Adele had a boyfriend; it was that the boyfriend, me, was not Chinese. Her parents called her when she got home and read her the riot act. In less than a month, she packed and was on her way back to the Big Island. "They don't want half Hawaiian grandkids," Adele said. "They said the best job you can get is in labor; they want better for me."


A year ago, I was here at Trappers after the last act. The house lights went up, and it was the final call. The time to partner up with someone and spend that night at their place or yours had presented itself, and if you didn't act fast, you were on your own. That wasn't my thing, so I put away my shot of whiskey and headed toward the door. I didn't see Adele immediately, but I found out later that she saw me and felt the need to say something. She presented herself right before my path just as I exited the facility. Extending her hand for me to shake, she said, "Hi, I'm Adele Li, and I don't mean to bother you, but I hope you're a gentleman?"

"Hello," I said, shaking her hand. "I think I'm a gentleman,"

Pointing to the table where she was just sitting, she said, "My friends took off without me, and then those guys came to my table and started bothering me," I could see it was a group of young punks fresh out of high school. Cheap coats, too-thin ties, pressed shirts, spit-polished shoes, and too much hair grease. "Can you please walk with me until I can find a way home?"

"Sure, but just so you know, all the buses have stopped running, and I'm not sure about the kinds of cab drivers that are running at this hour," I said. "I can take you home, it's not a bother, and I am a gentleman."

"Alright, but please promise me you'll be nice?" She was terrified.

"Scouts honor," I held up my three fingers.

Right about then, the punks giving Adele a hard time showed up and tried to block us from leaving. They never got a chance to talk. I stepped in front of Adele and put her behind me, then I pulled my jacket coat out of the way so they could see the 38. special I had tucked in my waistband. They scattered quickly and never came back. We got to my car and drove on to Kalākaua. Nothing happened; it was uneventful. She gave me her address at the foot of St. Louis heights. She lived in an adjacent studio attached to her auntʻs house. She thanked me for being a true gentleman to my word and went in. A couple nights later, I was back at Trappers after work to hear my favorite singer Sam Kapu. He had a great set, and I loved his voice. His last song was his newest, 'Chotto Matte Kudasai,' the instrumental intro began, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Adele. "If you dance with me," she said. "I'll introduce myself, and you can tell me who you are; what do you think?"

"Sure," I replied. "Why not?"

She was Adele Li, born and raised in Hilo. Specifically Waiakea. She was attending classes at the university in accounting. Her parents were local Chinese born on the plantation in Hilo. Her grandparents immigrated from Canton, China, and were among the first few waves of Chinese to work the plantation. I introduced myself as Clayton Awai, from Papakolea, who worked as a longshoreman. I lived in my own house on a family homestead property which I shared with my parents, who had their own place too far from mine. I love jazz, and as much as possible, I come to Trappers for the music and the scene. 

"Like this song right now, the one we're dancing to? I've heard it by different singers, but I like Sam Kapu the best," I said. "He sings like a man is supposed to sing,"

We began seeing each other after that, and as much as possible, we were at Trappers, and whenever Sam Kapu sang Chotto Matte Kudasai, we were the first on the floor. Near the end of the year, Adele began to talk about staying in Honolulu after she graduated college and possibly marriage. But, all that went to hell once Adele's aunt saw us together and reported the whole thing to her parents. They flew here and ensured that I could not talk to her at her college graduation, even though I was there. My cousin Henry had to give her the lei I made. They left immediately after the event. An hour later, Adele's parents somehow got a hold of my address and appeared at my door, looking for Adele. They were having dinner at Wo Fat restaurant to celebrate when Adele excused herself to use the bathroom and never returned. 

"She's not here," I told them. "Come in and have a look for yourself,"

By the looks on their faces, they were not prepared to see a Hawaiian household so immaculately clean and organized. "So surprising," Adele's father remarked. 

"You wouldn't think so, yeah, Efram?" Adele's mother agreed.

"You've been in my home for less than a minute, and you've insulted me and failed to introduce yourselves," I said. "Is that a Chinese custom in your country?"

That statement put them in their place and made them rethink their purpose. "We're just worried about our daughter, that's all. We apologize," they left the phone number for the house at St. Louis heights. "Please call us if you see her, or have her call,"

With that, they left, and I never saw them again. Adele showed up at my doorstep later after a cab dropped her off. It turns out that Adele did get in contact with her parents but refused to fly back with the two to Hilo. Instead, she would fly home later. She stayed over for the next few nights, and as much as possible, as the day grew closer for her to go back home, we went to Trappers to dance to the sound of Sam Kapu's smooth voice. 

Departing from the airport wasn't easy; as much as we could, we held on to one another until she finally got on that plane and flew into the clouds, never returning. 


It's 1985, and Trappers has seen better days. Jimmy Borges and all the greats have passed through this place, locally and nationally. A few tables away from me are a group of local women laughing and crying; they've been waiting for someone to take the stage. When he does, that table especially goes nuts. They're standing up and holding a picture to the singer, wouldn't you know? It's Sam Kapu. The image is that of Adele, still beautiful at whatever time in her life the picture was taken. I get it; she was gone, passed away. Adele's dying wish was that if she didn't return to Trappers because of her cancer, she wanted her friends to go and ask Sam Kapu to sing Chotto Matte Kudasai. Which he did.

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