Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 18, 2022

That Day 2022 Part 5 Finale

The guitarist slowly mounted his assault on the audience without knowing we were in for a battle.

One that would bring us to emotional heights and such passionate lows that one would have thought that such a thing was a preferable way to die. The strumming notes climbed with precise timing with the promise that nothing would be left for anyone to find when the end finally came. The four persons who stood silently next to the guitar player until this moment began to join in with rhythmic clapping, keeping in time with his simultaneous brooding strums and tickles of the strings with his fingertips. The storm was soon to come, but presently it was still brewing. The guitar player and his cohorts were still stirring the pot, needing more time to unleash the flavor. Then, somewhere within the calm, the guitar player ceased all music. The clapping stopped, and Debbie stepped forward. The room fell into a hushed silence. The sharp sounds of Debbie clicking her heels on the bare floor pierced the silence, causing the audience to jump in their seats. She moved slowly in a wide circle until she returned to where she had begun. Without warning, the guitar player unleashed everything and manifested the music of human emotion through a humble six-stringed instrument. Debbie was a whirling column of fire; she became someone else in less than a second. I no longer recognized her. This is what it must mean to truly live a whole life with passion, as if every moment meant something where not a second was lost. Even within mundane moments, there was value, a lesson. This is how Debbie lived. I wish I could live a tenth of the way, but I was a maintenance man and a below-novice dance student in her class.


She won! We celebrated her victory at Kenney's, of all places. Even the couple who owned the Chinese restaurant came along; they decided to close the restaurant after the flamenco contest because they were too tired to cook. Less than an hour ago, Debbie lit that dance floor on fire, and now an hour later, she's sitting with all of us at her favorite place to eat. The same Debbie I've known, who brought an audience to their feet, exalting them to tears, is now having french fries drowned in ketchup with a Teri-cheeseburger and a cherry coke. We laughed and joked with David and Kora Chun, who had known Debbie when she was a little girl, learning Flamenco from the couple who were former champions of the dance in Hong Kong. 

"They clap so much for you tonight, Debbie," David smiled. "You steal the show!"

"Steal their hearts!" Kora corrected her husband. "That's why you win!"

 Debbie was gracious and humble, "Only because I learned from you two, you're like my parents growing up. Thank you so much for everything," she reached across the table, and they held hands, and the three of them cried together. 

After we were all done and goodbyes were exchanged, Kora quickly whispered, "You marry her now, so you can still have kids! You can teach them how to dance!"

"I'm just the maintenance guy at the building where her studio is," I protested. "We're just friends,"

Lightly slapping me on the shoulders, she said, "Then stop being her friend and be her husband,"


The drive back to the studio filled my car with music from a random radio station. Debbie had the window down, letting the wind blow on her face. It was an excellent way to end the evening, quiet with ambient music in the background and just taking it all in. Soon, we were pulling into the parking lot at the studio. Debbie thanked me for being her chauffeur for the evening. I reversed my car out of the parking lot so she could get her car out. Then, I headed west on  Ala Moana boulevard, and Debbie drove back up Cooke street to the freeway. I had the day off the next day, so I could sleep a bit before going to Debbie's dance class later that night. I got to class about a half hour early so I could have time to warm up and stretch out. I was surprised to see Debbie and my boss waiting for me. Debbie informed me that one of the older ladies in the class, Gloria Escante had seven hundred dollars missing from her purse. Instead of telling Debbie about the matter, she called the building manager/owner, my boss, and complained to him. 

"She thinks you might have taken the money," my boss said. "Did you take that money from that woman's purse?" 

"It depends," I replied. "Have you already decided that I took the money?"

"Just answer the question," my boss replied, which means he thinks I stole the money. 

"I didn't do it," I looked at him and held his gaze.

"This is bullshit," Debbie sighed. "George here always dances in the back of the glass. Gloria is an advanced student, and she keeps her purse upfront right here, where I keep the Bluetooth speaker,"

"George, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to dock your pay, and other than your working here, you won't be allowed to be on the premises if you're not working," my boss said.

"I'm vouching for George!" Debbie stood in front of my boss. "I just told you he didn't do it, and you're gonna punish him anyway? What a jerk, I'm finding another studio,"

"There's another maintenance guy that's here on my days off. Have you questioned him at all?" I asked my boss. No reply. 

My boss left, and the dance class went on as scheduled. Debbie asked if I would mind not attending class but to go back after so that the three of us could talk. Debbie, myself, and Gloria. I did precisely that, and it didn't go well. Even after Debbie explained the situation, Gloria insisted that I stole her money. "He's a Hawaiian, and you know this maintenance job doesn't pay well? People like him are always desperate for money, you know? I don't know why you let him join this class?"

"Gloria, this is my class, and only I get to say who dances here and who doesn't," Debbie told her. "If you don't like it, you can leave,"

End of discussion. The next day at work, the police showed up with a warrant for my arrest even though no proof existed of my having taken money from Gloria's purse. She called them and was waiting in the parking lot for their arrival. It ended up that the old woman had misplaced the money in her inside coat pocket the whole time. It's the same coat she wore when coming to and from class. Clearly, in the wrong, Gloria did not apologize but made a flippant comment about Hawaiians being common thieves. She grabbed her bags from her car and went upstairs to the dance studio when Debbie cut her off. "Where do you think you're going? You are no longer in this class; you are banned from ever stepping in here again!"

With that settled, my boss was also forced to apologize as well. From then on, I only talked to my boss when I had to. Otherwise, I had nothing to say. Honestly, for a moment, I thought Debbie would agree that I would be fired by my boss and that Debbie would tell me not to attend her dance classes anymore. But no, she defended me to the bitter end. That's when I gained much more respect for her after that. It was when I also fell in love with her. There's no real ghost story here to tell. If there was one, it would be that the spirits of good people always prevail over anything negative. Like in this building where I work and take a dance class. I'm a good person because I let Debbie be herself and don't do anything to change who she is. My parents taught me to clean my backyard before telling anyone else what to do. Debbie is a good person because her character never wavers; as you saw for yourself, she's down for the underdog. The spirits of good people and good work consistently linger well after they're gone. Hopefully, that is what Debbie and I created here in the small office building off Cooke Street in Kaka'ako.


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