Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 10, 2023

All Things Must Pass

I exist as a hermit only because I'd exhausted all other means of living what should have been a normal, everyday life. Wife, kids, house, car. It should have felt right, and life should have been beautiful. But, as time passed, so did this feeling that I was not in the right place; I was living a lie.

That is not to say I did not love my wife and children; I did dearly. But as each sunrise and sunset passed, I felt I was doing my family a disservice by being present in their lives. I haven't an explanation for why I felt that way, but the best thing I did for them was to take everything that was mine, which wasn't much, and leave. The money I'd been saving since high school was deposited into my wife's account so she and the kids wouldn't have to worry about cash.

When Del came home later that afternoon after picking our kids up from school, she found the letter I left on the rice cooker. There were three assurances listed. The first was that I loved her, Liv, and Charles. Second, it was not because of an affair or my being unhappy. Third was the truth. I have a mental illness that I did not want to burden them with, and the best remedy for all parties involved would be my departure from our family. Assuming I'd never see them again, I would never know how that information would be received. Fifteen years later, I only have to assume that my wife has remarried and my children are happy and have adjusted to a new life. In the past 15 years, while residing in the depths of this bamboo forest, hikers, which are tourists and locals, have been disappearing more frequently in the Hawaiian valleys and hiking trails. The lost ones, those who get turned around or poorly follow directions on their maps, end up at the front door of my bamboo domicile. I direct them to turn back and follow the path to the bottom of the trail they took. Lo and behold, they see that the way to the main road is a mere ten feet away, and they get to go back to their lives. Now and again, those who get lost and will never find their way out also appear at my door. Dehydrated, battered, and bruised, or worse, beg for my help, not just as a way to get home but as a way to move on. 


"To the top of the trail," I point past my home toward the steep incline, where the bamboo forest clears at the precipice. Some thank me, some give me a nod, others cry, but they all go. What they see at the top is beyond my knowledge; I've never been that way. Perhaps, when it's my time, I will, but not now. 


One day, an elderly local Japanese man happened by my place, gently knocking on my door. Which is the only reason I answered. There was some scratch to his voice; he was weathered and worn in his simple windbreaker, polo shirt, cargo shorts, and shoes that were wrong for hiking this far up in a bamboo forest. "Sorry to disturb you, yeah? I'm wondering if you can help me?"


"Certainly," I replied. "What can I do for you?"


He unfolded an 8x10 piece of paper which he removed from his pant pocket and held it up for me to see. At the top of the faded page were the bold letters that said MISSING. Beneath it was the picture of a young local Japanese boy in his late teens. Patrick Fujikawa was his name. 5'8 and 180 lbs. Last seen entering the bamboo forest in Nu'uanu Valley late afternoon, Friday. 2009.


"This says twenty-three years ago, sir," I pointed to the flyer.


"Whatchoo talking?" The old man seemed offended. "This is only a couple of days ago; I just made the flyers pretty soon after my son neva come back," he looked me up and down and gave me the once over. 
You see him or not?"


"I haven't; I'm sorry," I said. "I wish I could help more,"


"Nevermind," he shook his head and walked toward the deep end of the bamboo forest. He would come by every now and again. Asking the same question after showing me the same flyer and giving me the same reaction to the truth, I tried to make him see. However, it's mostly living flesh and blood human beings that gave me the most laughs. Like the two girls from Boston barely out of their teens, hiking up this way in skimpy bikini tops and daisy duke shorts, knee-high socks, and hiking boots meant to be worn at the Met Gala and not a muddy trail in the heights of Nu'uanu. They were lost, understandably scared, and very mosquito-bitten. They asked if they could use my water hose to wash off, which I allowed them to. Once they were done, I handed them a can of mosquito spray and directed them to the bottom of the trail, which they'd missed by a mile. 


"Shit," one of them hissed. "I even got bit on my areola! Look, mister," she turned to me so I could see, but I turned away and told her I believed her. Then I walked into my place and locked the door behind me. Another time, a group of pig hunters appeared at the back of my property with three big pigs to carry out. Their dogs were going crazy because it sounded as if something were chasing them. I opened the shed in my garage for them to hide, and whatever was in pursuit of them passed by it and blocked out the sunlight as it shone through the canopy. It grunted once with such depth in its bowels that it shook the ground. Eventually, whatever it was had left. The men took the trail to the bottom and hurried down the open road where their trucks waited. They were gone and never came back. 


I don't look forward to the weekends here because it's when everyone on god's green earth decides to trek through every part of this bamboo forest, and my encounters are always with the idiots. Drunk, stoned, dangerously high, or just plain dumb. One Sunday in June 2013 was strangely quiet. No one seemed to be here, no din of laughter or random conversations. Just the birds and nature's elements lending soft, gentle rain to the canopy and kind winds lilting branches just enough to move the dew to trickle the edges. I couldn't help but notice such a sublime occurrence. After years of living here, my eyes were sharply acclimated to all the sights, sounds, and colors in this forest. This is why I noticed an off-putting shade of green to the left of my Ti-leaf bushels. The only word I could think of that adequately describes this off-putting color is 'manufactured.' It didn't seem real, almost as if it were plastic.


"A ghillie suit," I whispered to myself. 


"Sorry!" The voice called out from under the suit. "Didn't mean to startle you, been tracking a pig. I'll move to another location!" Whoever this person was, he stood at an average height when he emerged from lying on the forest floor. He raised his hand and gave a short wave. "You're pretty good! I saw you, see me, so fair is fair!"


I nodded and waved back without saying a word while the ghillie-suit man moved on. He saw me, see him. Does that mean he would have stayed where he was, in his environmentally blended costume, if I hadn't noticed him? I'll never know. 


One day while getting supplies at the local big bulk store in Hawai'i kai, I saw flyers near the entrance regarding the latest missing person case. Terrence Malaikini, eight years old, from Salt Lake, Aliamanu housing. He was last seen playing on the back porch of his home while his mother prepared an afternoon snack in the kitchen. Terrence's mother and the authorities believe he was kidnapped by his non-custodial father, a known drug dealer. Terrence Sr. 


"It's always our children who must suffer," I muttered. Then, I thought about Liv and Charles and how I must have left them with many unanswered questions. That is usually the length of those thoughts regarding my children, and Del. Del's full name is 'Delphi,' after the oracle. Pity that she didn't have to ability to foresee her husband's mental illness; if she did, she perhaps would have turned right around and walked out of that Pizza Hut restaurant in Liliha where we agreed to meet on our first date. She mentioned a Lawrence Souza, which she had been casually seeing as well; it wasn't anything serious, as she said later that evening. By the following morning, she walked into my kitchen, impressed that I'd prepared breakfast. Of course, I confessed that the spam, eggs, rice, and bacon omelets were from Zippy's. The tea was of the Arizona variety. 


"It's the effort and the honesty that makes it sweet," she smiled as she sat to enjoy her breakfast. That afternoon, she called Lawrence and told him she and I were exclusive. Quite the trade-off, right? I pray that she and Lawrence found one another and that he was a good man who cared for Del and accepted our children as his own. But then, I scolded myself for getting lost in that nostalgia. It never serves me any good. 



I saw Terrence Jr. one day with a group of hikers; at his age and height, it didn't dawn on me just how well he kept up with such a large adult group. It seemed effortless to him. We made eye contact, and he gave me a beautiful smile, waving both hands. I raised my hand, acknowledging him, bowing, and smiling back through tears. "Good-bye Terrence,"


The authorities found Terence Sr. in his car, fast asleep just down the road from the trail leading out of this bamboo forest. Little Terrence was strapped in his car seat in the back, dead from dehydration after being left there by his father for several days. When he returned to his car, he was coming down from a high and fell asleep. Clueless as to his son's lifeless body behind him. Terrence Sr. would receive a life sentence, while in the meantime, our community, along with the little boy's mother and family, mourned his senseless death. The adult hikers had no idea that the spirit of little Terrence Malaikini Jr. walked among them, heading to the upper trail at the precipice, where everyone's heart and soul pass on. 



Living in a home made of bamboo in the middle of a bamboo forest may seem rustic and hermit-like. However, passersby have always asked about the maintenance of a bamboo-made home and how I kept out the bugs? I explain that I have internet for my laptop and phone, so I'm in touch. Of course, having a cordless charger doesn't hurt, either. Also, I treat the bamboo with borax to help rid it of its natural starch so that the material can stretch out, and the treatment gets rid of any bugs in the bamboo. As for mosquitos, it's the tried and true method called repellent. It was a moment in March, one of those quiet, uneventful days where you lose track of time. You have no concern for minutes or hours; you're simply a part of the living, breathing existence around you, almost at one with it. I was outside, tending to my 'ohia 'ai, or what would grow to become my mountain apple trees. Picked at the right time when the mountain apple is most fruitful, its sweet juices burst forth with delight, and you cannot withhold a smile. I decided to grow a tree near my home rather than trek five miles into the mountains to pick from the few existing ones. 


"So, it's true," the voice surprised me. He was probably in his late 30s', wearing a full beard and wild tussled hair. He was hapa by the looks of him, Hawaiian and some Asian mix. He stood six feet tall, lithe, and in good shape; you have to be to trek this far up. He wore an off-white shirt unbuttoned with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow. A black undershirt with a faded Led Zepplin logo, black BDUs, and hiking boots. He had no backpack, just a flask and a hunting knife attached to his web belt. "I thought it was just an online urban legend, but here you are," he smiled.


"I'm sorry, I don't follow," I shrugged my shoulders and had no other reply.


"I can't imagine that you could," he began. "It's been an internet legend for a while now. The hermit who lives in the bamboo forest in Nu'uanu. I have to be honest; I didn't expect to see you thriving like this. I expected...well, I didn't know what to expect, really,"


"Sorry to disappoint," I replied while I went back to tending to my tree, giving him a hint that I was done talking. He took it quite well.


"I won't bother you anymore; I can see you're preoccupied," he waved. "You have a good day!"


However, in a couple days following, he was back. He was standing there as before, waiting for me to notice him this time. "I thought you said you wouldn't bother me anymore?"


"I know," he apologized. "It occurred to me that I have the means to help you if you ever need any food or supplies,"


"I'm fine," I reassured him. "I've got wireless chargers and WiFi,"


"Well, if you ever need a way to get to town or something, I can take you wherever you need to go," he offered.


"I've got a Jeep; it's no worries," I made sure I stared at him long enough so he'd know I was done.


"Ok," he held his hands up and returned down the trail.


A few days later, I needed to make a supply run. While heading down the trail to the main road, I nearly stumbled over the same young man and came close to breaking my neck. He was sitting on the overlarge exposed root of an errant albizia tree, eating a sandwich and gulping down water from a flask that sat at his feet. 


"What the hell are you doing?!" I bellowed at him. "You can't just sit in the middle of a hiking path like that!"


"Oh geeze, I'm sorry!" He shot up, wide-eyed, his mouth still filled with his sandwich. "It's god-awful early in the morning; I didn't think anyone would be here!"


"Get out of the damned way!" I kicked dirt at him as I grumbled past and headed down the trail to my Jeep. To my surprise, he followed me. I didn't even realize he was there until I jumped into the driver's seat. "What is your deal, man? Leave me alone!"


"Lemme come along and get you some breakfast, my treat?" He offered.


"Look, treat your ass out of this forest, and don't return," I told him. "You got what you wanted, now go, fuck off!"


I barrelled down the road and left him on the blacktop, bereft of whatever prize he'd hoped to gain by inserting himself into my space. I'm sure he's a nice person, very likable, and probably has more friends than he can count, but to me, it's all irrelevant. In my space, my world, it doesn't matter. Supply and food runs are constantly in and out, I don't talk to anyone, and when the cashier asks more questions than are necessary, I let them know that I'm not there to make friends.


"Just pack my shit and speed it up," I tell them.


It takes several back-and-forth trips up and down the trail to my house. Then, once I'm settled, I sit back with a glass of tea and chew on a few crispy pretzels. Later in the day, I grab my phone, wallet, and keys and head down the trail to my Jeep. I had a sudden inkling to see the sunset. The beach park was the last place I wanted to go. Too many people and too many banal conversations. I went to 'Ualaka'a state park. I get lost a lot, in my thoughts, in my feelings. I often need to see the sunset to remind myself that there is still a beginning and end to things, life, and people. 


"Geeze," I whisper to myself. "I can't remember how old I am,"



I knew the trail under my feet and every root, rock, and piece of earth. I didn't need a flashlight; it was all second nature. He's waiting there again with a bright neon lantern. He knows my reaction even before I react. He puts both of his hands up, palms out, facing me. "I swear to you, I'm normal. I'm not crazy or weird or anything like that," he began. "I'm well off financially; I own my place on an acreage not too far from here,"


"Then why the fuck are you here all the time?" I told him in the best way I could figure without antagonizing him. "Go back to your rich acreage, and leave me alone!"


"Man, I'm lost," he exhaled, and his shoulders drooped. "I've got everything I need, I can get almost anything I want, yet I'm lost. Then I meet you and wonder, how do you do it? Up here by yourself, with hardly any human contact? You must get lonely, especially without companionship, right?"


I looked at him for a while and considered telling him why I was there and what led to it. Only, it wouldn't end there. Instead, it would lead to more future conversations and visits, which I didn't want. "I don't care," I finally ended up saying. "How lost you are, or whatever you can get, doesn't matter to me. Go away, leave me alone."


A while had passed, maybe a month. He was back, and it goes without saying that I was pissed. I realized that short of killing him and getting rid of the body where no one would find it, the only other option was to let him talk, and then maybe, he'd get it all off his chest and leave me alone. "You've got an hour to say what you must, and that's it. After that, I don't want to see you up here again, do you understand?"

"Sure," he replied. "That's fair,"

"Alright," I walked over and sat on an old log from a long dead tree which I spent years smoothing out and converting to a bench. "The floor, such as it is, is yours,"

"First of all, let me apologize. I never introduced myself," I bowed slightly and continued. "I'm Lawrence Pacheco Jr."

"I know that name," I mused for a second. "He was dating a woman I knew in another lifetime. Her name was Delphi. Any relation?"

"Delphi is my mom's name," he replied, stunned.


"That means you've got step-siblings," I slowly stood, pointing at him before I knew I was doing it.

"No," I replied. "I'm their only child,"

"No," I countered. "Del had two children before that, Liv and Charles. What happened to them?"

"You mean her two toy chihuahuas?" He said. "They died when I was five years old; I mean, she might have treated them like her own children, but I'm it,"

"No, Del and I; her first date at that Pizza Hut in Liliha; that's when she told a friend of mine that she was seeing a Lawrence Pacheco but was going to call it off because she realized she loved my friend," I told him.

Shaking his head slowly, Lawrence Junior began to recount the details that he'd been told by his parents. "As far as I know, my parents' first date was at that same Pizza Hut but it was constantly being interrupted by this waiter that worked there. Apparently, he had a thing for my mom. He got jealous when he saw her with my dad. It turns out he had this mental illness, and they had to fire him because he kept telling my mom that she was his wife and they had two children together. Weird, huh?"

"Did you happen to know that waiter's name?" I asked.

"Uh yeah, it was Jeffrey Kazumura," he replied.

"Times up," I told him. "I've heard enough, don't come back here again, and if you do, just avoid me and my place, okay?"

"Um, you never said how you knew my folks?" He asked.

"I don't," I growled at him. "Mistaken identity, that's all."


These fifteen years, my one fear has always been that one day I would see Del's departed spirit walk through here, or if not hers, then the spirits of my children. How can that happen, though, since they only existed in my mind? 

I guess, even in my state of delusion, believing that Del and I were married with two kids named Liv and Charles, I recognized that something was wrong with my mental state of health. So much so that I removed myself from my imagined family because I loved them enough to not subject them to the consequences of my unstable condition. I isolated myself over something that was never real. I can never return to being a functioning member of a society I could never be a part of. That counts for something, right? 

Credit Natalie Deduck





























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