Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 19, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #28. Hopeless Holidays.

Christmas in 1977 was still Christmas the way I remember it.

Exciting, hopeful, filled with happiness and a love for your fellow man, and a sense of romance which hung in the air. The statistic of the Christmas holidays being the worst time of year when people are depressed and lonely enough to take their own lives hadn't yet become public knowledge. It was my freshman year in high school. Mom was suffering the after-effects of her stroke. Among the various things that Dad was now worried about, his primary concern, as he aired it to my older siblings, was what would happen to me if Mom had another stroke, which proved to be fatal? I thought he meant that I might have a mental breakdown or be devastated by Mom's passing. Should it happen, I would never recover emotionally or otherwise. Years later, I realized that what he meant was who would take care of me afterward because he had no intention of doing so. Essentially, he was saying that I would be on my own. As if that was not worrying enough for my 14-year-old life, my girlfriend, since the beginning of our high school year, phoned me on the same night to let me know it was over. I thought that things were going rather well.  

"My friends said you look like a black dog," Sheryl Ambrosia said. "I listen to my friends; they're always right." She hung up and called back in a second. "Don't talk to me at school, and don't come hang out where we used to meet before class, OK?"

I said nothing; I hung up the phone and went to my room. Her stupid reasons for the breakup were the last thing I cared about. Mom had a stroke, and from 1977 to 1981, she slowly deteriorated until she finally passed away a few days before her birthday in September of that year. However, everything hopeful and beautiful about Christmas 1977 didn't matter. I bussed to every shopping mall back then to get a sense of that nostalgia that made the holiday poignant, but nothing that those bright lights, decorations, fake snow, and mall Santas did could make it all meaningful again. I'd grown up, so my proverbial last wisdom tooth was pulled out, and the fairy who would come to collect it from under my pillow would never come again. The warmth that gave Christmas its meaning was gone; it was just plastic and fake everything, everywhere. Decades would pass before Christmas would ever mean anything again, ever.


2023 Christmas, the department store and Ala Moana are not playing holiday music on the overhead; instead, it's Cat Stevens singing about Old Very Young. James Taylor followed after that, and then Hall and Oates. Very Christmassy. The poor make-up artists behind the counter are being yelled out by their much older supervisor, a wretched local Filipino woman. Her face says she's spent many years suffering from the blows that life gave her. Her caked-on make-up proves that. Her rice bowl haircut isn't helping matters either, but man, that hate she spews has no real direction. It's everywhere, and these poor young make-up artists are in the way. 

"You fuckers use the expensive make-up, and then you sell it to the customer! Lie if you have to! Do everything in your power to make them buy it all up!"

The brow-beaten middle-aged African-American man stands off to the side with his head down, ensuring he's not in the fallout area where the woman is losing her mind. Without missing a beat, she turned to the man, grabbed his hand, and walked off, dragging him behind her. That's when it hit me, Sheryl Ambrosia! It's Sheryl Ambrosia! I quickly caught up to the woman who only added to my pain in 1977 and ruined Christmas for me for forty-six years. I put my hand on her shoulder to stop her, ensuring I was standing directly in front of her.

"Now, who's the black dog, Sheryl? You look like an overfed Pekinese, you fucking bitch!" I was prepared for her boyfriend, husband, or whoever he was to swing on me, but he was much too brow-beaten. I stormed off and lost myself in the Christmas crowd, gloating over my victory. At Sheryl's funeral services in January 2024, I found out through the man who turned out to be her husband that after she broke up with me over the phone all those years ago, her friends abandoned her the next day. They put her up to the breakup as a cruel joke and then denied that they ever did it. Sheryl was so devastated she had her parents transfer her to Pearl City High School. The entire incident ruined Christmas for her for the rest of her life.

"The last straw," the husband said. "Was when she saw you at Ala Moana, it brought back everything in a flash, and in the end, she ended up where you see her now,"

No apology I gave could have fixed what I'd done, but I promised Sheryl's husband that I would leave. "No," he said. "It wasn't just that; there was more," he nodded as if he were finally acknowledging it to himself. "There was abuse, bad husbands, even worse relationships, and stints in and out of treatment. There were layers of things that would have taken more than one lifetime to fix. I knew that this was inevitable,"

"You stayed with her all this time?" I asked.

"That time you saw her yelling at those kids in the make-up department? She did it all the time; she'd bitch them out, then she'd feel bad about it later, and then she'd take them to dinner, lunch or buy them presents. She'd be hugging them, telling those kids how much she loved and appreciated them, and the next day, she'd be bitching them out again. The last time it happened, she invited those kids to lunch at Macaroni Grill. She waited for a whole hour; nobody showed. She was so infuriated that she marched straight to the store and began screaming at them, demanding to know why none of them bothered to answer their phones or texts? They told her that they were tired of the abuse and that they filed a complaint against her. After that is when you showed up, and the day after that, she was fired," he said. "I stayed with her all this time because Sheryl has no one,"


No happy ending here, just a lot of shittiness that could have been avoided had Sheryl stood up to her friends and if I had stood up to Sheryl and helped her see reason. Yet, while she was being abused at home, I was in the middle of a mass of confusion, not knowing how my Mom would recover from her stroke and that my Dad had covert plans to get rid of me. We both lived a life of ruined Christmases, but only one of us would take our own life because of it.

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