Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 11, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #51 Hauola Pt.4

The hula usually takes the body at least two years to get used to the basic steps and hand movements. Some acclimate quickly. For others, it takes time. Some are born for the hula, while others are clinically good hula dancers but lack depth. Then there were the rare few who embodied whatever deity a particular hula was meant for, Laka, Pele, Hi'iaka, or Kamehameha. The dancer was the haka or the medium through which the hula manifested itself. Even for the hula 'auana, watching such a dancer have fun with piukeona or kauoha mai was a treat. That was Hauola.


It was an embarrassing first day, and I was sure the ladies were not expecting the person who was supposed to help them heal their trauma through hula to faint dead away in front of them. I came to, of course, and once everything was clear and cognizant after being barraged with the same question from everyone, which honestly sounded like a high-pitched bird chirping, 'Are you alright? Is everything OK? Are you alright? Is everything OK? Are you alright? Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!' I was able to get to one knee. Everyone grabbed parts of both my arms and struggled to help me stand. I shook them off and straightened out my shirt. "I'M FINE!!! We'll start first thing tomorrow; don't be late."

Leipili came after me, armed with a cache of weaponized words, but I cut her off. "I'll do what I'm supposed to, but you don't question what I do and how I do it. If what you say is true, and no other kumu hula wanted to touch this project with a ten-foot pole, then I'm all you got whether you like it or not,"

"Still, there's concessions," she replied. 

"I'm not asking you," I stopped her. "You need this program to work, and I have to keep my job. Let's try to get along," I meant that last part as sarcasm.

I couldn't tell Leipili that as they were all gathered around me when I came out of the fainting spell, their voices were replaced by the musical chirping of the Apapane, more specifically, the chirping of Kiki. I hadn't heard it in so long, and at that volume, it became overwhelming, and I became highly irritable. Luckily, I was not banned from the Ala Moana food court, so I went afterward for a mango energy drink and a salami sandwich from Subway. I sat at a table that technically was for three people, but being the wide and large Hawaiian male I am, no one wanted to sit with me. Better for me, actually. Above the din of noise at the food court, I heard high, shrill screams, not painful ones, but of the Mahu greeting. Temana and his two alaka'i/bedmates walked toward me with their food trays, inviting themselves to sit without my permission.

"Pakalana, how have you been all these years? Haven't seen you in so long! You remember Timoti and Chamone, right?" Temana is ever the looming presence in every situation.

"How could I forget?" I muttered.

"So, you know one of your former haumana called me and wanted me to teach hula for her program with abused women. I told her I no can because I'm still dealing with the abuse I experienced growing up," Temana adjusted the Hawaiian bracelets on his wrist. "Immediately, I was triggered, and I broke down over the phone," Timoti and Chamone rubbed his shoulders for support. "Besides, I don't know how a kumu could work with women like that, so oodgi!"

"But I bet you could teach those same kinds of women if the whole class was about your abuse and how you overcame it through hula," I suggested. "You could teach those abused women the hula that cleansed you of your trauma. I mean, as long as the whole program is about you, I think it would be very successful,"

Temana didn't know what to say, which was a surprise considering who Temana was in the hula community. He wasn't sure if I was joking or being serious. Timoti and Chamone both leaned over and whispered to their benefactor. His face changed, and they all sat up straight, gathering their food trays while simultaneously standing up. "Kala mai, Pakalana. I didn't know you were working in that program." With no apologies, Temana and his alaka'i/bedmates walked off and disappeared into the crowd at the food court, and I got to finish my sandwich.


The first official day of class was simple. It was an hour of timed hula walks to the beat of the ipu heke. They held their hands to the middle of their chest, fingers facing each other, elbows out, shoulders up. Lanai, Malia, and Free stood in the back line. Epi and Lueka were in the front. At the outset, while Leipili sat in a chair on the side, watching, Lanai stepped out of the line and approached me. "I think since I was groomed to be a Ms. Aloha Hula contestant, I should dance in the front and maybe Epi in the back,"

"What was your Kahiko number for that year? Do you remember?" I asked.

"He Mele No Lilo," she stood on her tippy toes and replied confidently. 

"You mean Kalakaua He Inoa," I said.

"No, Hele Mele No Lilo," she insisted.

"Alright, let's see it," I said as I prepared my ipu heke. 

"Oh well, it's been so long, you see. I'm not sure if I remember it all," she shrugged.

"You mean, you spent all those months learning that kahiko, which was more than likely ingrained into your DNA, and now, you don't remember it all?" I gave two taps to the ipu heke and a downbeat on the pale. "Ae, 'O Kalakaua He Inoa! Kalakaua!" I gave the three lead-in beats, and when it came time to dance, Lanai did Kaholo back and forth, no matter what the beat was. If I called for 'uwehe, hela, kawelu, 'ami, Lanai stuck to the kaholo with hula hands back and forth. I looked over at Leipili, who said nothing while she kept her eyes down on the floor and tried not to laugh. But it wasn't a laughing matter. I stopped the pa'i on the ipu and called Lanai to where I sat, patting the space beside me. She sat and leaned in.

"Go stand in the back of the line, and don't say anything from now on unless I say something to you. Do you understand?" I spoke quietly and kept the tinge of anger out of my voice. She nodded, and before she stood up, I whispered, "No one has to know what I just told you, alright?"

"Walk," I exclaimed. "To the beat, left, right, left, right, left, right." On the left is when they would turn and continue in a timed walk. Some got it, some needed time, but we had an hour and a half. That's all they did. "I need to see if you know how to walk; this is how I'll know how to teach you to hula. You need this as your foundation, this seemingly meaningless thing you're doing. Hula, like healing, has to start somewhere, so together, we start here,"

Leipili was struck by what I said. It triggered something, so she got up to leave. "Get up there with them and walk, Lei. You have to start, too,"

She shot me the death stare because she still hated me but knew she needed this, too. She removed her business coat, flats, earrings, and other jewelry and joined the line. She made a beeline for the back, but I cut her off. "Down front, so see they can all see what a hula walk looks like," she glared at me and mouthed something.

"I hope you're saying vacuum," I chuckled with sarcasm. be continued

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