Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 15, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #55 Hauola Pt.8 Conclusion.

When my uncle Ronnie Kauila began teaching us Hula, only six of us were there.

I was the only boy in the class. The rest were my girl cousins. Once my 'uniki was over, and we were all given permission to teach, my uncle began to call me by his own name, and soon everyone else called me Ronnie. It was his own subtle way of passing down his breadth of knowledge to me. He was very good at teaching a dance collectively, and then he'd come up to me and show me the motions for how a man dances the same Hula but with his hands in this particular direction or his feet in this specific placement. Chin up, shoulders back, chest out. Even for the 'ala'apapa or auana, he showed me the specifics of a man's motions and steps. He said some hula are for men and others for women, so both styles should follow accordingly. In another hula, he said, both sexes can dance together. Like Kawika, for instance. Or Holoana Kalakaua, or Ula Noweo. 

During that time, someone was teaching Hula in my uncle's neighborhood. He'd heard that this person's style came from his Maui uncle, who claimed it was the Kaho'olawe style. It was a thirty-something Portuguese/Hawaiian student at L.C.C. who learned a smidgen of this and that from a Hawaiian studies class. He didn't charge for his lessons monetarily; what he did was he invited particular students to stay back for private lessons where pakalolo was offered, and then, in exchange for sexual favors, he'd teach a little bit more than he did in regular hula class. His name was Clement Ipoleimanu Pacheco. When my uncle got wind of this, he marched down the street to Clement's house, where he chased out a group of young people gathered in a circle in the living room where the acid-laced pakalolo was being passed around. Absent from the circle was Clement himself.

"Where's your Kumu?" My uncle demanded. 

One of the people sitting in the circle sassed my uncle, "Why? Who the fuck are you supposed to be?"

My uncle stepped over to that person and slapped him across the face, summarily knocking him out. My uncle had big hands. He looked around the circle and asked again. "Where is your kumu?"

Everyone pointed down the hallway to a room with the door locked. My uncle broke the door down and found Clement half naked with a young girl on his bed with her top off. He grabbed a handful of Clement's hair, dragged him screaming out of his house, and beat the shit out of him in the middle of the street. When he was done, he turned his attention to all the neighbors who came out to watch or were watching from the windows, "This man is not teaching Hula to these young kids; he's using Hula to make your kids smoke pakalolo, and then he sleeps with them! This man is not a kumu hula! He's a leech! Watch your damned kids!"

My uncle left Clement in a heap, promising him he'd return and do it again if he wasn't out of the neighborhood by that weekend. Clement disappeared and never came back. 


"Was 'Iliahi Payne even your grandmother?" I asked Lueka because that's how she wanted to be identified, as Lueka and not Luke. 

"No, I learned her style of hula from one of the staff members at the boy's home," Lueka replied.

"Who was that?" I pressed. 

"Clement Pacheco," Lueka said quietly. "He was 'Iliahi's grandson, but she stopped teaching him once she found out what he was doing,"

"And he's working at the boy's home now, as we speak?" I was sad for Lueka and disgusted that Clement was still around, doing the same shit as always. Lueka said nothing; she just nodded instead. "Lueka, you're a beautiful dancer, and despite what happened to you with Clement, you've really embodied Tutu 'Iliahi's style right down to the supple fingers. That's where you shine; I can see it! Everybody else can see it! You don't have to do any of this stupid shit anymore. You come to dance for me, and we'll figure it out. I promise you I'm nothing like Clement fucking Pacheco."

"I still have a drug problem, though," she winced a little, and her body shrank a little more.

"I can get you help," Leipili chimed in. "But you have to do your part too, okay?"

"Okay," Lueka was crying now, and we hugged her. "After this is over, you can come to stay with me," Leipili wasn't asking. "But there's gonna be strict rules, you understand?"

"Mahalo," Lueka wiped her tears away. "But, what's going to happen to the program and all of us?"

"So basically, Dominic and his two cousins are holding drug charges over your heads, right? You and Malia?" I asked.

"Yes, because we were caught accepting money for the blow jobs at Thomas Square, it counted as prostitution," Lueka confirmed.

"Don't forget the poppers; we using poppers too," Malia reminded Lueka. "It counted as possession."

"Shit, so what do we do?" I could see that Leipili thought the whole program was screwed. They all did, Lanai, Free, Epi, Malia, and Lueka. I could see it in their faces.

"Listen to me, all of you," I said.


In the weeks leading up to the ho'ike, the ladies practiced and danced their asses off. Sometimes, they were frustrated because they were worried about the technicality of the Hula, which meant they needed to get the spiritual aspect of it. I told them who King David Kalakaua was and about his siblings, parents, and grandparents. I told them about his many exploits, and we even went on a day trip to the 'Iolani Palace. Then, to the Royal Mausoleum to visit his crypt. 

"Everything you now know," I told them at the following hula session. "Put all of that into this hula and tell the story of his joy and pain through this dance,"

They did it, of course; they all got it down to the wire. They were so happy that they jumped up and down and screamed, cried, and hugged. I threw a wrench into the mix with less than a week left. I taught them the continuous figure eight hip movement. The 'oniu. I had them do it for the whole practice session, and then in the last fifteen minutes before they danced Kawika, I said, "Kaholo 'oniu all the way, except for the ha'ina,"

They looked at me like I'd lost my mind, but I urged them to have faith in me just as much I had faith in them. Leipili stood there staring at me with a shit-eating grin, "I see what you're trying to do," she chuckled. "I fucking like it! Do what our kumu says!" She yelled at them. "Get in your positions, and let's go!"


Their ka'i was ho'opuka i kai ka la i unulau. For their skill level, it was breathtaking. Lueka led them in, and she was magic. They burst forth like peacocks in full plumage, proud, majestic feet in perfect time. Dramatic pauses at the right moment. The head was positioned back a little to give them a flair of regality; after all, weren't they channeling the goddess Pele's energy? At the end, they stood with their arms extended out, hands together at the forefingers, big toe pointed out, touching the floor. 

"He inoa no, i ke kai 'O Unulau!" My god, they said it in unison without being tongue-tied! That's when I had to hold back my tears of joy and prepare for the main Hula. Believe me, up until that very moment, they couldn't get it. It was like rubber baby buggy bumpers but in pidgin. I tapped the ipu heke twice, bringing it down on the pale for the main downbeat.

" 'Ae! Eia no Kawika, ka heke o na pua!" Again, ideally in unison. The tears came now, but they were tears of pride and aloha. They repositioned themselves from the diagonal line they entered to a triangular shape, with Leipili at the front. Malia and Lueka are in the back on either side of Leipili, Lanai on our left, Free in the middle, and Epi on the end. 

"Eia no Kawika, eie ei, ka heke o na pua eie ei," the verse repeats itself, and Leipili does her kaholo 'oniu backward to the left, and Lueka does hers forward to the right. Lueka now dances in the front, but it's not over yet. She stays for the first half of the second verse, where everyone stops and takes a dramatic pose while clapping their hands over their heads and pulling the right hand back while leaving the left hand forward. "Kauila ma ka hikina eie ei,"

"Malamalama Hawai'i eie ei," Kaholo 'oniu right and left. On the repeat verse, Malia comes forward and flawlessly changes places with Lueka in the same way. 

"Ku'i e ka lono pelekane eie ei, ho'olohe ke kuini 'o Palani eie ei," They all do it without a hiccup. Lanai on the third repeat.

Na wai e ka pua, i luna eie ei, 'O Kapa'akea no he makua eie ei," Free on the fourth.

Epi for the ha'ina, both first and second repeat. "Ha'ina is mai ka pu ana eie ei, kalani Kawika, he inoa la,"

They assume the same final stance as in the ka'i, "He inoa no Kawika La'amea Kamanakapu Mahinulani Naloieaehuokalani Lumialani Kalakaua,"

Leipili smiled at me and shrugged her shoulders. They practiced this all on their own at Lei's house without letting me know. They all did it together, which made me cry even uglier. I was beyond proud of them and genuinely happy for their achievement. Their family members were beaming with pride and shedding tears of joy and relief in the audience. Except for Epi, she had no one. Neither did Leipili and myself; however, we did have each other.


"Before this program, I lost my sense of who I was, so I pretended to be something I was not. Because of this program, I let go of that person I wasn't, and through the hula process, I discovered who I was meant to be," Lanai said. "I know it doesn't make any sense to most of you, but that's what abuse does in all its forms; it lessens your self-respect until there is none, so you end up pretending to be something else so you don't drown. That's what I did. But guess what? I can really dance Hula now, like for real!" Her children ran up to her and held on to their mother. "Thank you, Kumu and Leipili!"

"For me, it was the emotional and mental abuse that's like PTSD, I guess you could say," Free began. "This hula session talked about goddesses and queens in Hawaiian culture who were abused. There are even chants and Hula about it; did you know that particular winds and rains also talk about bruising the skin and the heart. I thought I was alone in this, but it's like Hula understood my struggle, so I gave back to it, and man, I did much more than heal; I found a new way of existing. I couldn't have done it without Kumu and Leipili." Frees parents were there, and they were very proud.

Eponine tapped the mic a couple of times before she spoke. "Um, this is the first time that a talent I had would not exploit and take from me. See, I'm a trained opera singer, but I ended up resenting that because my parents used it as a tool for their own purposes. I was just a transaction to them, for which they sometimes offered me to other people to get what they wanted. Hula didn't want anything from me, not in that way. It did want me to see that I could have a talent that couldn't be taken away and exploited. Hula only wanted to give me pride and hope. Hope is one thing I've never had, but today, I do because of this program. There's more to work through, but this session is a good beginning. Mahalo Kumu, and Leipili."

Lueka and Malia stepped up to the mic together. Among all the people in attendance who were beyond happy to see how successful this program was, the three who were unhappy were sitting among the crowd. Dominic Watase, his cousin, the judge, Peter, and their other cousin, Chief Of Police Tetsuo. 

Malia began. "Lueka and I are transgendered, and we were coerced into this program because a felony conviction was being held over our heads for possession, and we also got tagged for public lewdness."

"We were told that unless we came into this program pretending to be women, for the sole purpose of doing what we're doing right now, to denigrate this program and say that there were flaws in it because Leipili and Kumu never checked to see if we were women or not, and that it was full shit and didn't heal anyone in this program,"

"The felony for possession would stick, and we'd be sent to jail," Malia confirmed.

"When we were found out by Leipili and Kumu, they did the unthinkable," she took a second to gather herself. "They loved us anyway, this program is not full of shit. It's the real deal."

"She didn't love me, girl," Malia joked. "She tried to kill my ass, okaaay?"

"See, when you go pooching, and you drag me along?" Leuka shot back.

"Oh no, nobody was holding a gun to your head while you were giving head," Malia lobbed one.

"Anyway," Lueka ignored Malia. "We're going to jail anyway because a felony is a felony..." 

Leipili expertly pulled the mic away from Lueka and Malia, "Our program would not have been successful without the person who really deserves all the credit! Please give a round of applause to my supervisor, Dominic Watase! His cousin, Judge Peter Watase, who also donated the room we used for our hula practices, and their other cousin, Chief Of Police Tetsuo Watase, will also donate the SHOPO union hall for our future hula practices! These three gentlemen are also very progressive because they are big supporters of Pride!" The deafening standing applause filled the room, and the judge Peter took the microphone. "We'll see about getting those felony convictions taken care of; I'm sure it was a misunderstanding,"

Afterward, there was a party in the same room for all five women who deserved their celebration. The Watase cousins quietly excused themselves, but in less than 10 minutes, Leipili came running back into the room, "Ronnie! Ronnie come! You have to see this!"

I followed Lei up the stairs rather than take the elevator. In the Department of Health parking lot were Dominic, Peter, and Tetsuo pinned up against a car by a huge black pig with sharp tusks, ready to slice and dice the three men. On the animal's back sat an 'apapane, chirping wildly. "Is that Tutua, and Kiki?"

"I think so," Lei laughed. 

"It can't be, not after all this time," I whispered. 

"But it is," Leipili cried. "It's them,"


The conviction was overturned. Malia and Lueka didn't go to jail. They moved in with Leipili, and she helped them both through their recovery. Lanai married a good man who let her be who she was meant to be. Free became the manager of the U.H. women's softball league. She's still working on herself, so she'll be prepared if and when she meets someone. Epi slowly went back to opera with an organization that needed teachers. She turned out to be a great teacher who gave her students a good sense of themselves. Our program, although successful, eventually ran out of funding. So, twice a week, everyone shows up for their regular hula class, which we decided to name "Halau Hula 'O Hauola," The Hula School Of The Dew Of Life."


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