"Rise and Fall"

Looking at the house now, a stack of boxes in her arms, Miku traced the horizontal line of the roof with her eyes, scanning the right angles to the point where they met the walls. It looked like a place of despair: its cement walls stained gray with salt from the East China Sea, its windows shut tight against the late season typhoons, the flat roof casting shadows across its facade like a veil. She looked for something in the way that it was constructed to understand how it could look both like a house and so unlike one at the same time, but there was nothing that she could see other than the post-war architecture found all over Okinawa: thick cement walls, shatter-proof glass, a tall wall encircling the cramped property like a fortress. It looked like it was hiding something inside of itself, she thought, something that would make it inhospitable to her and her husband, Dan, and their five-year-old son, DJ. It didn’t look like a place where living things could grow.

Miku shook her head and convinced herself she was just imagining things, imbuing the house with the darkness she had been feeling ever since the baby that had been growing inside of her for twenty-four weeks — a daughter — had died.

Ever since, her usual quiet had grown heavy. But the people she saw on a daily basis—the people who hardly knew her, who nodded at her from the line of cars dropping their children off at school or who said “Hey” while scanning cans of Spaghetti-O’s in the commissary—chalked it up to her missing home, figured it for nothing more than a rebalancing of sorts in a life constrained to an island two miles across in some places and sixty miles long. In Okinawa, people sometimes got like Miku, scattered across the island, hidden from each other behind the poured cement of their on-base housing, walls repainted so many times the lacquer bubbled and peeled in the island humidity, revealing in tacky layers the tastes of women who had come before them, all the way back to the Korean War.

 

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