Deficiency by Shareen K. Murayama

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I have a hard time imagining four pairs of ample feet draping out beneath a blanket’s edge. My grandfather was the oldest of twelve; my mother, of eight. Both were reared under one roof, in a rural town on something like a farm, selling something like string beans. Maybe the children ate in shifts or fielded for themselves.

Perhaps running out of space unleashed the children to moor beneath dusk’s umbrella, a water hose, a handful of food, and relish in a voided second.

Under our quaint roof, the side dishes tend to loiter, squatting on our bistro table: ramekins of kimchi, sliced fruits, takuan, a chawan bowl of black beans with cilantro salad. And then, two dinner plates.

Nothing can be spaced out.

It reflects both my atomically privileged lifestyle as well as my challenges as an underachieved renter. Some call my sanctuary on the mountain wasted space: where the not-quite-successful grown ups have our backs up against by-now-they-shoulda and just don’t talk about it. The varying straights and turns consumed less of the distance than I had expected in the expanse of living while trying to earn a life.

As a writer, this draws me to wonder about spaces in letters and sighs. The unoccupied portions in numbers and negatives–especially now with so many at the onset of revisiting the work space. We are preparing to go back in time to a dimension we believed to be dogmatic. There’s so much allowance for what’s not provided. Everything’s so complex: the area needed for perfection, the distance between a wink.

I often think about my mother’s last years and how sundowning is also filled with too many holes. The square-footage of her five-bedroom house was filled with less feet. And how symptoms like disoriented and incoherent contained a lot of oh that’s terrible sounds. As she grew fragile, she occupied less and less of herself. Space became the area around everything that existed: her billowing blouse, the unsteady floor, a phonebook she forgot how to open.

Even now, as I kern these lines, I worry about spacing, the seductive errors in reading between them. I’m saying I care and I don’t care if I never become a homeowner. I’m grateful and ashamed that I haven’t always sprouted fruits. If negative space is a necessary boundary to define something, like a town or trust, I wonder which congenital spaces I’m afraid to sound out?

Both of my parents were very inactive; their thoracic cavities called for interventions. More was taken than restored. If space allows us to make sense of how things move from and on, then sitting on my kitchen stool with the evening winds beyond my touch, I’m content with my wonderings and being (somewhat) brave to acknowledge the spaces under this roof and anticipate the weight of tomorrow night’s twinkling.


Shareen K. Murayama lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has degrees in English from the University of Hawaii and Creative Writing from Oregon State University. Her art has been published or is forthcoming in No Contact Mag, Stone of Madness Press, The West Review, 433 Magazine, Ghostheart Lit., Crab Fat, Prometheus Dreaming, Inter|rupture & Phoebe. You can find her on IG & Twitter @ambusypoeming.

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