64-Bit: Pictures to Prose by John Lujan
We sat down for a cup of coffee at a local shop in Columbia Heights. We had been following each other on Instagram for a few months, but never exchanged more than polite comments. I had an idea for a collaboration of sorts. I wanted someone to take one of my photos and create a narrative detached from anything I may have thought as I snapped the picture. All the writer would get is the image. She had a way with words, and when I met her, she had a way about her, as well. I introduced the idea, and she smiled, slightly, and suggested we put a self-imposed word count on each story. “64,” she said. “Let’s make each story a total of 64 words. No more and no less.” So, below is the result of this sit-down from many months ago. 10 photos, accompanied by Amanda’s short stories that are each 64 words in length.
Explanation For His Rock Collection
The boy used to collect feathers. Bold and colorful robin and bluebird ones. Quieter raven dark ones. Pulled from a box, he would run his hand along them to ruffle every barb out of shape before tenderly smoothing them back into flying place. A terrifying thought came one day: Does flight still take place with a missing feather? and he let each one go.
Farragut North That Day
Had he been late that day, she would have been one train ahead of him. Had he been early that day, she never would have stood next to him. Had he picked any other seat, he might not have noticed her legs crossed around each other, how she sleepily bent one knee to pose then settle. He calls her flamingo now over morning coffee.
The Judge, the Lawyer
I am not tired. I know they think I am tired, but I am not. My head bends forward and my eyes close to remember. I do not take off my glasses and rub the bridge of my nose, I just need quiet. You will learn, with age, that silence with yourself keeps you from growing old in ways they will not watch for.
All of these lights like snow become flakes on my collar, my coat, my clean-shaven face. When I miss one place, I find a way to see it in another. In this moment I am transported somewhere arctic: coat zipped to my bearded chin, hands pressed in pockets, watching white crystals. Remembering I am not from here. That home is memory more than place.
A Storm or a Peaceful Day
The eye of love is discerning and loyal unless it loses its focus. The glint becomes dull and it shows. The eye of love needs to be retrained, taught to see what is in front of it differently each day.
Yesterday she let out how, at seven years old, she salted slugs. Today she is learning knitting. Tomorrow is a choice to keep watching.
Anyone can be locked in, the key strung up around his or her neck like a chandelier: look, don’t touch. We catch a glimpse, look through a tiny pane. Never quite enough to understand more than distorted or incomplete parts. The world can become a maddening keyhole depending on what we are kept away from. Depending on what we have lost the key to.
All of Us Walking
How has it been this many years here? Why do we move so fast when I want to remember most? Come along now. I did not want to be your burden or this ghost. Now it has become impossible to look towards any light without reminders of my dark. Now you only say my name to bring me back to where I do not belong.
For the Birds
The saying goes, Today, I will be happier than a bird with a French fry, but how content is that? A bird has always seemed happier when he is deep in flight. I have always been happier outside of a restaurant, watching a bird swoop by. Perhaps we should be happier than a bird on his way somewhere. A bird not needing French fries.
If We Were Trees
Trees have no trouble not growing. Awaiting the right time for showing. Letting parts of themselves go that are broken or dying. How many of us willingly release from our limbs to enter our next stage of growing? How many of us give way to fall knowing soon will come winter? How many of us embrace winter knowing our beauty in spring and summer?
He breathes deeply, walking the airports in between two places. Traveling the ushering lines of the clearly marked depart or arrive. Please watch your step. Walkway ends soon. Gates close, but walkways continue to go. The routines and boundaries of an undemanding world. He could live there, pulling his clothes and shoes behind him. He could live there, easily knowing which direction is home.
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