SnapStory1000 Day #024: Come Back

SnapStory1000 was a writing exercise I started way back in December mostly as an experiment in trying to get me back to writing fiction. Back in high school, I was usually typing away about my personal life on Livejournal (Long may she reign), along with drawings (poorly drawn) comics, writing stories and even making some crummy little games on a thing called ZZT. It was all just an outlet for the petty frustrations suburban youth usually go through and become frustrated years later when they realize just how petty and meaningless they were in the first place. That’s the growing process I suppose though. In any case, when I entered college, those outlets then transferred to any number of incomplete screenplays.

Then I graduated and I all but stopped.

So hence SnapStory1000. I would write a story a day.

As you can see by the horrible grammar-error-ridden pieces of (mostly) slop written below, it was a lot easier said than done.

So I gave up.

But recently, I’ve been undergoing something a revival streak within myself. A need to push myself to become a better me by the time I finish my fourth year in Japan. Something to just tell myself “Okay, you gotta do this not just to do this but to prove something to us, man.” The emphasis on that last word is impossible to overstate.  Also, the encouragement given by Loco (a far better writer) and Matt Schley (whose photographic talents with film make me envious) has been instrumental in this revival. Thank you gentlemen.

Incidentally, this idea is far from my own. Michael Kraabel has a series of (excellent) photos taken with some interesting stories in their own right with the name SnapStory. The difference between ours I suppose being that Kraabel writes non-fiction entries about the circumstances that led to that photo, whereas I am not really interested in the story behind the taking of the photo so much as the story that could possibly be interpreted from the photo.

After all, photography is about capturing the Moment. That Moment is subject to any number of interpretations. The Man at Tiananmen Square was sold in the West as characterizing defiance to the system while the Mainland Chinese government said it showed the mercy of the system to even those who would seek to bring it down before quietly ceasing circulation of it. In any case, the photo leads any number of questions – Who is the man? Did he die? Why was he standing there? What about the tank? Who controls it and what drives them?

SnapStory1000 would not be concerned with the facts but rather the wilder extrapolations. It’s a writing exercise, not a history lesson. The people in the photo are not the people in the photo but rather actors unwittingly cast in a story.

So without further ado, I present the a continuation of this would-be meme. I hope the reader forgives me for having censored every face in this photo.

Last Grasp

 

Michiko Kobayashi was cleaning out her apartment, clearing every nook and cranny from her cluttered closet when she stumbled upon a certain relic from a certain time long ago. She never remembered having even seen this picture before, let alone who took it. Guessing from the fact that it was in her closet, her mother must have taken it when she dropped by to see the farewell ceremony for Mr. Takemura. Takemura was the heart-throb at the school. Young, handsome and charismatic, he became the object of admiration of the girls and aspiration for the boys, even if he was a math teacher. Michiko never cared much for numbers but his popularity was exponential. Alas, as a contract worker, he wasn’t long for her junior high, transferring all the way out to Saitama after only a year.

Even under the gunk that had obscured the aged colors of the dodgy digital print, Michiko could still recognize herself in that PE jersey. It had been a terribly cold April and even if she had to bear the horrible punishment of sitting in The Corner, be damned if she was subject herself to a skirt. She also could recognize the faces of Inazaki and Nakamura, even she couldn’t remember their first names after ten years of having not talked to them. Inazaki had been the best volleyball player around and Nakamura was an exceptional artist. Michiko herself was also on the art club and they weren’t shy about including drawings of Mr. Takemura in the school newsletter and their notebooks, complete with hearts and elaborate romantic scenarios.

Which it had made all the more unbelievable when she had actually managed to kiss him when she saw him in the city one day. Michiko remembered the time – March 16, 2015 at 4:45pm. The graduation ceremony was the previous day and so all the club activities were finished til April of the new school year. She had given the flowers and hugged her senpai and, still riding the highs of an upcoming vacation, she had gone to the city to meet her friend for window shopping around some mall or another.

Then she saw Takemura, walking by the station.

“Mr. Takemura!!!”

“Oh, Kobayashi. What are you doing here?”

“What are YOU doing here? They said you were sick.”

Takemura had been caught by the innocent malice of youth. “Well, yes -umm…. you see…”

“And you yell at us when we try to skip out on class.”

He quickly regained composure and turned to his Authority Mode. “Now don’t try to turn things around here. I am entitled to a little day off after graduating, y’know.”

“Uh-huh. Lazy.”

“Lazy, huh? The test scores on your term test show that I wouldn’t be alone there.”

Michiko laughed it off. “Sooooo…”

“So…?”

“Who ya meeting?”

“No one.”

“Liar.”

“Really.”

“How about me?”

“What?”

“Let’s go on a date!” Michiko grabbed her teacher by the arm and started dragging him to the nearest coffee shop. Her friend could wait and, if the best case scenario happened, she could just rain check.

“Now hold on…”

Next thing she knew she was having a coffee date with the stud of Ishinomaki Junior High.  She would be the envy of everyone.

“Now Kobayash-”

“Michiko is fine!”

“– You know what a situation you’re putting me in, don’t you?”

“What situation? You’re leaving this month anyways right? No big deal! Watch..”

“No! Wait…”

Takemura was thanking his lucky stars that it wasn’t a particularly crowded cafe and that the staff were doing a fine job paying little heed to the proceedings as long as no one was ordering anything else. Michiko could smell the cologne he was wearing – so odd for a teacher to be wearing cologne – and her arms, trembling in the nervous excitement, were firmly around him.

His cheek was a little rough to the press of her lips, but she did it again anyways. Just to ensure that this was a reality. This one part of the story that Michiko would always play over and over in her head. Something to keep warm at night with.

She remembered his smile as he finally used his arms to pry her away from him, but not before returning the embrace in a token gesture. To this day that smile always puzzled her. Was it one of satisfaction of the affection of a 14 year-old girl? Of longing for her? He never said and she would never find out, for her phone had rang. Her friend was waiting and Mr. Takemura was all-too-eager to not hold up the festivities.

Indeed, the final time they would see each other was in that photo. She never took his e-mail address nor did she ever give hers. It was an oversight on her part. She was so accustomed having him around that she figured she could always do that. She never spoke to anyone of the cafe date with her teacher. Even long after she left high school. It was a treasure for her.  A treasure that the little mismatched girl would always be reaching out to.

This a part of Anna Ikeda’s “Show Me Japan” series, showcasing various photographers and bloggers throughout Japan. Give it a look and say hi to Anna, who is a lovely woman and fantastic photog in her own right.

Posted in Photography, SnapStory1000, Standalone Shorts Tagged , , |

SnapStory1000 #023: Snapped

#023: A Gang Alone

Aw damn. Can’t believe I made it to this moment in my life. A day with the Michiko Kobayashi. She’s drop-dead gorgeous in that thing and worth every penny to have come out to this event.

Might as well kill me and take me to heaven. Such a sweet location too. All these pillars add such style and class plus I get the ocean out the window! These guys got the better cameras, but I make up for it in pure talent! Get these babies shot, stuffed in my portfolio and I’ll be raking it all in. Even better yet will be the after-party. Once the rest of the losers here around me leave, it would be just me and Micchan. She’ll pass me her card with her number and I’ll be at her place.

Seriously, what price is a few 10,000-yen bills for all this?

Who the hell is that guy looking at us over there?

Posted in Photography, SnapStory1000, Standalone Shorts

SnapStory1000 #022: Under the Blossom Tree

“So, how does it feel to be married a second time?”

It was a tough decision all things considered. Their respective divorces had proven tough on both their relationship and their wallets. This thing about taking a trip to Japan seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. His kids from the previous marriage boycotted the wedding and her husband forbade hers from going lest they get their college tuition cut off. At the end of it all, they figured that the best thing to do with burning bridges would be to fly over them. Perhaps more than just over, but fly away from them.

As they entered the Hasedera temple, she had a lone tear come to her face. It crept up quietly but darted out quickly like some soap bubble. She had done her damnedest to keep it inside, but the guilt of it all needed some outlet. At middle-age, breaking off a near two decade-long relationship and going off with her lover of two years to get married a year later. Their respective spouses didn’t even know about the affair. All they knew were the divorce papers and that their beds had gotten a lot more movement to room not long after.

It was okay though. For now, they could have some refuge. At least for a week while their phones couldn’t operate outside of the country and they could be free from phone calls, work and, most important, former family.

They could finally be alone. That didn’t mean that they had to be lonely.

Posted in Uncategorized

SnapStory1000 #021: Flyers

#021: Onegaishimasu!

“If you’d please…”

“If you’d please…”

“Sir, would you like to…”

“Akihabara’s newest maid cafe! Would you…”

23 people. She had counted them exactly, partially out of desperation and partially out of a need to keep score. Each one had rebuffed her without a single word. 1000 yen an hour and there she was freezing her thighs off in the middle of the night to an indifferent mob of nobodies she wouldn’t have spent a second glance looking in any other place. Good lord. What’s to do in this country? Graduation was still a year away and that PSP wasn’t going to buy itself!

“Hi there, would you..”

He took the flyer. Success. If only a small one.

“Thank you so much, would you like me esco-..?”

He walked on. The second part of the game was to get them into the store itself. That there was the trickiest part AND the best. To get them in meant that you could go back inside and let some other unlucky sap stand outside in the cold. God, she was ready to get back inside, serve some tea and get back at that Achika. Then she would be in the cold and would warm, sneaking bites of the fried chicken they had in the back room. Not to mention sneaking a sip of the draft beer. That would be all in good time, but for now…

“Would you like to…”

“Please, if you’d be so kind…”


Posted in SnapStory1000, Standalone Shorts Tagged , , , , |

SnapStory1000 #020: Tidying Up

#020: Weeding Out

They’d just about had it. It was time to clean up the country and the people at the top weren’t paying them enough and they were part of the problem. A silent coup was the only way to bring a semblance of hope and balance to the country. After so many years of stopping cyclists with broken lights and letting domestic violence cases in the station off with a wave of the hand and a blind eye, they knew it was time to do something to make amends.

It was time to put Grandma in the slammer.

“Where are you taking me Sonny-boy?”

“Routine questioning, just relax.”

“What are you doing?! Stop it!!!”

At first the families always argued. The instinct of protecting the family is a hard to break, after all. It would be okay in a matter of hours though. They’d get Granny in the cuffs, put her along with Pops in the backseat and off they would go to Liquidation. The family then is informed that their relative has volunteered into a home, complete with an address they can be reached.

They never do, though. They never do.

In any case, it was a radical move to do in Hokkaido but it will be looked back on as necessary to allow the youth to take over in the future. Right, right? So what if the kids can’t read kanji or do ikebana? At least the country will be out of the doldrums. First Hokkaido, then Harajuku. That’s the word the chiefs running this renegade cockamamie gamble of an operation keep saying. With each the old soil overturned, new flowers can bloom. The Land of the Rising Sun already had plenty of water around it and it’s got the sun shining overhead.

The ambition of youth is inherent and key to saving the nation. You remove one and are guaranteed to create another.

The nation was always built on division and revolution. This was but one more.

Hail to the era of youth without the old. Those enlightened at 20.

Posted in Standalone Shorts Tagged , , , , |

SnapStory1000 #019: Departures

#019: Dream Interrupted

“I love you.”

I can’t say I didn’t expect him to say those words, but they still hit with a raw force. I had let him chase me, after all. I had let him find me, after all. You’d think that time would make things calmer, but it time amplifies as much as it adds perspective. I could see in his eyes that he knew how foolish it was to say these things to me. I had a life outside of here after all. I had just been proposed to in Korea. He’s a good guy, working out in Pyongyang at Lenovo’s branch. He was waiting for me at the hotel. He knew he was being a fool, yet he decided to be as foolish as he could be.

He put his arm around and took a deep breath. I could feel him trembling still from the weight of those words. Such an odd word to use on a man: trembling. So full of vulnerability and weakness from this guy who’s standing a whole head taller than me. Yet, trembling is the only word that comes to mind for how his body shakes. Can’t be the train either.

I said nothing. What could I say?

God, such an awkward spot to make a confession. A train. Going for broke is something best done with intent and not in a spontaneous burst of emotion. Well, it was our only chance alone and how often could he have a chance to say it? He already knew I could say nothing yet he said something for the both of us.

“I love you.” He said again. “You don’t have to say it, just hear it.” Thank god.

Okay, I’ll admit, it was kind of sweet on his part to go all this way just for a girl like me. But they say it’s bad to break a heart. They say it’s worse yet to instill hope where there is none. There was none here. I’d be going to my hotel in Asakusa and then be on a plane bound for Pyongyang the next day. That was where I was needed more. I’d would be there and he would be here. That’d be fine for now.

As his eyes were closed in a silent agony and the train doors slid open, I nuzzled my head against his chest and squeezed his hand one last time.

Posted in Photography, SnapStory1000, Standalone Shorts, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , |

SnapStory1000 Day #018: Trends

Day #018: Signs of the Times

The strongest, most dramatic changes in fashion have usually had a pretty good war to go along with them. The problem comes when people stop caring about the war going on. Fashion becomes static and statements become even more meaningless than they already are. Such was the marketer’s theory when they decided to take 10-cent firecracker fodder than turn them into 10-dollar novelty jewelry. Even better, the profits could come from both sides – those on the right could say that they were being patriotic and honoring the brave warriors on the front lines; those on the left could say it was a silent protest against the treatment of the fighting forces as no better than finger puppets. Either way, there was money to be made.

The trend was soon catching on all over the world after a prominent movie actress showed them off on a Chinese television variety program. Being a devout liberal, her sincere speech through the filter of Chinese subtitles moved the people on the streets of Beijing who were soon to upload it to youtube through their firewall proxies. The footage went viral literally hours after it aired and soon enough, schoolgirls in Thailand were sporting little green men on their little tanned fingers. This did cause some problems to Japanese tourists when they took trips to Dubai or Tehran, which led to embassy advisories against bringing certain types of jewelry.

In all, the trend lasted all of four months in its origin as the war starting fading in the background of the public consciousness again. The jewelry would be mostly forgotten outside of retrospective internet articles and television specials on the year and decade in review. Likewise, Asia, Europe and Africa’s craze for it would soon subside but it would be still be something that tourists would note with curiosity on the streets of Seoul or Shibuya, usually proceeded by a blog post or tweet to the effect of “WTF?”

Posted in Photography, SnapStory1000, Standalone Shorts Tagged , , , , , |

SnapStory1000 Day #017: Shakai-jin

Day #017: Another Day

Shakai-jin. Society and Person. Someone who contributes to society.

After graduating high school I didn’t see much point in going to university. Enough with those stupid books and pointless tests. Hearing some old geezer yak on and on about something that’s so freaking boring! I just wanted to hang out with my friends, drink a Cocktail Partner and play Angelique when I got home.

Although, I gotta admit history class was fun though. Hearing stories of The French Revolution and the killings that ensued. Especially seeing all the gorgeous paintings of the queens and the luxurious dresses they wore. I wanted that. So I got a part-time job at the first department store that would hire me. Saved every yen I could to get my first lolita dress. “Baby The Stars Shine Bright” indeed!

That was about a year ago. Now, I’m working in Harajuku on Takeshita. Been just a few months but things are going pretty good. Keeping the displays maintained, drawing up little signs for what we have in store and watching all the fashionable girls waltz in and out. The best part though is watching all those otaku when I come outside and telling them “NO!” as I walk to and from work. Then going home to my home, having mom cook up something delicious and then I can rest for the next day.

Contributing is nice.

Posted in Photography, SnapStory1000, Standalone Shorts Tagged , , , , , , |

SnapStory1000 Day #016: Burn Baby Burn

Day #016: Purge

He was finally done with it. Everyone was. The Great Oblivion came only once every five years and it was a welcomed occasion. All those from around the community would come and burn their memories and priests would forgive the apostates who in turn forgave their former . Bitter enemies would become the best of friends after casting their worries into the fire, the forsaken widow would find her tears dried by flames. Applause silently popped with the crackling of the embers and the vanishing of soon-to-be-bygone worries.

Fredric came to the fire with a photograph of the fire itself. He couldn’t remember what was the last thing he burned was and he wanted the right to remember it. Who decided that this fire was anything of value anyway? No one in the town could remember who started this tradition, it simply was. Well, until that person could step forward with a good reason, he figured that forgetting the forgetting was long overdue. He wasn’t sure if this would work but it was worth trying. Would it bring back the memories, the vague phantoms of which had been haunting him for so long? Worse a to be unremembered than to remember that you forgot.

Enough pondering. Time for action. He flung the photo into the fire the way a child flings a rock to see how long he could make it skip.

The fire consumed the glossy paper indifferently. As sudden as it crumpled into ash, there was an echo of thunder in the clouds above. Rain started to pour.

A smile crossed Frederic’s face as a pained look of longing that he hadn’t felt in five years crept into his eyes.

Posted in Photography, SnapStory1000, Standalone Shorts Tagged , , , |

SnapStory1000 Day #015: Back in my Day

Day #015: Trudge

Listen you little twerp, you don’t know what it was like back in the day. We had to work hard for our things back in my day. You say that you can’t ride your titanium bicycle that your old man – my own son –  worked with his hands to earn for your crybaby to school!!? Why, in my day, we didn’t have global wireless internet. NO! We had copper fiber and we had to pay good money for it instead of just the government giving it to us.

One day, my son, your dad here wanted to go to stay at a friend’s house. Your great-grandmother didn’t pamper me, no. No, she made me take my suitcase and I had to drag it for half-an-hour through the bloody snow to get it to Shinkansen. Yeah, you remember that one dontcha? None of this insta-teleport maglev stuff. Just me, luggage half my size and twice my weight riding along some rails with just a cell phone on a slow 3G line. In my day, we thought we’d never see the day we saw a bullet train going from Hokkaido, nevermind the absolute miracles you have around you!

Posted in Uncategorized