By Nalini Edwin
We were feeling awkward at an awkward party. We had all been standing around the table before we began sitting down at it while we stayed standing. There was bread to worry at, dip into brightly flavored oil. In fact, there were many kinds of flavored oil: chile, garlic, rosemary, chile-garlic, lemon, lemon-pepper. Wow, check this out, we said. Yeah, we said. Yeah. We took photographs of the oil and bread with our devices. We saw photographs of the same food, shot from different angles, appearing on those devices, one after the other, like a zoetrope dismembered, its length of images unfurled vertically and captioned. Bread, read the captions, and Oil, and bread & oils, and Yes, and #BOOM. If we skimmed through the photographs quickly, the bread and oils appeared to move upward in space as the photographs moved forward in time, jumping from one position to the other in their small ramekins on the table, growing blurry in one shot, sharply focused in another, obeying and disobeying the rule of thirds. Tilt-shift, cyanotype, cross-process. Magic hour, fisheye, sunkissed. Lomo. If we scanned downward we could see photographs of ourselves, or the view from our apartments and rooftops, or, perhaps most pleasurably, our breakfasts: a latte with its perfect foam heart, a newspaper folded like the chive omelette nearby, a man’s expensive chambray cuff holding a man’s hand holding a fork. We examined these (whose sleeve, what omelette, which newspaper) and thought about them (why him, where chive, how latte heart) as we ate, and did not eat, and started to eat, and stopped eating, the bread and oil before us. Soon the tablecloth was covered with stains, darkest at their middles like eclipses. Crumbs collected here and there quietly. We pulled out devices, just to have something to do with our hands. We learned together. With each passing minute, new things poured into streams and feeds. New things were both river and fish. They were grain in a trough, the trough itself made of deadened petrified grain. New things had happened all the time, and were to have been learned. We read well and closely, were always reading, really, growing well-versed in versions of ourselves. Timestamps reminded us to think of time, but unlike food, time has a heart of mercury and would scatter outward as a billion little globes if a hand tried to capture it. We made versions of our food in time, to remember the time we ate as if in the afterlife.
Originally appeared on Fringe as their inaugural Flash Fiction Contest winner.