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3.12 Free Form
Sometimes Samantha

Written by Ananya Surana

March 2024

A third-person narrative reflecting on monotony, loneliness, and the search for connections in urban life.

Sometimes Samantha_Ananya Surana_Mysticeti Magazine.JPG

Illustration  by Shilpa Sivaraman

I

 

Sometimes Samantha did things that others didn’t understand. 

 

Some afternoons, when the walls of her tiny apartment began to close in on herself, she’d push away from the desk she was usually seated at, grab her keys, and simply leave her house without a destination in mind. In times like these, Samantha cared little about her appearance. She’d leave wearing whatever old rags she wore around the house, with her pink rubber chappals still around her feet. But this, of course, was only an occasional incident or two. Usually, Samantha only left her house in the sharpest suits and the highest heels. She had a reputation to uphold of course: with her top-notch job and lavish tastes, Samantha had quickly climbed the ranks. She’d worked hard for it, and she was good at it too. But sometimes she wondered if this was all a hoax: a sad, old pity party in denial about itself. 

 

II 

 

Sometimes Samantha took the stairs, even in the sweltering heat of a humid city. She’d leap out of her house, hair everywhere, and run madly down the stairs, bounding over two or three at a time. Occasionally she’d lose her balance, or the overly worn-out chappals would give way, and Samantha would find herself stumbling down a flight, barely managing to catch herself in time. On most days, however, she would be in a rush to get out of her twenty-something-storied building. She’d jab at the ‘techie’ looking button almost angrily, summon the elevator, and zoop straight down, the cheap jazz filling her brain as she stepped inside it. 

 

But sometimes, the stairs had their appeal, when Samantha wanted to avoid the fully functioning metal box with mirrors on three sides, the infinite echo of her twin. She’d much rather feel the sweat pierce through the expensive perfume she would rub on each morning. On days like these, Samantha would cross the road to reach the shiny and deserted red bus stop opposite her building. This is the only place where she would feel alone in public. The people in her neighborhood had little use of public transport. If they did choose to use one, they would flag down one of the kaali peelis that circled around like vultures preying on the rich in the neighborhood. 

 

III

 

Sometimes Samantha sat there, at the red shiny bus stop for hours, watching cars and bikes flit past in a steady stream of never-ending traffic. Pedestrians were few, but not few enough to not interrupt the moving stream of vehicles. Occasionally, a group of them would emerge out of nowhere, and stick out their arms to oncoming traffic as they hastily crossed the road, as if to say “Stop”. This silent symbol seemed to work better than the street signals that ominously glowed a brighter red than the dreaded bus stop. Without fail, the nearest vehicle would slam the brakes, even if it was for just a second or two, to allow safe passage before continuing on its hurried journey. 

 

Sometimes Samantha was caught slightly off guard by the ways of the world. In the rush of the daily hour, time whizzed by too fast for Samantha to process. Too much had happened far too quickly. She hardly had time to mull over the nuances of the present, her mind was still sprinting to catch up. But occasionally, Samantha found herself questioning it all: the crowd, the traffic, the color of the sky, the sheer size of it all. 

 

Deep in thought, still, in her seat at the bus stand, Samantha would watch as the world lazily turned around her. Everyone was in a rush, but everyone seemed to be aware that absolutely everyone was in a rush. What was born out of this fluke empathy was the realization that much like the jungle, this city worked like an ecosystem, complete with unspoken rules and regulations that each subject unconsciously and unquestioningly abided by. The only rule seemed to be that of constant movement. A rhythm that was so regular that it interrupted no one else’s. Millions of rhythms worked in simultaneous synchrony, like a melody on sheet music, the contretemps that could perhaps be theorized but never understood. 

 

IV 

 

Sometimes Samantha thought she was close to attaining perfect stillness. Not a leaf moved on the various plants that had once grown lush and fruitful, now dry and dead. Twice a week, a company-hired maid would come by to scrub the place down, but the sterilized smell of disinfectant would linger for much longer. Samantha liked it this way, all planned to the last detail. Her days were rather regular, a pattern built and perfected over years, one that surely and certainly repeated itself. Samantha didn’t entertain ‘sometimes’. 

 

On other days, however, Samantha thought that for all of the turbulence within her, an attempt at perfect stillness was merely an attempt to lie to herself. On days like these, Samantha could no longer look at her twin in the mirror in their shared eyes. A routine, no matter how regular, implied movement all the same. Try as she might, Samantha could never recreate a day of the past in its exactitude. The world would find a way to intervene. Her coffee shop would run out of her brew too early, or she’d hit a strange bout of traffic and reach work an hour late. Sometimes her laundry man would bail on her and other times, she’d simply be unable to pull herself out of bed before noon. Physics had it wrong all along: it didn’t matter if she began right where she started, something within her was displaced each day. 

 

On days like that, Samantha would live on soggy cereal and cigarettes all day. She’d resist the bus station, curled up in bed under a layer of blankets, and then finally, by mid-noon, she’d give in and haul herself to the designated spot. 

 

V

 

Sometimes Samantha thought that in her stillness, she was more of a misfit than ever— like the rusted cog that refused to move, interrupting the smooth functioning of large pieces of machinery. 

 

The problem was, that Samantha didn’t know where she fit in. All these years of searching had left her eyes vacant and her head full of turmoil. And yet, she seemed nowhere closer than she had begun. On days like these, she wondered if perhaps movement was a malaise of the human condition. Like a dying star of a dying solar system, sometimes Samantha imagined herself to be the pivot around which the world quickly sped by. With everything spinning around her, Samantha was exempt from time, and sometimes even space. The past, the present, the future, this world and beyond. She was nowhere, but she was here, always stuck, at the red bus stand. 

About Mysticeti's friends:

Ananya Surana is student of literature at Ashoka University.
 
Shilpa Sivaraman is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. She lives in Scotland, where she spends most of her time curating an art gallery.


 
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