Real Retreats Behind Imaginary Walls

Whenever Sam met another Sam it was a weird experience. Hopes were always high, at first. The prospect of encountering a young woman who had, as she had, a name with a bit of personality to it, a story behind it, was exciting. Sam never really thought of herself as a Samantha, although that’s what her parents had called her, and that’s what her mother called out if she had just upset a stack of her father’s papers and was running through the house pursued by a pair of over-excited beagle puppies – “Samantha, come here young lady!” she would call, but Sam would just keep on running. When it wasn’t being used in an irate, parental tone of voice, Sam imagined the name Samantha as belonging to a sophisticated woman, perhaps a little older than she was, a woman who spent afternoons in galleries and smoked French cigarettes and had been intimate with officials from several embassies. It was an imagined life very different from her real life, and it was exciting to think about it. Sam longed to encounter someone who could live up to the name Samantha.

But if she just met another Sam – her age, ordinary, hair unco-operative, fan of caramel slices – that would be fine too. It would be good to meet someone with something in common: something very slight, even superficial, but something in common with her. Sam wondered if being called a certain name might influence a person’s character, and she decided it had to. Either it did have an influence, and quite a strong one, or numerology was crap – and she couldn’t believe that, not for a second. Numerology and astrology and tarot – Sam knew of these things and she took an interest in them, a passing interest; she dabbled and then forgot all about divination, and then dabbled again months later, glancing at her books and going to her websites, and wondering about how to address the problems plaguing her at the time. She wondered about plaguing, and she was sure others had more serious problems than she had, that being plagued was too strong, an exaggeration in fact, but our problems are always important to us and Sam didn’t seem able to deal with her problems whenever they came back, and they always came back. Life was like that – problems arose or they returned: you were never living problem-free for long.

She knew that turning over cards and interpreting numbers – or having them interpreted for you (books and websites always had better, more confident things to say than she could come up with herself) – was a substitute for addressing issues properly as an adult ought to address them. To meet a problem head on, face it, sort it out, and go on to life’s next challenge – that was what you should do, she was sure of it. But it wasn’t easy, not for her. Not like it’s easy for some people. Not like it would be easy for a Samantha – a genuine Samantha, who drank her coffee black and made witty remarks to unshaven artists about postmodernism. And besides, if she, Sam, faced the difficulties which plagued her, and, say, she met them, at great emotional and physical and even financial cost to herself, but was able to deal with and even conquer them, one by one, there would be others ready to take their place, and more behind them, more and more, ready to go, spawning like zombies. Because that was what life was: being plagued by difficulties. And there was no escape.

Perhaps if she met another Sam she could share her problems with her. Another Sam would probably have similar issues in her life. And if she met a Samantha then maybe the sophisticated woman would be a kind of inspiration to her. An example. Someone to look up to, at least, but possibly even a mentor of sorts. Or so Sam hoped. And prayed. Or she would have prayed, if she had prayed; if she had been the sort of person who prays, which she wasn’t; if she had been the sort of person who believed in god, as in one god, which she didn’t, not at all; if she had been the sort of person who says a prayer every night to an imaginary Santa Claus-like figure who lives up in the sky and who grants wishes to those people who ask very nicely and scrunch up their faces tight, in concentration, while they ask nicely, and she most certainly wasn’t that either. No way. Instead Sam meditated, last thing at night, when she was in bed, with the light out and a discreet scented candle mellowly burning on her bedside table, and as she meditated she ran over the events of the day and then imagined a woman with dark hair enter her life, a woman named Samantha who was deeply cool and calm and confident, who flirted with men and women alike and who got her way by using charm and elegance. Sam would typically fall asleep as she imagined Samantha sitting on a park bench, smoking and filling in cryptic crosswords – the really hard ones – while men in business suits queued to catch her attention.

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Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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