By Iram Inamdar
“Let’s get lost in the city!” As your voice fumbles, I look into your eyes, to never look back. You are shaking—or should I say trembling.
Our fingers touch, eyes lock, and this city is the witness.
“San Francisco,” your voice shifts its pitch with excitement, “is the perfect city.” I subtly smile without understanding the gravity of your interpretation of this marvelous place.
“What is this place to you?” you ask curiously.
With a sigh, I gather my ‘lost’ thoughts. These are the thoughts that are lost in the kid’s smile peeking through the glass window, Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered pretzels, boba place with the best Matcha Latte, homeless person with a tragic story who I met an hour ago, the sun, sand, wind, and the lovely cafes.
“It is much more than I can put into words,” I say with a giggle.
As we start talking about the streets and neighborhoods, I relive my moments here. Moments of joy, grief, excitement, anxiety during my time here as an undergrad and an assumably mature postgrad seemed so familiar. Saving up money to spend on unique Starbucks drinks and fundraise for local initiatives, I spent the first semester of my college wandering in the fancy and not-so-fancy streets of San Francisco, the utopic being Market Street.
Market Street was a major thoroughfare in the city. It was a gateway for reaching a particular ‘goal,’ which could be the Union Square, the Ferry Building, or any other location within its range of almost 4.5 miles with efficient public transportation. As San Francisco was a cultural, commercial, and financial center during my college years, I always saw people bringing the necessary change. And the diversity in the population amazed me. All of them looked different, spoke different languages, represented different stories, and one of the most appealing factors was the confidence and empathy they exuded all of the time. Also, the range of people and dogs was fascinating. Dogs with fancy bow ties, dresses, and accessories that my college self could never imagine affording.
Somehow, I had already believed that I would be lost in the city by myself without any goal. But the first-ever street that I walked on made me feel like this was the home that I never knew had a place for my tiny existence. The Market Street walk felt like a warm hug on a rough day.
“It’s so refreshing, right?” I exclaim. You glare.
Market Street was magical; this is my first time appreciating architecture and city management. But what makes it welcoming is the people. I suddenly recall the small but impactful interactions I’ve had with my classmates and the residents on this street. I remember a bus driver who was kind enough to change the route to drop me at the library on a Tuesday afternoon and the cashier at the grocery store who asked me questions about my college as if he cared.
A utopia, to me, is a vibrant street full of chaos, people, smiles, and hopes to reach somewhere. It’s a platform that welcomes everyone irrespective of any social, cultural, or regional differences. It’s the place where you are allowed to get lost. It’s the place where you are allowed to make mistakes and take the wrong right turn and figure out the correct right the 34th time. It is the place that teaches you how to walk but not where to walk. It gives you wings of strength, empathy, and superpowers that you never believed in. And it’s not perfect, without flaws. Flaws make us human, and I believe this street made me realize the power of humanity and identity.
“My utopia is with you. So, when do you plan to visit again?” you frame this with hope at the end of our conversation.
I will visit again. We will see each other again. We will see each other every day until you say, “I’m lost in this relationship and can’t find myself!”
Then, one perfect day, our pens will shuffle, papers will crumble, and we will hastily sign the divorce agreement. And the city will remain the witness but without Market Street. You will have proposed a ‘reconstruction’ of the city plan, and we will hope to construct our lives by ourselves, again. I will not ask how you could create a utopia with economic sanctions and sufferings due to socioeconomic divisions. I won’t not have an economics Ph.D., unlike you. You will hold power. I will not ask how your utopia looks different without me. I will leave it for you to find out.
I escape my head and smile at you.
“Sorry…I got lost,” words poured through; my imagination converted into voice.
It turned dark already. Even though I can barely see the stars in the sky because of the fog, I see the glimmer in your eyes.
“How is your utopia different from a dystopia?” I ask.
This work was inspired by the inflation of emotions through remarkable events with a hint of fictional imagination. The writing style was inspired by Ted Chiang’s Story of your Life where the concepts from science and philosophy intermix to intrigue readers about their day-to-day life events. I tried to capture emotions through the tone and diction in this piece and developed a narrative that expressed the connections between events and impact.
Consumed by curiosity, engaged with the will and slightly aware of the sea; Iram is yet another adrift soul. Iram Technically, she is a first-year college student interested in Evolutionary biology and sustainability. Apart from her interests in STEM, she enjoys writing and reading poems, cooking and learning new languages. She wants to learn combinations of Science and Art in college and would love to contribute towards a sustainable future. If you couldn’t tell, she is an INFJ (probably, the test said so the first 2 times)!!