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Jessica Clark

I am living one life in two worlds.

I have just finished my 25th (or was it 35th?) email of the day that included some version of the phrase “the situation surrounding COVID-19,” and I am done. Not out of work to do, but completely, emotionally done. I keep thinking to myself that I never want to transfer another reservation again. I never want to take another reservation again. I never want to talk to another person about a problem with something they’ve purchased that I didn’t personally create and sell to them EVER again. These people are worried, and I am expected to calm or comfort them somehow, but there is nothing I can do. There is no salve for their problem. There is a virus, and it is dangerous, and it is spreading, and all I can do is tell them is what will happen to the money they’ve spent on vacation. 

My second world offers a reprieve from the endless litany of panicked emails to answer, of writing the word “COVID” (it had to be in all caps, didn’t it?) so many times that I cringe every time my fingers touch the letters. Outside my house, I take up my hose and begin to spray the garden beds. Here I worry about whether the asparagus will ever come up or if I killed them by putting them out too soon. Here I wonder if the raspberries are drying out too much in the sun and if mulch will help them get through their first season. In this world, seeds are sprouting into seedlings and chicks into chickenlings and I don’t ever have to think about how it feels to type the word “COVID.” Only how we will keep the mother hen from escaping her enclosure again. Only whether it’s late enough to put out the tomatoes yet. Only how to solve the vast infestation of cheatgrass and foxtails that have taken up residence in every open patch of dirt my property has to offer. 

In my second world, I have a partner, and he is lovely. He is master of the chickens and I the plants, and together we figure out how to make everything work. We are supposed to get married this summer. We are supposed to set up a tent and tables and chairs in the yard and hire a food truck and build a stage and have a huge party with everyone we know and like there to celebrate with us. We are taking turns moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of this huge mound of dirt out of the way in case we can. 

I sleep less than I should. In the evenings I sit down with my partner and we eat dinner and watch a television series we like together. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and love for him and our dogs and our house and yard and projects. My life is the best I could ever imagine it being. But as the hour gets later and the prospect of going to bed closer, I become anxious, irritable. I don’t want to fall asleep and wake up to the transition back to emails and COVID. 

I fantasize about leaving my job, about restructuring my job, about replacing my job with a million piecemeal internet-based income streams so that I can continue to spend my days at home where my second world is readily at hand. But who can leave a guaranteed decent income at a time like this? It would surely wreck them both. 

Not so long ago, it was my job that made me feel overwhelmingly lucky and happy and grateful. It was the best I’d ever had, and I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else. Now I mostly want to escape, but sometimes I wonder if there’s enough of that old work still in it somewhere to make this world habitable again.

Yesterday was the anniversary of when my partner and I met. We have a tradition of rewatching the first movie we ever watched together. I would tell you what it’s called, but it doesn’t matter--you’ve never heard of it. In the movie, two aliens tasked with finding a new homeworld before their planet is destroyed by a comet show up on Earth ready to release a deadly virus that will kill the human population. When they arrive, they hear music for the first time and become determined to save the only life form they’ve encountered that ever thought to arrange sounds in that way. (They also start a folk duo and perform space-themed banjo songs.) In the end, the aliens triumph by shooting the virus into space on a nuclear missile that also destroys the comet saving both worlds at once. 

I wish I could find a way to be as clever as General Trius and Master Kevin. I wish I could save my work world from this virus and continue to spend my evenings on the farm--that in one swift move I could rescue both from ruin. 

I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to save the world. How are you? What would you rescue if you could?

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