There is a girl who lives in two worlds.
The first is the real world. Half of her lives there. In this world, she is known as the woman who hardly says anything at all.
That’s a lie. She is not known in this world at all. Instead, she is a woman who apologizes to people who bump into her. She is a woman who takes the coffee orders and accepts that her name is not Jessica, but Jennifer to most people. She is a woman who goes home at night alone, knowing that she hasn’t said anything important in over six months.
But the other half of her? The other half of her lives in a world that she’s designed.
In it, she is not Jennifer, but Jessica. She’s the woman who runs around and saves the day. She’s basically Superman, except she’s Lois Lane because Lois Lane puts in the work and what does Superman have except being the only Kryptonian on Earth? Superman might have superpowers, but he’s alone. Lois Lane has a successful career and she’s happy with the way her life is.
But, Jessica always says what she means to people. When somebody bumps into her, she graciously accepts their apologies. She can imagine it in exquisite detail, how somebody will bump into her and then they’ll apologize. They won’t spill her coffee and rush off without so much as a by-your-leave. They’ll even give her a smile, and she’ll go about her day happily as if things couldn’t be better.
But, she knows that things can be better. There is some part of her, the one that lives in reality, that understands that this is not what life is meant to be. She understands that life is meant to be celebrated with friends and family. It’s not meant to be lived in her mind, where everything works out exactly as she wants it to.
She thinks about the This is Us character, Randall Pearson, and how he constantly imagines a life where both of his dad’s lived. She related to him more than she liked to admit during that episode. As he imagined a life where he got his happily ever after, she could recognize her own happily ever after between the lines.
It’s all that she wants, when she thinks about it. A life where everything is happy and she is surrounded by people who know exactly what she means, because she never stutters or misdirects.
She’s honest about how she feels, possibly for the first time in her life.
This is a fantasy in of itself, and as she drafts this new healthy reality surrounded by remnants of the grim truth, she knows that it isn’t right.
But, how do you escape the fantasy without creating a new one? Isn’t that what life is? A hope for better days, ones that you might never see but you cling to with all of your might?
She doesn’t consider this for long. Instead, she lives her life, and day after day, she spends it walking to an office that doesn’t know her. She’s not an imposter in her own life. Instead, she is a shadow in her own mind, thinking about all the what if’s and what could’ve been’s, wasting all of her today’s on them.
She knows that she’ll wake up one morning full of regrets and knowing that life could’ve been better. Life could’ve been the dream that she’d always pictured it to be, filled with more than just sad fantasies of the idea that somebody who bumps into her will one day apologize instead of her apologizing to them.
On one particular day, one particularly gloomy day, she awakens to the idea that it is a brave new world. She steps out onto her doorstep, a brave new world in mind and words that she’ll say strapped to her back.
She starts at the coffee shop that she always frequents, the barista named Joe standing behind the counter as he always is. “Hey, Jennifer!” He says. “The usual?”
Jessica, she chants in her mind. It’s Jessica, it’s Jessica, it’s-
The words spill out of her mouth, but she doesn’t let herself get discouraged. It’s just one greeting. It’s one word. Things’ll change.
By the time she’s gotten to the end of her day, they haven’t.
She throws her purse down at a bar stool in her kitchen, thinking of all the missed opportunities, the Jennifer’s that were passed around instead of the Jessica’s, the times that she wanted to have a coherent conversation with Lily instead of just mumbling her way through like she always does.
Nothing’s changed, she thinks, and perhaps nothing will.
Years pass by this way. Jessica spends a lifetime trying to correct people, trying to get the words out of herself like a lump in her throat that won’t dislodge itself, and maybe that’s what’s blocking the words or maybe it’s another excuse, like all the excuses she’s so great at making
It happens unexpectedly. She’s walking down the busy street she always takes to get to work. Somebody bumps into her, spilling her coffee, and she lets out a shout of surprise.
“Sorry!” They shout to her as they run past.
“It’s fine,” she says, smiling at them.
It doesn’t even occur to her until she’s back in the coffee shop that she’d done such a thing, finally said it’s fine instead of apologizing for something they’d done.
“Jennifer, hey!” Joe says, as per usual. “Back again already?”
“It’s actually Jessica,” she says, the words flying from her mouth without any thought from her.
An axis shifts as she realizes what has happened. She stares at Joe. He stares back, though the confusion on his face reads clear as day.
“Jess-Jessica, that’s-that’s my name,” she tells him.
She’s surprised by his reaction, smiling at her. “Well,” he says. “Better late than never, right?”
She smiles once more, the world suddenly a much brighter place.