Author: Soramimi Hanarejima
At 35,000 feet, somewhere over the middle of the ocean, your memory filter fails, altering your inflight lunch in a minor but telling way: the small salad reminds you of the cafeteria salads you ate during middle school, those little nests of baby arugula with a single cherry tomato in the center—a detail from the pre-adult decades you usually block from consciousness. If past travel is any indication, this is one of the times you really need your memory filter. Flights have been rife with spontaneous remembering—a hodgepodge of personal history with episodes running the gamut from days ago to decades ago—probably because there’s little else to do while in high-altitude transit, especially in economy seating.
So you quickly eat the salad to get rid of this reminder of your years as a tween, then turn your attention to the screen on the seat back in front of you, searching through the movie options for something that will keep your mind occupied. You pick the movie that’s least likely to remind you of your childhood and adolescence: a recent space-adventure blockbuster. Unfortunately, the sidekick character bears a striking resemblance to a high school classmate, and that immediately brings back awkward moments in shop class, among other memories. But even just 4 minutes in, the plot is so riveting that you stick with the movie.
During the lull after the midpoint reversal, you imagine the movie’s events as part of a secret life led by that high school classmate. Somehow it seems plausible that after volleyball practice she’d go home and teleport or project herself into this world of high-tech, interstellar escapades. In economics class, she always looked attentive but also relaxed and distracted, like school could have been just a hobby, a way to take a break from her true self—which could very well have been a space jockey wunderkind who loves barrel spinning through asteroid fields.
Later, a flashback montage gets you wondering about the secret lives your college classmates and former coworkers could have had. It’s all too easy to imagine your sophomore lab partner as a super-categorizer adept at rapidly scanning through survey data and sorting people into personality types for the Bureau of Population Statistics.
As the credits roll, you begin doing what you now know you must: plan out your own secret life. You’ll scout out abandoned lots and neglected parks, even median strips that could be beautified. Then you’ll buy seedlings and saplings, a hand trowel and garden fork. And of course dark clothes.
You’ve long felt that you’d benefit from more stimulation or at least more time outside. You’ve all but given up though, after fiddling with side projects and flirting with outdoor exercise, nothing really resonating. Now you know why. You were looking for something that would be an extension of your identity, but what you need is a completely different identity—one that’s centered around covert horticulture.