Anna Villegas is a retired college English professor who lives in Nevada City, California. Her published work includes many short stories, essays, poems, newspaper columns, and three novels (Synergistic Press, William Morrow, St. Martin's Press).
Why I’m Living in Salem
For the past couple of years, I’ve been relishing life in Salem. Not Salem, Massachusetts. Witch trials are so passé. The good folk of my Salem wouldn’t put up with such gossip-driven malice. My Salem is, in more progressive ways than I can count, utopic. It has become the unspoiled destination of my escapist dreams. Of course Salem is not perfect. The occasional lone psychopath perpetrates a kidnapping or bombing every now and again, but on balance, by today’s yardstick, the grass in Salem looks greener than on my side. So, while my neighbors have been dithering about moving to Canada, I’m choosing to spend my time in Salem. Join me. In Salem, not only are hard-working immigrants welcomed, but they also achieve positions of economic and social influence. The Kiriakis family corporation, spanning six generations, is the wealthiest in Salem. Older family members are self-made and bilingual; younger members infuse the corporation with the competitive best of capitalist values and, like Justin Keriakis, pay their debts to society by choosing paths of public service. Then there are the DiMeras, Catholic in faith and catholic in interests. True, in keeping with American business protocol, DiMera Enterprises sometimes strays afoul of the law, but happily the younger corporate officers seem intent on purifying their real estate and telecommunications holdings. Like all good citizens, these forward-thinking scions desire to exorcise any taint of impropriety from their children’s inherited fortunes. Little Charlotte DiMera, the latest-born, can look forward to a trust fund unimpugned by accusations of malfeasance. Siguiente, we have the Hernandez family, one generation removed from Mexico, the walking definition of hybrid vigor. They challenge the supremacy of the DiMera and Keriakis broods while intermingling outside their own clan, producing relationships and children that will ensure, a few offspring down the evolutionary path, homogeneity in the gene pool, of which the tow-headed Arianna Grace is a thriving exemplar. Tribal enmities solved, no walls required. In Salem, everybody has great health care: accessible, immediate, and responsive to individual need. Whether you’re a wayward orphan or a disgraced police officer or a maimed assassin or a beloved doctor—or even an admired CEO!—the Salem University Hospital provides a bed and a bevy of attentive nurses. No treatment is too costly for the lucky citizens of Salem. Nobody in Salem has to wait for dubious insurance approval of exotic or time-sensitive procedures. No college student or barista in Salem fears for the unforeseen future of health care. Without parental support, a job, or a college course to her name, even the miscreant newcomer Jade Michaels has been nurtured by the Salem Hospital and its doctors, who never, ever request proof of insurance. In Salem, a gay relationship is not merely tolerated; it is celebrated, supported and shepherded to poignant marriage by every age bracket in town. Adorable young Sonny Kiriakis, recovering from a break-up with Paul Narita and scandal not of his own making, is rekindling his love for Will Horton. Folk are rooting for them! In Salem, inmates who don’t belong in prison don’t stay there for long. Pardons and reversals are generous. In the past years, defrocked priest Eric Brady’s good works have shortened his sentence for manslaughter by one-fifth. And Hope Williams Brady, killer cop with the great hair, was released from prison because of the murky circumstances surrounding the “murder” of which she was convicted. Gabi Hernandez, repeatedly jailed for what could be seen as errors of judgment, is once again free to bond with her daughter and work at being a better person. The wheels of justice in Salem burn rubber. In Salem, pro bono works and volunteerism are vital. Where the state’s social services leave gaps, the good people of Salem step up to provide scholarships, housing, and jobs. Scarcely a season passes without successful fund-raisers (formal balls and such) benefiting the less entitled of the town. The youth of Salem, with Ciara Brady at the helm, extol composting and energy conservation. No man is an island here! In Salem, the welfare of children (often off-screen, but beloved nonetheless), drives adult machinations. Finding lost or stolen or illegitimate babies is a frequent occupation for men as well as women. They do love their babies and grandbabies and great-grandbabies in Salem. A newly discovered adult grandson like Eli Grant, no matter his complexion, is welcomed just as fervently as a newborn. No child in this magnanimous town is left behind. In Salem, nobody’s past is too inappropriate or too déclassé to be transcended. A prostitute can become an opera singer (the comely Chloe Lane Wesley Black Horton Jonas) or launch a business empire (the wickedly powerful Kate Roberts). Forgiveness—of character and of history—creates plots of opportunity in Salem, where a comeback is the finest act of all. Finally, in Salem, there is no atrophy of manners. All in Salem, from three-year-olds to doddering elders, understand inherently how important grace is to the shared language that recalls the past, binds us in civility to one another, and transforms what is real into what is ideal. Whether confessing deadly sins or proclaiming praise or avowing unending love, the folk of Salem respect both the destructive and the ameliorative power of words, and act accordingly. So I’ve taken up psychic residence in Salem. I’ve swapped the twitter feeds for daytime television, traded alternative facts for an alternative reality where immigrants, health care, and altruism are thriving. And nobody, absolutely nobody, ever has a bad hair day.