Remembrance and Regret by Horace Wang
He knew that he would be lining up on the day the product debuted ever since he saw the ad in the papers. What he did not know was how many people had the same plan. With his wallet in one hand and his walking stick in the other, he was just another one of thousands waiting to enter the store. This wasn’t the market’s release of the latest smartphone, nor did the store he was lining up outside specialize in selling modern technology. No; he was lining up outside of his neighborhood pharmacy.
It was quite funny, now that he thought about it. As someone who had frequented this
establishment for the better part of a decade, he couldn’t recall the last time when there had actually been this many people. The only times the line had ever come close in number had been during outbreaks of an animal-related disease.
“Memory pills”, was the name of the product. It had initially caused some confusion among the consumers who bought pills for remembering where they put their car keys, but even they soon succumbed to the appeal of this innovative new product. After all, wasn’t permanently remembering things a solution to their temporary problem?
His palms grew sweaty as he approached the store counter. The colorful plastic tubs were
flying off of the shelves, and he did not want to be going home empty-handed. He needed these
pills, arguably more so than anyone else in line. The advertisements depicted these pills as enabling the user to relive memories that demanded that to be relived, and to forget memories that demanded to be forgotten. He himself had far too many of the latter.
When he returned home, he swept all the painkillers to one side of the table. He wasn’t
going to get rid of them just yet. He walked into the kitchen and surveyed his beverage options. Most of the time he’d just down a glass of tap water to ease the painkiller’s journey down his throat, but this time, he wasn’t taking painkillers. He exited the kitchen with a bottle of scotch in his hand.
Memories that he had worked hard to forget bubbled to the surface for the last time as he
thought about all that he needed to forget. Failed expectations. Failed romances. Failed careers. Fail failed failure fail. His fingers dug into the armrest as he felt the accumulative disappointment of a lifetime, the only relief being the knowledge that it was not going to last for much longer. Not actively trying to deal with his problems. Not learning from past failures. This was the way he’d chosen to live his life, and with the existence of these pills, he could rationalize it. For a
moment, an inner voice spoke inside his head, asking if this was what he really wanted. Another
moment passed, then he cracked open the first pack of pills.
Twin strands, one red, one blue danced inside the pill, although he could not say where the strands began and ended. He watched the colors in motion before remembering that pills were
meant to be consumed, not admired.
The pill slid down his throat effortlessly, and the scotch that accompanied it was unneeded, but not unwelcome. In the span of a few seconds, he relived his entire life. He remembered his first school friend helping him out of the sandbox after bullies had pushed him into it. He remembered the same friend shoving him into a locker seven years later. He remembered losing his virginity to his high school sweetheart. He remembered getting kicked out of the bed, barely dressed, ten minutes later. He remembered feeling like the king of the world after graduating at the top of his class and getting accepted into a great job despite his limited experience, and he remembered the wrath of his boss on his last day of work. He remembered thinking that this was the one, that this was the person he was going to spend the rest of his life with, and then he remembered being wrong. And then he remembered the last thing that he had done, buying and ingesting the very pill that was journeying down his digestive system. He closed his eyes and succumbed to the sensation of renewal as it swept into each and every corner of his body.
When the trance wore off two hours later, he groggily opened his eyes. He did not remember why he had been sleeping. He did not remember where he was, or who he was. He did not remember anything at all.