I was on my knees, wiping stray semen from my lips, when Felix reached down and handed me a packet. It wasn’t the usual crystalline white powder. Wasn’t powder at all. It was a tiny oval – two tiny ovals — clear through the center, like contact lenses.
“What the hell is this?” I asked. I may have been a college dropout that blew strangers for meth, but I had standards. I wasn’t going to sell my body for pennies. For… whatever the hell he handed me.
After I crumpled up the packet and launched it at his head, he explained that they were, in fact, drugs. New drugs. Expensive drugs. Illegal drugs.
It worked like LSD, but instead of popping it into your mouth and letting it dissolve on your tongue, you inserted it into your eyes. It would give you “controlled hallucinations.” Instead of seeing random images that your mind conjured up, you’d see set images. Like you were watching television.
The pair he handed me were copies of Yellow Submarine. All I had to do was pop the contacts in and I’d get a front row seat to cartoon John, Paul, George, and Ringo frolicking around and singing. I’d see all the sights and hear all the sounds.
At least that’s what the bum with his cum in my stomach told me.
Of course, I didn’t believe him. Thought it was a load of crap. So I told him to sit his ass back down and wait while I tested it out. If he was screwing with me, I had a blade. I wouldn’t hurt him, but I would threaten him. Even if he didn’t have any meth on him, he must’ve at least had some money.
I took a quick trip to the bathroom to wash myself off (I would stick a stranger’s genitals in my mouth, but I wouldn’t touch my eyes without clean hands) and stuck the contacts inside. It made the skin around my eyes tingle and go numb. And it made the rest of my body feel Light. Airy. Relaxed. I loved the fucking feeling.
But what I saw was… mediocre. Like when you use a touchscreen fridge or put on virtual reality goggles. I probably should’ve been more impressed by how far technology had taken us, but I was desensitized. New gadgets came out everyday.
It was different than I expected, though. I wasn’t watching the Beatles on a flat surface, like I had a computer or a cinema screen stretched out in front of me.
The movie was layered over the real world. Like the characters were ghosts or holograms. I couldn’t touch them – my hand would go right through – but otherwise they looked real (or as real as cartoons could get). And if I moved, which was a bad idea with two realities layered over each other, they followed me. Looked pretty cool. And felt fucking great.
When I finished the experience, Felix was still sitting across from me, smirking. I think he wanted to brag, because that’s exactly what he did.
He told me that his brother was the one that created the drug. It didn’t surprise me that a scumbag like him had a genius brother. Families usually worked like that. Like all the good genes got sucked into one sperm.
It was like that with me and my older sister, Emma. When I was in single digits, everybody swore that she was the problem child. The devil’s child. She had detention every other week and the neighbors wouldn’t let their kids hang out with her. But then my mother joined the angels in heaven and our roles reversed.
Now, Emma was the one with the high-paying job. The fancy apartment in the city. The pretty-boy husband and even prettier twins. Meanwhile, I was the one struggling to pay the rent each month with money I earned from washing dishes in a shithole diner and blowing boys in the back of it.
I hated my sister. But it seemed like Felix loved that brother of his.
He went on and on about how his brother had an even better product than the one I’d just tried. One where you could “see your own memories.” Where you could feel like you were reliving the best moments of your life.
Unfortunately, the governmental agency his brother worked for (he mentioned the name, but my memory is shit) stopped funding his research for the controlled hallucination contacts (CHC). They said the drug was too dangerous. Too risky. That they couldn’t be responsible for anyone that tried it.
So he ran secret experiments in the safety of his own home. And he sent Felix out to search for guinea pigs.
My first question should’ve been if the gig paid. But honestly, money didn’t even cross my mind in the moment. All I was thinking about was how good the drug felt as it dissolved in my eyes, making the skin surrounding it tingle. And how light, how weightless, my limbs felt. I wanted that feeling again.
So when Felix asked me if I wanted to be a part of history, the only questions I asked were where his brother lived and what time I should show up.
A few hours later, after showering away my sins and getting ready to embrace new ones, I took the bus to the house Felix shared with his brother (the house he probably never paid a dime toward).
On the way there, I tried to think of what memory I’d actually want to relive. Before getting fed up with law school and dropping out to pursue a life of partying, I was a pretty good kid. In first grade, I’d won the spelling bee. In second, I’d gotten all As. And in third, I’d won some contest where I had to draw a picture for the fire department. And there were all of those soccer practices and baton lessons mom took me to when I was six or seven.
Mom. I’d like to see her again…
She killed herself when I was eight. Emma was fifteen. I don’t remember much about the day, even though I saw it all go down. Heard her screaming about how stressed she was. Saw the knife squeeze into her stomach. Watched her crumble to the ground and leave blood smears across the kitchen tiles.
At least, Emma tells the story like that. Apparently, I had repressed the memories. That’s what the shrink I saw all throughout middle school and high school kept telling me. The “incident” would be too painful for me to think about, so my brain wouldn’t let me. It put up barriers even I couldn’t tear down.
But maybe that was for the best.
It only took a half-hour to reach Felix’s house. It wasn’t a mansion, but it might as well have been. It was the type of house that people like me would daydream about getting decades ago, when 20-somethings didn’t have a shit-ton of student loans and credit card debt.
This guy definitely had money. If his “special” drugs didn’t give me a good high, then at least I could walk out with a coat filled with valuables. Win-win.
Two seconds after ringing the doorbell, which played some complicated piano riff, Felix answered the door. I didn’t know if that was one of his household duties or if he just wanted to see me. I hoped he wasn’t developing any real feeling for me, because I wasn’t interested in anyone that was interested in me. The type of guy that would settle for a handjob whore. No thank you.
Luckily, he didn’t try to hold my hand or grab my waist as he showed me to his brother’s laboratory. Although, laboratory was a pretty strong word for it. It was clearly a spare bedroom with the bed taken out and a bunch of computers, wires, and steel chairs thrown in.
“What do I have to do?” I asked after shaking his brother’s hand.
He attached a helmet with colorful wires and electrodes to my head and told me to think about the memory I wanted to relive. He referenced Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but it reminded me more of Back to the Future, when Doc has some ridiculous contraption on his head for comedic relief.
“What if I don’t remember all the details?”
He told me it didn’t matter. That memory was faulty. That, when you remember a memory, you’re not actually remembering the moment itself. You’re just remembering the last time you remembered the memory. So, over time, the reality gets eroded.
I told him that his memory drug was a pretty shitty idea, then.
He laughed at that. I guess he was used to dealing with assholes his brother brought home.
He treated me like an equal, though, not like someone he needed to talk down to. He explained how the brain stores everything. That most humans can only access ten percent of what’s inside, but there’s plenty of stuff lodged beneath the surface. Worlds of stuff. And that his technology had the ability to dig beneath the superficial memory and get to the real memory.
Technical mumbo-jumbo aside (mostly because I couldn’t repeat it if you paid me), that meant his drugs would bring back details I didn’t even remember. It would be ninety percent more accurate than my conscious thoughts ever were.
So, when he told me to concentrate on one specific memory while his computer did its magic, I thought of my mother’s suicide.
It took him a total of two minutes to finish whatever he was doing with my head, but after he removed the helmet of wires, he spent two hours with the computer.
I spent that time with Felix.
I still wasn’t interested in his yellowed skin or his red pubes, so I don’t remember much of the conversation. I know he mentioned something about blow and pornos while I murmured mhm’s and looked around the room for pocket-sized objects. A lighter. An ashtray. A golden bong, maybe? But I didn’t see anything I could slip into my jeans.
If I wanted more free drugs, it was probably best for me to keep the kleptomania to a minimum, anyway.
The only conversation I actually remember having is when he asked me if he could watch my memory. That, when the drugs did their thing and my chosen memory kicked in, whatever I saw would be relayed on a screen on his brother’s computer. Turned into a movie of sorts. I don’t remember my answer. I figured he’d watch it, no matter what.
When the brother finally returned and released me from my one-on-one time with Felix (thank GOD), he ushered me back into he laboratory and handed me the product on a petri dish. He wanted me to take the drugs in front of him, so he could record my vitals and monitor my brain waves and whatever else scientific types did.
I popped them into my eyes, one after the other, relishing that tingly sensation. It felt just like the last time, except…
Except I saw my mother. Standing in front of me with her overlong hair pulled into a low pony. Light blue apron strings dangled by her skinny sides, too frayed to stay tied.
And I was there too, the eight-year old version of me, sitting at the kitchen table sucking on an orange with peels littered across the table. I was fully brunette back then, not blonde with spider web roots. I looked happy. Clueless about what was going to happen.
I only had a second to look at the fifteen-year old version of my sister – to see her blue-lined eyes and pink-dotted braces – before I realized she was screaming. About how unfair it was that mom wouldn’t let her leave the house alone to go on a date with a boy. About how she was old enough to do what she wanted. To fuck who she wanted.
Mom yelled back. About how she had banned make-up from the house. About how cuss words weren’t allowed to be said under her roof. About how sex wasn’t something a young lady should even be thinking about.
Mom’s tone was harsh, but everything she was saying seemed reasonable. Until Emma made a low blow (Is that why dad left you? Because you wouldn’t fuck him?) and mom lifted a knife.
“What are you going to do?” That was Emma, of course. She laughed, lifting her neck, giving mom the perfect place to slash it. “Are you going to kill me? Yeah, great idea. Go to jail for the rest of your life because you can’t deal with the fact that your daughter is hotter than you. That men actually like me.”
Mom turned the knife. Aimed it at herself. Held the handle with two hands and let the tip rest right against her stomach. There were tears on her under eye bags as she said, “You want to grow up so quickly. To wear make-up. To stay out past curfew. To fuck. But how would you like it if I died? Then you’d really have to grow up. You’d be forced to take care of your little sister. You’d be forced to get a job. You’d be forced to get your shit together, Emma. You don’t have a clue what it means to be a grown up. You don’t have any idea what I…”
It was hard to hear the rest. Emma was screaming over her. Not listening to a word. Not absorbing any of it. Just screaming: “Do it. Fucking do it. I’m not going to miss you. Nobody gives a fuck. DO IT.”
And she did.
Repressed memories probably stayed repressed for a reason. That’s what I told Felix’s brother when the drugs wore off. I can’t remember if that was before or after I vomited over his heart monitoring equipment. Memory’s a funny thing.
Maybe even an evil thing.
When the brother left the room on a search for paper towels, Felix asked me what I saw. Even though I knew he had been watching the movie version of my memory on the computer, over his brother’s shoulder, I still told him about the fight. About the knife. About the blood. About how the miniature version of me just sat there as my sister talked my mother into suicide. About how I was the one to pick up the phone and dial 911. About how the memory ended when the sirens started up.
And then I asked him if he knew how his brother created the drugs. If he could create an exact copy of what I’d just watched without attaching wires to my head again. Maybe by downloading that movie that was transferred to the computer. The movie of my memory.
Now that it was a permanent file on his computer, like the Yellow Submarine, he could make the product again and again and again, right? A controlled hallucination that anyone could watch, not just the person with the original memory in their head. Right?
I actually was.
He said the information he’d need was still stored on the computer, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to duplicate the drug. That he’d do it for me if he could take me on a date.
It would be worth it, I told myself, so I agreed.
I met up with him at a burger joint the next day. He was late, but I didn’t notice. My mind was elsewhere.
I was so unbelievably, uncontrollably pissed at Emma — filled with so much hatred that I thought every organ in my body would burst.
Ever since mom died, Emma had been the good sister. The successful sister. The sister with a job and a checking account and a happy little family.
But she didn’t have the right to a good life. She was responsible for the death of my mother. She didn’t hold the knife, but it wouldn’t have made a difference to me if she did. So what if she was a teenager with raging hormones? She wasn’t a child. She wasn’t stupid. She knew exactly what she was doing. No, maybe she didn’t know mom would kill herself, but she knew she was hurting her. She knew she was being a manipulative bitch.
My drug-fueled hallucination ended with the sirens, with the ambulance showing up, but I had an extra memory of Emma leaving me with our aunt later that night. And she didn’t come back until the next morning.
Now that I knew what happened, I wondered if she went out with that boy, anyway. The idea that I was crying my eyes out at home while she fucked some boy against mom’s wishes made me want to strangle her. No. To slit her stomach with a knife, so she’d feel the same pain mom had felt.
But I wasn’t a murderer. I wasn’t her. I’d settle for a little revenge. Revenge I’d get with the drugs Felix handed me under the table during our ‘date.’
It turned out Felix had a car – or his brother had so many cars that he actually allowed Felix to borrow one – so I asked for his help again. This time, he did it without holding a date over my head. I think he was just happy to spend a few more minutes with me.
He dropped me off at Emma’s apartment around midnight. I needed to get there after the sun went down. When she was finished with her chores for the day. When her glasses would be on.
And they were. Perched above her button nose, beneath perfectly sculpted brows. Even though it had been awhile since I’d gotten wasted and asked to stay the night at her place so I didn’t have to walk all the way home and risk getting mugged, she gave me her signature sigh, the one that said, I don’t want you here, but I’m also kind of glad you’re here so I can hold it over you forever.
After I walked in, she gave me a one-handed hug and told me she picked up some new pamphlets about rehab. I avoided the conversation by telling her I wasn’t feeling the greatest and ran straight for her bathroom.
When I shut myself inside, I spotted her contact case sitting right there. On the edge of the sink, near four brightly colored toothbrushes. For her and her trophy husband and her two identical daughters.
Two daughters… Just like mom. But Emma was happy. Mom was not. Emma was alive. Mom was not.
To be fair, Emma’s memory might have been as screwy as mine. Maybe she didn’t remember that it was her fault. That she was such a bitchy little brat.
That’s why I wanted her to relive the moment. To remember what it felt like to cause the death of her own mother. To take away her children’s grandmother.
I needed her to see it. To experience it again. To become so upset with herself that she spent weeks in bed, turning down business lunches and PTA meetings and dinner dates.
And, of course, I needed to see her see it. That’s why I unscrewed the bubblegum pink lids of her contact case, dumped out her actual contacts, replaced them with the drugs, and spent the night on her couch.
I didn’t wake up until noon out of habit. I should’ve set an alarm, but I wasn’t the mastermind I wanted to think I was. God damn it. Emma started her days early, so I’d probably missed the entire drug trip.
Yup. When Emma walked in, her make-up was already done, complete with smoky eyes and red lips. Her hair was in a messy bun that looked more sexy than sloppy. And her glasses were off.
By the time she hit eighteen, she was pretty much blind. If her glasses were off, that meant her contacts were in. Fuck fuck fuck.
I looked at her, trying to see if anything was different. If she looked like she’d been crying. If she looked like a whole new person.
But she just looked like normal Emma, completely put together.
Her dyed hair and tanned skin and manicured nails pissed me the fuck off, which is why I ended up yelling, “Where’d you go the night mom died? You left. The whole night. Were you on a date?”
She looked offended when I mentioned the boy. Snapped back at me, saying she went to church. That she prayed to God for a rewind. That she was thinking about killing herself and confessed to a priest, but he talked her out of it by convincing her she needed to be there for her sister. For me.
And she still was there for me, she added, and handed me the rehab pamphlets.
I was going to take them. I really was.
But then I heard it. A squeaky voice saying, “Oh my god, mom. I’m old enough to do what I want. To fuck who I want.”
Emma’s eyes went wide. She ran for the sound and I followed.
“In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve banned make-up from this house. Curse words aren’t allowed in this house. And sex isn’t something a young lady should even be thinking about.”
The same voice was speaking. One of Emma’s daughters. The slightly older one. The other one must’ve been out with her father.
“Is that why dad left you? Because you wouldn’t fuck him?”
Emma’s daughter was standing in the kitchen, staring down at the tiles with a knife in her hand. Her eyes looked droopy and her skin looked purple, but she was speaking clearly. Saying all of the lines in that infamous argument. Repeating Emma’s side of the fight. And then mom’s side of the fight. Like she was stuck reading lines for all of the characters in a play.
“What are you going to do? Are you going to kill me? Yeah, great idea. Go to jail for the rest of your life because you can’t deal with the fact that your daughter is hotter than you. That men actually like me.”
Her daughter must’ve worn contacts, too. I must’ve put the drugs in the wrong case. Of course Emma didn’t have a bubblegum pink container. That color was for kids. And keeping it out in the open? Letting it clutter up the area around the sink? Emma would never be so careless. She’d store her shit away in the cabinets.
“You want to grow up so quickly. To wear make-up. To stay out past curfew. To fuck. But how would you like it if I died? Then you’d really have to grow up.”
I’d told Felix about my plan, since I’d gotten in the habit of telling him everything, and he’d warned me against it. He’d said that giving the drug to my sister would be dangerous. That someone who had never drank before wouldn’t be able to handle their liquor as well as a seasoned drinker. And that someone like her wouldn’t be able to handle the drugs as well as someone like me.
“You’d be forced to take care of your little sister. You’d be forced to get a job. You’d be forced to get your shit together, Emma. You don’t have a clue what it means to be a grown up. You don’t have any idea what I…”
Emma was frozen in place and I couldn’t blame her. In her eyes, the scene must’ve been extra eerie. She must’ve thought her daughter was possessed by a ghost. Or that she was playing a practical joke – but how could she play such a joke when she had no way of knowing about that conversation? Did she find an old diary? Did she have some sort of psychic connection to the spirit world?
“Do it. Fucking do it. I’m not going to miss you. Nobody gives a fuck. DO IT.”
I can’t imagine what other thoughts might’ve been running through Emma’s mind, but it made her immobile.
I should’ve been the one to move. The one to grab the knife out of the little girl’s hand. After all, I was the only one who knew what was going to happen. I was the one who made it happen.
But instead of pushing the fear and guilt and shame aside and fucking doing something, I watched Emma’s daughter stick a knife in her stomach.
I watched her die.
Emma never found out why it happened. The police didn’t have an autopsy done, because it clearly looked like a suicide to them and Emma was too embarrassed to mention she thought something supernatural had occurred.
I could’ve told her the truth, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to go to jail. Or maybe I didn’t want her, the only family I had left, to hate me. To give up on me.
I did tell Felix what happened. And when he accepted it without judging me, I made our relationship official. Not because he liked me for the asshole I was. Not because he could get me the drugs I wanted. And not because I had some epiphany where I realized I’d liked him all along.
Because he was scum, like me, and we deserved each other. I deserved my shitty life.