By Stephanie Daich
“I think we should do it,” he says, not looking at me, as he keeps his eyes on his phone. I hate that phone. He seems to love it more than me.
“I don’t know. The cost is astronomical. And do you really think it is worth it?”
His eyes come up and stare into mine. He hardly looks me in the eyes anymore and now he has cornered me with them.
“It’s cheaper than a divorce.”
It felt like he kicked me in the stomach. We have gotten to the point in our marriage where it is no longer should we get a divorce, but when? I look at his eyes. Eyes that swept me away and had such a power over me when we met. But now, I see all that is wrong with him in those eyes. Those eyes make me sick. “Do you know anyone who has had success with it?”
He looks back at his phone, our moment of connection gone.
“The Claremonts! Seriously? They are like the perfect couple. Had they ever fought in their whole marriage.”
The couple everyone wished they could be. They still found passion and joy in each other, always embraced as if they were high school sweethearts. They joked and flirted with each other. Really, they weren’t always like that?
My fingers squeeze my thighs. “So, I believe it is $3,000 a memory. We could afford to do three. Which ones would we do?”
Memories. Isn’t that what we are essentially made up of. Yes, we are taught to live in the moment, but the moment is so fleeting. It is the memories we base our life off of, the memories that flood us with joy, or drop us to our knees.
“Well, I was thinking about our fight over kids.”
Oh, that is a doozy. I wanted to start having kids when we first got married, but he said we should wait, enjoy life first. “We can start trying in five years.”
I hate him for that memory. We went back and forth over the decision for the first couple of years. He refused to give in. And then, into the fourth year of our marriage they found cancer in my cervix, and the hysterectomy made it so I would never conceive and give birth. I have never forgiven him for that one.
He didn’t seem to hear me as his fingers tapped his phone.
“If we are going to do this, then you need to be present. Put that phone down!” The memory had drudged my hate for him, and I had lost my patience for him. He stuffs his phone in his pocket and looks around me, but not at me. Do I really want to salvage things with him?
“And then there is the memory of you not letting me take that job with Steve Jobs. I had an in. I had an in.”
He slams his hand against the couch cushion as dust plumets out. I look away. I know he has never forgiven me for that. He would have gotten in with Apple shortly before they became the household sensation they are. He had an in with Steve, and we would be filthy rich. I wouldn’t mind letting that memory out of our marriage.
“And the third one…” I say. We both know what the third one is, but I need him to say it. Instead, he plays stupid and shrugs.
“Just say it,” I bark.
“Because, you have to.”
He looks at me again. “You see. It is these memories we trap inside us that have ruined our marriage. If only we could have forgiven each other, then I think we would have been like the Claremonts.”
“Why should I forgive you? Your betrayal to me is far worse than not taking a job with Steve. I made a mistake. You stepped out on me.”
“And that is why we need to do this. We need to erase those memories and have them replaced with something of love.”
I want to pick up the lamp on the end table and throw it at him.
He wants to just erase what he did to me, as if it had never happened. Convenient for him. He’d get his fun without any of the consequences. “I don’t know if I can just let that go. You deserve punishment for it.”
“Haven’t you punished me enough these last seven years? I have paid my penance.”
My face gets hot and I ball my fists. “You will never pay enough.”
He jumps up. “Well, it is obvious our marriage will never be saved if you cannot let go and move on. Listen, we can’t do this anymore. Something has to change. Next Monday, we will either walk into the Memory Alteration Clinic, or the courthouse to file divorce. It’s your choice.”
The alarm wakes me from my sleep. I look at the empty spot in the California King. He hasn’t slept with me for years. I look at the calendar next to the bed.
A million butterflies flutter in my stomach. No, not butterflies, angry hornets, and they are stabbing me with their stingers. I get dressed and skip breakfast. I can’t eat. I go into the garage and find him already waiting for me. I get into his car with him and the smell of pine hits me hard. I hate that smell because it reminds me of him. He has always used pine incense in his car since I have known him.
“Are you ready for this?” He asks as he backs the car out of the garage. I shrug. “We can pick the alternative,” he says.
I don’t know if we are making the right decision. Both options seem wrong, and yet right. We drive in silence and walk into the lobby with him several strides ahead of me. We wait in the lobby for them to call our names. There is no small talk as he stares at his phone.
“Bachelor,” they finally call. He stuffs his phone in his pocket at looks at me, but I refuse to look back at him. We walk into a small room that smells like paper.
“Do you have any questions?” the lady asks.
“Yes. I do.” I sit in the hard seat and shift my weight. “I’ve read the pamphlets, but I am still confused. So, you take our memories, and replace them with the ones we wrote out for you.”
“Yes,” she says, bobbing her head.
“What happens when we are with other people, and they bring up the memory you erased. Will that bring it back?”
“No, it is completely gone, and it has a blocker in place. Your mind will refuse to let it in. You will reject it as if they said something absurd, like your mother is an alien. You know from the fiber of your souls that your mother is not an alien, and despite the heaps of evidence they give you, you will never believe your mother is an alien. Same thing. If anyone tries to reintroduce your wiped memories, they will not stick. You will reject them.”
My body tightens. It is a good concept, but I still want to hold onto the betrayal, just a little. But I guess for the sake of our marriage, our fifteen-year marriage, I have to let it go.
“Any other questions?”
We both shake our heads.
She hands us paper gowns “Slip these on. I will come back in ten minutes to take you to the memory room.”
I hold the crinkly gown next to my chest.
She gives us a huge grin. “Get ready for your happily ever after.”
* * *
Stephanie Daich works in corrections and has the privilege of observing many types of people. She uses writing and poetry to capture the rich experiences of living. An example of magazines and books you will find her work in are Making Connections, Youth Imaginations, and Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul: Kindness Matters (publish date set for 5/2022).