Smile

Reading duration: medium-high

Today’s client is a tall girl. Long blond hair, almond-colored eyes.
She’s nervous; she continues to drum with one heel of her foot, and she’s biting her lip regularly.
She’s impatient; she looks down at the watch often.
But more importantly, she’s hopeful. And far be it from us wanting to disappoint a customer’s expectations.
I enter the room.
<<Hello.>> i greet her.
As soon as she sees me her eyes light up, and she stands up with a snap <<Hi! Good morning.>> she greets while extending her hand.
<<I read your report. >> I begin talking, sitting in my place.
<<Yes.>> she nods, sitting back.
<<You know that for legal reasons we cannot carry out this operation without a valid reason, right?>>
<<Yes yes. I think that I’ve already written everything. Only this interview missing.>>
<<Exactly. A little interview, nothing special. It shouldn’t be too specific either, we just need a few details. And I remind you that everything will be recorded.>>
<<Yes, I know.>>
<<Good.>> I hand her a sheet <<You should already know, but I will repeat it. You will now proceed with the forced removal of certain memories, but you will not only lose visual information but also sensory information. So smells, colors, sounds, emotions and even thoughts could be erased. If you want you can decide to leave some parts of your memories intact , such as faces names and specific events.>>
She nods <<Okay.>>
<<Great. >> I take out my pen and my notebook <<So … you asked us to remove the memory of a specific person from the mind. The subject in question is a man with your same age if I’m not mistaken. You has known him since elementary school.>>
<<Correct.>>
<<The reasons you gave us are sentimental. You want to forget the feelings you had towards him. Right?>>
<<Exactly.>>
<<Good. Tell me a little about how you met him.>>
She sighs <<Well … as you said I have known him since I was little. We were classmates. He was a child full of friends while I was the typical quiet girl. He lived near me though, so starting from middle school we started walking back from school together.>>
<<And doing so you had the opportunity to know each other better.>>
<<Exactly. It was the only time of the day when I could talk to him, because his friends were not there. It was just me and him … And he was very kind to me.>>
<<This means that you two didn’t talk often in class … right?>>
<<N … no. He was friends with everyone so he always had someone more fun to be with. He knew many children from other classes too, so even when we were in the garden after the lunch break he was surrounded by people.>>
<<I understand.>>
<<Anyway … I fear that it all started in that period, in middle school, in those walks we did from school to home. I was very shy and he always encouraged me to talk to him. He always smiled. He made jokes. Once he even bought me an ice cream.>>
<<Oh … he was a gentleman.>>
<<Yes…>>
<<And you have developed feelings for him?>>
<<I suppose so.>> she sighs with desolation <<However he had already kissed someone. In the mouth. And there were other girls who courted him, so I never talked about my feelings with him, also because I could only talk to him during those afternoon walks … and they didn’t last long. Ten, maybe twenty minutes of walks. No more.>>
<<Uhm…>>
<<That period lasted for all the middle schools, so it was not short. >> she continues <<The first year we limited ourselves to talking about school, unpleasant professors, subjects to study for the next day … from the second year we started to open up a lot more though. I discovered his passions and he discovered mine. >>
<<You have become friends.>>
<<Yes… but no. We didn’t talk much in class. His group of friends wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t for them. And we never contacted each other outside of school, so I never saw him during the summer holidays. Even if I always thought about him.>>
<<I can imagine.>>
<<He always came back all tanned, with a bit burnt skin … and he always made me blush. I always had butterflies in my belly when I saw him after the holidays. I always looked at him secretly.>> she hesitates a moment and his gaze becomes a little sad <<I remember one day … I was sitting at my desk, and he was in a desk away from mine, attached to the window. Feet on the table, phone in hand, face lit by the sun… I have this memory in mind because that was a particularly beautiful day. The professor was not there and there were also few kids in the class, so everyone was quiet and everything was calm. And I looked at him all hour. >> she says with melancholy eyes << I miss those days. Next to me was my best friend. She tried to distract me from him, she wanted to talk about the last book she had read, she wanted me to give opinions about it, but I couldn’t help but look at him and dream … yeah, good times.>>
<<What happened then?>>
She shakes her head <<Nothing special in retrospect. He turned and saw that I was staring at him. I immediately moved my head in shame, but after two minutes I turned it back to him. And he was still looking at me.>> she says with a slight smile <<He waited for two full minutes. And when he saw that I was again looking at him … he smiled at me. Gently.>>
<<And does that smile mean a lot?>>
<<No … not for him. But at the time he had made the whole day memorable. I still remember it in fact! I still dream of it. I still think about it. It still makes me smile… and cry. I mean … he caught me staring at him, but instead of ignoring me he waited for two minutes for me to look at him again so he could smile back … and I smiled back too! We looked into each other’s eyes for… I don’t know. I don’t know how much. Seconds that seemed like years. >> she says, while her voice becomes emotional <<Oh my God … every time I think about it my belly tightens. Maybe because he was beautiful. Maybe because I made a thousand mental films out of that smile. Maybe because I’m stupid … but that smile didn’t make me sleep that night. I thought about it, and rethought it, and rethought it again … and once I fell asleep, I dreamed of it. And …>> she freezes for a moment <<when I woke up the bed was stained with blood.>> a nervous smile escapes her <<It was the first time this happened to me. And it happened because of him, because I thought about him all night. Do you believe it?>>
<<Of course I do.>> I reassure her with a delicate smile.
<<Yeah …>> she sighs <<what a stupid girl I was.>>
<<The middle school eventually ended . >> I say to encourage her to go on with the story.
She sighs again <<Yes.>>
<<And what happened between you two after that?>>
<<I hoped for our last walk together. But it didn’t happen. He went to celebrate the end of school with his friends … rightly so. And I went home alone.>>
<<Never seen him again?>>
<<Of course I’ve seen it again. The following year, in high school. I chose the same school that he chose because of his presence. I was hoping to walk home with him again. How stupid I was …>>
<<Let me guess … that didn’t happen.>>
<<Absolutely not. In the morning I went by car and he was on foot. During the return he always went somewhere else with his friends … and the few times he came home on foot he was still in the company of someone.>>
<<What about your relationship with him in the classroom? Were you still friends?>>
<<Friends?>> she reflects for a moment <<He at most greeted me when he remembered that I existed, but nothing more. As usual, we didn’t talk much. Sometimes he would ask me for favors, like coins for buying some snacks or maybe some sheets and pens … But beside that we didn’t interact very much. Those days I had made more friends, so I often stayed with them while he was always with his group. Eventually he took the moped at sixteen, and since that day our interactions have dropped to zero outside the school.>>
<<Yet you continued to think about him. >>
She gives a half smile <<Did I already say he’s beautiful? In class he always stood out, also because he was very good at school. Me … not too much. That school wasn’t for me. I went there just for him after all. How stupid … >>
<<Did you complete it though? The school.>>
<<Sure.>>
<<And did you settle well inside it?>>
<<Yes … more or less. Never argued with anyone, never made dramas … and in the end the professors were satisfied with me.>>
<<And this boy here .. you continued to see him after school has ended?>>
<<I …>> she sighs <<no.>> she admits <<After the high school he disappeared. I only see him on social media, but I don’t write to him. And he doesn’t write to me. We are no longer friends. Our “relationship” ended with the middle school. And the last thing we talked about was …>> he smiles wistfully <<the science homework for the next day.>>
<<I understand.>>
<<I got engaged at the university.>> she speaks with renewed energy <<My boyfriend is really nice. He is not as beautiful as he is. He is not very athletic. He’s not too good at school either. But he makes me smile! He always has a joke to share! >> she says, letting a smile slip away <<He is …>> she freezes for a moment <<I think he thinks the same thing about me. I’m not the best, but I’m the best he could have. This is what I think too. He’s not the best. But he’s not bad either.>>
I nod <<But then … why does you want to forget the person you told me about? If you no longer sees him, what’s the problem?>>
<<I saw him again the other day. From afar. Under the sun. He was laughing. He was with friends, and probably his girlfriend … He … he’s beautiful as usual. And seeing him smile reminded me of that day in middle school … the day I made all those mental movies, the day that it doesn’t want to leave my mind because of a stupid, single, smile.>>
<<And seeing him again what did it entail?>>
<<A collapse.>> she says <<Because I thought about how … how nice it would be to be a little prettier. Pretty enough to be accepted by his group of friends. I thought about how it would be nice to be a little more outgoing, a little more nicer, a little more funnier, or smart, or … interesting. I thought that … that day will never come back. That no matter what happens, I will no longer be on a school desk thinking about nothing with my best friend next to me and my secret love across the room. I thought that I had… lost. Lost opportunities, lost time, lost him and the five years of high school that I made just to be able to see him … I lost everything.>>
<<You are still very young though.>> I remember to her.
<<Yeah. And that’s the problem. This life gives you the best years when you are ignorant and stupid. And when you grow up and finally understand something… it’s too late. Because now I have to study. And work. It’s not like when I was in middle school, when I didn’t have to do anything. University it’s not like high school, which was easy. No. Now in class I don’t have time to watch the boys, I can hardly watch the teachers as they explain …>> she sighs <<I … the point is that I’m engaged. And the guy I’m with is really special. I would like to love him as I loved the other. I would like to see him as I saw the other. I do not find it right that while I … >> she hesitates a moment before continuing, then resumes speaking in a lower voice, as if she does not want to be heard by anyone, not even by me <<that while I masturbate I think about him. You understand? I don’t do it thinking about my boyfriend … I do it thinking about the childhood crush I haven’t seen for years, because in the end, as much as I try to ignore it, that guy is really … better. He is not only more handsome, but at school he always did well, he was loved by everyone, followed by everyone, and even in sports he was one of the best!>>
<<I understand. But perhaps you should consider the fact that this boy is not so>>
<<I know.>> she cuts short <<I know what you want to tell me, many have already said it. And you are right. Nobody’s perfect. The point is, although I know it … my heart doesn’t. I still dream of that smile. I still dream of that class. I still dream of that day. I still lose blood on the bed when it happens. And I’m tired. I want to forget it. He stole my heart that day… and I want to have it back. I want to get it back and give it to whoever I say. To my boyfriend.>>
<<Very good. What exactly do you want to forget about him? Face? Emotions? Feelings? >>
<<Everything. >> she spits <<He must not exist.>>
<<Do you want to completely eradicate that person from your mind?>>
<<Yes. Completely.>>
<<I don’t recommend it. Mutual friendships, relatives … he himself could end up meeting her and at that point there would be a problem, do you understand? Furthermore, for legal reasons, we cannot completely erase a person’s memory of another person without warning that person.>>
<<That means … that you will tell this to him?>>
<< Exactly. It will arrive a letter to his house saying that you have chemically forgotten that he exists. He won’t know the details or the reasons, but at least if he ever sees you again he won’t take the risk of running into your face saying hello.>>
The girl thinks about it for a few seconds, then she sighs <<Are there alternatives? I don’t want him to go tell his friends about such a thing. I don’t want to run into him without realizing it, nor do I want him to… do weird things. I don’t want that once forgotten he comes back to me to just to be remembered or something like that.>>
<<We can prevent such a thing very easily. We can put an instinctive revulsion into your brain for that boy. Even without remembering him, you will avoid him.>>
<<Uhm… well…>>
<<And there are a much more discreet alternative.>> I add.
<<That is?>>
<<The removal of only feelings and emotions.>>
<<Wich means …?>>
<<You will remember him. You will remember that smile. Your adolescence. Your walks. But your brain will not recall the emotions or the feelings that it had and is feeling now. In short, that boy will become like the uncle you saw as a child, the one you remember but who, in the end, doesn’t mean anything. Got it? He will be… like those people you see on the street. You are consciuos of their existence, but you doesn’t really pay attention to them. He will become … irrilevant.>>
<<Oh … and in this case he wouldn’t be warned, right?>>
<<Exactly. He would not be informed about this operation.>>
<<Uhm … okay. And … about the feelings …>>
<<Do not worry, you will still have feelings for your current boyfriend. Nothing will be altered. The only things to change will be the feelings you have towards this specific person. >> I explain to her << Describe that smile that torments you so much.>>
<<Well … I’ve already done that. It is … very beautifull. Sweet. Under the rays of the sun, therefore also shining … unique. Far. Too far for me …>> she sigh << I don’t know … what else should I say? Fantastic? Angelic?>>
<<Good. Now think of the smile of an ordinary person that you saw on the street. Does you have it in mind? >>
<<Y … yes.>>
<<Good. Describe that.>>
<<Well … it’s a normal smile. >> is her reply.
<<Exactly. “Normal”. After the operation that “angelic smile” that torments you will become just an “normal” one. Forgettable. Relatively useless. You will remember him when you’ll see him on the street, but you won’t remember loving him, nor will you remember ever feeling anything for him. You will see him exactly as you see all the other people. If he is as handsome as you say you will see him as one of the many “cute guys” walking down the street. And if he’s really as beautiful as you described him to be, then you will look at him a few seconds longer than normal, but in the end …>>
<<In the end I will look away. >> she ends the sentence <<Just like I do with all the other “cute guys” I meet on the street.>>
<<Exactly. You will no longer stare at him.>>
She smiles, with a hint of relief and happiness <<Thank you. >> she says <<That smile … it was no longer making me smile.>>
I close the notebook on which I took the notes <<Good. I would say that we are ready.>> I stand up <<Please, follow me.>>
<<Yes!>> she gets up in turn <<Let’s go. I’m ready.>>