orange pills and spoiled milk.

The milk in the fridge is expired. You know this- the expiry date is stamped in bold near the top of the spout. The carton remains unbearably heavy in your hands, a dead weight; yet, it magnetizes you, the option of expiration, and you can’t seem to tear your eyes away from the flushed pink of the paper carton. It’s stupid, you realize, how the refrigerator beeps in urgency as you stand by the coolness that leaves your skin riddled with tiny, ridiculous goosebumps. It’s stupid… and you shove the expired milk back in the refrigerator for another day. 

 

The dinner table is jam packed full of newspapers. You find newspaper outdated, too delicate, too easy-to-rip until the words are nothing but useless; yet your great grandmother loves them, loves flipping through the mockery of pages until she finds an ad that piques her interest, beckoning you over as if the newspaper was sharing wise wisdom down to its deserving generations. You don’t deserve much, you have realized; not when all you are allowed to deserve are newspaper clippings on a Sunday evening. 

 

The woman on the ad looks young… pure… fresh… her skin a milky white that seems to reflect off the murkiness of the flimsy pages. An orange pill rests in the centre of her palm. Orange, it reminds you of the thick pulp of orange juice that you despise. Your great grandmother would swallow it down every morning, claiming that it was good for health and longevity. You would watch as the pulp entered the rotting cavern of her mouth, down the winding throat, until it entered her body with an audible gulp. You shuddered. The woman was still smiling at you, the longer you looked at the shrivelling finger pointing at an advertisement you no longer cared for, and you finally looked away. You weren’t sure when orange pills would become appealing. You were sure that it had to be soon enough. 

 

An orange a day keeps the wrinkles away!

After just one week of these miracle pills, I feel as if my life has been restored! Government-approved…”

Static. 

 

You aren’t sure how much time the government has to approve of the multitude of cosmetic products being consistently advertised on TV. It’s desensitizing, the bright and cheerful ads mocking a life you know that you could never dream of having. How many pills could work a miracle? You look back to your great grandmother: sipping on a herbal tea that claims to smoothen out the old, natural features of the face, the aroma of the household wafted with foreign fragrances that claim another bullshit health theory, and it makes you feel sick. You wish you could simply feel without anyone shoving a pill down your throat; a tea that tastes like bitter medicine; a stupid medicinal item that works miracles yet holds your happiness at a threshold. 

 

You wonder when your expiration date will come. You aren’t sure anymore. 

 

Your great grandmother’s expiration date was long ago, long before you were brought into this world; yet, she still lives on, all nimble-fingered and health-obsessed, and you wished a life like that on no one, no enemy. Hands that once brushed through your hair were suddenly as smooth as the pebbles hidden at the bottom of rivers. The pebbles skip on water, yet some have rocks that continue skipping forever and ever and ever. The fingers that once tugged lovingly on the dimples of your cheeks were now tracing over stress marks, smile lines, fine wrinkles, and fretting over which color pill to swallow down dry for the day. The pill container is overflowing, like skittles on the rainbow, and you want the world to be sucked dry of any color. You want to sink until the water fills your lungs like dead weight. You feel like a dead weight. 

 

The TV crackles until the familiar national anthem fills the once heavily silenced room. You turn to look; of course, you turn to look; and the government words no longer hold as big of an impact as it did the first time you heard it, shortened, stubby legs huddling close to your chest by the dinner table after a round of unwanted oatmeal and smooth milk. 

 

 

We, as a society, have progressed past the need for death itself. Why do we fear the natural causes of death? Are we not the smartest, the most daring, the most innovative beings on this planet? We have molded the means of scientific inquiry into our own history. It’s evolution, its progress… it’s undeniable, the next step we must take towards the future generation of society. We will keep growing. We are unstoppable.

 

You hated that part. 

 

With our excellent technology, we have created a program that allows for human longevity- to live past our former generations. The death rates have decreased immensely. Our birth rates have skyrocketed. Sign up for the Wellness Program today, and we will send a complementary medical package for the first month – results are guaranteed! Citizens that live past the age of 100 will receive-“

 

 

You tune out the rest. The system of reward made you feel immature and reckless, as if humans were nothing but a pack of wolves hunting for a scrap of meat. In that case, looking at your great grandmother, her tail would be wagging in excitement at any mention of a big stack of cash. She was turning 124, after all. 

 

You suppose that humans are simpleminded creatures – selfish, at most. They willingly pump their bodies full of drugs and toxins. Their life is no longer theirs to keep; a slave to the system; a slave to the money over the mind. You were taught to never cheat, to live earnestly, yet everyone around you was cheating on the one factor that solidified a person: their life. Everyone was cheating death.

 

Death. 

 

What does death feel like? Is it blissful…? You wanted to crush every orange pill between your two fingers. You didn’t desire longevity, a life past 100. You wanted peace. You wanted death. You wanted-

 

 

 

The milk… it expired, yet you avoided throwing it out. You kept it hidden behind the abundance of fruit and vegetables until your great grandmother noticed, many months later. The carton was spoiled, a mushy substance sinking to the bottom that left your great grandmother wrinkling her nose in disgust. She threw it into the bin without another glance. 

She kept a gentle reminder in her head to buy milk tomorrow, along with yet another prescription for the lovely new pills she admired in the daily newspaper. They were government-approved, after all. 

 

 

 

 

The first time you swallowed down an orange pill, many years later, you gulped it around a large glass of milk and shaking hands. 

 


a hard pill to swallow

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4 thoughts on “orange pills and spoiled milk.

  1. Cindy! I loved the whole idea of this piece! Your writing was beautifully haunting when describing the disgust the character felt towards the human race. My favourite line would probably be “…a stupid medicinal item that works miracles yet holds your happiness at a threshold.” And also I loved the paragraph “You suppose that humans are simpleminded creatures – selfish, at most. They willingly pump their bodies full of drugs and toxins. Their life is no longer theirs to keep; a slave to the system; a slave to the money over the mind. You were taught to never cheat, to live earnestly, yet everyone around you was cheating on the one factor that solidified a person: their life. Everyone was cheating death.” I really loved how you played with the themes of morality and mortality throughout your piece, especially with the last line. I don’t really have any suggestions, maybe a blurb about how you were inspired to write this piece would be interesting to see though!

    Sincerely,
    Simran C.

    1. Simran,

      THANK YOU FOR COMMENTING! I was pleasantly surprised to see your comment today <3. I miss you being in my creative writing class. Honestly, I'm super proud of this free choice, so I'm glad that you like it just as much as I do.

      As for how I got inspired… I don't really remember my whole thought process. I think I was by the dinner table (which is what I pictured the great grandmother sitting by when reading her newspapers), when my grandmother asked my father about pills. I'm not sure how a question about another pill prescription turned to a whole government scheme to use science to increase human lifespans, but that's the basic premise to how I thought up such a specific idea. I'm getting more confused the more I think about how I got the story concept. This is awkward.

      Thank you for the nice comment, Simran! Please leave more comments, as they boost my ego.

      Love,
      Cindy <3 <3

  2. Hey Cindy,

    This was an extremely powerful narrative! Once again your writing has left me speechless. I especially loved your continuous referral to the expired milk and the pills. I thought the symbolic ideals behind those objects really tied your piece together providing a sense of continuity for the reader. Often times, when an author talks about sensitive topics such as death, it leaves me uncomfortable because it is such a hard topic to talk about openly. However, I love the way you brought it up as the idea of an expiry date and how humans want to cheat death. The following lines, “Their life is no longer theirs to keep; a slave to the system; a slave to the money over the mind. You were taught to never cheat, to live earnestly, yet everyone around you was cheating on the one factor that solidified a person: their life. ” resonated with me profoundly. This is such an intricate suggestion, I would love to see you explore this idea in future pieces.
    I can’t really think of any suggestions because I admire the flow and stylistic choices you have used. However, maybe more clarity on the idea of the government approved programs. I felt as if the piece got a bit cloudy as you dove into that topic. Nonetheless, I look forward to reading your amazing writing. I have much I can learn from you!

    Sincerely,

    Ibadat

    1. Ibadat,

      Thank you for the sweet comment!!!!!! I really appreciate the comments you are leaving on my writing <3. I do admit that the whole "government approved programs" idea wasn't as flushed out as I thought it could be. I knew that I wanted to write it, but I wasn't sure how to lightly touch on the basic premise of what I was hinting at without going into a whole government-evil-propaganda spiel.

      (I'm not sure if learning from me is a good idea.)

      Sincerely,
      Cindy

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