When I was in High School, I had a couple of aquariums. I was allergic to every animal on the planet... no cats, birds, cockroaches or dogs made out of soy.
So I had fish. A shitload of fish. Three aquariums. Tons of flakes. Chemicals. Limestone. Nets and glass scrapers.
And the spectrum of fish I had... well, it was amazing.
I don't, of course, remember what exactly types of fish they were, but dammit, they were pretty cool.
I had this one Beta named Artemis. He had a bit of a depression probelm and later committed suicide. I still remember finding his dried up body stuck to the carpet fibers below the aquarium. How he managed to jump out, I have no idea. But the letter he left behind was poignant and eye-opening.
You rescued me from a small Dixie cup in Wal Mart. You gave me the space of a 30 gallon aquarium to roam and protect. But I cannot bear it any longer. These walls of glass mock me with their transparency. They allow me to look out, but they do not allow me to find my fate beyond their hardened walls. The daily dose of pellets and flakes are filling, but still there is an empty hole within me. I am taking fate into my own fins. I must see what is beyond these walls of glass. I thank you for what you have given me and I must now see what is in store for me.
Please tell the guy with the diving helmet that hangs out next to the bubbly treasure chest that I'll miss him.
I was pretty upset. I didn't flush my pet fish when they died, I always buried them. There's a little fishy cemetary by the front door of my childhood home. I remember once that I went digging through it because I had this morbid need to see their little fish skeletons. All I found was a Tootsie Roll wrapper.
My favorite fish in the entire world was a fantailed Gold Fish that I named David Letterman.
(Side Note: In high school I had a massive crush on David Letterman. Yeah, screw all those other dreamboats... fuck Leo DiCaprio, who needs Johnny Depp, Jared Leto who? David Letterman was my celebrity crush. I had pictures of him on my wall. I once glued his face to one of my school binders. I was a little, shall we say, obsessed with the man. A little sick for a 16-year-old-girl to be so taken by a 46 year-old man. But screw it. I knew that we would someday be together. I'm still waiting around.)
So anyway, I named this fish David Letterman. It was the damn coolest fish in the enitre world. He had these big eyes that would stare into your soul. He was well liked by his other fishy friends. He would eat his flakes out of my hand when I held them to the water's surface. None of the other fish would do that. When I walked into the room, David Letterman would get excited and swim about like a Labrador puppy with fins.
I had David Letterman for about two years. It was the best $2.35 I ever spent and perhaps the best purchase I ever made from Wal Mart.
Then, one day, a catastrophe happened. My sister, although I cannot blame her (but do anyway) fed the fish. Granted, we were in a hurry, late for school as usual, and I'm sure that she was not able to weigh out the appropriate amount of flakes that could be consumed by our fishy friends in the amount of time specified (it's a science, feeding fish, it is).
So I'm gathering up my school things. Making sure that the hat of the day (a Beret I believe it was this day) was on nice and straight and that the appropriate hair whispies hung nonchalantly.
For some reason, I walked into the room where we kept the aquariums.
And I looked at David Letterman's tank.
It was completely opaque. You couldn't even see through the water. Nothing but a cloud created by the massive amount of food that had been poured into the tank. I freak out. I immeadiatly set up about 7 fish hospices ranging from old aquarium bowls to a couple of very large soup mugs. I don't even use the net, I'm just pulling these limp fishy bodies out of the aquarium and making a mental note of their status. Goldie was breathing a little hard, but seemed to be stable. Fishy just seemed to be in shock. Spot was kind of stupid and didn't really know what the hell was going on, but got a little upset when I placed him a mug. And then... I pulled out David Letterman.
I knew that he was in trouble. I had a special fish hospice all reserved for him. A large fish bowl that was one of my first fish expenses... it had nostalgic value and had housed many a fish heros.
I place David Letterman in my fish hospice. Tears swelled up in my eyes as his fishy eyeball looked at me, asking me to help him.But I cannot.
David Letterman suffered a fish stroke. How do I know? Well, only one side of his body worked.
He was swimming around in circles. Wobbly circles.
(pause for stiffled giggles)
Only his right side would work so he just swam around a bit in cirlces and looked at me with his good eye, a bit ashamed that his once viril body had now become so unresponsive and broken.
I cried. I put some of his favorite flakes, Tetra, on the surface of the water to see if he would be capable of feeding himself.
He could not.
I rolled up my sleeve, gently grasped my dear fishy friend and lifted his lips to the surface of the water so that he could eat one last meal before passing to the great golden ocean in the sky.
My Mom knew I was upset. She allowed me to miss the first period of school that day as I buried David Letterman in the fish cemetary. My sister, although never admitting guilt, comforted me and consoled and tried to make me realize that my valiant efforts had saved David's other friends and that his memory would live on through them.
And I know that he's in a better place now. I know that he's swimming happily in the great golden ocean in the sky, eating as many Tetra flakes as his body will allow. Trailing a big string of pink poop behind him where ever he goes.
But I hope he knows that I miss him. And I hope he knows that I haven't found a fish that's been quite like him since.
And I just hope that he knows that he made a impact on my life.
It is possible to love a fish.
This isn't the David Letterman, but now you have a frame of reference.