If I ever got a tattoo it would be of my goldfish Sydney.
There, type that up on an index card and file it in your "FAQ's about Ladeeleroy."
Sydney, until recently, has been one of the most dependable men in my life. I say until recently because I just discovered the other day that Sydney is actually a female.
I always find it incredibly offensive when people say that fish are not a loveable pet. Usually the type of people that say this have cat hair dripping off of their sweaters or are holding a bag of dog shit in one hand while jerking a choke chain with the other. See, some people actually believe that, in order for a pet to be considered 'loveable', said pet must be able to curl up on your lap while you read a book or drag you out of your house when it is on fire. Granted, these are indeed loveable acts, but they are not the only way an animal tells you that it loves you.
Sydney always goes straight to the top of the tank when I enter the room. Yes, you may think that he (dammit) she does this because she believes she is about to be fed, but you apparently do not know Sydney well. Instead, Sydney goes to the top of the tank and blows kisses at me. Sweet "Welcome back to the room!" kisses. When I was upset about Lipman becoming enchanted with the guppies, Sydney was there for me, swimming at the top of the tank blowing "Who needs him anyway?" kisses to me. When I need a good laugh, Sydney will take a giant poo and swim around quickly acting like s/he is frightened by it.
I love Sydney.
How did we meet? Well, that's a interesting question that fits perfectly as a segway for this entry.
Thank you for asking.
I had just moved out of the dorms into the Efficiency of Wonderfulness. It was nice living alone, but at times it was a bit lonely. There was a definite lack of life force in the Feng Shui of the apartment and the Philadendron leaf I had in a bottle of water wasn't putting out. One day Princess announced that he was going to go to PetCo to purchase an aquarium.
Being the person who had a history with aquariums, I accompanied Princess in his adventure of pet ownership so I could show him the ropes. Princess picked out a nice acrylic aquarium, a couple of tropical freshwater fish, various ornaments of appropriate tackiness, and stuff to take the chlorine out of the horrid Austin tap water.
Dispensing out all the valuable information about fish ownership made me a bit nostalgic for the good ol' algae days and I decided that I would embark on a purchase that day as well. I picked out a little two gallon aquarium complete with airstone underground filter, a fake plant and plastic statue of a lion roaring. Then it came time to pick out the fish that would inhabit such a grand abode. I looked at all of the different fish on display. They were all beautiful. Fancy tails. Glow in the dark-injected bodies. Intelligent names like Cichlid and Tetra. But there was a hollowness in all the tanks I looked into. Finally, I came to the 'backroom' of the PetCo. The 'backroom' is where they keep all of the fish that are infected with strange aquarium viruses, have horrible deformaties, or are used for feeding purposes.
There, in a vat of 1300 small goldfish, is where I met Sydney for the first time. My heart sank at the thought of some sweet natured goldfish being consumed by an Oscar or worse, an Oscar with Head Hole disease. I wanted to save them all. "How much for a feeder goldfish?," I asked.
"22 cents." was the reply.
"I'll take two."
And as the net dipped into the vat of 1300 small feeder goldfish, I felt a bit like Shindler with his list or Harriet Tubman.
A very shitty Shindler Harriet Tubman who was so broke that she could only afford two 22 cent goldfish.
Home I went with my new friends, Charlie and Sydney. Their new environment would be on my bathroom vanity, where they would have a clear view of the toilet and bathtub. They were excited about their new home and swam about merrily.
Three days later, Charlie was dead. Sydney was a bit shaken up by the incident but continued on in existence alone. Many a night Sydney and I would spend together, me in the bathtub, Sydney in her tank, staring at each other. Sometimes I would cry in the bathtub and Sydney would just, well, be there for me. And times when I was sick and puking in the toilet, Sydney would be by my sink-side for support. There were times when I didn't clean her tank out as scheduled, but Sydney didn't mind. There were times where I forgot to feed Sydney, but Sydney would always be there the next morning hungry, but forgiving. We fell more and more in love everyday.
Lipman then came into my life and was a bit taken aback at how obsessed I was with this very normal looking goldfish. But soon, he was smitten by Sydney's hungry charm. When we moved to the new house, we purchased a large 20 gallon tank for Syndey... a mansion compared to his previous bowl. We even got Sydney a new tankmate, Adelaide.
And so has my life been for the last three years. Me and Sydney and out new tank/house mates.
Then, last week, something was wrong. When I woke up in the morning, Adelaide and Sydney were sitting on the bottom of the tank, gulping. I looked closely at Sydney and noticed that he had some sort of fungus that was eating away at his beautiful fins. I quickly took a water sample to our local indie aquarium shop and was informed that our tank had, indeed, crashed. The pH ratio had completely fallen from its usual 7.7 to a measly 6.0. The nitrites and ammonia were out the roof. Grabbed some baking soda and some fin medication and raced back home to do some emergency water changes.
Two hours later, the tank is stable. Levels are right back on track. Adelaide is swimming around swimmingly. But something was weird with Sydney. He started to lean on his side, completely still.
I had flashbacks to David Letterman.
I decided not to freak out too much as sometimes Sydney does this, but realizes that he's slumping and rights himself right back up.
Not this time.
I did another water change as that's what one is to do in such situations.
I added a tad more baking soda to bump the pH level a bit. Added the fin medication that I was holding off on using.
Sydney started darting around the tank kamakazi style, knocking over fake plants, thrashing against the lid of the aquarium, wacking his body against the walls. Adelaide freaked out. I freaked out harder.
I took out all of the obstacles that Sydney kept running into. But this didn't do anything. He kept going crazy. And that's when the seizures kicked in.
I had flashbacks to Alex.
Sydney would just freeze up, fins stiffly and eeirly stuck out to the side, large eyes wider than usual. Mouth open and frozen in a fishy expression of fear. And then he would begin to float, belly up.
Not a good sign. I started bawling and stuck my hand in the tank, gently wrapped it around Sydney and put him up right and towards the water's edge. This sudden sense of being held snapped Sydney out of his state of shock and he wiggled free, only to fall to the bottom of the tank lying on his side.
I grabbed a large airstone and a pump. For some reason, my mind was telling me that Sydney needed air. I hooked it up with such passion that for a moment I imagined that I was in an Emmy-nominated episode of ER.
And there I stood. Arm shoved half way into the tank, hand wrapped around Sydney, holding her over an airstone, hoping that the bubbles would be able to circulate their way into Sydney's gills and deliver some sort of miracle of health.
Two hours later I'm still holding Sydney over the airstone. Sydney would wiggle free and be okay for a second or two, but then would revert to the earlier Kamakazi behavior and then fall back into a seizure. Over and over this happened and I asked Lipman to look up Fish Euthanasia on the Internet.
It hurt too much to watch my little Sydney go through such a horrific experience. I kept cursing myself over and over.
"Dammit, Leroy. It's just a stupid fish. It's just a stupid fish."
But then I would think about all the times I've had with Sydney. About my 4' x 3' acrylic portrait of him hanging in the living room. The soon-to-be-hit song "Sydney, King of The Sea" playing over and over in my head.
And I would just cry and cry and keep holding Sydney over the airstone. Finally, it was 10:30PM and I was two hours late for a previous engagement. My fingers were wrinkled. My eyes were all dried up. My hopes were slashed. I let Sydney go . . . both in the literal and metaphoric sense.
I sat on my bed and just watched. Sydney went to the bottom of the tank, but didn't fall to his side. Instead he just sat upright, gulping around him. Then, Adelaide swam up to his side and sat right next to Sydney. I cried harder because it was just a heart breaking thing to witness. But I didn't interfere. I was going to let nature take its course.
Sydney began to fall onto his side again. Adelaide turned her little fantail body around and nudged Sydney back up and then positioned herself as a sort of leaning-purposes-only tool.
I'm not shitting you. It was like I was watching a knock off of Finding Nemo except this was real. This was happening. This was not CGI, this was Sydney and Adelaide.
I left. I left the bedroom. I had done all I could do and left. I went to the engagement I had made previously and felt a bit odd having to explain that I was late becaue my goldfish was dying. Those that knew me and my history with Sydney were upset, but without acquaintance of Sydney were either confused by my excuse or offered a personal story about how they had lost an aquatic pet. Comforting stories, but the Manhattans offered more comfort.
I called Lipman at home later in the evening to check on the status. As the line rang, I was preparing myself for the news. Sydney was dead. Lipman had buried him in the garden. Perhaps Adelaide had taken it upon herself to put Sydney out of his misery by pecking him with her large mouth until she reached his tiny heart and ate it.
"You're not going to believe this.... Sydney's fine. Adelaide's been by his side the entire time and now he's up and swimming around."
I was floored. Completely floored. When I came home, I looked in and it was true. Sydney was fine. A bit freaked out, but swimming around as if nothing had happened. Adelaide following her about like some sort of nurse. A little golden nurse.
And I cried again because I was just so incredibly surprised, relieved, happy and just touched. Touched by the love of Adelaide. Touched by the love I realized I had in my heart for a goldfish.
Sydney was alive. I had escaped another encounter with Death of A Loved One.
Nights later, I had a dream that Sydney was in a large pond that I dug for her in my yard. Sydney had grown to the size of a Queen-sized pillow. It was obvious that Sydney was older and was about to die. She leaned over on her side, beckoned me over with her fin and I waded into the pond, picked her up and just hugged her. She was wet, but warm, her fins weren't prickly but silky. I felt her gills flap against my face. Heard her large mouth blow kisses to the sky. It was a fantastic feeling, hugging this fish of mine. This time, in my dream, I was ready to let go. Then I woke up.
So this is a testament. A testament for all of those out there that believe that a fish cannot be loveable or loved. Take this and put it in your mammal pet pipe and smoke it.