I was 15. I was young. My first crush was Captain Nemo in "20,00 Leagues Under the Sea." Plus, I wanted to own something. I bought an aquarium. It ended horribly.
At 15, I thought I was elderly. I was smothering in life. I was too stupid to(more) realize I was only blowing bubbles. There were too many possibilities, so many choices. They had the magical poison of only seeming apparent after the fact; octopi vanishing in ink. Though breathless, I was never really drowning. So before I talk about the fish, I will say this: past potential never really existed for us. Playing "what if" is an adult past-time. We waste more time at games than children ever do. With adult delusions, you are mourning something that was never even real.
Anyone with money can buy animals. After a trip to the sawdust-smelling pet store I ended up with three fat goldfish that churned and gulped in their tapwater tank, aerator bubbling, plastic weeds, a treasure chest that opened and closed meaninglessly but appropriately. When I turned off all the other lights my bedroom was blue with aquarium light. I was Captain Nemo in my submarine.
The filter was my first experience with expectation VS reality. It grew thick with silty grunge. The fish needed feeding and cleaning. Algae obscured the glass. I realized I was terrified of them. The small heft of them in the net as I transferred them between cleanings filled me with horror. They smelled bad. They never stopped moving, mouths moved constantly. What were they?
I found two floating a day apart in self-generated mucus shrouds. Horrified, I flushed the last as it gulped for breath in its thick water.
I knew something had gone terribly wrong, and I knew that something was me. (less)