i first met mr. grammer many years ago on a costa rica service trip. not only did his new york accent, knowledge of magic tricks, and tube socks make a lasting impression - he felt the need to solidify our kismet connection by stuffing a wriggly hand-sized cockroach down my shirt. after burning my clothes and borax-ing my skin, i made sure to push him off the mountain, and laugh in his face. we have been friends ever since.
andy is the best buddy a girl could have. he is a guys guy, has a flare for hysterical self deprecation, and is one of the most entertaining human beings i've ever encountered. oh, and he makes music videos in his spare time. basically he's an an ego boost pack. just add water, stir, and enjoy. instant awesome.
as we walked along the water front, catching up on life, andy decided i should have a pet. he demanded to know where the nearest pet store was, so he could buy me a puppy for my birthday. i explained that though the thought was irresistible - it ultimately was a horrible idea. looking back at the history of our relationship, i can confidently say this sums up andy in a nutshell: irresistible ideas with potentially disastrous consequences.
with the dog acquisition behind us, we went back to my apartment.
i don't know if it was the eminent nauseating taste of 29, or the fact whimsical andy was there, or that i was miffed since dogs aren't permitted in my building - but that sunday night around 9pm the persistent phrase screw this shit, i am an adult kept weaseling it's way back into my conversation. the truth was i wanted a pet. it was my birthday damnit. andy and i downed a bag of nacho cheese doritos and set out on our journey in the black of night.
for this specific whim, only one retailer would do. enter, the illustrious 24hr wal-mart. i know. many of you poo poo this multinational super giant (i understand why and i don't disagree with you), but please have compassion. as many aspects of my southern upbringing present themselves, i embrace some, and distance myself from others. but there are those that aren't worth the effort. when you require socks, a snow shovel, and 40 ft of rope at 2am, the wal-mart is there. when your wife kicks you out after finding tanya's panties and his-and-her KY in your truck, don't be troubled. you may sleep peacefully knowing surveillance cameras watch over you in the wal-mart parking lot. if you were me last week, and blew all your money on organic chard and planet friendly bathroom cleaner solvents - in and effort to 'live the kind life' - $4.50 for 32oz of shampoo looks real good. it's sick and it's real and i welcome it.
if you don't do cool things and go to the wal-mart in the black of night, let me tell you something. wal-mart not only sells fish, but also fish accoutrement (please say that in a French accent). putting myself in the fish's place, i thought it better to err on getting two, than just one. un poisson seemed so awkwardly friendless. no one to stare at. no one to swim to. no innocent bystander innocently seduced by your codependent fantasies. after all, one is the loneliest number. i chose two goldfish (one big one small), a large bowl, fish food. checkout. done.
may i please introduce you to my fish. tina and ike.
tina is camera shy.
ike the publicity whore.
andy and i got home, put the fish in the bowl, sang happy birthday and called it a night.
monday morning mr. grammer was driven off to live his normal life - this week consisting of a west coast radio tour, his guitar, and magical vocal stylings. i of course, applied bus face, and prepared for the reenactment of my very own groundhog day: an office job where before 8:45am i microwave myself a bowl of quaker oats with raisins and banter with rock and math nerds. at some point before 10:30am an unofficial game of: now that's inappropriate! ensues (imagine jovial harmless fun of the penis game from jr. high with participants being middle age educated professionals). however this day would be different. it was my birthday. i was a now 29 year old pet owner of wal-mart fish. someone congratulate me. pat me on the fucking back.
now about le poisson.
the fish started out great. each morning as i fed them, they swam to the top of their bowl, eager to see me and say bonjour. at the end of the day, they welcomed me home and recounted cutesy forgetful stories of blowing bubbles and bathing about in a bowl of love. soon after that, they started talking. i first noticed the 'talking' one nite as i sat on the couch in silence, lotioning my feet and researching grilled cheese recipes. studying the sound, i found my fish made a sweet bubble licking noise as the they repeatedly kissed the top of the water. awesome i thought. it's like i have an imaginary cat. content with my pet purchase, i closed my eyes and lived out my extensive dreams of pet ownership some more.
later that week, my friend cheney - the only vegan who visits me - came over and noticed the curious fish talking. she seemed alarmed.
elizabeth, why are the fish making that sound?
huh? because they are just goofing around....see?
with that comment, i noticed my fish weren't traversing around the bowl as they had before, but were concentrated skimming the top of the water with their mouth.
cheney jumped on the computer and researched the behavior.
45 seconds later.
THEY'RE DYING!!!! she screamed THERE ISN'T ENOUGH OXYGEN IN THE BOWL FOR THEM AND THEY ARE FORCED TO TAKE IN AIR FROM THE OUTSIDE!!! THEY ARE SUFFOCATING! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO????
cheney was abhorred. her eyes filled with overwhelming sadness, giving way to grape sized tears tumbling down her cheeks. she looked at me for guidance.
by this point i had lost all feeling in my face. i turned to the poor fish. there was no talking or kissing, but languid swimming, gasping for air. i had become the most horrible human being ever born into this world. in that moment it had been decided.
in an emergency effort to save them and aerate the bowl, i emptied out 25% of the water, and poured in fresh water from the tap. this would have to do until i could buy a pump after work. in doing so, however, it seemed my worst nightmare had come true. adding the fresh water had disrupted the million particles of debris (read: fish shit), which now ubiquitously floated around their universe. this had in turn traumatized my fish so acutely that they could only now drift. not move. not go belly up, but just exist. i guess if some asshole put me in a glass cage, forcing me to live and breath in my own excrement - i'd be traumatized as well. all of this proved to be too much for cheney, who apologized for her intense reaction, but thought it best to leave. i didn't think an apology was necessary. wanna come over tonight and watch me kill my fish? anyone??
i said goodbye to my friend and watched ike and tina begin their floatathon for 10 more minutes. in the end, i felt defeated. i said the long healing prayer and went to sleep.
the next morning, they were actually alive and moving about.
feeling the guilt of a jew attending catholic school, i went to the pet store to purchase whatever was necessary to not kill my birthday fish. after speaking with candy the pet lady - i learned their bowl was too small for their size, and i would need a 16 gallon 40$ tank. 40$ WHAT??! no thank you. i told candy i would get a 10 gallon, and they could pretend to live in a 6 floor walk up in nyc. i also procured an air pump and filter. with my goldfish guilt still in the forefront, and my ego determined to not project vacant-tank-of-water shame - i bought gravel, plastic trees and bushes. i was banking on the hope that ike and tina's love language was receiving gifts. this for sure would make up for the attempted manslaughter.
after 60$, and one heated discussion highlighting how none of my purchased items were returnable (if by some ironic twist of the universe where i arrived home to find my fish had in-fact died in the 45 minute outing i took to save their life) - i made peace with the fact i now had no food money, but my goldfish would survive. in a moment of desperation and future planning, i studied ingredients on the fish food canister. good to know if worse came to worst, i could throw back a few flakes. or just eat tina.
putting together their new fantasy suite, i cursed andy grammer under my breath. what kind of man flies around the country - bringing goldfish home from the wal-mart - and then abandons his responsibility. no emotional or financial assistance. no fish support. what sort of person tortures young females with cockroaches and then is amused by his own jokes and good natured acts of kindness? a good for nothing prankster, that's who. i should have known this idea was ridden with shoddy repercussions, which i would be made to suffer through alone.
finally with the drama gone, the fish took to their new home swimmingly (sorry), and life began running much smoother. i researched tank cleaning, feeding tips, and behavioral warning signs. in my seeming regulatory conversations with candy and the pet store customers, i learned more about goldfish than i have ever cared to retain in two lifetimes: they are dirty and expensive. i believe it has something to do with the fact that they speak french. one gentleman informed me ike and tina will soon outgrow this current tank, and will become so massive - they will be impossible to flush if.they.should.die. i now have the email of a fish farm in north seattle - which adopts coy sized goldfish from owners who are unable to care for them. my non fish friends laugh and threaten to buy me more tank-life. heartless bastards.
and then it happened.
this past weekend, while passing through the kitchen i spotted an orange body floating belly up. it was ike.
i began screaming at the tank. NOOOOOOOO!! NOOOO! You stupid fish!!!! You can't DIE! not this week! I have spent so much money on you! What is TINA going to do?? he bobbed up and down atop the green tree. tina gave him one last fishy kiss goodbye and swam away. i had never noticed how big ike had become. he had bulked out considerably thanks to the larger tank. fins of silky orange fabric hovered around his body like a cocoon. what a beautiful animal. i would miss the circles he swam around tina - showing off for her. she would now be lonesome without his companionship. reflecting upon this was particularly gloomy. i couldn't help but feel i should have given them both away when i had the chance. at least then they could have grown old together on the fish farm. but no, i was selfish, at ike's expense. tina has been widowed. their romance only lasted 5 months. everything i had done: the research, shopping, food, prayer - was for nothing. i became enraged.
i grabbed a spoon off the counter, whispered stupid fish, and poked ike in his side.
and then, like harry potter magic, ike came to life and swam away. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
he didn't sink, or float, or run. he speedily swam to all four corners of the tank, and then to the bottom, and then to rub up against tina, and then swam by my face and pooped in it's general direction - as if to say sukkkkkaaaaaaaa!
stupefied, i picked my heart up off the floor. incredible. i don't even remember teaching him now to play dead. i congratulated myself for being a fabulous pet owner.
the only downside of ike being able to resurrect from the dead? he most certainly will out live me.
i need fish support.