It was one unusual morning, I was walking under the woods to the sight of giant tree trunks. I can hear the birds singing melodies above me where the sun was peeking through the thick clouds of leaves and I can feel the cold morning breeze entering my nose to the sole of my feet in every breath, the dew-kissed green bushes looked like real works of art, a beautiful canvass and then my one year old son crawled up to me on bed and started pulling my eye mask off my face playfully. I hoped I was still dreaming. I wasn’t and off my dreamland I went. Half awake, I gently pulled him close and tried to tuck him in, but he brushed me off and started babbling. There was no getting away so I finally gave up my luxurious wish of indulging to an extended sleep for that weekend and opened my eyes to the blinding brightness of the early morning sunlight coming through our apartment windows from outside and to the appetizing aroma of toasting garlic in melted butter. The latter somehow helped vaporize my drowsiness faster than a hard frozen chunk of butter melts on a smoking hot pan. My wife was at the kitchen making a late breakfast. Still on bed, I turned back to my son who was still cooing like an ecstatic baby pegion who found a worm for the first time, desperately trying to tell me something. I can imagine how tough it must have been to be a toddler, communication wise,though I find the act, as you probably would, both funny and entertaining. It always reminds me of this animated lavender dog named Courage from the cartoon show “Courage the Cowardly Dog”, and yep, I still do watch cartoon shows up to this day, something that I hope to outgrow from hopefully soon if it really makes me less of a grown-up man, well, by standards. If my son could physically turn himself into something like Courage can quickly turn himself into the forms of any of the desert monsters who keep on kidnapping his ever kind and sweet owner Muriel and her indifferent and grumpy husband Eustace when he’s struggling to describe what he saw to forewarn the elderly couple about potential harm, then he would have done it and called it a day, except we’re not living in a desert near the fictional town of Nowhere in Kansas but inside a populous and highly urbanized city where monsters do not roam in the form of cute little kittens who can turn themselves into giant weird-looking creatures and smash houses and towering windmills but simply wear hoodies and ride trains on busy Mondays.
Eyes half-opened and my thought still swimming in the clouds, I picked him up and lazily trudged towards the dining table in front of the TV to make myself a cup of coffee where he has also been pointing the whole time in between his babbling. We’ve been seated for a couple of minutes and I’ve already turned the TV on and skimmed through the channels to Animal Planet to the sight of giant elephants in the episode called Wild Kingdom. My son usually gets silent upon seeing different animals on our TV screen . But that time, he wouldn’t stop behaving which I found unusually strange and so I looked around and noticed something new on our dining table for the first time. A small fish bowl with three bright goldfishes was sitting on one corner of the table! I felt guilty for a moment, I looked at my son and saw a face of relief and we both shifted to watching the three small fishes swim around. I later learned from my wife that she bought the fishes earlier that morning on their trip to the market. I did not want some gill-bearing aquatic vertebrates who do not know how to fetch socks or who wouldn’t be ecstatic upon seeing you at the door when you go home after a long day but I cannot break an innocent heart.
I am not a fan of short-lived pets like I don’t believe in short-lived romance. I simply do not believe in it. Gambling isn’t my trade and you can hate me now. Let me stop beating around the bush-I don’t want goldfish. Not in a thousand years. Do I hate goldfishes? No. A goldfish that lives a hundred years? Wait what? Oh heck yes, tell me where to find it! Well, I admit, my argument maybe a little out of line but this is just me being honest. I am certain that I do not have any emotional imbalances based on my personal self-assessment, you can call me weirdo on that part, and I never was heartbroken with losing a pet growing up or was I? Well, yeah, maybe I was. I raised a smart, playful, and very affectionate dog named Baffin and kept him for nine years. Nine human years is about fifty dog years so it wasn’t really bad. Though he died a natural death, it still broke my heart as it would have probably broken yours. Just think of a loyal, cheerful, funny pet whom you shared great memories with leaving you for good and you’ll understand how it felt. I shared nine years of my life with Baffin, he shared his lifetime with me, that made it sadder, but then, it was not the number of years we spent but the kind of relationship that we created together. It probably was, in my most sober head and in my truest feelings, one of the best relationships I’ve ever had and I don’t know if the reason why I did not have another pet after Baffin was either because almost all of the apartments I have rented were not pet-friendly, or because I simply chose it for the fear of losing another one? I actually didn’t have the chance to ask myself that question until that very moment, which got me thinking until I wrote this story. But there I was with my son, staring at three innocent goldfishes making their best moves to win my fondness in my silly and conceited assumption, but to no avail. Our breakfast was served and I enjoyed my wife’s unique fried rice more than my cup of mud for the first time-I am a coffee person and do not really eat full breakfast which might change soon. That morning was like having a great breakfast at Northpark barefooted, in my boxer and in front of my own TV without pulling a bill off my wallet at check out and yes my wife can always pull some surprising culinary tricks up under her sleeves and I consider that as a kind blessing from above because I’m a “sunny-side up-or-scrambled” man in the kitchen. While eating, she explained how our son would not let them leave the sight of the fish tank without faking a loud cry and he eventually won, oh well, we all were once kids and we all knew how that always worked. I just listened to her and did not show any sign of agreement nor objection. It would have been cool had she bought three pieces of crabs instead, I meant, for meal, but goldfishes? I can give you ’tis and ‘tat and you would not agree with me, I know. Telling her that we cannot keep the fishes because the apartment building does not allow pets crossed my mind but I did not want to sound like a silly little boy telling his teacher that he was not able to do his homework because his pencil was eaten by his kitten, and I wasn’t looking for some practical arguments. I thought that fishbowl will just sit there and exist just like the many other objects inside our messy apartment unit, like our doormat, for example, nothing more, and so I thought.
Few days passed and the small fishbowl stayed on its corner unnoticed-by me at least. And our son’s hype towards them had slowly dwindled away as he’s back to enjoying the captivating images of the small and big animals on our TV screen in action-from the wild lions and tigers at African Savana, to the giant sharks and colorful marine diversity under the coral triangle, to the weirdest creatures inside the Amazon jungles and I had been busy with my daily routines too. Until one afternoon, I noticed that the fish bowl was almost deserted except for one last swimming fish. I found out that couple of the fishes had started dying out which did not come to me as a surprise. First, they were not on a decent aquarium with air pump to supply them oxygen properly, second, it was always unusually humid as we were approaching summer, and lastly, they were deprived of genuine love and affection though I wasn’t really sure if those could kill a fish. “Poor little things”, I mumbled. I meant to sound joking about the latter until it struck me. How could I have been so cruel? Ok, no I wasn’t cruel. How could I have been so indifferent and literally cold-blooded towards these beautiful creatures? Ok, yes I was indifferent but no I wasn’t cold-blooded. For crying out loud! Why was I being so melodramatic when all I want to say was I want to give it a shot before the last goldfish dies right out in front of my eyes? And from that moment, I decided to step up the plate. It was a tough move but I was going to give that silly little fish some love. That goldfish just took a piece of my heart. Game on!
The succeeding days, I began to become proactive in feeding the surviving fish. Sometimes, I would caught myself watching the fish as it glides through the water inside the bowl. It usually swims away from my direction whenever I try to look at it from one side of the bowl like I can grab it between the glass-“dumb fish”, I thought. I even started replacing the water daily or whenever I see the water turning a little murky due to the fish feeds that dilute with the water when I put too much and it poos a lot too, you see, I wasn’t really good at that stuff. Whenever I try to empty the bowl by spilling the water, the fish would freak out like an elusive eel who just got caught in a net, but eventually, it learned how to calm down. I thought it was weird though. He probably realized that I was no harm. It even started swimming towards my direction whenever I was approaching to sprinkle some feeds. I started browsing the internet and read forums and long threads on how to take care of goldfish and I realized how crazy some people are about this small creature. I read through Wikipedia articles and got an idea on how this fish behaves and only then I found out that, well, goldfishes show affection a thousand ways different than dogs and I find it amusing . I also realized that the way the goldfish swam towards my direction was no random coincidence but a mere fact that it had started to recognize me as a trying hard, responsible owner. I gave me a temporary high. Before I realized, we have been building a tiny little bond. When my wife noticed my sudden, mighty change of heart, I meant, my little efforts, she jokingly commented that the goldfish was starting to win me to which I said that the it wasn’t hygienic to leave the water unchanged matter-of-factly speaking since our unit has poor ventilation. I did not know if she bought it but why can’t I just admit that I simply care for the tiny little creature inside that bowl instead? You can hate me for being strange and call me whatever names you like, that’s fine.
Two more weeks passed and it became my normal routine to give the fish some care, from replacing the water to feeding it, to putting it away from the light so it can get some sleep, to checking it first thing when I wake up. It was as routinary as checking on my son to make sure his nappy wasn’t soaked or if his bottles were completely sterilized before preparing his milk. To make it short, it became part of my daily life. But not for long. When I came home from work one morning from my graveyard shift, I came to the sight of a lonely fishbowl, not a single small ripple or bubble on the surface of the bowl but a quiet and very still water and floating was the lifeless body of once lively goldfish. I had to make myself believe that it was still alive but I finally shifted and let the reality sting me. Yep, it hurt me like a bee sting, except it felt like I was stung way deeper than my skin, deeper than I anticipated. I just stood there and after a moment of what seemed like an eternity, I started emptying the fish bowl and cleaned it up. As I was emptying the bowl and watching the water spill out of the fish bowl to the sink, I felt a strong emotion flushing out of my chest, draining me and making me weak. And then I sat on the couch feeling so tired that I can barely reach my feet to pull my socks. It sure was just a short ride, but it taught me some big lessons worth reflecting from. When I stepped up and assumed the role, it was nothing more than just a plain call of accountability, but as I devote little of my time and effort, it started to grow a certain type of fondness and genuine care which can be equated to love. Love comes in different forms and develops in different ways. Sometimes, we already have the entire block of it from the beginning, but sometimes, we go pick small fragments of it along the way, one piece at time until we have heartful. It also reminded me that one of the essences of love is loving and simply loving without always expecting for a happy ending. We all live by the moment after all. It is these little moments that keep us alive and make us exist and it is these little moments that make us feel human. It also made me realized what an emotionally self-guarded fool I have been and I learned how to finally crawl out of my shell, an inch at a time.I didn’t even have the chance to give that goldfish a name and I suddenly wondered if we ever give goldfishes names like we give our cats and dogs theirs? I’ve got so much to learn and I had to leave those as bubbles on top of my head for that moment. I rose and cracked a bottle of beer from the fridge, went back to the couch and turned the TV on, it was early morning and my beer was half freezing from overnight just the way I like it, the first couple of gulps almost froze me. I looked at my wife and my son who were still sound sleep and stared at them. My career path was quite shaky at that time and I’ve been honestly being quite hard against myself lately due to my decision of choosing my current job over accepting a job offer of a local airline years ago. I would have been working thousands of feet above the ground in the clouds as an expensive waiter serving drinks on business class, eating a bowl of Ramen for breakfast in Osaka and puffing my after dinner cigarette in Perth, except I made a conscious choice. I would have been a senior flight attendant travelling the world and not just braced on my swivel chair staring at my computer monitor day in, day out. But when I look at my son who is so innocent and full of life, I cannot help but feel that I’ve always made the best decisions in my life and that thought made me feel warmer inside despite the cold beer giving me momentary chills. I took few more gulps and stoked myself with thoughts. The empty fish bowl was still sitting on the table, and by the looks of it, it might not be empty for too long-all because of a silly little goldfish who kicked my royal behind and yelled at me to man up. I closed my eyes, I don’t know how long until I felt some little hands pulling the socks off my feet-my son was up. I opened my eyes to the blinding brightness of the early morning sunlight coming through our apartment windows from outside and to the appetizing aroma of toasting garlic in melted butter. The latter somehow helped vaporize my drowsiness faster than a hard frozen chunk of butter melts on a smoking hot pan. My wife was at the kitchen making my favorite fried rice and if you could tell me where to buy a goldfish that lives a hundred years, I’ll gladly trade a generous bowl of my fried rice and top if off with my own version of either a sunny-side-up or scrambled organic egg of your choice, and maybe add a steaming cup of coffee too,daily for a year, you don’t understand, for one whole year! Or maybe I was just stoked with thoughts and I should go back to sleep.