Jun 7, 2012

Participating in Natural Selection

Taking a lot of lessons from fish lately.  When Jimmy left, he left two large fish tanks.  I learned how to clean and care for them, and I've made them mine and have added live plants, and gotten new fish to live among them.  Its beautiful, and peaceful, and maybe my favorite thing in the livingroom. 

A few weeks ago while shopping for hamsters in our beloved downtown pet store that was going out of business, I fell in love with a jewel cichlid.  She was pink and orange, with light green sparkles all over her body and fins.  Everything girlish feels like Brynn reaching out to me, reminding me that its awesome to be pink and sparkly.

For some reason, although the tank was full of jewel cichlids, I wanted that one.  She was mine.  I loved a fish.  So much did I love her, that I went back to the pet store as they were moving out, and asked if I could pay cash for one more.  This one was even more colorful, and slightly bigger.  I shall refer to this 2nd fish as "he."

Within a few hours of acclamaiting to his new home, he began chasing our girl jewel cichlid.  Some of this is normal.  But he was really fast.  Faster than any fish we'd had.  And he was relentless. And fast.  I can only imagine how exhausting it is to be pursued so relentlessly at such high speed.  The next morning, it continued, though now my beautiful girl just stayed in a corner.  She stopped trying to get away.  She had given up.  Her fins were tattered from all the nipping.  He swam up to her whenever he felt like it and pushed her up on her side.  He was killing her slowly.  I spent a lot of my time yesterday with the net in the tank, trying to keep him away from her.  I didn't know what else to do.

I'm aware of natural law.  It occurs to me that animals hurt and  kill other animals.  It occurs to me that somebody murdered the turkey I ate on whole grain bread yesterday.  But I felt a flush of rage everytime I looked into the tank.  He could have been her mate.  They could have been partners.

I was not surprised to find her dead this morning.  Heavy hearted that I stood by and let it happen.  Heavy hearted that I witnessed her suffering and didn't save her.  Upset that Shane was witness to any more of nature's cruelty.  Something inside me stirred, I felt overwhelmed by it.  My beautiful girl, though initially remembrant of Brynn, now represented me.  Nipped to death.  Floating alone, letting everyone hurt me.  Mortal victim to a thousand little injustices.  A thousand subtly threatening gestures.  A thousand nuances stored in my memory.  Internalized and multiplied into Millions of anxious and self-deprecating thoughts.  Thoughts that have been running this show for far too long.  It's too late for my sparkly jewel cichlid.  But I'm going to let my anger thrash me free before its too late.  I'm going to bite back.  I'm going to feel safe in my skin.

He was hanging out in the tank now.  We noticed that every so often, he would nip at our other fish, with that same confidence and speed.  Shane and I talked about it.  A decision was made.  We captured him in the net.  We flushed him down the toilet.

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