I have thought of it, categorized it, obsessed over it really. The masculine: a long fall from some shiny office building, an after-hours drag race into the side of the local brick bank. The self-centered: a leap in front of the 6pm commuter train, charging a cop armed with a black cap gun. The traditional: an idling car in the garage, one final pint of rye whiskey and sleeping pills. These are all just fantasies of course – given my predicament.
You see, my entire existence has been spent imprisoned in a 4-liter borosilicate bowl serving as the Wakes family’s pet goldfish. Happily my sentence – deceivingly cruel and unusual – ends tonight.
Over the years, the thrill of my presence has diminished for my family of three. I have become little more than an afterthought to them – a labor. It has now been six days since my water was last changed and I need no more proof of that then the eight, nine – 10 distinct shits of my own construction floating around me like translucent Victorian–era ghosts, silently warning me to change my wicked ways.
I have come long ago to the conclusion that the only real control I have over my life is the ability to end it. Countless times I have imagined the idea of what would happen after I leap out of this crystalline penitentiary, viewed it in my mind over and over like a treasured family movie.
As the atmosphere robs me of moisture and oxygen, I see my convulsing body happening its way across the Brazilian hardwood floor and falling into the decorative heating grate. After my slow death, I project further into the future – the warm air and fine dust mummifying my corpse with time. I trick myself that this end is a noble destiny, sharing the same final fate as an ancient Egyptian prince. In reality, no indentured scribe will carve my achievements into legend, nor will any leggy archeologist dig for my treasures. I am to be forgotten. I expect no less.
My detention is made worse, mocked really, by the comings and goings of the Wakes clan. Lucky they are to know a world beyond this kitchen; blessedly ignorant to the fact the flakes they feed me (or forget to feed me) taste as bad as they smell. In fact, their lives seem beyond glamorous – suitable for shiny spreads in magazines intended to educate others on gracious living. You would never know how poisoned I am by the envy they generate, never detect it on my face. As a fish we always look the same – exhibiting the same visual cues swimming freely in the Atlantic as when a commercial fisherman’s harpoon enters our chest.
Due to my relative confinement, I have become an expert on their lives, a gilled Jane Goodall if I am to be generous. Seemly alone, they let their guard down, unaware that Professor Snorkel, perched on the kitchen Island, has studied their every move for years.
I know that the athletic 15-year-old Wakes boy likes older men. That late at night, he phones married 40-something’s who have sufficiently enticed him with homemade pornography. He drinks in their words on the telephone, the conversation growing increasingly lewd and ending abruptly after he spends himself into unlaundered boxer shorts.
I see that Ms. Wakes is quite skilled at hiding her need to drink. To achieve a reliable buzz, she has convinced her family that wine at dinner and well into the evening is her innocent attempt to bring French bohemian living into their sleepy home. They remain blissfully unaware that the old flour bag in the back of the spice cabinet is full of nips for secret nightcaps or that under the sink, behind the oil soap, resides her emergency reserve of Kettle One. On the rare occasion where she is the last one out of the house, a shot of Kailua in her morning coffee is not unheard of.
But I have grown weary of it all. Even Mr. Wakes’ occasional violent outbursts, a trait he inherited from his father, no longer stir me as they once did.
Finding myself denied even the basic dignity to pen a final note, I ask what ever, whom ever can hear fish’s thoughts: Shiva, Allah, a bar full of sexy craft beer fans for all I know – to raise their glass to my final proclamation before I go:
Life, my dear friends, can go fuck itself.