My sister’s betta fish died today. This probably means very little to you, but suddenly I feel like it’s two years ago and I’m crying over the little guy floating at the top of a bowl in my kitchen.
His name was Officer Friendly. Yes, Officer Friendly. I don’t have a picture of him, but he looked like this photo I stole from the internet:
I hadn’t had a pet since my three wicked hamsters, Hammy, Flipper and Squeaky, biters and escape artists, died in their cage. I think I was 12, and their loss was the greatest grief I’d known. Pets were done for me. I didn’t even want Friendly, but my sister got him for me one winter when life seemed impossibly hard, when I started learning the truth about the man I loved. Reality was slipping away.
Friendly just ignored me and kept swimming.
One night I cleaned Friendly’s bowl, and I put him in a cup, waiting for the chemicals in the water to stabilize. I got distracted by something online and came back to the kitchen to find an empty glass. Friendly had leaped out of it. He lay there in my sink, a terrifying gray, and out of reflex I splashed the cup of water on him. I caught him just before he slipped into the garbage disposal and tossed him into his bowl.
I was shaking. He was swimming. I checked on him every half hour until it seemed he would live.
Things were different after that. Friendly didn’t ignore me. He’d take food pellets from my fingers. When I walked in the door, he’d splash in his bowl, excited. If I had company, he’d whip his water into an angry froth. I assumed he was jealous. Friendly and I were buddies.
It took me almost a year before I was able to try to clean his bowl again.
He died quietly, as fish do. If he was sick, I didn’t notice. After a long day and night of drinking at Oktoberfest, I woke up to find him floating in his bowl. He’d been with me 3 years.
I cried and felt dumb for doing so. I posted on Facebook, said something like “It’s ridiculous how a little fish can die and just rip your heart out.” No one made fun of me. Maybe it’s there’s something to fish. Or maybe it’s just me.
Either way, I’m sorry about your loss, kiddo. And Friendly, I miss ya.
(OK, here’s the postscript I wondered whether I should add when I first wrote this. It makes me seem crazy. After Friendly died, I had a friend slip him into a plastic bag, then into a lunch bag, then into the freezer. The idea was to save him until I could bury his body in a friend’s pet graveyard. That, uh, never happened. Friendly stayed in my freezer for more than a year.)