In the end, he got the fish.
I had found the fish at a small local shop uptown, tucked behind the streets that overlooked the mountains. It was dark and reeked of jumping crickets and hamster wood shavings.
“The betas are in the back,” the owner said, holding a baby while a pig-tailed toddler tugged on her jean pocket.
I walked slowly, eyeing the rabbits and hermit crabs, hearing the parrots mocking a song. I often avoided pet shops; I can’t stand to see drooping puppy dog eyes begging me to house them.
A fish, this time, would have to suffice.
They were all beautiful; dressed in colors seen only through the imaginations of painters. Twelve different betas swam in cups, unaware of my gazes. I eyed each one carefully, fixating on their movements.
And there it was. Top left, back row, honest shade of blue that matched our bedroom. It was perfect. The fish was calm, moving at its own sluggish pace. It saw me through the glass, but carried on its way. “I don’t need you,” it mumbled. Intrigued, it only seemed right. I felt it was fitting for it to sit on our desk, facing the window to catch the sunlight.
“I’ll take this one,” I called to no one really. I pulled the fish away from the others, grabbing a larger fishbowl, tropical rocks, and a packet of food on my way to the register. The owner, busy on the telephone, rang me out and sent me on my way.
In the car, the fish floated in a plastic bag on my passenger seat, still calm and unaffected by the transition. Yet as soon as the Subaru was in gear, it started to panic. Back and forth, up and down, it searched for any possible escape. I pulled out of the plaza and its frantic quest continued, perpetuating into such strange swimming I thought it would rip a hole straight through the plastic. I felt terrible – responsible – from dragging it away from its seat in the shop’s back shelf.
“Our home will be safe,” I tried to relax the fish as it swam in circles. “We’ll take care of you.” It ignored me and carried on, swimming manically to nowhere.
“Stop being so manic! Take a breath,” I said. “Manny, stop!”
And there it was. “Manic.” Manny. He was named and he was ours and I took him home to be loved.
The following month, he sat on our desk, swimming back and forth, up and down, in his new bowl. The rocks reflected against his glistening scales in every shade of light. He was calm again, secure, and happy. Tame with an unwavering quietness.
For a short time, all was just right. The fishbowl stayed clean and the weather was warm and Manny guarded our room like a haven.
He didn’t need me, but I loved him anyway.