Friday, December 11th 2009, 1 p.m.:
When I saw him, through the kitchen window, too close to the surface for this freezing weather I ran to the door, flung on a pair of Violet’s shoes and ran to the pond. It was like time froze. It looked like Fraidy was trapped in ice. He was on his side and he was not moving at all. I panicked. I ran to the shed and grabbed the axe. I ran back to the pond and I started to hit the ice with everything in me. As specks of ice were flying everywhere, I did realize, somewhere, that my efforts were most likely in vain. But I rarely, if ever, accept the things I cannot change until I have proof, a lot of proof.
I threw the axe at the ice as hard as I could, with more of me than I knew I had actually, about six inches to the left of him. I hacked and hacked at the ice block until several inches down I finally hit water. I did this in a circle around him. It took quite a few minutes and all of my might. I felt panicked and out of breath.
As I was hitting the ice block over and over I saw that nothing at all was happening to Fraidy but I still didn’t believe the worst could be true. Or maybe I didn’t believe that there wasn’t still something I could do.
Finally, I had carved a full circle around my friend and as I lifted up several inches of ice, Fraidy slowly floated to the top, on his side, like he was dead.
I ran inside and grabbed a bowl, filled it with room temperature water and ran back outside. I picked Fraidy up with my hands, touching and holding my friend for the first time ever, and put him in the warmer water. Maybe he just needed a break from the cold, who doesn’t? Maybe he had slowed down his breathing so much that he looked dead, like he’s done year after year now, that the human eye just can’t recognize at first. Maybe he just needed a minute. Maybe he would thaw a bit, gasp for air and look at me like, “What the hell am I doing in a salad bowl, you crazy son of a bitch?” Anything. I was looking for anything. I was panicked and shivering and whispering to him over and over, “Come on buddy, all you have to do is breathe, ok? I’m sorry.”
He didn’t. I sat on the frozen ground, beginning to freeze myself, for more than 15 minutes, just staring at him with a sort of attention I have never found before. I would have seen it, if anything happened I would have noticed. I started to feel heavy and dizzy and awful. I started to sink but the ground underneath me was so hard and frozen I had nowhere to sink into so I just sat there and loathed myself for being so devastated.
I realized, then and now, that being this hurt, this broken apart, over a little fish does not fair well in the scheme of things, in my ability to cope with the world. But really, I don’t want to, not like that. And I hate when the world makes me feel like I need to buck up. I tried, I try, but I couldn’t feel less. One of my favorite ways to spend my time was with a fucking goldfish and now he was gone and so now I felt broken and I get, maybe more than is good for me, how stupid this sounds and that only made me more upset. So I sat there, shivering and crying, just staring at him, angry that I felt this sad, angry that he was gone, angry that there was nothing I could do and even more angry wondering if maybe there had been something I could have done. My brain kept yelling at me, “IT’S JUST A FUCKING GOLDFISH!” and my heart argued back, “He was a friend.”
A few hours later I had plans to meet up with a buddy of mine. I decided, in my loathing, that I had no excuse to cancel. He is a good guy and when I eventually told him about Fraidy, whom he knew, I could tell that he got it, and that made me feel a bit less crazy and it made me love him more, for getting me like that, for getting Fraidy like that.
I came home around 4 p.m., later than I meant to, and grabbed a shovel. I tried to dig a hole but the ground was too frozen. I didn’t know what to do so I left him in a fish net, in the pond, his home, that quickly refroze. Fraidy looked like a picture of himself.
– – – –
On Saturday the ground was still very frozen so I took the axe and all of my angst to the ground this time. I started to carve out space for my friend right next to the pond. It was exhausting and it felt good. The ground was frozen solid for almost a foot. I wrapped sweet little Fraidy in a cloth and before I put him in the ground I said, “I’d kiss you goodbye but I don’t kiss boys. I love you though. A lot. And I know your little fish brain is the size of a fish food flake, but I know you knew that. Goodbye.”
Rest in peace Fraidy Phat, my sweet little fish friend.
You will be very missed, especially in quieter moments.
And thanks little guy, you know, for everything…