Anyway I had a goldfish, a common Woolworth’s goldfish, which I brought home in a water filled plastic bag, and somebody, a man named Rick, I think, who worked for my father, said it would be safe to place him in a concrete planter on the terrace, filled with water. Everybody is always doing their best. I remember his kind and comforting energy and I think he had been a marine.
I named my goldfish Simon. I loved him, but I can’t swear he had any real feelings for me. I turned him into my best friend, confided in him. It was the year my life collapsed. I was six, and my mother had disappeared.
Every morning, having bolted down the spiral staircase carrying my mother’s portrait, asking anybody I could find if she had called, being rebuffed, I would go sit on the edge of that planter and stroke Simon’s tail through the water.
One morning I came out and found him curled up in the drain hole, the water gone. I can still see his small orange body curled up in there, defeated.
I don’t think I cried then. But strangely enough I cried today, in a cold cafe in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with waterfalls on the walls, and people working on their laptops. I was already coming apart, from the night before, but now I started to experience what felt like Simon’s emotions from 1971. Could that be?
Pain seared right through my heart that felt dark blue and like a thread, weaving a telegram from childhood that was never delivered at the time. I gripped my own throat, pushed up against my jawbone and tried to block the tears. Simon would not have understood why the water was leaving. He would have been wondering why I had let this happen to him and didn’t protect him. He would feel betrayed, so deeply betrayed, just as I had. And he had no chance.
I always wondered exactly what time it happened.