In a word, Hairold the fish was spoiled. In a bowl that was more than over-sized for his microscopic likings, he swam freely in a life of moderate luxury full of aquarium ornaments and multi-colored pebbles. He was given three square meals a day and his tank was cleaned every week on the week with no exceptions. Hairold lived well and I loved him as well as any pet owner could love their pet without it being weird.
In light of the fine circumstances surrounding Hairold’s existence, everybody who knew of his exceptional treatment and intentional owners expected him to lead a long and prosperous life of gill-flapping and head-bobbing. He had all the resources he needed to survive and thrive.
“Hey, where’s Hairold?”
Waking up to a fishless fish bowl is not an experience that I would wish upon any person. A mixture of confusion and disbelief blend together to make for a particularly disorienting moment.
Through the bathroom door, my roommate responded.
“What?” she asked.
“Where’s Hairold? Did you do something with him?”
“Lara, what are you talking about? He’s a fish. He’s in his fish tank.”
“No, he’s not in here! Are you serious? You didn’t put him somewhere weird or something?”
She opened the bathroom door and walked towards the empty fish tank.
“Tell me I’m blind. This is completely absurd. I really hope I’m just blind right now.”
“What the crazy-pants?! There is literally NO fish in this fish bowl right now. Lara, what in the world is going on? Did you do something to him?”
“Okay, obviously not. I’m the one who freaked out first and I’m not this good at playing pranks. If I was kidding, you would know by now.”
After about ten minutes of sitting in silent awe of the aquatic phenomenon that had taken place in our dorm, action needed to be taken. I finally spoke.
“Well, I think we have both been sufficiently freaked out. We have no fish. We have no idea how or why we have no fish. I mean, we can’t just sit here all day. I guess we should just... go to class?”
The idea of making “Lost Fish” signs and posting them around campus was on the table for a fleeting moment, but we decided, after a very surreal morning, to let the situation settle itself. As irrational as it may have been, we assumed that sooner or later, he would just show up.
The next several hours were marked by great confusion. For somebody who has a particularly hard time accepting things that don’t make sense, the fact that my fish had, for all intents and purposes, disappeared was a nearly impossible reality to come to terms with. How could I focus on Professor Smith’s interpretation of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard when I had such a mystery on my mind?
This may come as a surprise, but the disappearance of my goldfish isn’t the only situation that I have been guilty of overthinking. It takes me twenty minutes to decide between the blue dress at Macy’s and the floral dress at Nordstrom, and that’s on a good day. Choosing my major in college took a solid year. I often find myself thinking in circles around situations that I don’t really have control over and stressing over unimportant details. That in mind, it’s no surprise that I was preoccupied by the remarkable disappearance of my fish. I needed to get to the bottom of this.
Like any logical person would be, my classmate was very skeptical.
“I don’t believe you. That makes absolutely no sense.”
“Dude, I would love nothing more than for you to come to my dorm and prove me wrong right now. I’ve been freaking out about this all day.”
Walking back to the dorm, I considered the endless possibilities. They were all out of the realm of possibility and completely unrealistic, but then again, so was the idea of a fish disappearing.
When we got back to my dorm, we went straight to the fish bowl.
“Okay, how does the bowl work?”
“What do you mean ‘how does the bowl work?’? It’s a fish bowl...”
“Yeah, but is there a filter?”
“... yeah, but...”
She lifted the top of the bowl and opened up the filter.
Oh, Hairold. May you rest in pieces.