In elementary school, my brother came into my room one morning carrying a red SOLO cup. I thought it was so nice he was bringing me some orange juice before I even woke up. Breakfast in bed!
He plopped the cup on my bedside table and said “your fish is dead.”
One must do a complete emotional 180 when they think somebody is generously bringing them a cup of juice or a delicious smoothie, and it actually turns out to be the plastic coffin containing their beloved pet fish carcass.
Generally speaking, I have not had the best luck with pet fish.
I wasn’t jumping to get another goldfish after the first scarring fish incident. But by my sophomore year of high school, the world had other plans for me.
The captain of my swim team decided to give everyone a live goldfish at the end of the season — much to the reluctance of … absolutely everyone. I named the little orange guy Jean-Ralphio, after my favorite character from “Parks and Recreation.”
For a while, Jean-Ralphio was living the life. A friend and I threw him a party on his first birthday, complete with balloons and a fish-shaped cake we made. We loved him.
But I must admit I was not the best fish mom in the world. When his bowl got too dirty, he developed a disease and was covered in splotches. Poor little guy! I was terrified this would be another morbid red SOLO situation, but he survived. Over and over again.
Jean-Ralphio was invincible. He lived way longer than my first fish and had survived long, bumpy car rides, disease-ridden fish bowls and frequent neglect from his bad caretaker (me). We made jokes about how he was probably immortal.
One day, however, I came home from school and Jean-Ralphio was gone. I wish I could say I erupted into an immediate, full-fledged panic, but I think it was more likely a few hours — perhaps days — before I even noticed. (Again, not the best fish parent … Jean-Ralphio was an invincible superhero who often had to fend for himself.)
When I finally noticed Jean-Ralphio’s absence, I found out my mother had given my fish to Petco. Yes. She drove to Petco, told them we didn’t have a place for the fish and asked them to take it “back.”
So Jean-Ralphio lives at Petco now. Or somewhere else. And it’s definitely for the best.
But I know he’s out there, swimming, swimming, swimming. Maybe it’s at Petco, or maybe with some kid who is just now noticing his invincibility. But I know he will never end up in a red SOLO cup. I just know. Just keep swimming, Jean-Ralphio.
Just keep swimming.