It is often said that death brings people closer together. I never truly understood this, and having never experienced death firsthand I found it hard to comprehend how something so terrible could result in something positive. But this semester, the loss of a loved one wholeheartedly changed my opinion on that sentiment.
It all started a few weeks ago when my roommate Dorothy decided that our dorm room needed a pet. Due to the oppressive college legal system strictly prohibiting all pets except fish, we realized a kitten, a pug, or a teacup pig were off the table. So she took it upon herself to purchase a $5 beta fish from the man who also sold suspiciously small, decorative cacti.
I was thrilled. We named it after our favorite character from the cinematic masterpiece “Spring Breakers,” and the bowl sat in our windowsill overlooking the quad.
A few days later, I returned to my dorm room following a lovely afternoon psychology lecture. I walked over to the windowsill to make myself a nice cup of tea to prepare for a long evening of studying, and I remembered that no one had fed Alien (Dorothy had sworn up and down that she would be responsible for the fish, but it became quickly apparent who would actually be performing the mundane tasks of keeping the poor creature alive). Because of this, the fish and I were quick friends.
That afternoon, as I knelt down to see how the fish was, I was surprised and dismayed to find the bowl was empty. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, that if left in a bowl with a high water level it is not uncommon for beta fish to leap out of the bowls to their deaths. I discovered his limp, parched body lying on the windowsill, and I immediately started dousing him with water. I manage to get him back into his bowl, and as I held his fragile body under the water with my bare hands, he did in fact start to swim again, torn fins and all.
Unfortunately, the resurrection was short lived. Alien could no longer swim and instead floated on his side. My roommates and I searched desperately for remedies but only found options, like clove oil, to ease his passing. There were also warnings that flushing a fish is actually a tortuous death and so that option was off the table. We were unable to procure the required oil but due to his prolonged period of time out of the water, dear Alien passed away peacefully shortly after.
Alien’s death was a great loss for all of us. We covered the bowl in a sheer white cloth and performed a proper multi-faith funeral in our room, complete with prayer as well as an offering to the fish gods. We all worked together to create a memorial in tribute to his passing, and it still hangs on our shared wall to this day. The memorial reads “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living,” and I do think that is true.
Moral of the story: even the darkest events can have a silver lining. The three of us will always have that memory in our hearts, connecting us on a deeper level for eternity.
Also, if you have a beta fish, please make sure that the water level always remains more than two inches lower than the rim of the bowl, and keep some clove oil on hand just in case.