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R.I.P. Sadie

In January 2017, I moved into a new house. My landlords had two betta fish, one male, and one female. They shared a tiny plastic fish tank with a divider. My landlords were told when they got them that they only had to be fed once every six days. This, of course, was not true. Soon after, the male died, the divider was removed, and the female, still unnamed, had her living space doubled. Without their knowledge, I had begun to feed them once a day. Once the male had died, the female seemed to thrive. I read online, that in these circumstances, betta fish only live about 100 days. I tried my best.

I named her Sadie after a sweet young girl who I knew from the school I work at. Sadie, tended to stick to herself, seeming amused by others, and often rehearsing for some performance only she knew about. She was bright, friendly, and warm, but she preferred her own company to others'. Sadie, the fish, reminded me of her daily, lying still, alone, but swimming to the top of the bowl each morning, as if to say hello, without words. I'd feed her morning, noon, and night. Each time, she seemed to acknowledge my presence, again, without words.

Twenty-eight months later, I came downstairs, with Swag. I let him outside onto the deck, where the crows squawked and tried to disrupt his morning hunt. I grabbed a can of his food, washed his bowl, then reached for Sadie's food. I tapped on the top of the fish tank, but there was no response. I peered in and realized she was not moving, not even her gills. I lifted the top and peered in. I reached in, as if my touch might stir her from some sort of fish slumber, but there was nothing. She had died. Sadness overwhelmed me.

We often take pets, especially fish, for granted. I'd like to think I was different. I cared for her the best I could. I fed her. I changed her water every four days, apologizing for the intrusion and any discomfort I may have caused her. I spoke to her, telling her that she was loved, despite what I assumed was a life of loneliness. I had hoped she was like Sadie, the child I knew, who chose solitude over the company of others, never once showing any sadness due to it.

I said my goodbyes, apologizing for not being there at the end. For not knowing last evening's "Goodnight," would be our last. I scooped her up, hoping I was wrong. The odd thing about fish is, the only time you get to hold them is when they are dead. It makes you realize how much you take for granted those of you that you can hold, while they are alive. I [icked Swag up, squeezed him tight, and gave him a kiss. Sure, he hated it, but he also knows my moods, so he endured it and I set him back down, giving him a treat as acknowledgment for his being there.

Sadie, the child, left the program last year, because of her age. Sadie the fish, I assume left for similar reasons. I do not think I'll replace her, as most do when a pet dies. She became a part of my routine, and in doing so, a part of me. She gave me purpose, even if for only seconds a day. I think of my current conditions, and then I think of hers, both metaphors for one another's situations. Trapped in tiny mundane worlds, going through the same routine, day after day, knowing in our hearts and minds that there's more out there. I just hope one day, I can swim away and not have to rely on someone else, just to live out my days.


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