God Bless Sir Haywood

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I've been meaning to rescue a poor, helpless betta fish for a while, but the last time I did that it didn't end so well.

I don't remember why I got a betta in college, but it probably had something to do with wanting to feel responsible for another life and putting as little effort as possible into achieving that. His name was Stefan L'Elefante, and he was red.

I threw down the investment. I bought him the most expensive glass bowl, a down ass totem pole, some rocks with holes, and some fake ass plants. And also a portable carrying tank for my trips home to Santa Clarita (I went to college a little over an hour away and wouldn't be back in my apartment for five weeks during the upcoming holidays).

At first he was stoked to be mine. We were buds. I had a small LED light that lit his bowl up at night (college pothead joke here) and sometimes I'd wake up and holler at him.

Winter break came, and I packed him up and drove him to my parents' house. I kept him in his portable tank so I wouldn't disturb his living situation too many times. And he was okay. He lived in my bathroom. My mom fed him because I was an irresponsible alcoholic freeloading college student who saw it as her duty to be as drunk and high at the same time as possible. It was exactly like that show Teen Mom, except with fewer babies.

He hadn't made his bubble nest during that entire break (something all "happy" bettas do) and I got a little worried. It was time for me to move back into my apartment, so we embarked on our journey westward on the 126. I got him back into his bowl, where he continued not making bubbles for the next week or two. I changed his water, I cleaned his little house friends, I even got him more expensive food! But he was sad. He wasn't made for the traveling lifestyle. He wanted a home. He wanted to settle down. He wanted a family.

I went to my morning yoga class, and when I came back to my apartment and sat at my computer, I glanced in his bowl and noticed he was... missing.

"Maybe he's hiding... under... all... the rocks...?"

But he wasn't.

He was nowhere.

Shocked, I thought, "well, surely he didn't walk away."

I looked behind my desk. I looked on my carpet. I looked in all my computer wires. I even looked inside my desk.

Nothing.

Horrified, I sat on my bedroom floor and called the dude I had been sorta dating on and off for the last several years. Being the completely self-involved and unreliable pothead that he was, he told me he was going to Burger King and then had to go to work.

And then, in that moment, I looked up at my computer one more time. And underneath my computer's keyboard, I saw a small red lump.

...that I had dragged back and forth with my keyboard when I was looking for his little body.

...through dust and hair and other dead bugs and ashes.

His poor little self was covered in dirt and... was very subtly twitching.

"BRAD!" I screamed into the phone. "BRAD, HE IS ALIVE. YOU HAVE TO COME HERE AND PUT HIM BACK IN HIS WATER! YOU HAVE TO SAVE STEFAN!"

"Uhhh, I can't. I have to go to Burger King."

"But he's alive. You are killing him. You are murdering my fish."

"Why don't you put him back in the water?"

"Because I can't stand to look at his little body all messed up like this. You have to do this for me. This is the only thing I will ever ask of you again. If you don't do this, you are responsible for my fish dying."

"That doesn't make sense. Just put him back in his water."

"I don't want to touch him! You come here and do it! Just scoot him off my desk and into water!"

"I'm not doing that."

"It's your fault. I hate you. You killed my fish. I swear I will never forget this."

So since I was content to date a totally unsupportive guy who couldn't make the 10 minute drive to save my child, I put Stefan in a plastic bag and cut off the air, because I assumed that after spending several hours out of water, he was suffering. I wanted to put him out of his sad little misery. I twisted the top of the bag, and made my way to the front door.

But he kept twitching.

So I tightened the bag some more.

And a few more twitches.

And soon enough I couldn't take it anymore and just tossed him in the dumpster.

...HALF ALIVE, PROBABLY.

HE WAS PROBABLY TOTALLY ALIVE AND I JUST THREW HIM AWAY.

A LIVING BEING.

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER THROWS AWAY A LIVING FISH?

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER AM I?!!?!?!?

I cried for the rest of the week. I stayed up wondering if he was still alive and living in garbage. And suffering. Right outside of my window. I'd look in his empty bowl, that I couldn't bring myself to empty for three weeks after that. I practically cut myself over this. I'd always wonder how he ended up dying. If he just gradually slipped away, or if he choked, or he got smushed by old pizza boxes and empty milk cartons.

It wasn't until I did a Google search that I found out that they have lungs, and can easily breathe out of water for up to 10 hours, you guys.

UP TO TEN HOURS.

I JUST, LIKE, THREW AWAY A LIFE.

I HAVE NEVER TOLD ANYBODY THIS STORY.

THIS IS MY MOST SHAMEFUL MEMORY.

I AM ALMOST CRYING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.

So, not to set myself up as Adoptive Fish Mother of the Year or anything, but I went ahead and adopted a new son today.


Juggalo grew very attached to him in the store and picked out the rocks for his bowl. When it was time to leave my house and take her home for a nap, she gave his bowl another kiss and said, "Nite nite, Haywood. I love you."

So today and everyday henceforth, I will end my day with that saying.

Nite nite, Haywood. I love you. I promise I will be sure that you are dead before I throw you away.