It started out as an orchid. In my favourite Australian TV show, ‘Please Like Me’, Hannah Gadsby’s character, who suffers from depression, is given an orchid by her doctor. The idea is that if she can keep the orchid alive, she can learn to trust herself. I liked that idea and I considered getting an orchid.
My train of thought went like this. If I can learn to commit to an orchid and care for it and keep it alive, then maybe I can commit to a man and care for a boyfriend and let another human into my house and my life.
As this idea sat with me, the orchid didn’t seem like a big enough commitment. I needed to prove to myself that I was open to another living creature.
Should Connor get a pet? If only I didn’t find animals both terrifying and revolting. I know rabbits are cute but they want to bite me and they shit everywhere. Multiply those sentiments for cats and multiply them even more for dogs. I do not want to be responsible for picking up another being’s poop. I’m putting it out there now. When I’m eventually ready for a boyfriend, he has to (at least at first) be able to take care of his own poo without my assistance.
No. I would not get a dog. I would get some fish.
I must have mentioned this fish plan jokingly about a hundred times since the idea first came to me when I was living in my cottage in Longford. And one day, about three weeks ago in the canteen at work, I said it again. I would get some goldfish.
And London Connor, though he still has all pre-London-Connor’s faults, is more likely to actually do what he says rather than idly dreaming of it.
Before I knew it, I was researching fish. To be honest, I was over-researching fish. I must have watched over 100 hours of youtube videos about fish care. I hadn’t even bought any fish and I had nightmares on three successive nights about dead fish. Ammonia will kill your fish! The wrong temperature in the water will kill your fish! The wrong pH in the water will kill your fish! Overfeeding will kill your fish! Your fish will kill your fish! Putting your hand in the water while you have moisturiser on your skin will kill your fish! Nitrates will kill your fish! Your fish’s urine will kill your fish! You might never know what killed your fish!
First, I bought a fish tank in an amazing fish shop that just happens to be in my neighbourhood. The fates must truly have wanted this. The biggest fish shop in London is on my doorstep! I was advised by a nerdy shop assistant who couldn’t make eye contact, and who didn’t know how to talk to humans, but he had a lot of fish-related facts and I trusted him.
I went on Amazon and bought: neon gravel for the bottom of the tank, neon fake plants for my fish to hide in, a princess castle for the centre piece of the tank, an air pump/bubble maker, water conditioner, live underwater moss balls, a gravel vacuum/water siphon, bacteria to quick start a tank’s nitrogen cycle, a gravel rake, a net, a water quality test kit.
I had spent almost £250 and still not bought any fish.
Eventually, the day came. It was time. England were playing Croatia in the World Cup and the streets were deserted as I made my way to the Aquatic Design Centre to but three platies, a species recommended for beginners and, hopefully, hard to kill.
It’s only a half hour walk home from the fish shop, but I got an Uber, nervous I would accidentally drop/puncture/kill my fish.
My fish are beautiful and are still alive and active 5 days later.
The largest, most active fish is bright orange and is called Niall Horanfish. While Niall Horan may not be my favourite member of One Direction, he is certainly the most comforting, dependable member. He’s the one who will populate your twitter feed with dull tweets about how much he loves golf or how well he slept last night. Niall will always be there.
The next most active one has tiger stripes and I’ve named her Joslyn Foxfish. Joslyn Fox probably isn’t even in my top 5 favourite drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I think she might be the kindest, sweetest queen ever to have been on the show. And that’s what I want from my fish.
The shyest, most reclusive fish is blue with an orange tail. I’ve named her Jessica Fletcherfish. There are some voices I love and Jessica Fletcher has the kind of voice you want reading a bedtime story to you. She’s also lively and solves murders but in a comforting way that suggests she likes a nice cup of tea.
I love my fish. I had started talking to my tank before I put any fish there at all. But now I find myself sitting and chatting with them whenever I have a spare moment. I worry about them too. When I come home late at night and turn on the lights and they sluggishly hide in a dark area of the tank, I suddenly worry that they’re drowning in their own pee. And I think Niall Horanfish is a pregnant female and Joslyn Foxfish is a randy male who won’t leave her alone. (I think Jessica Fletcherfish is a male too, but he’s kind of aloof and not into girl fish.) And apparently female platies can be sexually harassed to death and apparently newborn platies are almost always eaten by adult platies and the circle of life is cruel.
And I know I’m worrying far too much about them but I do love them. I’m already planning my next fish purchase and I’m vaguely hoping my next house will be big enough for a fish room with multiple large tanks.
Do they make me feel readier for a boyfriend? I’m not sure. I’ll let you know another day.