“I have this goldfish.
He’s a sort of corpulent, tangerine coloured Goldfish about the size of a tennis ball. I keep him in one of those little spherical tanks in the living room. He’s not the most exciting fish out there, nothing as flamboyant as a siamese fighting fish, or as colourful as the mandarin fish, but he’s got personality.
He swims around, doesn’t do that much other than swim … but he’s seen things, I can tell you. He - and hey - don’t look at me like that, I’m not crazy - talks to me sometimes. It started not too long ago.
He just looked at me one day with his clear bulbous eyes, opened his mouth, and in the gravelly voice of a lifetime smoker told me that I needed to get my shit together. Clear as clear can be, he told me. Goldfish can’t talk, you know, but this one was talking. A goldfish paradox, it was. Initially I was shocked, but as the disbelief gradually wore off I realised that he was actually giving great advice.
Buddy, he said to me between puffs on a cigar (don’t ask me how he got the cigars, I don’t smoke), I’ve been watching you, and I’m not impressed. For someone who has all the opportunities that come with opposable thumbs you really are squandering your life.
Now, I was a little outraged by his observations, as you can imagine, but I wanted to see where all this was going so I let him talk. He critiqued just about everything in my life, but with every critique he gave a little advice. He asked me to set his tank in front of my computer, where he read over my resume and helped me edit it. And, wow, for someone who doesn’t have hands or a formal education, his writing skills were impressive. After that he helped me redecorate my living room, fengshui was originally a goldfishian art, he says. He even regaled me with tales of his time in a tank in the office of the illustrious Psychiatrist Dr Sandra Roseinbloom. She was a Jungian he tells me and from her professional interactions with patients he had picked up a wealth of deep Jungian insights into human foibles.
My old tank was a war zone, He says, filled with guppies - stupid brainless fish - but they banded together and formed a gang under the command of a veteran angel fish, and oh boy when they were on a rampage you knew to stay out of the way.
I had bought him off of Craigslist in a two-for-one deal, a couple of months earlier. Dr Roseinbloom, the psychiatrist and previous owner of my goldfish, had been selling one of those amazing reclining psychiatrist's lounge chairs for an absolute bargain. There was a catch though, the deal went that if you took the chair you had to take the fish. They were a package. So, I thought, why not? The chair is a great piece, and if I have to take the goldfish with it then c'est la vie! But, as you've probably appreciated by now, I got more than I bargained for. I get told, often, by my very loquacious goldfish, how awful it was to be taken from his tank in Dr Roseinbloom's office. Can you imagine the indignity of being decanted into a little plastic bag, while all those guppies were watching and sniggering, no less! Can you..?
But, despite my goldfish's attitude, I put up with him. He was becoming a friend at this point. By the end of my first month with him my life was starting to look up for the first time in a long time … but I should have known - there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Eventually he started making requests; chocolate in exchange for advice, so I’d give him a little bit of chocolate here and there. Soon a little bit of chocolate accumulated into a lot of chocolate - from slices of chocolate cake to bizarrely flavoured chocolate truffles - and then he was hoarding the stuff in his tank, lying on a pile of it in a chocolate induced semi-coma!
Chocolate for advice, he would demand.
Chocolate isn’t good for goldfish - you probably already know this. It can kill them in all sorts of ways - their physiology is just not designed to process it. But, he gave such great advice, I couldn’t help but give him a bit of chocolate here and there. Eventually he started getting sick - not unexpected given that he was a chain smoker of expensive cigars and had an incurable addiction to chocolate - and I just had to put my foot down. No more chocolate, I said, I will not support your suicide-by-chocolate agenda.
No, he said looking at me calmly, I’ve seen and heard terrible things in Roseinbloom's office. I’ve done terrible things myself. Through it all, I’ve lived life my way, and I’ll die by my rules! If chocolate is what kills me, then so be it. There are worse ways to go!
But I wouldn’t (couldn't) concede. After all I was addicted too...to his advice.
Deprived of chocolate he began to get horrible depressed though, and I don’t know that I can keep up the positive momentum in my life without the support of my friend.”
My psychiatrist, Dr Diane Smith-Jones, pushes her wire-rimmed spectacles up her nose and cocks her head at me, “And this is what you’re here to see me about … your goldfish delusion?”
“It’s not a delusion!” I snap, “And I’m not here about me … it’s my goldfish, well, he’s taking this whole chocolate dilemma pretty hard. I think he needs help and given his history a Psychiatrist makes more sense than a Veterinarian. Regardless I just cannot stand by and watch him die by chocolate..."