She would walk her goldfish every morning at 8 am. In its bowl
She would walk her goldfish every morning at 8 am. In its bowl. Dressing for the occasion in bright colours, looking as if she were heading out to dinner or to the opera. Slipping into her heels, she’d go out into the warm morning sun and walk the promenade slowly and deliberately. Holding the bowl cupped to her middle, nestled, gently so as not to disturb the fish who seemed to enjoy the event.
She was now in her third year (and sixth fish) of this and had got something of a reputation. A friend had told her that she had a hashtag on Instagram and was mentioned in several Trip Advisor reviews - things which meant nothing to her. There were regular joggers and dog walkers who said hello, old men on their mobility scooters, postmen, bin men and the like. But also the occasional photographer or tourist who would point their phone at her and say something in a language she did not understand.
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For those with ‘real’ cameras, she would pose. Demure and detached. Yet she never saw any of the pictures that became Flickr explores or garnered thousands of likes on social media.
As soon as she got home, she would pop the bowl back on the sideboard and feed the fish. Then scruff her hair up, take off her dress and heels and return to her pyjamas and turn on the TV with a cup of instant coffee and a bowl of dry cereal.
Her life was split between two characters. She hated them both equally but for different reasons. She was never sure which one was her and which was the imposter.
When walking, she hardly ever thought of anything, merely concentrating on not spilling the water and keeping in character. But in front of the TV or eating her microwave meal she could not stop her brain from analysing her life, what she had done and what she was going to do to turn it around. The lady with the goldfish was the spark which should have done this for her - made her understand that she could be anything or anyone. And yet now it was just the same routine as morning TV, chocolate biscuits at eleven and half a bottle of pink wine as the sunset.
She considered creating another character - many other characters - but she worried that this would become a further burden, another ritual with no meaning, splitting her personality into many isolated fragments. Who would be the real her? How would she tell? Was it depressingly true that the real one would be the one that she disliked the most?
Goldfish lady had mystique and grace - she knew - she had created her to be like this. But she was a lie. There was nothing to back her up. Ask anyone on the street who saw or photographed her to imagine her life and their answers would bear no relation to the prosaic nature of who she, and her life, actually were. She found this fascinating. But equally, it hurt her. For them, the hour or so she was with her goldfish was the only version of her who existed. She felt she could never be that person in real life, and yet there she was each day - an absolute reality to anyone who saw her.
She struggled with the idea that this hour could be her ‘real’ hour and the rest of her life being an error, a falsehood. Would goldfish lady, one day, consume her? Would she come home one day and not get changed, just stay in her creation and if she did, would she be happy?
Perhaps, in fact, the tables had already turned, and the Goldfish lady had got bored one day and created a lazy, dull, boring, questioning character for herself to live in.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot that this is, in fact, not a goldfish. Funnily enough, I do have some pictures of goldfish - but I prefer this one. Taken in 2009 on a Nikon d200.