A Fish and a Girl With a Split Personality

December 17, 2011 at 11:10 am (The Whim) (, , , , )

Meet Elliot, Sarah, and Molly: 3 characters in a writing exercise.


A betta’s side of a story

I look out from my bowl and see Sarah’s eyes.  She’s my person.  She has large blue eyes always attacked with a massive amount of eyeliner.  She reminds me of what I saw of a raccoon in a national geographic magazine she left lying haphazardly by my bowl; among other things she leaves places, like her keys in the sofa and her shoes in the bathroom.

Her eyes are glossy, always, like she’s going to cry.  That’s how they were when we met, and how they’ve been ever since.  She tends to be sad, and buys betta fish when she is sad, apparently.  Just last week she brought Claude in, his bowl is stationed by the television she leaves on too loud.  I’m hoping he’ll be floating by the end of the week.  He always whines about the noise.  Of course, Sarah can’t hear him, just me, andLydia. Lydiais nice; she’s on the other side of the picture frame, a beautiful grayish pink color –Lydianot the frame.  Tommy-Tom, I think is too far away, or deaf, because he never answersLydiawhen we call across the room for conversation.  He thinks he’s all-important because he has been here the longest, and he has the largest bowl.  Mine isn’t bad, though.

She’s a good person, my person.  She saves us, like I said, when she is sad, from those tiny cups at Wal-Mart, and picks out large beautiful vases and bowls for us to swim in with ease.  She’s a pro at it, and she talks to us after picking us out, asking us what color rocks we would like, what shape of dish shall we go in?  And the sort.  Other people look at her, some like she’s funny, some like she’s desirable, I can never tell exactly, I’m not a person how should I know what their faces mean if they aren’t my person.

She told me she liked me because I was so red, and that my hint of purple on the tail reminded her of her favorite color orchid.  She keeps orchids everywhere too.  On every surface there is either of vase of fish or vase of lush purple orchids.  I like to think that I am her favorite though, because many of the others she brings home are ugly, brown, the unwanted ones – the fish, not the orchids.  I am a fish.

She looks at me now and says, “Elliot, one day, my life will be as beautiful as you.”  And she cries.  I blow bubbles to make her happy, but she doesn’t see them so I dash in and out of my castle she set up for me.  “And maybe I’ll have a castle,” she sobs some more.  So castles today are not the key.  I rub against my plant, it’s a lovely plant, and when the green reaches the air up top it blooms pretty white flowers.  I like the white, it makes my red look more vibrant, and my purple so lovely.  I am beautiful, but it’s not enough for her.

Sarah sleeps on the couch tonight.  In all actuality, she sleeps on the couch every night because her bedroom doesn’t really exist.  She found a door in the alley not long after she saved me.  She dragged it in, cleaned it up, stained it the same color as the rest of the woodwork and nailed it to the wall.  She tells visitors that it’s the door to her bedroom, but this is a one-room flat, large but still void of extra rooms.  When she’s tired of the couch and wants to sleep in a real bed, she unfolds the couch and it becomes a bed.  On those nights she also makes a show of getting undressed and putting on her “dainties,” she tells us we’re lucky because we’re the only boys in the world that get to see her do it.  Her dainties are kept in a small blue painted bureau, blue to match the rest of her living room, and on top of that sits two vases where Lydia and I live.  There is a picture frame between us, but I don’t know who is inside.  Knowing Sarah it’s the people that come with the picture as hung above the television and Claude, a couple picnicking in the sun, or possibly some obscure artwork she found at the Goodwill, like the one behind my bowl, a large blazing blue phoenix. Lydiasays phoenixes aren’t supposed to be blue.  However, Sarah’s a lazy girl when it comes to nightly rituals, and mostly – like now – she doesn’t bother with folding down the couch or dressing.

Whether she sleeps on the couch as a couch or on the couch as a bed, she always wakes up the same: “anti-meningitis exercises.”  She drops her chin to her chest over and over again until satisfied.  Then, she quickly pops off the bed and sporadically bends and stretches about the room.  She is convinced that this will keep her safe from spiral viruses.  She also does jumping jacks in the morning… while she gets dressed.  There is a small bathroom I can view the sink from and I watch her hop around while she brushes her teeth and washes her face.  She tells us that its good to be active in the morning and that she’ll never have a boyfriend or a room mate because only fish understand her morning necessities.  When she says things like this Claude grumbles over the noise of the television that is almost on constantly and tellsLydiaand I that our person is crazy.  We tell Claude that she’s his person too.

The problem with all these things, with her sporadic routines, and her desire to swear off boyfriends, is that she never sticks to them exactly.  Some days she skips out on her routines altogether, some days she has a boyfriend – he lives across the hall and feeds us sometimes.  The problem is, well, Sarah isn’t just Sarah.


the obsessive compulsive orphan

Sarah had been staring at the phoenix painting above the fish bowls for nearly an hour.  She thought she had seen it move, but of course it couldn’t have, that would just be crazy.  Molly said she had painted it a few months ago when they had enough money for groceries and paint, but Sarah could have sworn she bought it for a few dollars at Goodwill.  Now, she couldn’t remember.  She heard someone turn a key in the hallway and thought for once Molly was going to be home, but instead it was the neighbor across the hall.  She got to the peep hole just in time to see him vanish behind the door.  He was cute, but too damn quiet.  He freaked her out actually, always loitering in the hall near her door before slinking into his own apartment.  He was very odd, indeed.


the artistic heiress

            Molly sat up in bed.  She didn’t remember coming home last night – or falling asleep.  She looked down to see that she was wearing Sarah’s pajamas.  That happened a lot – their apartment was dark in the evenings and they often did things by candle light and the laundry got mixed up a lot.  Sarah was so paranoid about the electricity bill, as if Molly’s dad didn’t cover it all anyway.  Mr. Eugene Pruitt afterall was a multi millionaire and would pay his daughter’s bills whether she liked it or not.  She had wanted her parents to disown her and threaten to take everything away if she dropped out ofDartmouthto go be an artist on her own.  Instead,Eugenelooked at his daughter and said over the rim of his glasses, “If that’s what you’d like to do.”

            Her jaw did not drop, she was not remotely surprised, and he went back to reading Chesterton’s Collected Works from the Illustrated London News and said into his book, “Call us when you get where you’re going and send us your address.”  She had called, but did not leave her address, her bills were being retrieved and paid within the month anyway.  Automatic transfers through his bank, she noticed when she received her paperwork through the mail slot in the door.  She assumed, she had to assume, she was never even given the option to see her monthly statements.  Her father had odd connections with important people, and surely had arranged for her mail to be re-routed to him no matter where she had lived or stayed.  Her cards from friends always arrived late, with multiple cities and dates inked over the right hand corner, but he didn’t look through it, he just liked having the option to do so.  She never had the satisfaction of her father calling her to see what she’d been doing with her time, or why the phone bills were so high (or low).  Two years after she’d moved away fromDartmouth’s campus, he’s called exactly at the end of every business quarter, no more and no less.  He always left messages like, “Molly, this is Eugene and Meredith, ahem, your parents, ah, checking in.  Love you.  See you at _______.”  Fill in any major holiday, and she dutifully boarded a plane and had lunch or dinner, whichever they could fit into their busy schedules.  Once she tried not going, but a limo showed up at the gallery where she worked part-time, along with a well-built body guard named Jim, and carried her away to the airport.  She promised her boss it would never happen again, as long as she was guaranteed time off on the holidays.  Despite a few small occurrences here and there, Molly was their low maintenance child.  Their cocker spaniel Candice was the one they had to fuss over.  Meredith took “Candice the widdle baby” everywhere with her, Meredith remembered going places with her mother very few times in her life, she could count them on one hand actually.  Instead she always met her mother places, with the nanny, or the limo driver, or the housekeeper.  Molly had always been someone else’s responsibility, because of that, she’d turned out very independent, except of course when it came to paying bills.

            Molly rolled slowly out of bed, groaning from a sore shoulder.  She didn’t know what it was so sore from, and as she shifted, she realized the whole right side of her body ached.  She hobbled past the bathroom to the peep hole of the front door.  He could see Sean’s door and the purple rope he threw over the knob when he was home, so she would know.  His schedule was crazy – what her’s would have been had she been born into a normal life.  He went to school full time and worked at a bar downtown.  That’s how they’d met, he was her bartender, the first night she’d showed up in this crazy city.  He had a friend (his previous neighbor) who was subletting his apartment while he lived inBelize.

            “Belize?” she’d asked.

            “Sure, why notBelize?” he’d had a bit of a far northwestern accent, Maine, ironed out by years a few years in San Antonio, Texas, and altered even more now in Chicago.  She tried to listen to her own voice sometimes, her own words as she stared in the mirror at her lips moving.  She couldn’t tell what she sounded like really,Eugeneand Meredith had moved around too much when they were young to teach her any kind of slang from any particular region.

            “Is it furnished?”  That was so something Eugenewould have asked.  Calculating Eugene.  Meredith would have piped in, as well, ‘Oh it can’t be furnished, darling, I wanted to decorate it like…’ She would have had the latest designer’s work at the tip of her tongue.  She read too many magazines, and talked to too many famous people.  Rich snobs, the whole lot of them.

            “Why would it be?” Sean had asked.  “The guy lives out of his suitcase – he spent all of last year inMilan.”

            “So why does he bother having an apartment here?”  She was moderately, and appropriately, suspicious.  Always be suspicious,Eugenehad taught her, people always just want your money, even if they think you don’t have any.

            “Beats me,” Sean answered while he’d poured drinks for three new customers.  She watched him and memorized the mixes.  She’d never been a bartender before, and wondered if she’d ever want to try.  California Dream, said the blonde, and Sean poured tequila, sweet and dry vermouth into a glass with ice cubes.  Molly memorized the way he stirred and strained it into a cocktail glass.
“Mmmmm, and a cherry,” the blonde said, looking over her lashes.

            “Sure,” he dropped one on the top and turned back to Molly after taking the cash.

            She found out later that Trey and Sean weren’t really friends at all – they’d met twice.  Sean just didn’t want to straight up ask the hot girl in his bar to be his new neighbor, how awkward would that have been?  She would have moved in even if he had said it that way though, she might have even laughed and asked him out.  But it had all worked out anyway, he helped her move in and then took her to pizza afterwards, like a true college gentleman.

            Now, she went out to the hallway and knocked on his door.  When he didn’t answer she went back, got her key from the top drawer of the table under the phoenix painting, and let herself in.  There he was, asleep and all beautiful; his lips pouted a bit when he dreamed.  She crawled in with him and passed out again.

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