A thirty- gallon fish aquarium is the centerpiece of our new apartment. A goldfish named Brooklyn rules the crystal waters, but shares space with two Chinese algae eaters that constantly vacuum the interior of the glass with rubbery lips.
Brooklyn is six years old. He is of the comet breed of goldfish. He has a translucent tail. He managed to survive the journey from New York. He swam across the Hudson River inside a plastic zip-lock freezer tucked inside a garbage pail. During the journey the bucket was placed beside our two cats; a tabby that was locked inside a pet taxi, and a British long-hair that was shoved inside a dark cardboard box. Our entire life was packed neatly inside a small white van. We made our way to our new home during the evening rush hour, creeping through the Holland Tunnel like a turtle, and praying our driver would not hit any potholes.
We placed our fish on the kitchen counter, dumping them from the zip lock bags into the plastic bucket. We used an old aquarium oxygen pump taken from our first five- gallon tank to put oxygen into the water of the bucket. This offered a temporary, cozy and safe haven to the creatures that had grown from tiny, pinky-nail sized minnows to near edible masses.
The fish remained on the kitchen counter for several weeks. A bubbling and constant humming from the cheap pump nearly drove us mad. It took weeks for my boyfriend to fill up the large tank. He wanted to find a nice table to set the tank on, despite my plea to simply place it on the wooden floor. I found a square, wooden table on trash day. Apparently the glass of the heavy, oak table had broken and the former owner simply decided to throw it away. It was the perfect size for our tank, even though the tank is longer than the width of the table. When first entering the apartment before turning on the light, the tank appears to be suspended mid-air. The fluorescent light of the tank is refracted like moon light within the crystal clear water and our tank is absolutely stunning.
It was only after I took note of Brooklyn doing a dead man’s float in the stagnant, murky, waters of his temporary home, that we finally decided to get the big tank up and running. With no money to buy a table, I ran frantically though the streets of Union City in search of a solution. My lover was so impressed with the table I found.
Brooklyn gasped for his life after we dumped all three fish into the cold fresh tank water. The Chinese algae eaters did not seem affected by the weeks spent inside a dark bucket with no currents. I was tempted to reach into the tank and grab Brooklyn with my hand, to squeeze him gently, offering a type of aquatic resuscitation, but decided to simply let him harden.
After three hours, Brooklyn miraculously flipped over and started swimming happily around a stone replica of the Roman Colosseum that I purchased for nearly $100 on Christmas Eve, 2004.
Suffering extreme guilt for neglecting a fish that we had cared for, for so many years, I decided to purchase a black comet goldfish with a tissue-like tail to offer company to Brooklyn. The tiny black fish, less than one-tenth the size of Brooklyn, started nibbling upon the flashy golden tail fin of the comet, causing a look of despair to shine in Brooklyn’s black bubble eyes. Immediately we flushed our new black goldfish down the toilet, not wanting to bring any further harm to the creature that seemed so determined to remain part of our lives and the focal point of the ambiance in our new apartment.
There is so much dust in the air of New Jersey, in particular, here in West Hoboken. The filter of the tank quickly fills with green slime, requiring constant changing of a charcoal bag, and an intense scrubbing of the filtering contraption. Undertaking this chore bright and early this morning, before having my first cup of coffee, caused me to accidentally fracture the plastic tube that pulls water from the tank and offers a constant flow of water through the somewhat complex filtration system. As I examined the damage I had done to the plastic, my heavy hand broke the duct in two separate pieces.
Times are tough in Jersey. Finding $3 extra dollars for a new charcoal filter was already a stretch, causing me to debate on whether I should simply make a seafood bisque from Brooklyn and use the tank as a fancy lighting fixture. The filter on our tank costs nearly $50 to replace, and I’m already forced to drink Budweiser in order to buy fish flakes.
I found two dollars in quarters on my dresser and ran to the corner deli where I purchased a tube of crazy glue. I laughed at a man hanging from a steel beam by a construction helmet on the packaging of the crazy-glue. Surely crazy glue is waterproof, thought I.
There is more than one way to skin a cat I said to Brooklyn as he came to the surface near the fresh flowing stream of filtered water. Unlike in our old apartment, the cats can no longer climb atop the tank and threaten the poor little fish. He seems so happy with that little black goldfish gone. I carefully adjusted the tube into place. He seemed totally unaware that a hurricane is headed for West Hoboken today. Perhaps by Sunday, we will all be stuck atop a kitchen counter here in Hoboken.