I wanted to try doodlewashing a fish for the first time, so I chose the only fish I ever owned which was a Betta Fish. They’re also called Siamese fighting fish because if you put two males in a tank together they will most likely attack each other and battle to the death. The behavior may seem strange, but then again, so does cage fighting so we humans really shouldn’t judge.
I combined several references to create this particular fish as I was trying to emulate the one I had years ago. After layers of Yellow, Gold, Green and Blue, I wasn’t quite able to get the likeness I remembered. I think it’s fairly close, though, as my fish had always looked a bit to me like a tiny trout wearing a ball gown.
It was just after I finished college, when I decided to get a fish. I had a couple different jobs and was pulling in enough money to get a better apartment. I saw an advertisement for a fish bowl you could hang on the wall next to your bed. There was a gorgeous Betta swimming around happily in the beauty shot, and it seemed like a fitting pet for someone who was still learning how to take care of himself.
This was, of course, in the pre-Google days when you were forced to believe what advertisers told you or wait until it was no longer relevant to discover via word-of-mouth that something was wrong. It turns out these fish don’t love to live in small tanks as wall art, regardless of how they appeared when posing for a photograph. But without the ability to cross check, I went to buy my new fish and wall bowl.
When we got home, I hadn’t really thought of what to call the fish. They aren’t like dogs and don’t come when summoned so it seemed much like naming a plant. You can, but it’s not going to change your relationship. In the end I just decided to call it Betta, which was as regrettably stupid as naming a dog, “Dog.”
I got a book on how to take care for these fish and was determined to take care of it properly. The first few weeks were glorious as we formed our new friendship. Betta would swim towards me each night as I said goodnight and mouth something in return. In my head, I would imagine him saying, “Good night, my friend, sleep well!” but in reality he was probably just desperately trying to communicate: “This stupid bowl is too small, you asshole!”
I was living alone, completely unsure of my future and often feeling isolated and depressed. Each day when I would come home to an empty apartment, I’d stumble back to my bedroom and collapse on the bed for a moment. Looking up, I’d see Betta yelling at me from behind his Plexiglas prison. Likely getting it wrong yet again, I would assume he was telling me to cheer up. We were in this together.
When you feel sad and lonely, it’s strange how little it takes to change your mood if you just let it. I had some dark days during that time where I doubted myself and whether or not I could make my life better. But I pushed through it, determined to succeed, never expecting to receive just the support I needed from an angry little fish on the wall.