I have goldfish in my office. They all live in a 2.5 gallon tank together and people on occasion come in to gawk at them. The fish clamor for attention, hoping that the visitor will feed them. They swim rapidly from side to side every time someone taps the glass.
I work in an office with four bright walls and windows on all four sides. If I get up from my chair and walk around my office, people notice. If I start dancing, people notice. Even when I do absolutely nothing, people can see me. I think the windows were placed in such a way to prevent feelings of claustrophobia. But, while I can see the infinite sky before me through each and every window; I can also feel the eyes of people, I can hear the rap tap tapping at the windows of people trying to get my attention. There is nowhere for me to turn. Nowhere for me to look without seeing the eyes of people. When my face itches, I cannot scratch without feeling dirty. Everytime there is a rap tap tapping at the window, my face automatically contorts into a smile. When I stop smiling, the eyes look at me like something is wrong. So I stay this way: smiling, itchy, dirty and watched all day, with an hour break for lunch.
The fish keep swimming in the tank.
I go home to a small one bedroom house with my sister. She is in the living room with her boyfriend. The minute I come in, his eyes automatically land on my face and his mouth thins into a fine line. He squares his jaw and I can hear him suck in a low breath. He slowly moves his eyes from my face towards the television.. My sister asks me how my day went but, the words are stuck in my throat. I can hear the rap tap tapping at the windows.
“I am fine. It was a good day. Did you know it was raining outside today? Are you alright? How was your day?” I speak quickly so as not to take time away from them both.
Every word out of my mouth feels like an embarrassment. He blinks at all my words, he raises the volume on the television up an octave for every second that I am speaking. My face is still smiling and I cannot make it stop.
I cut the interaction short and run into my room. The windows are covered by blackout curtains. I breathe a sigh of relief as I slowly peel my clothes off of myself. I kick off my shoes and my underwear. I take off my brassiere and the underwire no longer pokes into my ribcage. I turn off the lights and lie in bed. Cool sheets, bare skin, rain noises and the sounds of my sister making love to her boyfriend. My face burns at her every cry and I can hear her lovers throaty moans. If it is love that makes a home then those two are already there. I am lonely and tired. My face is sore from smiling and my eyes ache from holding back all the emotions that I cannot show.
When they are finished, I dress in comfortable clothing, grab a cigarette and my lighter and smoke outside on my porch. There is a lone street light on my block. It has a dim light that turns off completely when the wind blows too hard. We live by the train tracks and if the trains pass, booming by us like thunder, the streetlight stutters and extinguishes. All you are left with is the dark and the rolling majestic power of the train as it speeds past on the rails.
In the moments when the streetlights go dark, as I smoke outside of the porch, I feel relieved and the loud train silences the rap tap tapping of the windows that I can still here in my head and feel in my heart. It washes away the snorts and glances of my sisters lover and it drowns out the passionate cries of their lovemaking.
The nicotine passes through my system and I sleep like a child. I awake the next day and I am back within the white walls and the windows. The rap tap tapping of the eyes that know of no other way to be acknowledged.
Goldfish, can live up to 44 years. They can grow up to 22 inches long and require up to 20 gallons of water to fully thrive. If you release them into the wild, they can grow into monstrous proportions as they will no longer be limited by the size of their containers or the availability of resources. Goldfish do not close their eyes when they sleep. When they are stressed, they release ammonia which poisons them, at the same time that it relaxes them. When they are in danger, they writhe within their tanks and flash their scales. They will swim to the top of their tanks and gasp for air. After all of their struggles, as death approaches, they become lethargic and listless, their stomachs inflate with water and they sink to the bottom of the tank where they cannot feel the eyes of those who gawk at them and they will never again be frightened by the rap tap tapping of fingers along their glass.
Fish cannot close their eyes when they sleep. They cannot close their eyes as they die.