Patio Fish

I got evicted from the first apartment I rented on my own. Apparently I was too loud, though I was personally impressed with how quiet I was being, the 80 pounds of marijuana in my closet, and my ongoing probation didn’t put me on good grounds for fighting it. Luckily, one of my best friends from high school was getting out of the Marine Corps, and in the mood to relocate to Sacramento.

I found us a townhouse that was way nicer than we deserved. It was a two-story, 2-bedroom/2.5-bath with two patios and a fireplace in the living room, and there was a pool and gym in the complex. It was considerably nicer than anything I’ve lived in since.

Anyway, one of its short-comings was that the drain would always get clogged with the leaves from the beautiful, large tree that hung over the second-story patio off my bedroom (it was a hard life). My solution to this was not to regularly clear the leaves, but to keep them, and add 15 goldfish. I feel confident that they lived primarily off of bugs that landed in the still water, as I regularly forgot to feed them. They were clearly strong enough to fend for themselves (or at least the 9 survivors of the initial shock of the new environment were), so I let them.


I often fell asleep on the couch downstairs because of laziness, television, and the warmth of the fireplace. One night around 3AM, I was jerked awake by someone pounding on the front door. I opened the door to find a young lady friend of ours, looking panicked, and wearing an over-sized coat that clearly wasn’t hers. I invited her in, and intercepted my roommate who was rushing down the stairs, gun in hand. He lowered it when he saw me, and he went back to bed after I briefed him.

I spent the next two hours listening to her repeat herself. We were all magical, brothers and sisters of Jesus (not figuratively – Jesus Christ of Nazareth grew up with us), and at some points, I was Jesus. She was clearly having an episode of some kind. After about an hour, I found out that she “had a little bit of meth” a few days prior, and hadn’t slept since. She had previously been diagnosed as bipolar, and her manic states were more pronounced after her use of uppers.

She followed me to my bed where she continued her unending stream of words with little to no connection to one another, and at some point I interrupted her to go wake up my roommate. “It’s your turn,” I told him. I had work the next day, and for some reason, I just couldn’t manage to sleep with her talking directly into whichever ear wasn’t against the pillow.

I gave her one of my hats to wear, which seemed to ease her transition to the care of my friend. They didn’t sleep the entire night. We didn’t feel right having her committed to a mental hospital, but neither of us were particularly well-equipped to guide her to stability. After a daylight broke, he was able to get in touch with her parents, and he dropped her off with them while I was at work.

My roommate grabbed my hat off her head as she jumped out of his truck. It was my late grandfather’s hat, so I was glad he had the wherewithal to grab it in spite of his sleep deprivation.

I never followed up to see how things panned out, but I did run into her at a bar a few years later. She was looking much more clear-headed, but hadn’t made the sobriety choice so far as I could tell. Then again, neither had I.

The fish stayed on that patio beyond my lease. I hope the apartment’s new tenants appreciated them as much as I did, and they continued to thrive in spite of neglect, like my friends and I do.

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