I didn’t know what to think when I walked into my apartment and made eye contact with that poor unassuming guppy. It’s not their fault they were moved from their home during my ten hour shift and now occupied a space on my IKEA bookshelf.
I looked over at my not-girlfriend girlfriend in hopes of an explanation. I hoped that she might explain why her fish tank was here, in my apartment, despite all her reluctance to commit to a relationship. While she busied herself in the kitchen I looked back over at that poor pathetic guppy (really it’s not their fault) and back to Lana as she worked away at dinner. She was focused, brows furrowed, there was no product in her short dark hair which just laid flat, and she had never changed out of her pajamas.
I knew that giving her a key to my apartment was a bit much on my part, but I was madly in love. I didn’t think much of it when she started leaving her stuff at my place and had begun to nest. I naively welcomed it. However, there was something about that goddamn ten gallon fish tank, sitting on my bookshelf, with its small school of clueless guppies, that was too much. She had crossed a line. I did not spend countless nights working up the courage to ask for a committed relationship to be rewarded with a fish tank and no promise of an actual relationship.
“Lana,” I started as calmly as I could muster. I did not want to alarm her for she had previously shown a pattern of fleeing in the face of confrontation. “So, the fish tank?”
“Yeah, my brother was threatening to get rid of them if I didn’t come home to take care of them.”
Lana officially lived in discord (according to her) in a condo she shared with her brother and his girlfriend, purchased by her parents who wanted them to not worry about bills while they focused on college. She had looked at me for only a moment as she said this so she missed the disbelief in my face. My expressions have always been great at betraying my thoughts. I struggled for a moment, trying to pick my next words carefully.
“I would have appreciated it if you had talked to me about this first.”
At this statement she stopped working at the raw chicken and let the knife clatter onto the cutting board. She rubbed at her nose with the back of her hand. Turned away for a moment, looked back at me, but not necessarily at me. She had a familiar distance in her deep dark eyes and her next words hit me in the heart.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Doing this?” I repeat back, completely aware of what she meant.
“Yeah, I thought this was our place, but obviously it’s your place.”
I mean, yeah. I thought to myself. I was momentarily stunned and unsure of how to proceed, but I tried my luck.
“It is my place. We never really spoke about you officially moving in. I’m just saying, I would have liked it if you talked to me about it first.”
There was a moment of silence before she hit back with, “Maybe I should just go home and let you have your space back.”
Admittedly, after her spending almost every night with me, this felt like a step backwards in our not-relationship relationship. So, I gathered my wits about me and did what I thought was best, I pleaded with her. Graciously, at first.
“Please don’t do that. That’s not what this is about. I just feel like we should have talked about this.” Like a couple. I didn’t say.
“No, obviously, I’m invading your space.” She wasn’t entirely wrong.
“You’re not, but there are some things we should talk about. Especially when we’re not even an actual couple.” Fuck. I could see the anger and melancholy in her eyes as I brought this up yet again.
She washed her hands off and walked out of the kitchen past me, making her way to the bedroom without a word. I followed, like the lovesick puppy I was. I didn’t want to see her go. When I made it to the doorway, she had begun to collect her stuff from my closet.
“Lana stop. Please.” I pleaded with more umph.
“No. I think we need some time apart.” Umm.
“Can we just talk about this?” More of that pleading. I wanted to throw my arms up in the air in defeat. There was a rational part of me with a very small voice that was trying to scream “Let her go”, but I was crippled by the fear of her walking out the door.
“Look, I’m okay with the fish being here, I just wish you’d have asked before.” Tears were threatening to spill forth because, let’s be honest, I’m a crybaby.
Fast forward through many tears (all mine) and an argument, we both sit on my couch in my living room eating a late dinner at my coffee table. There was no resolution, we had just gotten tired of fighting. As I washed up the dishes I could see that same guppy looking back at me. I felt sorry for it, trapped in that tank never knowing when Lana would spare a moment to feed them.
It only took a couple months for Lana to grow tired of taking care them. She eventually threw then into a man made lake in the middle of my apartment community. I still think about them every time I see the water damage on my bookshelf.