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When I was seven, I bought a goldfish on my own. I walked to the local pet store down the hill, picked it out, and paid for it with the 5 dollar allowance my dad gave me every week. Walking back up the hill home, I looked at the fish as it swam slowly in the plastic bag. I had made - no bought a friend. It was a friendship I had hoped would last years, but it was a goldfish, its brain smaller than a peanut, and I was seven.

Once home, without telling my parents, I secretly added the goldfish to our family fish tank. He swam with the elegance of a drunk in the warm water. His orange brilliance danced about as his puffy cheeks swelled while his small mouth opened and closed rapidly. Clown and angel fish greeted him as one of their own. Hypnotized by the scene, I lost track of time till my mom called me for dinner, and my attention on my new friend started to weigh. Something else, something insignificant compared to the life of a living creature, occupied my mind till bedtime.

The following day, I woke up remembering I had a new friend. With the sleep still clinging to my eyes, I walked down the stairs to the family fish tank, only to find my new friend floating on the water's surface. One of its lifeless eyes stared at me as if judging me for putting a freshwater fish in saltwater. It had done all it could given the circumstances: swim. It knew nothing else, and swimming was all it could do. I'm sure it did its best as it brined, flapping its fins as it slowly suffocated. If it was clever, it could have sprouted legs and crawled out. Or learn the English language enough to say, "Hey you, hey kid, I don't belong here. This is a saltwater tank; I'm a freshwater fish." but it was a goldfish. Its brain was smaller than a peanut, and I was seven.

I'm in my 30s now, and my 40s are fast approaching. I know how to swim. Breaststroke and backstroke, I can even do my taxes, pay my bills on time, hold a steady job, and build relationships without paying for them. But I still think about that goldfish. Did they know they were in salt water? Did they see the end was inevitable as soon as a child picked them out at the pet store? I don't know the answers to these questions. All I know is that it swam after being forced into a hostile world of saltwater. That's what I do: swim. It's all we can do, for we are all freshwater fish in a saltwater world.

A Freshwater Fish in a Saltwater World