Ditty was my first companion after relocating from Michigan to Los Angeles. He was my partner through the chaos of adjusting to life in a new city, and he was drama free, unlike my out-of-work actress roommate.
Did I mention Ditty was a goldfish?
He was part of my life before Greg, whom I met one night after venturing out with a girlfriend to shake off the aftermath of a bad date. Earlier in the evening, I had gone to a sushi restaurant with a "Zoolander"-ish model (merely to sample the baked scallop roll at this cherished establishment, which he had deemed "life-altering"). While ranting about this latest dating flop on a bar stool at Jones Hollywood, Greg approached me. My friend hit it off with his sidekick, and we spent the next six hours together.
After an eight-month friendship and some cat–and-mouse shenanigans, Greg and I became inseparable. It was clear to me that we were headed for the long haul. Plus, my morning ritual of retrieving wrinkled clothes from an overnight bag before rushing to work from his apartment quickly got old. So did paying two rents. Cohabitation was the next step.
Greg never had his own pet, so when it was time to move me into his tiny North Hollywood bachelor pad, he was confused as to why a goldfish was coming along. We barely had the space for my clothes, let alone a 2-gallon fishbowl. But as I handed him boxes to load into his Prius, I quickly established that Ditty and I were a package deal.
We were, for the most part, living responsibility-free. We were kid-less, dog-less — without even a plant to our name. Our nights were filled with red wine and Netflix, meeting friends at the neighborhood pub and watching local bands at Hotel Café. We were adamant about not wanting to be parents in the foreseeable future and were content on building a life around this carefree honeymoon phase.
Ditty, however, had his own agenda.
One morning, I woke up to a sticky note that read: "I fed Ditty," with a giant smiley face. I looked into the bowl and saw evidence of Ditty's breakfast. The feedings continued.
Several weeks later, I couldn't help but notice that my sporty little goldfish had tripled in size.
"Greg! How much have you been giving him?"
"Whatever the can says."
I scanned the label. "Feed three times a day — what your fish can consume in three minutes? That's way too much for one goldfish!"
Then Ditty went belly up. Google diagnosed him as constipated, a common goldfish ailment.
In my search for a cure, I stumbled upon this goldfish revival guide.
1. Defrost a frozen pea
2. Coax goldfish into eating it
3. Feed only peas until the fish works it out of his system
"We need peas!" I exclaimed.
Ditty bobbed around the tank as Greg rushed to Vons and then revved up the microwave. It was a bit of a challenge to feed a pea to an overstuffed goldfish, but, eventually, Ditty sucked in a portion that sailed past him.
The next morning, Greg raced to the kitchen to find Ditty back in action. I felt a strange tingle in my stomach as I smiled over my surprise at his willingness to drop everything for my fish. Our fish.
This whole goldfish-saving operation became a routine — we revived the little fantail 72 times. All the while, Greg and I were moving forward in our relationship. There was talk of marriage and a barefoot beach wedding, occasional ring shopping (we couldn't walk past a jewelry store without "browsing") and the relocation from our budget apartment into a very adult Studio City town home.
Ditty never went belly up when there was a half-hour to kill; he saved his escapades for when we were running late or behind on deadlines. He brought chaos and panic into our household, but every time I watched Greg drop a pea into his bowl, I realized that my boyfriend and I were starting to share the satisfaction of coming together to care for something besides ourselves. And we were pretty good at it. So good, in fact, that tending to Ditty occasionally sparked a dialogue that started with: "If we ever have kids … "
Around revival No. 48, Greg and I got married. Before flying to Maui to make things official, we arranged for someone to look after Ditty. Providing his caretaker with instructions for reviving our aquatic family member ranked as high on our predeparture to-do list as packing my wedding night lingerie.
Sadly, goldfish have a life span, and one night we found Ditty hovering along the top of his bowl. We couldn't save him.
Our cluttered freezer still houses the original bag of frozen peas, which we couldn't bring ourselves to toss. Meanwhile, Greg and I have moved into a new home, one filled with live plants, two dogs and a 50-gallon aquarium.
Pajer is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.