Oldfish

Oldfish hangs there (hang? is there? When you’re surrounded by water permanently so that you no longer even perceive it, you can’t really say swim, especially when you’re not swimming, but you can’t say ‘float’ either, not if you’re a fish, because floating… floating is the last thing a fish does, if you know what I mean, floating is just another word for turning the belly to the light, for meeting the gulls, for taking the air (except, of course, if your swim bladder goes and you lose bouyancy and sink instead, drift down, your sphere of visibility (I almost wrote sphere of light, which sounds too metaphysical) shrinking to darkness as the sunlight weakens and visibility decreases due to increased density of suspended particles in the surrounding water (which remember you don’t perceive, being ubiquitous) drift down to, finally, the bottom of this bottomless lake and stop and hear nothing but the sounds of life coming from far away until they fade away)… we’ll just say is) Oldfish is there at the center of his sphere of visibility thinking about how language brings him no joy anymore. Language used to be a thrill all the time. Not that language no longer interests him. It remains his primary way of experiencing and manipulating his world. He is hardwired for that. He remarked, he felt unexpected pride and an upswell of love when he remarked a while ago about how a reason he sometimes spoke slowly in conversation or felt it hard to keep up with a group talking fast was because everything he heard was seized upon by his mind and the language analyzed and dismantled to its constituent parts and each of them held up to the light and turned this way and that and the refractions observed and the different potential meanings and intentions regarded and correlated and catalogued, puns in this column, malapropisms here in this pile, etc., possible intended hidden meanings and double entendres and triple entendres… and Youngfish said, Aha that’s where I have it from! (meaning, Oldfish concluded, less a hard and fast belief in genetics than a feeling of (familial and occupational and etc.) relation. It was a loving (love of Oldfish, love of language) thing to say and made Oldfish happy, despite his declining interest in language, because language continued to and would always define him before anything else (surrounded him and permeated him like water, but a water he was conscious of and took great pleasure in swimming in, now maybe less than before, but still) as he continued to be here in his sphere of visibility, the dimensions of which varied according to several variables including depth (distance from source of light – sun or moon), density of matter suspended in the water (affected by depth, activity in the lake – churning by swimmers or boats, for example – season (more leaves and other debris in the fall, as well as lower angle of sunlight) and into which at any moment — this is another fact that defined him, that explained or was used as an excuse for what had a different cause, his anxiety, his hypervigilance — Bigfish could swim, appear suddenly, in which case either It was all over or Evasive action was taken or Bigfish was interested in something else and You lucked out, but You never know, in the end, until it is too late, or not too late. Oldfish hears further than he sees, he swims, his sphere of visibility moves, shrinks in the murk by the shore where teenaged humans swim and kick up mud and splash, grows toward the center of the lake until you get to the shady side then darker again although clearer water. Oldfish sees the furthest near the center of the lake, on the line between sun and shadow and there he remains a while, not basking, maybe resting, maybe eating a Smallfish, or a bug. Maybe thinking. Somewhere is Bigfish, but here is sun, and cool shade.

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