Sunday, December 13, 2009

Including Trouser Snakes

We went to this Christmas party last night and despite the frigid temperature and icy driveway, it almost felt like we were in Hawaii. Underwater. Where all the fish live. Or maybe in a pediatrician's office, minus the snot-covered chairs. Plus a lot of extra food. Which I assume they don't have at the pediatrician's office due to all the snot. That would not be sanitary. But I could probably get Gray to go to the doctor more often if they served Swedish meatballs. I'm just saying.

Where was I? Oh, that's right - this house was full of FISH! Saltwater aquarium next to the bowl full of beta fish in the room next to the goldfish aquarium. Except those weren't goldfish, they were those other kind that look like a streamlined model goldfish. I don't remember what they're called, besides "bait".

I didn't explore the rest of the house, but it would not at all been surprising had I encountered a big mouth bass in the guest bathtub and a few craw daddies in the washing machine. That's how many fish they had.

And you know what else they had? A cat. Yeah, made perfect sense to me, too.

Surrounded by all these swimming creatures, I couldn't help but remember my own childhood full of Salt Water Aquarium. Anyone who has ever owned a salt water aquarium knows what I'm talking about. You don't own it, IT owns YOU. And probably a good portion of your 401K, if you've got more than a couple of tangs swimming around in there.

My parents had one, except knowing the dynamic as I do now, it's probably fair to say that my mom wanted a salt water aquarium and my dad decided he wanted to keep getting laid for at least a few more years, so they got one. He built a beautiful, black lacquer stand to match our black lacquer, glass-topped dining set, and they set to work creating a miniature ocean world in our living room.

Kind of superfluous, if you ask me, since the beach was minutes away and a hell of a lot cheaper, but whatever. Nothing about the 80s made sense.

So we had clown fish and anemones and live coral and live sponges and neon-colored, pancake-flat fish, and sea crabs and snails and plants and scallops and shrimp and (the Mother Load of salt water creatures) a snowflake eel named Cecil, who always looked to my three year old eyes like he had boogers hanging out of his nose and needed to blow into a tissue.

Everything in a saltwater aquarium falls into one of two categories: Scary Looking or Vaguely Sexual.
Exhibit A:
Lion Fish. Poisonous. Scary Ass Motherfucker.


Exhibit B:
Anemone. Definitely turning me on.
Did I mention they're soft and silky to the touch?

::takes cold shower::

So where was I? Oh yes, so Cecil the eel. He was fascinating to me because he hid in the coral and only came out to snatch food (frozen scallops if my parents remembered to feed him in time, small fish if they didn't) and then he would SWIM BACKWARDS back into the coral to eat. Every now and then I could glimpse what looked like hounds tooth swatches moving around in there, but he was a startlingly sneaky and incredibly secretive animal.

And then one day my dad let me feed Cecil his scallop. And Cecil darted out from his cave to grasp his meal and drag it backwards to its doom. And he overshot the scallop by about the length of a three-year-old child's first knuckle.

AND HE WOULDN'T LET GO.

He tugged on my finger hard enough to convince me the only thing stopping me from being pulled into the coral and EATEN BY THE EEL was my dad's grasp around my waist as he held me over the giant fish tank, and even then I wasn't sure if he was strong enough to defeat the evil sea snake and his giant yellow boogers.

My dad had to pull my little arm all the way out of the water, over my head, and flop it around for a while before Cecil realized he really should go ahead and stop eating my fucking finger already, but by then, the damage was done.

Never would I look upon eel-shaped animals with child-like wonderment. Only with fear and repulsion and (oddly) the compulsion to blow my nose.

Which is why I'm in sex therapy to this day.