I remember my first pet that was just mine. Now I’m not talking about the family dog (we had two throughout the years, both of whom are very dear to me still) or my demon bunny from hell. No, I am talking about the first pet I ever bought myself, cared for 100% and loved unconditionally.
I am talking about Volde-Mortimer the Fish.
Volde-Mortimer was a beautiful red and purple beta fish that Tim (my former paramour and current friend) and I bought to make our apartment less lonely after our move to Edmonton. We stuck him in a goldfish tank because it was attractive and easy to maintain, and filled the tank with pretty pebbles, roman columns, and some fake plants.
It was pretty swell.
Every day after work I would rush home to Volde-Mortimer’s side, feeding him and telling him about my day. I could tell by the way he swam to the surface of the tank every time I came near that he was just as enthusiastic about our friendship as I was despite the number of times Tim tried to tell me he only wanted food.
I loved that fish with all of my heart.
He was my best friend, my confidant, my true love.
And then the damn thing died.
It was late one cold January evening and I was pajama clad and talking to my parents when I found the body. My poor Volde-Mortimer was floating belly up at the top of the tank, his lifeless eyes nearly invisible but so clear in my mind.
Mid-sentence I instantly burst into tears, explaining hurriedly to my Dad that Volde-Mortimer was dead as I rushed off the phone.
It was devastating.
I refused to give him a burial at sea via our toilet believing it to be beneath him and an insult to the bond we had shared. Instead I dragged Tim off the couch and together we went outside with kitchen spoons (we didn’t own a trowel) to dig a grave for my dear friend.
The grave digging did not go well. It was January and the ground was frozen solid and digging with teaspoons is not very productive at the best of times. Still we persevered and Volde-Mortimer was buried with dignity 2 inches in the frozen ground with a few pretty stones and pebbles laid to rest on top as both a marker of his final resting place and to try and keep the neighbours cat from digging him up.
It was a dark day indeed.
Sure there were other fish after Volde-Mortimer, and of course they died too (one actually committing suicide tragically by swimming down a tube in the tank) but their loss was not as keen to me.
The loss of Volde-Mortimer was tragic to me and I felt it far more deeply than I normally would have due to homesickness and the experience of my first proper winter. There is nothing like a frozen face to highlight the pain of a dearly departed pet.
Dear reader, you may say to me that there are plenty of fish in the sea. But to that I reply none like Volde-Mortimer.