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After 7 months in covid isolation, I bought a fish, a betta, to practice talking to something again. I fell hard for Beta the betta, and soon, two of my old lady friends followed suit-they bought goldfish, Fin and Gill. I live in a condo complex full of single women who are slowly going mad from quarantine.

We are in the high risk group so no one comes to visit, even with a mask. And we are discouraged from venturing out into the world, where at the very least we could interact with masked cashiers. Our groceries are delivered.

We read voraciously. We watch tv, clean and use the phone for sanity. It is unbearably lonely and many of us are experiencing full blown depression. I know I was until I got Beta. My neighbor Sue told Mary who told Fran who told Becky about the solace of fish. It wasn't long before several single women in the condo complex were tapping on bowls. But when I discovered there was actually a fish trick kit, things really started to take off. News of the trick kit spread as fast as the joy of fish. Each of us were occupied teaching our fish to shoot hoops, limbo dance, and play dead. We participated in zoom calls, where we could showcase these fish and after time for training, exhibit the brilliance of our pet fish. Of course there were overachievers. Barbara had the look, at least, from the top up, of a precise and organized person, who normally would not be caught with a fishbowl, now full of guppies. I knew during these calls. Barbara had on shoes. Zoom days became anticipated events for each of us.

In addition to tricks, there were fish toys which Amazon delivered. I bought Beta a hammock which attached to the inside of his bowl with a suction cup. There were fish balls and tunnels and a log looking apparatus with several openings. My fish would maneuver through each of the holes, twisting his body to make the turns. None of us had mastered teaching basketball, but not for lack of trying. It soon became apparent that some of the fish were good students, one or two stood out in their performances which led to a membership in the gifted pet club. Of course Fillet, one of Barbara’s fish, was one of them.

Some of us graduated to tanks with filters and expanded our collection. But most of us kept the bowls we had chosen. Physical group meetings would have been difficult and deadly as fish generally don’t travel well so finally there was an advantage to being quarantined. None of us thought this fish friendship was ridiculous although if you told me I would be zooming with a fish, I would have thought that you had a vivid imagination.

I liked how Beta would come greet me when I peered into his bowl and gobbled his food-bloodworms-with gusto, and kept busy making bubbles. I positioned sea glass around his bowl so it would seem so much bigger. I thought one of the toys, a mirror, was very cruel. Beta the betta would see his reflection and try to attack it. Too stressful to be considered a toy. I’m providing Camp Chill for Beta.

That’s how lonely we were. Hours spent gazing out the window and napping and wondering if we would survive.

But as our comradery deepened, our lives opened up again. Last night, I believe I saw a light flickering in each zoom frame.

It was from a star or maybe it was a planet, shining right through our windows and forcing us to look up and out. A small beacon of light for our enjoyment. I thought of each and every person enveloped in this particular light-the joys and many sorrows it shone upon as we are mandated to isolate.

I saw the insignificance of my own troubles, and truly basked in the beauty of this sign. In my heart, I felt that each of us, looking at this star, stopped a moment in wonder. And this wonder brought us above the fear and unsettling feeling inside when something isn’t right. We are capable of rising, along with the star, to wonder at the reason behind it all. Is it not just that, to wonder, and to shine in this wonder as a whole, shining back with the same brilliance? And each heart and mind, light-filled and radiant, becoming a star-filled sky for any planet to gaze upon?

It was that type of situation. Exactly who was rescued?


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