How the Fish Survive

How the Fish Survive

The light that fills the room feels cold and blue, tinted by the shades across the window. This window faces south, so the light trickles in slowly and at first I can ignore it, but eventually I must open my eyes to this underwater light and take a deep breath in.

I used to get up so early. Some days I would go outside and watch the sunrise, warming my hands with a mug of herbal tea. The world was quiet, but not still. I admired the people moving about the streets, getting an early start. We had something in common, they and I. We all knew the feeling of the first light of day rising over the mountains and hitting our faces. We carried that feeling with us throughout the day, like a token.

But I haven’t seen them, those people of the sun, for months now. I peel back the sheets and stare at the ceiling fan, motionless and stagnant. The air is heavy and empty all at once. Perhaps, I think, it is the emptiness that has weight. I pull the sheets back up to my chin, shivering as they glide over my body. I cannot decide if I am warm or cold, in limbo.

I consider shutting my eyes again, but I know that the morning light will find me and penetrate my eyelids the way it penetrates the shades, taking on a different tone as it shines through my skin. Red, urgent. And so I keep my eyes open, swimming in the blue.

When I was a child I believed that in winter, as water froze, the fishes froze with it. I looked at the icy lakes and streams with curiosity, wondering how the fish survived. I mentioned this once to my mother, who smiled and told me that it is only the surface that freezes and not the fish. The ice forms a windowpane against the world, she told me. I could never decide which seemed worse, to be frozen or isolated. Now I feel that I am both, and it has been a long winter. I am unable to move.