One Fish

At my job I summarize a book for a forthcoming documentary film. It’s hard to tell what details are important and which need to be relegated to short hand. Last night I jumped into the East River while my friend and some people I had just met were trying to catch a fish. Everyone was very kind and the water was not too cold or unclean to bear. When I swam back to the rocks and pulled myself out, I walked back down the pier soaking wet. I was afraid of making a sexual spectacle of myself, but I had just wanted to feel the water, and where we were standing there were now also several Japanese fisherman, smoking cigarettes and watching an eel writhe on the concrete. They laughed and held it up. When they asked if I wanted to grab it, I did and it twisted back and forth with a desperate strength. Did it have teeth? They put it in a rope sack with others they held captive and sent it back down in the water to keep fresh. No time to die yet. Sometimes I speak too strongly. Nothing was especially cruel. There are some fish you catch just to cut up and throw back in the river to lure in others and make them grow large enough to eat or keep. On the walk home, my friend who had drunk too much spoke of how we should appreciate our hands. He almost dropped his guitar in the street. Today, James tells me he is sick. Likely he is reading in bed in a part of California that I try to remember to imagine when I feel awfully lonely. “I just don’t want any characters smiling, that’s all,” he says. His throat hurts. He is using berries to turn vodka into gin. Soon, I am taking a trip to the country to meet up with my family. They say I can bring anyone I like, but I know it will be best to go alone. And you know we only caught one fish the entire time: it was comic and toadish. I don’t remember whether we killed it or if we threw it back.

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