My One-Night Stand with a Betta Fish

When I heard that I would have the opportunity to have a beer with Mingus Rude and ask him a few questions, I was predictably excited, maybe even a little nervous.

Perhaps too nervous, it turns out. By the end of the interview, I was passed out drunk and covered in glitter, cuddling with a half-eaten bag of McDonald’s.

But I do remember that upon hearing himself described as “angry” by his roommate, Mingus fanned his oxblood appendages, jutted out his under bite, and seemed to swallow (angrily) with his whole body. I gasped. His feathered fins had the look of clumped, overly mascaraed eyelashes. His tiny jaw was rimmed with gray froth.

When I pressed my forehead against his candy bowl to get a better look (the water was murky with a week’s worth of Mingus’s poop) I could just make out his bulbous, unblinking eyes. They grew clearer and clearer until his forehead was pressed against mine, through the glass, and he was staring straight at me.

Is this the part of the profile where I point out how black the subject’s eyes were, even for a betta fish? Because they were very black.

I’m going to be honest now and admit that I took almost zero notes during this interview. Furthermore, despite having just alleged that I remember some things, I remember almost nothing whatsoever.

That said, here is what I can piece together based on what I scribbled in my logbook, and on my hands and upper thighs (in permanent marker, no less; thank you, Drunk Kathleen):

Mingus grew up in a pet store in San Francisco’s Chinatown. His current roommates took him home after accidentally having killed their first betta, Leland Harris, who is now buried in a houseplant situated, somewhat macabrely, near Mingus’s candy bowl, which was purchased for a fair price at Crate & Barrel. Much like James Franco, Mingus eats very well. However, unlike James Franco, he dines exclusively on Betta Premium Pellets, which resemble Grape-Nuts but smell disturbingly like plankton. Because bettas are known to often leap from their water, a lid is firmly suctioned to the top of Mingus’s bowl to keep him from committing suicide.

I arrived at the apartment just in time to witness the Changing of the Water (Drunk Kathleen’s choice of capital letters, not mine) — a traumatic process in which Mingus was sadistically dumped into a Tupperware container filled with Crystal Geyser water, so that the only pieces of furniture Mingus has to his name (colorful pebbles) could be rinsed in a colander. I was then tasked with holding a net over the sink in case Mingus’s roommate and so-called friend Dale overshot when pouring Mingus back into his house.

I could only imagine what terror Mingus must have felt. What if an intoxicated giant were to tip my apartment upside down, and me with it, then plop me back on my couch with my knickknacks surrounding me, but not where they’d been before? Though I would be able to hear the faint sounds of the giant’s laughter, I wouldn’t know whether anything actually had happened or if I simply had gone insane.

The saddest part, according to my thigh notes, was that throughout the whole debacle, Mingus kept blowing bubbles — which is apparently something that bettas do in order to obscure the surface of the water and thus elude predators (this time, of course, to no avail). I may have fallen in love with him right then. Having ingested enough alcohol to kill a small bear, I registered Mingus’s pointless attempts to save himself as heroic, noble, even chivalrous. But then, I might just be trying to justify my attraction to men who need fixing.

The next morning, I awoke to find myself drooling on a couch cushion, stretched out next to Mingus’s bowl. His fins fluttered languidly, though they occasionally twitched with fury. I was wearing my skirt and T-shirt, both of which now were wrinkled and stank of fast food. But my bra and underwear were crumpled underneath the coffee table.

I glanced at the candy bowl.

“Mingus, did we…?”

No answer. He wouldn’t even meet my eyes.

So much for chivalry. Good men are hard to find.