Inside me lives a child, and that child likes to show me what he sees.
I’m not sure what they call this place, what the atlas has named it, but I call it Goldfish Island. Why, you ask? I laugh my childish laugh, mocking your maturity.
Because it’s an island with goldfish.
You’ll probably ask next how the goldfish got here, to this island surrounded by a salty sea. You’ll probably roll your eyes when I spout that same laugh again, warning you of the answer even before I’ve answered.
They swam here and jumped into the pond.
I know how you’re going to respond, too. You’re going to smile that adult smile of yours and shake your head, revelling in my childish ignorance. But the sea is salty, son, you’ll say. And goldfish can’t live in a salty sea.
People can’t fly, either, but that has never stopped us from trying. Trying and succeeding.
This shuts you up, but it doesn’t remove the smile from your face. You know I’m a child, you know that my innocence restricts me from understanding your real world. And frankly, I don’t want to.
I like my world where the goldfish can swim where they want, and jump over the beach onto this island that I call theirs. I like my world where the atlas and encyclopaedia aren’t law, and I can see things for what they are and for what they are to me.
Behind me a goldfish swims in circles, chasing its flowing ribbon of a tail. It is orange, not gold, though even the adults don’t call it an orangefish. I guess they still have a child inside, an ignorant and innocent soul that wants to see the sun sparkle gold off the scales of the most common pet-store fish.
And so I ask you, you with all your adult wisdom: Why is the goldfish orange?
I know you have no answer, and you don’t disappoint me by providing one.
The goldfish behind me has finished chasing its tail, and instead floats contently in the pool of water. I want it to leap, to fly from the water in a display of freedom and glee. But it just floats there; mouth moving slowly and fins tossed by the barely-there current.
You’re gone, or at least not watching, so I lean down over the pool and try to cup the orange fish in my hands. It paddles away quickly, disturbed by the ripples my fingers make across the glassy surface.
It doesn’t want to be caught, so it won’t be, in just the same way it wanted to swim across the salty sea to rest here. In just the same way that it made us think it was gold.
It’s unreal, this Goldfish Island. But it’s also the most real thing I know.