|Pinky and Qiomi in marker heaven|
When we first bought Qiomi (chee-oh-me), he was only three inches long. He had silver scales smudged with charcoal, and a distinctly mango-colored head. We intended for him to be Chubby the goldfish’s companion. But within a day, Qiomi took a large bite out of Chubby’s tail, securing his status as sole occupant of the tank.
Qiomi had a passion for flesh. Blame us not, we didn’t know that koi oughtn’t to be mixed with other fish. To compensate company-wise, we procured another koi, this one a camellia blush. Pinky, creatively dubbed, was twice Qiomi’s volume. Surely Qiomi had met his match - for a few weeks, anyway.
They plumped with each passing day. Whenever Qiomi detected a sprinkle of shredded shrimp, he would dart toward the surface and slurp furiously. He had a way of nosing Pinky out of the way, and poor Pinky settled with crumbs, taking in one-tenth of what Qiomi did. Pinky probably needed prescription goggles.
It took one month for Qiomi to surpass Pinky in brawn. Qiomi measured one foot in length, while Pinky maintained her four inches. The mismatched pair swam together for four years - married for eons in fish time (Note: I assigned the genders. Qiomi was ever-so-manly in temperament, despite being named after my mom's female colleague, and Pinky was lovely as a lotus. They never had eggs, though. Maybe they were just really good friends).
Each morning, before cooking her own breakfast, my mom would greet her two fishes. Pinky tended to sleep in. But Qiomi, in the manner of a golden retriever, would poke his yellow nose out of the water and let my mom pat him with her finger (I lie not!). Mom was the Fish Whisperer. Being a tactful guardian, she never prepared sushi in their lines of vision.
One still night, Qiomi "jumped the dragon gate" (like the carp from the Chinese idiom who became a dragon) and landed in the kitchen sink. He broke two hearts: my mom's and Pinky's.
Pinky faded. She floated listlessly, never eating (fish get anorexia, too). Her bones, devoid of vitamins, bent unnaturally. We tried to revive her by introducing a new fish friend, but she was disinterested. The little pink ghost passed away from loneliness a month after Qiomi.
My mom buried both of them under a cement stepping stone that I made in kindergarten. An apricot tree grows there now, and Pinky and Qiomi sleep in its shade.