02/18/2014 02:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Gourami, aka Kissing Fish: New York City, April, 2010


I'm staying in my Aunt Janet's place on the upper west side while on a job in New York It's a classic old apartment that my late Uncle Jim's parents first moved into in the 1930s. Many family gatherings happened here over the years, but now it's quiet. Heading to the kitchen for a late night snack, I see the aquarium sitting on top of the dryer in the laundry room, its new home since the kitchen was remodeled a couple of years ago. I hear the pump's whir and see the Gourami suspended motionless, eyes open, in soft aquarium light.

As I move my face to the aquarium side for a closer look, the Gourami stirs from its stillness, swims around for a bit, slowing down to observe me while making the kissing motion with its mouth for which it is named. Earlier, Janet told me she's had the Gourami for eighteen years, since 1992. I ponder the history that has gone before its unclosing eyes and in its lifetime. In 1992 Uncle Jim was alive. Grandma Evelyn was alive. So was Aunt Ruth, Aunt Terry, Cousin Joey, Dad and his wife, Sara; my step-dad, Harry; our friend Maureen and many others. Patti could still walk then, although with increasing difficulty, and I was over a decade away from my own current neuropathy and gait issues.

I stay there for a while, watching and being watched, bid the Gourami good night, go to the kitchen for a drink, then head toward my room, passing the old barometer on the wall that used to be in Grandma and Grandpa's apartment when I was a kid, with the arrow still pointing to fair weather ahead.