subject line: the fish February 23, 2018 by Hannah Brencher Grand Rapids, MI I can’t remember the first time I ran across this page full of emails from people who, most of the time, seemed just like me — wandering, alone, wondering what came next. I honestly am not sure when that was. Maybe freshman year of college, maybe high school. But here I am, four years of college later, about to take on the real world and things don’t seem any better. I thought they were supposed to be, and college was supposed to give you brains in your head and pump sparkles into your blood, but I don’t feel any of that. I feel worse for the wear. I moved into a house with three “friends” in August and it’s been one of the hardest experiences of the past four years. It wasn’t a far move - in terms of distance - from where I was previously. That’s not what made it difficult. But it has quickly become what feels like a them and me situation, a three on one. The only rooms that I know in that house are my bedroom and the kitchen. I take meals to my room to eat alone, I’ve powered through too many Netflix series to count, stared out my second floor window at the world passing by, and lay on my bed in tears, all while listening to my housemates downstairs talking, laughing, involving themselves in each other’s lives. I’ve listened to them call me “the other housemate” — apparently I don’t even deserve a name — slowly noticed my clothes being “borrowed”, as if it was like old times, but somehow the clothes are going missing without a word from those who are taking them, and I’ve watched them leave as a unit without any mention to me of where they are headed, or an invitation. It would be a blessing to believe that this is the peak, the worst of it. That the nights I’ve spent crying are over, and this will all end soon. But I know that part of it is on me. Or at least that’s what ‘they’ all say. That I’m the one who is isolating myself, and creating the tension. But what is most confusing and frustrating to me is their lack of interest: if they are truly the people I once knew and lived with, the friends I have come to know, wouldn’t they take a moment to stop and ask if everything is ok? If I needed anything, if I wanted to talk? because maybe, just maybe, it’s not about them. Maybe it’s not about my relationship with them, or anything they did, but rather it’s about the ebb and flow of life that I believe we all experience. It’s about the hills and the valleys. I told him that I was in a valley - and I’m coming to realize it’s a deeper one than I first thought - and that’s what frustrates me about the situation. If they are truly the friends I’ve grown close to, lived with, laughed with, cried with over the past four years, why wouldn’t they take a second to ask me if I needed a hand out of the darkness?But they don’t seem to notice. I think it’s because there is a them, and they don’t necessarily notice the hole of one person missing. There are enough of them. There are entire days that I spend alone in my room. I tell myself that I’m being productive, and I am for the most part. Doing schoolwork, doing my part time work. But at the end of those days I hear laughter and talking downstairs and that’s the hardest part. I think about who will stand in my wedding, and at one point I thought that she would be one of them. But now I’m not sure, because it doesn’t seem like she has an interest in talking to me, in knowing the details of my life. After all, she’s got her childhood best friend who just moved into town, and she just met a boy...what good am I? All that to say, it has been a difficult season. I know we all have them. But on some of those days ugly thoughts cross my mind, and the only constant thing are the fish. The damn fish on my shower curtain stare at me every time I walk in the bathroom. When I think about not being here, about not going to class, not starting my job in January, the potential of not marrying the boy who I think I’m starting to seriously fall for, I also think about the damn fish. And somehow, those fucking blue and green and yellow things are keeping me here. So going back to the beginning. I don’t know when the first time I read the blog was, or what the first email was. But from all of these years of reading heartbreak and loss and love on here I think I’ve learned that the littlest things sometimes mean the most — even if it’s the pattern on your shower curtain. If that’s what keeps you alive some nights, let it. Let the fish swim alongside you for however long you need.