The Fish and the Goat (1):

The Fish and the Goat (2)

There was nothing more tangible than physical reality. When it came down to the most basic echelon of perception, the minimum interaction with our surroundings required for survival, our senses could be trusted. The finite boundaries of our material environment did not conceal lies, and sometimes, all it took was a simple discrepancy of protons and electrons to produce juxtaposing worlds that cannot be more different.

She did not belong to the crude terrain that I had known all my life; neither would I call water my home.


Mountain goats were well-known for their solitary nature. Their propensity for habitats of high elevations atop mountain ranges complemented such an intrinsic need. It might seem ironic that the most open peaks, exposed to all, provided the best form of seclusion for me. There, strong winds perpetually whipped the landscape bare. It was this naked stoicism that leant perspective to priorities, and I was quite free from mundane concerns.

Yet to be free meant to drift and to dwell endlessly on issues of doubtful significance. Deep down, there was a feeling that life is unanchored and slipping off the edge of the world. An emptiness that simply could not be filled. Sometimes, perched atop a rocky outcrop, I wondered if there was something more beyond the expanse of jagged rocks that I saw before me, or if there was anything other than isolation that I could depend on when I…

Would I describe this feeling as loneliness?

It was this uncertainty and curiosity for things beyond my immediate horizon that led me to stray from my natural habitat. Perhaps at first, I had intended to search for a living companion, as opposed to the usual silence which I got as a response to relentless thought. And while I was stumbling over unfamiliar terrain, tripping over moss-covered rocks and being intimidated by little trickles of water, I did find someone more than a friend.

She was a fish.

It had been quite some time ago.

Now, I stood on the bank of a mountain lake, gazing into its pristine waters. There was a wake of fading ripples from the swish of her tail as she dived away, and I knew this was the last I would see of her. It was across this boundary between water and land where we first met. Our first conversations took place here, and I would not forget how easy she made it for me to let go of my reticence and still be myself. As we slowly built our friendship, I realized she might be what I had been looking for.

It was as if life before her was riddled with holes, and she filled them up with her wit, her charm, or just her mere presence. The nagging emptiness that had bothered me before disappeared. I became a different person with her – less insistent upon my beliefs which I previously thought were rock solid, I started breaking my rigid rules, started to experience more of life. I ventured out of the structure of my old habits, for the first time enjoying the thrill that comes with taking risks, living another type of freedom that I had not known – that of casual spontaneity. She was the proverbial lost piece of puzzle that completed a picture of life.

But then, just as we were on the verge of a budding romance, everything shattered. The puzzle pieces fell apart and I was left grappling with reality, realizing that perhaps the picture I had had a glimpse of was merely a flitting illusion, a product of circumstance.

The truth was, our physical separation was in itself a statement of mundane finality. Not only did it constitute immense barriers that took great pains to surmount, but our environments shaped us more than we wanted, or thought. Physical realities had repercussions far beyond the scope of what matter and energy could account for. Our environment made us different people.

Both of us had assumptions that were so ingrained in us that not for a moment in our lives had we ever stopped or questioned the objectivity or the extent of truth in them. As expected, this led to such a divergence of beliefs and trains of thought that it just became impossible to reach a simple consensus on many issues of life. Slowly, I felt that my life was being compromised and found myself wishing for routine and regularity once again, being tired of the unpredictability of her lifestyle which I conjectured into chaos and entropy. I was, so to say, drowning and slowly dying in her lake.

She probably felt the same way towards my inflexibility and slow, if not reluctant, responses to change.

I supposed that neither of us were wrong, but that didn’t make the both of us right, either.

She lived a rich life, in her lake of thousands of other friends and companions. I was unable to pay for that richness. It was a bare fact, and there was nothing I could do about it, and it did not matter how much I yearned in my heart to understand her more completely. Underneath the lake’s smooth surface, it hid wonders that I could not see and could never comprehend. And I had wanted so much to show her my world, the world that I came from. But our constraints could not be broken; we were trapped in them as long as we lived and it was futile trying to break free of them. That was why things ended the way they did.

A fish’s dream should stay in the water and a goat knows better than to get its hooves wet…

I gasped and choked, sputtering out of the broken surface of the water, heaving in huge breaths of fresh air. I had tried to breathe in the water that was her lifeline… the execution of such an exercise in futility stands as a mocking testimony to my blindness. The pain and disappointment in my heart might be intangible and metaphorical, but there was no denying the searing sensation throughout my entire airway and lungs.

Finite boundaries.