I think I fell in love before I even really knew what love was.
Or at least, love in the traditional sense of the word. It’s probably for the best that it happened that way, now that I think about it; I knew no bounds and had no sense of ‘normal.’ It’s a common kid thing, I imagine, and to be honest we’d probably all be better off if we still loved the same way we did when we were children. Normality is a powerful thing.
When I was small, I had a pet axolotl named Piglet, and he was my whole world. Piglet - after the E.E. Milne character, naturally; though Winnie was actually my favourite. Piglet the pig and Piglet the axolotl shared a very similar pinkish skin tone, so Piglet he was dubbed. He and I entered the world at around the same time - a congratulatory gift to my parents upon my birth from the eccentric aunty of the family. We don’t see her that often, so to this day I’m still not entirely sure what her motivation for this choice was when the customary ‘new baby’ gift is usually more along the lines of clothes or infant-appropriate linen. Maybe she knew what she was signing me up for.
More likely, she got the idea out of one of her dusty witch books my parents said I wasn’t allowed to read on the off occasion we visited her. Either way, I’m very grateful, because for some reason, from the moment I was old enough to distinguish him as a sentient being who was, in some way, under our care, I was obsessed.
At age six, with my very first hard-earned five-dollar bill (courtesy of the tooth fairy), I dragged my mum into Pet Palace, bypassed the pen at the door, which housed a litter of puppies that looked like chicken nuggets, and headed straight for the fish tank aisle, hell-bent on locating some pink plastic seaweed with which to liven up Piglet’s enclosure. His tank sat on the bedside table in my room, which also boasted a pink theme, and I thought it only logical for his room to match mine. Mum thought it more suitable to get one of the live plants but I protested staunchly on the basis that it was green, not pink, so we compromised and walked out with both as well as some discounted rainbow pebbles for the bottom of the tank. She may have had to contribute some of the funds for this purchase.
My parents, though perplexed by my obsession with a pet that was neither particularly cute nor cuddly in the slightest, were supportive. When most of my classmates reached the age where it became commonplace to beg for a pony, or even a puppy, or something able to reciprocate affection in some way, I was happily rushing home every day to change Piglet’s water and tell him about my day. Looking back, even I can accept that there is an element of weirdness to this, but the relative inexpensiveness of maintaining an axolotl as opposed to stabling a horse must have been highly appealing to my parents. As for me - for some reason, still unknown to me now, I was completely enamoured with the little guy, and nothing any of my friends said about my ‘weird slimy fish with legs’ could deter me.
What they failed to mention during my formative years, however, is that the lifespan of an axolotl does not quite live up to the lifespan of a human. In fact, it falls about 70 years short.
I would like to be able to say that there is not still a very tiny part of me that resents this lack of forethought on their part. I’d be lying if I did, though I guess they thought he would indeed make it to see me through Bring Your Pet to School Week in the fourth grade. Sadly, this was not the case. It was probably luckier for him that he died peacefully in his tank, to be honest. I don’t know how well axolotls mix with rowdy school bus trips.
We moved away from that house to a new city when I was fourteen, four years after the death of Piglet. I took the stone that had marked his resting place with me. The typically greasy, Lynx body spray-toting boyfriend I acquired that same year noticed it on my desk one afternoon, and after I’d finished recounting the long and emotional story of my beloved childhood pet, he declared it ‘dumb’ and I broke up with him on the spot. Maybe I did learn about love, and loss of love, from a glorified salamander. But Jared showed up to our high-school reunion last year imploring us to check out his mixtape, so - who’s the loser now?
This article appeared in The Comma’s 2018 Annual Edition. Read more here.
Grace Collison is a second-year Communications (Creative Writing) student. She's passionate about three things: the weather, bubble tea and terrace houses. Oh, and writing, when she can get past staring at a blank document.