"I stole some betta fish--they looked so sad at the store, I had to rescue them." Looking deep into his boyfriend's eyes, Jamal can see the moral dilemma of theft vs. animal creulty flickering. "Jamal, don't you know that the Vancouver underground fighting fish market is really serious?" "I know, I know Avari, but I'll even it out by buying some nice pebbles off them tomorrow." Avari's flickering ceases and his lips part, revealing a charming gap-tooth grin. "Okay Jamal, as long as there is balance." Jamal turns and busies himself with finding proper homes for Kunta and Kinte--refugees from a modern florescent slavery, no longer property, now equal in the household. Avari hands him a large viale tinged with green, very Dr. Frankenfurter, along with a glass pitcher splattered with orange flowers and dots. Perched precariously on the kitchen stool like Ai Weiwei's Xang Dynasty urn is a novel titled Rumblefish. "Now, isn't that better!" Avari, distracted by the publisher's choice of Papyrus as font, doesn't hear him. Jamal sighs and flops down on the couch. "So what is this book about, anyways? Rumble-Fish, huh? Sounds like an aquatic version of Gravedigger." Avari tosses the book to the floor,skidding to stop at Jamal's outstreched hand, fingers draped casually, index and middle grazing the hardwood softly. "Uhh, lots of shit. Life! Haha, nah, not in its entirety, but near the end there's this kind of interesting bit--the main character, Motorcycle Boy, robs a pet store at one point. He takes all the betta fish to a river, and is trying to race them but is shot by the police before he can determine a victor." Jamal looks up at Avari, past him, and grins. "Pretty romantic, wouldn't you say babe?" "Are you kidding me?! Betta fish are fighting fish, so as soon as they spot one another in any connected body of water, they'll fight to the death-- not to mention that a river has a strong current, as well as a colder temperature than a tropical fish can handle--the chances of any of the fish surviving for more than two minutes are slim to none, especially with pollution these days--" "Ok, ok, I fucking get it! Romance isn't possible in real life!" Jamal springs up from the couch, cutting Avari off. Avari can see that his logic had touched a nerve Jamal held especially close; usually, well, at least in the beginning, their binary of cold, calculated logic vs. earnest and sensitive romanticism worked in symbiosis: where Avari lacks grace, Jamal fills him with aestheticism and subtle beauty-- where Jamal lacks analysis Avari fills him with possibility, but keeps him tethered like a holographic hot-air balloon surrounded by vacant galaxies. In short, they had forged an intimate relationship like that of the fig and wasp--Avari found Jamal when he was yet a blossom, slumped in a corner booth at The Lido, and had crawled inside of him to lay his seed, his vulnerable and deepest desires, aware that some would not survive the plunge, because in digesting Avari, in housing him and in turn being housed by their exchange, Jamal became a treasured delicacy, in turn ready for a new god to feast on him. Their work schedules clash in the following weeks, Jamal at the water-taxis, part-time tour-guide, and Avari doing fuel cell research at Mercedes Benz. When they do spend time together, like tonight at dinner, Avari can sense that Jamal is becoming more and more dissatisfied with their exchange, is moving past it, babeimgonnaleaveya vibes. Avari is still very much entrenched in the kcandthesunshinepleasedontgo sine wave. Jamal makes him feel exempt from reality; no Jamal means the despondency of reality, the ugly truth of waiting around to die, will descend and re-install the life-long battle of Avari vs. Avari: a game without gain, only the looming promise of more loss. He also completely forgot to buy nice pebbles from PetSmart. Kunte's pitcher was almost opaque, and Avari hadn't actually seen the fish in a week. He did find time to read Rumblefish, though, and finds himself haunted by the romanticism of all those betta fish in the river, possibly delighted for the first time in their small, insignificant lives. The next day, while Jamal is acting as tour-guide to the guy who played Elton in Clueless, Avari takes Kunte and Kinte for a walk by False Creek. Although he felt a little brutal forcing the fish back into their capitivity vessels, the little water-breathers didn't seem to mind their cages. Peering into the Lululemon bag at one point, Avari could swear that he saw Kinte smile. As he approaches Science World, its usual silhouette is marked by an orange smudge, just to the left of the water. Avari, squinting, continues, and as the middleset physique of a washed-up window cleaner comes into focus, Avari realizes the guy's climbing higher and higher, no safety restraints, and recklessly so, dangling his limbs and swaying. Avari is seized by an uncontrollable urge to save this suicidal human, even though the troves of logic which act as foundation for his existential nihilism support suicide, even promote it. Maybe this urge has something to do with Jamal's distance; Avari needs to prove to Jamal that romance is possible in real life, that he is capable of compassion. In his haste to Science World, Avari fails to notice the 'sidewalk closed' signs. He comes into direct contact with a signpole, falls backwards and cracks his head on open on the curb. He suffers an acute subdural anerysm and dies instantly. Kunte and Kinte's cages open as they bounce off the curb and the betta fish find themselves beached on the asphalt. A car pulls over, the driver having watched Avari fall, and crushes both fish under its front tire. A crowd gathers around Avari, and the orange smudge of a man jumps as no one watches.