In my dream all the women were there
because it was a women’s college some of them had attended
and we were seated around a wooden table.
I was brought a fish,
silverscaled: a salmon, I believe.
I fed it a goldfish.
—Now your fish is pregnant,
they told me
—you must carry it everywhere.
I worried. The fish was out of water. I tried to find water
to give it to drink, or it would die.
The first water I found was hard and gelatinous.
Then I found a glass, too small for my poor fish,
but it sucked water from the glass from my finger.
My lifejacket, which I had put on as there was water all around us,
had become a straitjacket,
and the women gathered to release me,
all the time telling me about the care and feeding of my fish,
the pregnant bump, the goldfish inside it,
as long as I could keep it safe
(It was out of water, I worried,
how long could it survive, my perfect fish?
Already its scales felt dry and rough.)
And I was trapped and struggling to free myself
as Holly tells me about her fish
as Martha tells me about escaping to New York
the cords prove tight and puzzling: everyone
thought it would be so easy.
I’ll learn to live with it.
We drive across the bridge together
all of us, in a car, and Lee is driving,
and I do not think about stopping the car
or jumping from the bridge
instead I lean back
and stare up into the mirror as the city
looms into view,
I honestly could not tell whether it was below me or above me
and I wake gasping,
being driven to a new city
so huge, reflected, waiting to fall into the sky,
and me not knowing my above from below, not any more,
holding my poor pregnant fish out of water,
and my world all turned upside down
© 2021 Neil Gaiman