While walking around Gion, we came across a restaurant that had an aquarium facing the street.
“How neat,” I said. We sat and watched them swim around for a bit. “They look so happy.”
And they did. These were the happiest-looking fish I’d ever seen in my life; their mouths were permanently curved upwards. While they idly swam in circles looking pleased as punch, we shared a moment, those fish and I. My now-wife and I had just traveled across the entire globe, I’d just gotten married to a girl I’d been in love with for years, in a place whose language we didn’t understand, and was getting to spend two weeks with her in the most beautiful place on the planet we’d ever seen.
I smiled at the fish. They smiled back at me. We felt each other’s happiness. We didn’t know each other very well; it’s not like they had names or anything, or had any use for knowing mine. I didn’t bother trying to tell them. We stared at each other; their beady eyes unblinking, mouths eliciting no other emotion but pure, unbridled joy. I don’t know might excite a fish, what they dream of or what they aspire to be. They had clean water, were fed often and received constant attention. The same could be said of myself.
It is said smiles are the same in every language. Through our unspoken acknowledgement of each other’s state of contentment, we spoke the same tongue, yet neither of us spoke at all.
It was my wife who broke the silence. “You know they’re all going to be eaten, right? It’s a restaurant.”
My solitary tear tasted like the ocean. We ate hamburgers that night.