True Love and Fisheads

Author: Elizabeth Teets

The only thing I know for sure about love is how to screw it up. 

As I walked home from our second date I cried my eyes out. Sobbing quietly as I walked through Portland’s Pearl District looking at my bloodshot eyes in the shop windows. 

God, I am pathetic

But it was all happening too quickly and it was freaking me out. I knew I was never going to go on a first date again because I was probably going to marry this man. 

Bye bye dating people that are mean to me just for the thrill. Fuck, this totally blows. 

I met Kevin on a medium-hot day under some twinkle lights at an outdoor concert venue. The Raconteurs were playing and people were enjoying one of those perfect rare summer evenings. 

We on the other hand had both signed up for the shitty job of taking people’s cell phones against their will. Jack White has this thing where he wants all his shows to feel like a rock concert in the 90s so he employs a third-party company to confiscate unsuspecting concertgoers’ cell phones upon arrival and lock them in canvas cases where they cannot access them until the end of the show. 

I signed up for this job via Craigslist because I needed $200 dollars. Instead, they accidentally double-paid everyone, so I got $440 and a boyfriend. Considering I had to stand in the sun for seven hours and handle the abuse that comes from cutting off people’s addictions to technology I would say I was fairly compensated. 

I hadn’t dated anyone in almost two years and was on a string of weird flings. Whenever I went on a bad date, or more frequently found a bad hook-up, I would look up at the sky to God or whatever heavenly drag queen pulls the strings and ask, ”Where is he?!” I was desperate for the divine to show me where whoever I was supposed to end up with was because I had probably just left a car that smelled like weed and dirty laundry. I was searching high and mostly just found lows. 

Kevin was supposed to be working at the ADA entrance, only agreeing to work because he was promised he would be by the stage and basically get paid to see the show. Instead, he got bumped from that job and placed next to me at the main entrance far away from the stage with the general public yelling at us because they had crushes to text back and candy crush to play. During the show, he had to stay with nothing to do but talk to me, as if my sky god said, “here have this guy, just please stop trying to fuck bartenders that look like your ex.” 

My friend Shelby worked at the venue and was running around all night. I stopped her after I saw her say hi to Kevin. “Do you know him?” I asked giving her the girl to girl desperate look. 

  “Oh yeah he works in music,” She paused,  “He’s a beaut and I’ve never seen him with a woman.”

He got my phone number at the end of the night, took me on a date to a rooftop movie a few days later and by the end of July I was having a meltdown because I liked him too much. 

In our first few months of dating I went through an intense mourning period. 

I’m never going to be a single girl again and I got here before thirty. I will never be thirty and flirty and fabulous. 

I pouted while I fielded the inquiring questions:

“Holy shit where did you find him?”

“How is he so hot and so sweet?”

“Did he used to model?”

“He looks so stoked every time he looks at you, he’s clearly obsessed” 

I gritted my teeth. The sex was also very good. I was annoyed. 

Even the cat loved Kevin. Whenever he opened the door she rushed to him. Demanding his undivided attention. He gave it to her, cooing, “Oh hi queen I missed you” 

“Why is this happening to me”? I wailed to Sarah. 

“Oh my god, calm down it’s not certain you will be with him forever.” She humored me. 

 “But I will be!”  

“Do you want to be?”

That was the worst part. 

“Yesssss, it’s horrible.”

I was so used to being single that I had planned my life around being single. All my heroes were single. All I knew how to be was single. 

“I am never going to move to LA and date rich bachelors that make me sign an NDA now.” 

I knew I sounded silly saying it. But Sarah being my wisest friend listened intently. 

“Well in reality all you are giving up stories about getting less than you deserve.” 

“I am a writer Sarah, I don’t want to give up my stories.”

Well, she mused, “You can finally have different ones. You already have dozens of shitty dude stories.”  

It was nice to have someone to zip up my dresses. 

I thought about it. I was afraid. 

“I promise I will love you forever” he would whisper into my ear. 

“I promise you will never be bored,” is what I said back, listing all I STDs I would never get to recover from as a fun story.

Then a year passed and I was still afraid. What if this story was my only story for the rest of my life. 

Friends I hadn’t seen in a while would remark that it was nice that I had finally found a partner. 

I am a queer woman but I prefer a boyfriend. I did not want this straight man to get the idea that we were any way equal. 

Luckily having a  boyfriend meant that I had someone to go to the farmers market with on Saturday mornings, Or really the early afternoons when Kevin patiently let me watch the Golden Girls in his bed while I drank coffee, which took up most of the mornings. The nicest man in the world who was cool enough to date me waited patiently in line with me and the octogenarians since I had to have the prettiest pink Brandywine tomatoes from a very particular stand every week during the summers. 

On our way back to the car, a guy in one of the stands held up a bag of salmon. “Five dollars” he screamed. I ditched my prince charming and walked back to investigate. Five dollars for steelhead. Upon further inspection, the bag was full of salmon. But only the heads. 

“I’ll take it!” I said thrilled. 

“Why?” asked Kevin panting from catching up since I ran off without comment. 

“Because I promised you’d never be bored, I winked,  “And I can make cat food.”

I took the fish heads home. Two bags for eight bucks. 

“At least they aren’t the crabs,” Kevin pointed out, referring to the time my car broke down on I-84 with two of the world’s largest live crabs in the back we had purchased at an asian seafood store on 82nd. The store was filled with what we would refer to forever as “the tanks full of nightmares”. The crabs were closer to the size of a small dog than regular crustaceans.

The day my car had overheated I pulled to the side of the freeway. The crabs in the backseat started to move closer to us, the brown bag inching closer and closer all on its own. It felt like the end. 

We got back to my apartment and put the fish heads in the fridge’s bottom drawer. 

“You aren’t actually going to cook those,’ he said making me more determined. 

I continued to sing the fish heads song I had been singing all the car ride home. 

“Fish heads, fish heads, yummy yummy fish heads, fish heads, fish heads eat them up yum!”

With Kevin safely back at his own apartment, (I wouldn’t let him live with me yet despite his protests) I was determined to make my own cat food. A recipe I found online said to bake them, split them down the front of the nose, take the meat and mix in a food processor with broccoli and an egg. Simple enough. 

I was careful not to look at the fish head with sad eyes, taking them out of the bag with tongs and placing them on a foiled cookie sheet. I covered them up with more foil, stuck them in the oven, and proceeded to get drunk on prosecco. 

A half-hour later I took them out. The first few were easy to slice and debone. I collected the good meat in a bowl. Then I wasn’t careful and accidentally made eye contact. I screamed and ran outside. 

“I scared myself.” I texted Kevin. 


“No, this is for the cat. She likes you more than me now, it’s not fair.’

An hour and some more disturbing eye contact later I had a bowl of the perfectly pink salmon and broccoli mousse.  

The cat wouldn’t eat it.

I protested with her. “Come on! It’s organic! This is better than what you eat every day.”

Nothing. She wanted the shitty canned stuff. 

A woman who was so used to garbage she didn’t want anything else. 

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