My pink fish Cupid died last Wednesday. It wouldn't have mattered if his name hadn't been Cupid. But love, with all its metaphors, is a favorite thing with college girls.
My friends tiptoed around Cupid's bowl making piteous faces, half repulsed by the corpse and half perplexed over the consequent state of romance.
On a campus crawling with young men-many with just the right blend of kindness, callouses, and catechism-Cupid found numerous occasions to achieve the end for which he was named.
"Be careful," my friends and I used to tell gawkers. "He shoots."
He did. Some of us will soon have rings to prove it. Others, before his death, often tried discerning Cupid's shape between false plant fronds and moaned, "He has such a peculiar habit of hiding." Others still are developing scar tissue after disappointed or unrequited love.
My friend Grace came into my dorm room just after the death.
I took a dramatic stance. "Grace, something happened."
She, of course, expected love. It is what we all expect first.
Grace looked up into Cupid's bowl where he floated above the yellow flowers and pink rocks. He looked like a crashed plane in an ocean of pulpy tea.
"That's horrifying," said Grace, saucer-eyed. "The way he died in those bushes."
We notified everyone.
My roommate asked if we could replace him with a chinchilla. With regret I informed her that chinchillas violate campus policy.
"Oh," she said. "How about a rosebush?"
A young man in the cafeteria first heard the news as he spooned his honey mustard. He looked resigned. "You need somebody to bury it?"
It was the kind of point only a man would think of making. We decided to have a burial at sea.
At the viewing and funeral that evening the girls wore black and the boys came for the doughnuts, which the girls provided to attract them.
One boy, freshly shot, came in a full suit to celebrate what was to our knowledge Cupid's final conquest. He stood by his girl, a slender conservatory pianist whose lipstick made a big smile.
I called for kind words on behalf of the fish.
One girl remarked, "Cupid was always sick when anyone was sad."
As we went in procession singing "I'll swim away, O glory," some water sloshed out of Cupid's bowl and slid down my winter coat. As Shakespeare had it, the course of true love never did run smooth.
Our procession stopped at the college pond we call Lake Bob. Someone read an adapted Burial at Sea service from the Book of Common Prayer. A freshman boy trumpeted "Taps" and a girl in yellow rain boots heaved Cupid into the water. She gave two more heaves to make sure he was gone.
The next day nothing remained but the pink rocks someone reported floating in Lake Bob, and a black sign that read, "Love is dead."
I hope we were wrong about that last part.