He didn’t mind the waiting. In fact, that was the best part. He was there for the wait.
He did have qualms about impaling the worms, though. That much is true. But he’d shrug it off: ‘If I don’t get them, someone else will. Some other animal. Not my fault they were born to be food.’ He’d run the hook through them with great care, covering the whole length of it. With a grand, yet by now mechanical gesture, he’d unleash his reel, let the nylon fly gracefully through the air, lower the lure into the water and wait. He’d settle into his small foldable chair, hunched shoulders, hat pushed back, and wait. Occasionally he would yank the rod, reel it in a bit. Once in a while he’d rub the bristles on his neck or pass his palm pensively across the stubble on his face. And while waiting, he’d take a deep breath, then another. He absolutely loved it.
Some people hate fishing, he thought. They get competitive about it. And then they can’t stand the wait. But that’s where they get it all wrong. You set a target, a goal, and pretty soon it takes over. It runs you. It prods you. You become its instrument. Why put yourself under pressure? Fishing is precisely about taking it in stride. Take it as it comes. And if it doesn’t, then just have yourself a few quiet hours staring at the water. That was why he was there, anyway. No clocks, no schedules, no expectations. No emotional blackmail either. Just pure pleasure. No fish ever came out desperately pleading, ‘You promised to marry me, I’m pregnant!’.
No voices. The fish are all quiet. Here it was just him and the water and the lure bobbing on the surface of it and his thoughts free to glide along. Life on mute, the way he liked it. As mute as fish.
He did throw most of them back in. He kept just enough to justify his hobby, bring something home to the wife. The ones he kept he never watched. He hated to see them suffocate, gasping for air. They reminded him too much of himself. Too much of the hook he’d bitten into: a family, kids, the responsibilities of it all. Sometimes he could tell he’d caught something, but he’d just let them play around in the river a little bit longer with that hook in their mouth, give them the illusion they were still free. Give them a chance to free themselves. If they’d bitten too deep, if they were too damaged, he’d keep them, put them out of their misery, make them into food. If not, he’d simply release them back, with a lesson learned. Can fish learn?
He could, but by now it was too late. He had his little escapades, his early weekend mornings out of the house, all by himself. He enjoyed it all: the river bank, the water flowing, the solitude, the wait. He’d gotten used to telling everybody he was going away to catch some fish. But he knew he was not there for the catching. He knew. He was there for the wait.
The wait. That illusion of freedom, that suspended moment when anything might still happen. Man, fish, earth, water. Cells, the lot of them. Molecules. Life feeding upon itself.