And you could think Fan, too, was mute on the subject, for whenever one of us would approach her to see if she knew anything, she'd simply affix her mask and disappear beneath the densely populated waters, or if out on the block, she'd raise the volume of whatever she was listening to and take an escaping tack on her scooter. She had a typical cohort of friends and acquaintances from work and the neighborhood but she receded from them after Reg disappeared, or they from her, even though there was no shunning going on, more a realization by all that Fan and Reg had come to belong together and that once unpaired, Fan should be perhaps left alone for a while. No one brought up his or her theories of what happened to him or why. You would expect the directorate of B-Mor to put out word official or otherwise of what he had done in order to stall speculation and focus our attention on some act or crime, but the remarkable thing about a silence so total is that it soon squares your attention not on the subject but on your very self. For you can't help but interrogate your own behavior, actions, tendencies, even the stray skeins of your thoughts, and not wonder how in the course of the days you may have been close to transgressing some unspecified limit. It's like when a toddler has a toy drum or piano and unconsciously taps away at it without a mote of annoyance from his seemingly copacetic father, right up until one random ordinary clang, which instantly dissipates the man's patience and the keyboard ends up smashed.
Did Fan know more than what she let on? She must have known that Reg had done nothing wrong. He was an innocent, through and through, which is why she admired him. And isn't this why we admired Fan, too, this tiny, good girl, who never crossed anyone or went against even a convention of B-Mor, much less a regulation, until the moment she did? And why, despite her present notoriety, we think of her still as one of us, one of our number, even as she left us for the open counties? Some would balk at this, they can hardly utter her name without a stony jaw, unable to forgive Fan for what she did before disappearing of her own accord as much as for the greater troubles that arose afterward. For how unnecessary all of it was. And from a certain perspective this was true. It was unnecessary. She had larger aims for sure, and it can be argued that she attained some measure of them, but why before leaving she had to poison some of the tanks is not fathomable. It makes no sense. The funny thing, the oddest thing, even for those of us who won't eternally condemn her, is that she caused the deaths of only her own fish, the ones she so carefully raised.
Those poor sweet fish.
Excerpted from On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee. Copyright © 2014 by Chang-rae Lee. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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