This is more of Grossman’s description of one of his characters in recovery:
His mind was an icy pond constantly in danger of thawing. He trod on it only lightly–its surface was perilously slick and who knew how thin. To break through would mean immersion in what was below: cold, dark anaerobic water and angry, toothy fish. The fish were memories. He wanted to put them away somewhere and forget where he’d put them, but he couldn’t. The ice gave way at the oddest moments…Something hideous and saurian would rise up and his eyes would flood and he would wrench himself away.
Earlier, in fact during the traumatic event, the character is described this way:
[He] thrashed forward, a primordial fish heaving itself up onto a sandy bank, sucking wind, anything to get away.
I asked myself, “What is he trying to get away from? That’s not right. Fish want to get back in the water.” Obviously, the primordial fish is supposed to be the one that evolves into something else. Still, when thinking about it, I never apply a narrative to that idea. Why does the fish need to leave the water? Then Grossman brings it back. “The fish were memories.” It’s not a consistent metaphor, I know, but it kind of shows how Grossman is using his images and language to paint this idea of avoidance and distance. Dissonance.