portion of the artwork for Vincent Poturica's fiction

Banana Blade
Vincent Poturica

The other day this banana wouldn’t leave me alone. He wanted me to eat him immediately. Like right this second, the banana said. He was a little guy, almost hidden between his other siblings in the bushel. I told him to hold on a minute. I had to think. I wasn’t hungry, but I’d had problems with bananas in the past and wanted to get some answers from this runt. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. There’d been this bushel I’d bought a couple months ago from the farmer’s market. It kept diving from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet and faceplanting onto the linoleum tiles—I don’t buy bananas from the farmer’s market anymore. I couldn’t figure out why, for three consecutive mornings, I woke up to find this bushel sprawled below the stove. But, having to get up early for a meeting at work—I work at a call center selling insurance; it pays the bills—I caught the bushel in the act of charging from the cabinet into the air. I begged the bananas to explain why they were doing this, but they refused to talk. I figured they were sick, that the tree they’d grown from had some virus of despair. So I threw them in my compost pit, still yellow and firm—I didn’t want to eat their sadness. I have trouble enough getting through the day.

Anyway, this banana last week was yelling at me: Hey, dum-dum, peel me, take a bite out of my head, put me out of my misery. I told him he was still green. I know I’m green, the banana said, but I demand you eat me this minute. I asked him politely to stop talking. I needed to think. I needed to finish my coffee. One of the banana’s sisters—I could tell by the higher octave of her voice that she was a she—irritated to be roused from a dream, told him to put a lid on it, pronto. The miserable little guy—I guess he respected his sister—relented long enough for me to take a few deep breaths and then relate to him my experience with the suicidal bushel and how those bananas refused to explain their desire for extinction. I told him that I cared about his well-being even though I did plan to eat him, not that exact moment, but probably in two days, maybe three, depending on how fast he ripened. But when I ate him wasn’t important. I told him what was important was why he wanted to die. I needed to know.

I thought it might shed some light on some problems I’d been having: my girlfriend recently left me; she said I lacked direction, passion; I’d started taking long walks at night; there’s a pond by my house where I like to listen to the frogs; I’d stopped returning my friends’ phone calls. But I didn’t tell the banana any of this. Talking about my problems makes me feel exposed. The banana nodded as much as a banana can nod. His sister had fallen back to sleep and his other siblings were still dreaming. Whether out of respect for their slumber or because he was ashamed to share the nature of his desperation—it’s funny how it’s often so much easier to share our struggles with a stranger—the banana whispered for the remainder of our conversation.

After an extended silence, he said: I didn’t know there were others, I thought I was alone, the only banana in the world to want it all to be over … Of course, that’s a very narcissistic assumption, but I guess I’m pretty self-involved … Oh, I’m sorry for calling you a dum-dum … that wasn’t kind … I was just trying to upset you, to provoke you, to make you eat me faster … You understand? (I told him not to worry; I understood) … Well, you see, it’s hard to explain, these suicidal tendencies … it’s not so much that I want to die, it’s that I can’t become a blade of grass, so I’d rather not live any longer than I have to (I told him I was confused, a blade of grass, why?) … It’s like this: you humans live inside your mothers’ bellies before you’re born; we bananas live inside the tree trunks before we bloom from their branches … But, of course, bananas claim they don’t remember that time inside the trunk, that formlessness, but I do … I don’t know why … but I was awake during that other life inside the trunk … I thought about things … I trained myself to see into the darkness … I saw moving shapes … my siblings tell me I’m crazy, that some monkey probably just bumped me by mistake while swinging, scrambled my brains … but I know what I saw inside the tree … I saw crippled bananas who were too stunted by deformities to be born and these lost ones, shuffling around and around the tree’s inner circumference, recognized that I wasn’t sleeping like the rest, that I was watching (I wanted to know what these so-called crippled bananas looked like, but I didn’t ask. I thought it would be impolite. I thought about the two-headed snake I’d once seen at a zoo in San Francisco. I wondered if these bananas were like this snake with two heads) … at first these lost ones ignored my watching … but, after a while, they began to tell me things, to teach me that inside everything are deformities … abnormal growths that we mistake for those air-pockets of sadness that sometimes rise up into our hearts … they said nothing in this world is pure though every living thing is seeking to be filled with nothing but clear air … this life is a quest for purity, these lost ones said … that’s all we really want … to be empty … to be able to draw in and out one true breath of air … at first I didn’t believe these lost ones … their mythology struck me as limited, lacking any data outside their own experience inside a single tree … but they removed my doubts when they took me through underground passages and pointed to all the bones of things that were never fully formed … still, I thought these bones could have come from things that had died of natural causes, but then they took me up into other trees where I was introduced, first, to other lost bananas and then to lost oranges, lost mangoes, lost parrots, lost chimpanzees, you name it … I met a quarter-formed tiger: she was only one paw and a mouth that wouldn’t stop mewing … but, finally, the lost bananas showed me the one living thing that was empty of failed potential … underground, the lost ones pointed upwards at the grass and I saw that their bodies were hollow, that there was nothing that had failed to grow inside them … that’s why the wind can make them sing so pretty … grass is totally empty … it has no cares or regrets … it stands without thinking … it leans without thinking … it waves shadows on the ground without knowing that it casts enough different species of shades to fill ten thousand books … to be empty … to be occupied by no ghosts … that’s all I want … to be born without any baggage, so to speak … like grass … grass is free from any life other than the wind’s caress … from the first moment outside the tree trunk, when I began to bloom, I watched the grass obsessively … it grew in patches below me in the puddles that formed from the dew that dripped from my lengthening blossom … my reflection rose back to greet me between the blades … and, I wasn’t grass … my reflection was like smoke that stung my eyes… it hurt … I wanted badly to transform … and my impossible desire felt like blisters itching me from the inside as I hung above the shadows and the grass’s waving song … and, as the possibility of growing from the earth rather than from a tree became slimmer, became as tiny as the eggs the flies attempted to lay beneath my skin, I became more desperate … I began to hate myself intensely … so you see, I’m still green now, still somewhat grass-like … I know it’s a stretch … but I try to think in symbols … you have to when you wake up too early … metaphor is the only way to escape the sad realities … I’m sure that other bushel woke too early too … the one you mentioned earlier … it hurts to see too much … so, you understand now why I don’t want to live anymore if I can’t be grass … now would you please eat me … or at least chop me up into tiny pieces … I want to become a grass blade acutely … I’m afflicted … I need to transform …

I told the banana that I understood. Then we were both silent. I listened to the faucet drip and tried to think of what to say. I’m not especially articulate, so I said the words that came immediately to mind—I’ve been told those feelings that arise naturally are often the most accurate. I told the little guy that it was an unusual pleasure to meet him and listen to his story. I told him he was wise. But I did not envy his wisdom. In fact, I felt better about myself. My problems felt smaller.

Then the idea came: I would plant my friend in my backyard among the other grass. I could lean him against the chain-link fence to keep him upright. He wouldn’t exactly be grass, but he would be closer to his dream. I asked the banana what he thought. His small voice wavered. Yes, he said, yes, could you, please? You are a Godsend. I told him I was just another guy doing my best. He seemed to like that response because he nodded his small banana nod. I took a knife to the bushel and cut him neatly from his family—they were still sleeping, so I cut very gently. The banana felt warm in my hand. He wiggled with excitement. I dug a little hole with my fingers near the fence. I placed the end I’d sliced in the dirt and buried a quarter of his body so that he would stand upright. I didn’t pack the earth too tight. I wanted to give him room to wave. To let the wind move him and maybe make a song. I’d never thought of grass making a song, but I liked how the banana had put it. Luckily, it was a windy morning, and I watched the little guy rock back and forth. He wasn’t quiet, but he wasn’t speaking words. He was making some sort of a moaning sound. I leaned in closer to listen. I imagine he must have been singing. It just sounded different than what I usually think of as a song. But I’d never heard a banana sing before let alone talk. It was all new.

I looked at my watch and realized I’d be late for work if I didn’t hurry. I went back inside, showered quickly, and then sped to the office—luckily, I didn’t get pulled over. I was busy—lots of our clients from the Midwest were calling about damages from a recent tornado—and I was too caught up to think about my friend and our morning conversation. When I got home, it was late. I felt like eating a banana. And it all came back. I rushed out into the backyard to check on him. There was the little hole I’d dug, but he was gone. Maybe a bird had got him. Or a raccoon. I like to think he just vanished. Whatever happened, I hope it was painless. At least as painless as these things can ever be.

Vincent Poturica’s Comments

This story was written in three or four days during this past summer. I felt compassion for a banana I was eating after returning from a run. Before I write, I pray and meditate, and then I try not to think while I’m writing. I try to write quickly. I try not to lie. In retrospect, maybe I wrote this story as a sort of eulogy for bananas as well as, I suppose, every living thing that dies before becoming what it wants to become.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 43 | Spring 2014