translated from Macedonian by Elizabeta Bakovska
Can you imagine a prehistoric women eating bananas? Do you know how a woman nowadays eats a banana? How bananas are eaten at the plantations in Cyprus, Africa, Buckingham Palace? Do you know how a man eats a banana? How a searcher of garbage eats a banana, or a comedy actor, Bananaman? How does Alice the Chimp eat a banana? What will you think of first if you pass by a group of guys eating bananas at the same time? Are they athletes before a training?
I am curious how you eat a banana, personally (if you do eat bananas, of course). For example, how do you peel the banana? Which end do you start the peeling from? What do you feel while you peel it? What do you feel as you open your mouth wide? What do you feel when you bite it? What do you feel while you chew it? And what after you swallow it?
Let's imagine that you have attended a reception: here comes the fruit, many hands reach for the crystal bowls and the golden plated trays with fruit pyramids, one after another... will you reach for an orange, a kiwi, or a banana? Why the orange? Why the banana? Do you maybe wish for the banana, and yet you take an orange? No, you are a person who takes exactly what he wants, so, a banana then? And? Do you stay there and peel it where you are or do you go somewhere else? Does it come to your mind to take another one and offer it to your collocutor so that you don't eat alone? Or you maybe say: "How about splitting a banana, one is too much for me?" No, you reject that option, it's not polite, how will he take the peeled half? Each one should take a banana of his own or rather no banana at all. You have already taken it, started peeling it, it becomes smaller and smaller under your indifferent bites, as if you eat a cookie, and, listening to your collocutor, you have even forgotten to enjoy it, carried away by his story... but, still, it feels good in your stomach... Or maybe you mind that you are forced to listen, so you can't concentrate on its taste... or you act as if you enjoy both the conversation and the banana, and you actually hurry to get rid of the object in your hand that makes you feel that the gentleman and the lady chatting in the corner glance at you strangely... or maybe everybody looks at you and smiles... or, even more tragically, even your collocutor is sure that you have no idea what you are nodding about while you chew with your mouth full. Or, you have imagined all of this. Nobody pays any attention to you and your banana, and your palms are already sweaty, and you feel sick in your stomach… Oh no! Oh yes! You have a problem with the banana! With the banana, with freedom, with gender, with the state, with yourself, with the others, or with the whole world, if you prefer. The banana as the problem of the individual. The person, entity, subject, identity.
That's the way it goes. Everybody has his banana, pardonne! his story of the banana. It would have been nice if we only had bananas, without any stories about them. We would have eaten instead of rattling.
* * *
Mmmmm... juicy, bright yellow, with small black dots. So, my story. Well, I wouldn't have waved my banana before your eyes if, while I was resting my eyes on a beautiful Sunday afternoon recognizing trees and rock figures on the mountain beyond, I wasn't forced to leave the layered view of my balcony and withdraw blinded to my hiding place, my bunker, my secret chamber, heavenly chamber, kingdom, children's room, bedroom, temporary room, forced room, the only possible room or, actually, call it as you wish, but understand: only to eat a banana in peace. And I underline: nobody asks it from me, really nobody.
The question was: Shall I sacrifice the pleasure of the banana or the calm view? And I wished I could consume both of them slowly, with gusto, nibble on them with pleasure, not even thinking about this dilemma, yes, and without looking for eyes where there were none: on the deserted streets, behind closed shops, behind the mosquito nets stretched on the windows and balcony doors, beneath the hair of the grandmas chatting under the balcony. To be precise, there was no living soul interested in me, but there was a chance of a glance that made me cover up and move to my favourite, lonely little nest. There, I indulged in the process or vice whatever.
* * *
Once upon a time, there was a little girl (so the story goes), her name was Lena, she sat on her bed with her legs tucked in, "because you don't sit with your legs spread", and she ate a banana. She ate it thoroughly, as if she had never seen one. She peeled it half way. She unglued the long stripes from its upper surface, she lifted them like spaghetti high above her head and swallowed them. Then she dived into the skins and she took the softer, meaty contents of their inner sides. She chewed them although they were not sweet enough, and her mouth shrank, but she left the tastiest part -- the banana itself -- for the end. Times were such that one could not take it against her. A banana was an event, a Christmas or an Easter event, or something you get when sick. People really felt like getting sick for a banana, like the princess did for an apple... or was it the prince and the apple?... whatever. In that country there was a custom that when her majesty Banana was absent, the people ate its substitute, or lady-in-waiting, generally known as "little banana", which had no relation to it, except for the similar name. Those were the ones with an individual wrapping for five dinars and the ones sold by the kilo for three dinars per piece. Some things never change.
So the girl went for the banana. But if she eats it all at once, the pleasure will finish quickly and she decided to enjoy each gram of it, to eat it slowly, slowly, slowly... Not because times were hard, but because the banana was sweeter that way. She opened her mouth wide, put the banana in, but didn't bite. She took it between her teeth and skinned its upper layer from all sides. She took it out of her mouth. She melted the contents on her teeth and swallowed it. She put the banana in her mouth again and stripped it a bit more. After several inside-out mouth movements the banana squeezed in her right hand, she reached its mid part: moist, soft and gentle under the fingers. She took banana's heart out. She was happy. She licked it, and then she bit into it. She enjoyed chewing the mushy mass, she swallowed it with sorrow and she continued in exactly the same way with the rest of the banana.
"Come on, don't pretend, Lena! Eat nicely! You don't eat a banana like that! Eat it as it is supposed to be eaten!"
"But I like it like this!" the little girl protested in defence of her indulgence and she didn't know why her father stared at her instead of doing the crossword puzzle in front of him. Not knowing how to explain the reason for this new prohibition, she merely sorted it under food-related scolding and "You don't eat a banana like that!" fell in between "You don't eat with your mouth open!" and "You don't sing while you eat, or you'll marry a Gypsy!"
Since then, the little girl ate bananas behind her father's back or where she thought nobody watched her. She ate bananas and grew up, eat a banana and grow up, eat and grow and up she grew.
Some ten years later I sat starving in my student room and I waited for my boyfriend to bring me bananas. So what if he loses at dice? Finally he brought them. Beautiful, yellow, ripe and fragrant. I took one and I started eating it my way. I forgot about his presence, because I was already chewing my nails, shaving my legs and picking my nose in front of him, and he had already entered the second phase of our love without frontiers announced by a chain of farts on his side without any announcement or apology, of course. We relaxed in front of each other, interestingly, even before we slept together, and for this event it is important to mention that we didn't even have oral sex before. Then you can imagine what was the surprise in my boyfriend's voice when he screamed:
“What are you doing? Is that the way you eat a banana?” and he startled me, as I was removing the upper layers from the banana rubbing it against my teeth and making shallow furrows that were came under my lips. Well, I was a big girl then, and I immediately realized what was going on. I became conscious about those, for me long known, mechanical movements that I usually fully ignored while I focused on the inflow of sweet mmmmm... delicious substance, and yes, I understood why he was upset. He even looked insulted. Guess why? I turned to him. Shall I do it or not? Shall I fool around? I’ll be ridiculous. And yet, shall I try? How will he react? Let me sacrifice a banana. Instead of answering I looked him in the eyes and then I peeled the banana a bit more. My tongue almost betrayed my disguised shame and I hurried to stick it on the gentle banana tip. Come on, be brave. I licked it. His eyes opened a bit more. Huh, so that’s it. Well, see how I eat the banana. I didn’t do anything special, only continued to strip the banana bare, to its heart, more precisely, following the regular procedure. Hurrah, with my lips to the inner soft part. What about him? Let me see. He lay on the bed, spread his legs a bit and displayed his stiffened crotch. So, you like it! Well, OK, I’ll try a bit more. How does it go? Look at him with your eyes slanting, don’t be ashamed, OK, and no small obscenities and tenderness outside the program, for example kiss the banana from all sides, like that, with a bit of love, and not lick it all over and swallow it as deep as you can. I made a whole movie. How soft and mushy it became. And the time when I usually bite it, removing, melting and swallowing pieces of it came, because after this treatment it could break itself and fall. Then, who knows why, I showed all of my teeth and I closed them, cutting away a piece of it that immediately went down my throat. (Freudians, here you go: envy, jealousy, revenge, drive, castration, equality, Oedipus, etc). I have never seen a more painful expression. He covered his crotch with his hand. If I had known how painful it would be for him, I would never have done it.
“What have you done?”
“Sorry.” And I had no more courage to look at him. I turned my back and for the first time I ate a banana feeling guilty because of myself. And I swallowed it without joy, of course. Since then I don’t take any risks. I prefer not to make any concessions and I stick to my old rule: eat the banana as you like it, but always alone.
* * *
But, let’s leave my kinky banana eating. What about “normal” banana eating? What about “normal” people and who is normal?
For example, is it normal for a healthy man, in the most usual meaning of the word, the one that is called real, feels a bit unusual, uncomfortable, somehow feminine when he holds a banana in his hand and tries to eat it in a manly way. “Die hard!” but it’s not so easy.
Millions of people are torn apart and open up when placed before the banana identifier. It does not come in red or blue, but always shines yellow and warns: attention, something is happening! Colours mix up inside us. The rainbow has reflected in us since forever, although we are blinded, and we don’t do the same. And we shall fade out together. Yes, even without understanding that there is no need to pass under it.
* * *
In the end, just another banana-split of memories. The beach. There are almost as many people as pebbles. And different as well. And more heated than the pebbles. Though the sun is slanted and the film planned for today is finished. A bit more and it will fall into the dark chamber of the pale blue, barely visible mountain. A beautiful final photo. People at sunset. The three of us at sunset. I’m in a suka-sun position between my two friends. We eat bananas with Alec who stands with his legs spread, and Dejan lies on his side, on his hip, with his head leaning on his hand and turned to the sun. It must look nice from that height. All of the many-coloured towels, spongy, straw and plastic chairs next to each other... a patchwork canvas stretched between the two ends of the beach, between the toboggan and bungee jumps... a banner in thousands of shades and patterns. Everything is one, mixed up, almost without boundaries. The ball of the hyperactive child of the second row of chairs behind us has stopped next to our mineral water... and my slippers have ended up next to the feet of the old lady kneeling in front of me. Hairy toes and dark red nail polish, why not? What else? The newspaper that Alec bought this morning multiplied in three sub-newspapers, a bit for each couple among the six neighbours next to him... And there is Dejan’s lilo drying, separated from him by two empty wet towels, two pairs of sneakers and a big backpack. Still, something is wrong. It is a deception. It only looks good. The boundaries disappear only when the distance is big. Big enough to be acceptable. Emotional distance. Well, what does this banana want? I am eating it in a calculated innocent, indifferent, depersonalised way, and it forces me to think, to disagree with this perfect sunset. This time it shoved me into somebody else’s shoes.
Lena is smart. Lena knows. Why did I have to excuse myself: “No, thanks, I don’t feel like a banana now. Leave it, maybe later.” Nonsense, Lena understands. She is reading through me even at this very moment. Instead of eating the banana, I encounter her thoughts in front of me, touching my own which are glued to the pink T-string on Alec’s butt. He stands straight and couldn’t care less. My brave friend who, in search of his sexual and general emotional freedom waxed his butt six days ago and now sits on it, shining and smooth, almost like Lena’s... No, don’t listen! Those four guys next to the cabin swear at him again, more and more creatively... Is it only for the ears of the girls lying next to them, oiling themselves and giggling... That’s not the way to score... Alec, you are the king, you’ll walk like that, like on the catwalk, waving the bag with skins in one of hand and finishing the banana in the other hand, to the garbage can in front of the cabin itself? I have no words. They stare in disgust! It’s OK, they remembered to look down... To provocation, huh? You feel like knocking him down on the pebbles and beating him until the pale gentleness of his body is completely lost? You fools! What irritates you? His feminized movements? The T-string? Pink? How tragic-comic! You think that nature played with him, and actually he plays with it. By the way, with you and with me as well. Mainly with himself. My dear Alec. You couldn’t give a damn if they think you are gay, when you know that you like women. Lena knows you like women. And I know it too. Your body is your problem, so you parade it. You raise it and you step on it before everybody and before yourself. You stress it and you get rid of it. Laughing on the way. You are God, Alec, although I almost had to rescue you from being beaten up, you are God. What about me? I lie here, seemingly normally, so manly, so averagely manly. Not a sign, not a move reveals me, not a single suspicious shiver. There is no mistake in my muscles, in my deep voice. I love this body that serves me well. It looks good on me. Both men and women glance at it. The ones who don’t know don’t notice, the ones who know don’t mind. Damn it, why don’t I dare to eat the banana here? And I’m so hungry. I’ll burst. Huh. Who is Lena waving to?
“Sir, over here please. Three bags of popcorn. Thanks. How much?”
* * *
“So, you’re buying popcorn now? You’re a darling! Well... where did you put my banana? Let me eat it first.”