When I was nine years old I got hit by a car. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. Why? Because it was simple: I was in the street, and the car hit me. Open and shut. The driver didn’t even get out of the car. She saw me get up and keep walking in her rearview, and sped off. If everything in my life could have been that simple, I would have had it made.
For example, after I got hit I had a big brown spot on my peel for weeks. The other kids in my class would see it and be like, "Banana Kid, what the fuck is that thing?" And I didn’t know. I could tell them it was the mark from where the car hit me, but then they’d just say, "No, we mean what is it?" And then the inevitable, "Speaking of which, Banana Kid, what the fuck are you? Are you a person or a banana? We’ve asked you before and it’s never been settled."
This would usually end with me locking myself in the bathroom. I got a lot of C’s and D’s in those days because I spent so much time locked in the bathroom. A rumor got started that the spot was from me being cursed by a gypsy. I didn’t know what a gypsy was, and I don’t think the other kids did either.
See what I mean?
The spot got better gradually, and my insides lost the weird mushy feeling underneath. When it was nearly gone, a girl from another class named Jane walked up to me and said, "Banana Kid, is that a bruise?" And that one really threw me for a loop, because a bruise could be a greenish-purplish mark on somebody’s skin or a soft spot on a piece of fruit, and I didn’t even know which kind of bruise she meant, much less whether it actually was one. "I think it’s a bruise," she said, and walked off.
Boom: solved. I liked Jane right away, even though we’d never talked before that and I knew absolutely nothing about her. When I got off the school bus and went back to my alley that afternoon, I laid down on the bags of garbage and hallucinated a scene of Jane and I, much older, getting married and having kids. But I never saw the kids.
I never figured out what the alley and the nightly hallucinations were about. At this point I didn’t even know they were abnormal yet.
The point is that I knew right away that Jane must be the great love of my life. I was right. Only I’m going to have to skip ahead here, because she didn’t talk to me again for like eight years.
In my last year of high school, Jane walked up to me pretty much out of nowhere and said, "Banana Kid, would you like to go out with me? Like, on a date?"
So I was enraptured and made a ridiculous spectacle, slipping all over myself (get it? Well, I thought it was funny.) before she finally gave me her phone number and slipped away all secret agent-like. Jane had been extremely shy since middle school. She had few friends, her looks were frankly nothing special, and, as I later learned, she had never been on a date before. For some reason, I never considered that the fact I had never been on one either might create problems.
I called from a pay phone and arranged to pick her up the next evening. She assumed I meant in a car. I did not know this.
After a long walk from my alley to her house, and another long walk from her house to a boring movie that neither of us even cared what the hell happened in it, we had finally been through enough crude, ingrained courtship rituals to start talking to each other. Unfortunately, her curfew was just about up.
"Banana kid," she said, "Will you be all right walking home by yourself this time of night?"
I hadn’t thought of that. I’d never walked home in the dark before.
"What are you gonna do?" she said.
"I have to get back to my alley," I said by way of thinking out loud.
Yeah, well. I tried my best to explain things. She invited me to her house, where we discussed it more at length with her parents while sitting on the living room couch. Honestly, the couch was the best part of this discussion. In fact, the whole living room was the cleanest damn thing I had ever seen. No newspapers and plastic bags and empty bottles lying around–it didn’t look like anybody ever used it! The couch looked like one of the ones they have in stores. Even the air felt better in that house.
Jane’s parents were even more horrified than she was. Her mom asked, "But where do you eat?"
I told her I ate the school food, or sometimes at a restaurant like Burger King when I really wanted to.
"But where do you get the money?" her dad said.
"Well, you know. I find it." I had also assumed this was normal.
"But what are you gonna do?" said Jane. I asked what she meant and she said, "After school. You’re going to graduate soon, and then what’ll you do? Go to college?"
"Of course!" I said. Pretty much everyone at our school went to college.
"You know. College."
They all looked at each other. "Where have you applied?" said her mom.
"Say what?" I said.
The three of them explained some things to me that I had a pretty hard time with. It used to be that whenever I looked around and saw people who drove cars and lived in houses and had jobs, I assumed I would get those things too, eventually. Just something that happens as you get older, the way they shuffled us to the next grade in school every year. People my age who had those things, I explained with the fact that they got them from their parents. I didn’t have parents, so I would get them later. After this discussion, I didn’t really know what to think.
Jane’s parents told me that I would be staying with them that night, and that it was not optional. Her dad even let me borrow some of his pajamas. They said I could sleep on the couch. They still didn’t know that I didn’t sleep, strictly speaking. They said they’d figure out what to do about my situation tomorrow.
I agreed, but it didn’t feel right. Trying to sleep. Lying on the couch, wearing pajamas. I couldn’t shake the suspicion that this was ridiculous: a piece of fruit left on the couch, under an old pair of lounge pants. That’s what this was, if I was a piece of fruit like some people suspected.
It must have been about 3 a.m. when I went up to Jane’s room and shook her by the shoulder.
"What is it, Banana Kid?" she said, rubbing her eyes.
"Jane," I said, "I need you to eat me."
She asked what I meant.
"I need to know," I said. "If I’m really a banana. Please eat me. I need you to solve this one too."
"What are you talking about? I’m not gonna eat you." I noticed her pinching herself. Trying to figure out if she was awake, I guess.
"Please, just pull the knob on top of my head and eat what’s underneath. If it works, then I’ll know I’m really a banana."
"Think of your parents. Would you want them going through all the trouble they talked about to put a piece of fruit in a foster home or whatever?"
"They’re trying to help," she protested. "And besides, I like you."
"Then eat me."
"No means no, Banana Kid."
"I’ll eat myself if you don’t."
"You can’t eat yourself."
"How do you know?"
"Because it’s humanly impossible."