The Weight Of a Banana
The bananas in my country were small, hardly ever a sunshiny yellow but more of a deep mustard that seemed charred with black patches. I would look at them with my young eyes through my mother’s car window stacked on trays in the market stalls or on the road side, hawked by women with colorful scarves tied on their heads. The bananas were merchandised in charming patterns, drawing you to take notice, luring you with their delicate size that rendered them pitiful, asking you to buy them to affirm their worth, that they needed to go home with you otherwise their fate would be to fester with the black patches covering up the yellow, like black clouds over a vibrant sun.
“If anyone gives you a banana to eat, don’t take it”, my mother instructed one day seemingly random but with a stern delivery. Those words are ingrained in my memory. I had rarely glanced the way of a banana as a child and being asked to avoid it made me weary of the outside world.
The apparent bubble in which I was being reared in began to foster an increasing paranoia of things outside my immediate environment. I grew scared of what would happen to me if I ate food given to me by people unknown to me, constantly weary of the intentions of adults that offered me a snack or asked me to join them in a meal, all this because of bananas.
It was not until when an older me was sat across from my mother at a hotel dining room for a complimentary continental breakfast that I recalled that day. My eyes peered up from my lowered head as I ate my corn flakes and watched my mother peel a banana. I had seen her eat bananas in the past, but unbeknownst to me, it seemed my subconscious had its fill.
“Mum, do you remember asking me not to eat bananas in Nigeria?” I asked as though I intended to point out her hypocrisy, “I still feel an irrational fear when I eat a banana.”
She stopped peeling the banana and laid it on the table. She looked at me puzzled and in realizing she indeed asked that of me she sat back in her chair and turned her head upwards, as if to recall a day that seemed one would never need to revisit in memory.
“ When we heard that witches were making confessions in churches that they used bananas to lure children… a parent will believe and do whatever to ensure the safety of their child.” My mother responded with a flooding awareness of the irrational of her belief, forcing her to acknowledge that I had been marred in some way because of her need to protect me, which allowed for a superstition to affect my present reality.
It would be 11 years before I permitted myself to have a banana without fear, albeit it was when I moved to America, a place where the weight of the superstitions of my homeland began losing magnitude perhaps because of my maturing. That the sale of a bunch of bananas would sustain the purpose of the vendors who diligently sold them was lost on a young me, and so it always seems a remorseful transaction to patronize conglomerate supermarkets when I buy bananas. I think of those women, often young men and little children who depended on those bananas to help them live decent lives, who most likely had bananas for meals or gave them out perhaps to other vendors or familiar and friendly faces, so as not to see them go to waste, to avoid seeing them becoming nothing, losing their worth with each passing hour.
The bananas in the United States are large, almost the size of boomerangs. They always seem bright with a tinge of green.That green hue on the bananas have come to embody a different type of superstition, reminding me of the fallacy we attach to things to ease our minds in consuming or rejecting them, that yes in one breath the choice to buy and eat a banana from a supermarket in the United States has nothing to do with a worker who makes next to nothing on a farm in some banana republic to live a somewhat decent life and that yes, perhaps the bananas in the United States are not susceptible to the witchcraft I had left behind in Nigeria and that somehow these bananas were different because they were being bought in a supermarket in the United States and not from a roadside vendor in Nigeria.
I have to wait a few days to eat a tinged green banana, waiting for it to fully ripen and render it edible. It is then I recall those banana vendors under the Nigerian sun, with beads of sweat sprinkled around their heads and the thin, tall men and the hurried women that patronised them, remembering how the vendors put the black tinged bananas in nylon bags and handed it to patrons with a smile as if to say, thank you for recognizing its worth and the patrons return the smile as they pull and peel a banana from the bunch to eat immediately, as if to say I recognize that this is what it’s worth.