The Real Yellow Banana

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She held the doll close to her heart and made her way through all the people at the fair. Down here, no one had a face and nothing seemed familiar. She followed the red high-heel shoes. They looked exactly like Mommy’s, but they weren’t hers. Maybe they could help her find Mommy. The red high-heel shoes met other red high-heel shoes and she didn’t know which of them to follow. She brought the doll closer to her face, hoping she would whisper the answer in her ear, like always, but the doll remained silent. She was quite shy when around strangers. That much the girl knew.

Click-clack, click-clack. The red fancy shoes continued marching quickly and she started running after them. Something wasn’t right. She looked down but her doll was gone. She was gone! She must have fallen to the ground in the girl’s attempt to reach the shoes. Frantically, she ran back, bumping into more big feet and knees, until she saw her doll lying trampled on the dusty ground. She picked her up, hugging her dearly, and begged for her forgiveness. With the doll firmly in her arms, she ran and tried to find the red shoes, but they were nowhere to be found.

She ran and ran, feeling the tears coming to her eyes, when suddenly, she saw strange-looking legs. She was so surprised, she had forgotten she wanted to cry. These legs were very different from Mommy’s and Daddy’s legs. They were nothing like the legs of the fancy red shoes she had followed. She looked up, following the legs with her eyes. These legs were silver plated, and there were many of them, not just two. They all looked the same and they were all long. Very long. They were so long, they almost reached the gray skies above. Her small features enabled her, the little one, to walk in between the legs of the people who had been standing there, and come closer to the silver legs. Now she could see the owner of the metal legs — a cage. A very big cage. She had seen these before at the zoo. She didn’t like the zoo; she didn’t like cages. Inside was a scrawny chimp, who covered his eyes whenever the bright flashes of light filled his cage. The chimp sat on a treeless branch. On the cage’s floor were numerous tarnished banana peels. She looked at the chimp and he looked at her. The first pair of eyes in this ocean of feet and legs surrounding her. She took a few small steps forward and reached out her hand.

A few banana peels had been thrown into the cage. The chimp sprang from the branch, foolishly believing as in all other times, that these had been real yellow bananas. When he realized these were only peels, he climbed back up on his branch, feeling defeated. A little hand appeared through the steel bars, gesturing him to come closer. The sitting chimp observed the little hand suspiciously. He wondered if the little hand had been talking to him. He turned his head to the left, then to the right, but apart for the branch, the tarnished peels, and some stones, there was nothing there. It was just him. Only when he felt certain the little hand had been talking to him and this wasn’t a mistake, he jumped down and walked toward it in careful, measured steps.

The hand had a sweet scent. This scent was definitely different from the sweet scent of a real yellow banana, though. He couldn’t tell which of these two scents he liked better. Cautiously, he brought his snout closer to the hand, but the hand pulled back and disappeared. He examined all the hands on the other side of the cage, hoping to find the special sweet hand: a pair of big hairy hands holding a plastic bag, a pair of wrinkled hands with purple fingernails, a young pretty hand holding a much- bigger hand with rough skin, one hand hiding inside a pocket, two small hands covering a smiling mouth, another hand scratching the head, hands holding cotton candy, some hands holding ice cream, and even a pair of hands peeling a real yellow banana and putting it inside the mouth! He followed the banana hands with his eyes and, with no prior warning, had another banana peel thrown at his face. Rolling laughter was heard. He climbed back up on the branch and tried to forget about the kind hand who had talked to him earlier. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to him. He reminded himself that this type of hands, the good hands, the kind hands, are just like a real yellow banana — they are out there, on the other side of the cage, but they would never manage to pass through the bars. Should they try, they would surely tarnish and rot inside the cage, like the rest of the decaying banana peels to his feet.

A slightly wrinkled hand with purple nails and a half-moon-shaped silver ring on the index finger approached her, gently pulling her away from the cage. “It’s dangerous putting your hands there, inside the cage, sweetie,” said a woman’s voice, up there, far from the hand. “He can bite you,” the woman’s hoarse, phlegm-filled voice said. The girl looked up, trying to see the owner of the hand and the voice, but the woman with the purple nails had already disappeared in the crowd. When the girl directed her eyes back at the chimp, she noticed he was back on the branch. She decided not to listen to the purple hands. The chimp looked so sad and alone up there. She should do something. She should give him her doll. “Maybe if he plays with her doll, he would stop being so sad,” she thought.

The girl stretched her hands, sticking them in between the narrow gaps of the silver legs, the doll dangling from her right hand. She thought it would be hard to give the doll to someone else. The doll was her best friend and had always helped her out when Mommy and Daddy couldn’t be by her side, like now. But seeing the poor chimp sitting alone on the branch, his back to the cheering crowd, was more than she could endure. Her hand let go of the doll and it fell to the ground.

The cage filled with another sweet smell which had reminded the chimp of a real yellow banana but was, nonetheless, not a banana. This time, he won’t fall for it, though. Not again. He had had enough. He won’t turn around to see what had been thrown into his cage. It was probably just another peel. He tried real hard to ignore the smell, to ignore the presence of what might be there. He hung from the branch, keeping himself busy. But nothing made the sweet deceiving smell go away. So he jumped down to the ground and forced himself to sleep, all curled up in the corner of the cage, as far away as possible from the people. The noise they had made didn’t bother him. Not anymore. He knew that soon he would see the real yellow banana in his dreams. Every day, ever since being put inside the dreadful cage, he had been waiting for the people to leave, for the night to come. When night came, so did his dreams, so did the real yellow banana.

The skies began to darken and the people began to scatter. Now, that there weren’t many red shoes or purple hands around, and her doll wasn’t there, beside her, the fair seemed even scarier. Her heart started beating faster than the train she had traveled in with Mommy and Daddy to go see the fair. She won’t leave the cage, though. Not until the chimp wakes up and takes the doll. She was still lying on the ground. Her friend was lying on the ground. She knew he was only pretending. She knew he wasn’t really sleeping. She should know — she always pretends to be asleep when she’s not, so Mommy would give her the usual good-night kiss much quicker.

Familiar steps were heard behind her. They were running toward her. She didn’t need to turn around to know whom they had belonged to. She heard Mommy’s cry, then felt her arms around her. She turned to face her, hugging Mommy back. But she didn’t cry like Mommy. Mommy raised her voice, making her promise never to disappear like that again. She had been worried sick, looking all day for her, she said, weeping. But the girl didn’t mind. She wasn’t lost. Not anymore. Mommy bent over, wanting to lift her up, but she managed to slip away. She pointed at the pretending-to-be-asleep chimp and said she refuses to leave until he takes the doll. Mommy stroked her brown locks, reassuring her that he was probably just waiting for them to leave before taking the doll. He was just shy, she explained. In any case, the doll was already inside the cage, so he could pick her up whenever he wanted to. But the girl couldn’t be convinced. She wanted to see him take the doll with her own eyes. What if the mean people, who had thrown the banana peels at him and had scared him with their cameras, take the doll away from him? She couldn’t allow it. She had to verify that her best friend was in good hands.

Mommy agreed and they both waited by the cage. In the meanwhile, Mommy wanted to hear everything that had happened since she bumped into that man. He was the reason she had lost her grip on Mommy’s hand and could find neither her nor Daddy among the hundreds of people at the fair.

It was getting late, mommy said. They need to leave. Daddy was also worried sick and waiting to see her, waiting to see that she had been found, that she was safe. But the chimp was still sleeping in the corner, the girl said. Tears came down from her green eyes. It was the first time she cried that whole entire day. Even before, when she had realized she was lost, she didn’t cry. Even when she saw the bad people throw banana peels at the chimp and make fun of him, she didn’t cry.

Mommy lifted her up and started walking away from the cage. Mommy’s red shoes barely had the time for seven click-clacks, before they both heard a noise coming from the cage. Mommy turned around and they saw the chimp sitting down on the ground beside the doll, sniffing her. Mommy let her down and she ran to the cage. She reached out her hand through the steel bars. The chimp walked in the direction of the sweet smell, sniffed her hand, and rubbed his snout against it. The tears in her eyes had all dried up, a wide smile with two missing front teeth replacing them. The chimp walked away from the hand and lifted up the doll, jumping excitedly and clapping his hands. Now they can go home, she told mommy. Mommy took her hand in hers and they walked away. She turned her head and peeked at the chimp as he stood there, looking at her distancing figure and hugging the doll. She would come back for him, she called. She promises. She knows how scary it is to be lost.

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