So since I skipped last Sunday simply because I forgot until really late and by then was too lazy, here’s something completely different! Haw-haw.
This was a nonfiction (gasp) piece I wrote for a project in college a couple years ago. It’s personal but not so super deeply personal that I don’t mind sharing it, I suppose. Kids being kids, I guess… heh. I don’t like that it’s kinda ranty, and even coming back to this after a couple years, I’m not sure how to change it so it doesn’t sound that way…
Making banana bread with my mother is always relaxing. While I only know that, for sure, bananas go into this recipe (and a little zucchini for extra moistness and flavor), I enjoy watching bread being made from scratch. Watching it rise in its pan within the oven, and smelling it long before I see it emerge from red-orange, hot depths is soothing.
But until a couple years ago I had hated the fruit and anything to do with it. It had been dry, parching, and not even the promise of a banana split would convince my young mind otherwise that it was tasty. Now I enjoy bananas, the sweet flavor of them, and especially in bread. Right after the loaves pop out of the oven we cut it up and eat it with vanilla ice cream—it’s always best that way, still warm and melting the frozen dessert perfectly. But they still reminded me of when I was younger.
I used to ride the bus home, starting in first grade—still small, tiny, but with a bright outlook. Up until this point I had simply ridden in a big green van to the daycare, but now I was a big girl and could ride all the way home. Living out in the country made it a long ride, and I was last to be dropped off everyday. Most of the other kids riding lived even further out of town than I did. I learned to bring a book or my Gameboy with me to school for something to do.
The long ride, however, was the easiest part to deal with. The bus driver was old and grouchy, but still kind to the younger and/or well-behaved children. The bus itself appeared older than its driver, and the crummy faux-leather seats were hot in summer, cold in winter, covered in graffiti and peeling away, riddled with holes from pencils that were widened with fingers and boredom. You could smell the age of it—musty and dusty from years of travelling down gravel roads. A large, ten-gallon bucket sat in the back for garbage that never made it inside.
Even that was tolerable. The worst of it all was the company kept. Most of the kids were older than I was, and only a few were the same age. I got along fine with them, but the older kids seemed to have the run of the bus, and it had been that way long before I started to ride. They had the back seats to themselves, which were supposed to be the best because, when riding down all those bumpy roads, you could get the best jumps in the air from sitting back there. The smaller of them could practically touch the ceiling since the bounces flung them so high. Those of us that were younger weren’t allowed in the back. The driver agreed most of the time with this as well, most likely because the younger ones were the most likely to act out of turn. But mainly it was because the older kids riding wouldn’t allow it.
“You’re too small for the back seats. You’d fly right out of the ceiling!” And after watching them bounce so high, most of us believed that.
So the first day I found the right bus to board and waited outside of it, got on, and found a seat relatively close to the front—number four. I was in the safety zone, seat-wise, but I was still called out from the back of the bus once we started to move.
“Hey, who’re you?”
I wasn’t sure they were talking to me, so at first I just glanced back to see who was talking. A very tall boy with an almost buzzed head of dark hair was looking straight at me, and a girl sat in the seat across the aisle from him, also looking. It had been the boy who spoke.
“Yeah, little blond kid in seat four. What’s your name?”
Over the loud bus and other kids chattering I called my name, immediately asking who they were in return. That was just how I was raised.
Instead of answering right away he gave me a funny look. “What was it?” he asked. I repeated myself. “Briana? Anthony,” he said in return, pointing to himself. “And my sister Whitney.” He then pointed to the girl next to him. Seeming bored with the conversation he turned to his sister, and that seemed to be the end of it.
By the next week I had started to talk to other kids on the bus. Two girls I was in class with, Shelby and Allie, rode the same bus as me, and another girl who was a grade older, Missy, was also a part of our little girl-group in the front seats. I had been worried about not knowing anyone, but I had a pretty good set-up going.
So when I heard ‘Banana’ coming from the back seats I ignored it, continuing to talk with my friends. But it continued, until finally we turned and looked. Anthony was whispering to his sister, not looking at us, and so we turned back. Next thing I know a paper ball bounced off my head.
“We were talking to you, you know.” Picking up the ball I turned back, and Anthony was smiling innocently up at us. “Can you bring me that back, Banana? It’s got my homework on it.”
Not wanting to get in trouble I waited until the bus came to a railroad crossing before hurrying back, handing the wadded paper to the tall older boy.
“Thanks Banana, now split.”
The whole ordeal seemed to be for the sake of the joke, because once I turned to rush back to my seat Anthony and Whitney both burst into giggles. After that the rest of the trip went on like nothing had happened.
A few weeks later and it was picture day at our grade school. I had been very proud of the outfit my mom had found me, and was eager to walk around all day at school wearing it. It was the prettiest red I’d ever seen, with a style similar to an Asian outfit I’d seen in a movie. It compromised of a button-up top and a matching skirt. The buttons were large, a little longer than my pinky and wooden, going well with the light yellow-brown outline around the big, lighter red flowers that sparsely covered the outfit’s fabric. My hair was done up and I felt pretty; it had to be a good day.
When I got to the bus that afternoon and was waiting to step on, I chatted with my friends happily. I had been worried I was going to spill food on my outfit at lunch, but luckily I wasn’t too clumsy. I fully intended to wear the outfit as often as I could.
Suddenly I was lifted off my feet by the top handle of my backpack. I held on to the shoulder straps for dear life, but it wasn’t enough to keep the straps from rubbing raw under my arms. I kicked, hoping I’d be dropped back down.
“What are you supposed to be, Banana, Chinese or something? Cute,” a voice said snottily, obviously not finding it cute at all. Anthony. He moved his arm up and down slightly as if to emphasize his point. “You’re short enough for it, that’s for sure!” My arms were trembling with the effort not to slide down further, for if I did the straps would chafe even more.
Simultaneously my friends and I told him to put me down, and though I couldn’t see his face he probably rolled his eyes at how unintimidating we looked and sounded. “It’s like I’m playing with a Chinese yo-yo,” he said instead, ignoring us and laughing.
Before any of us could say anything more the bus driver stepped out to see why we weren’t boarding. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Anthony?” I’d never been happier to see his grumpy face.
Immediately I was let go, and the jarring movements from hitting the concrete made my legs go numb. I hurried over to the bus and climbed aboard before he could grab me again. Despite my earlier adoration of the clothes, I never wore the outfit again.
That summed up my bus experiences for the next few years. It never got physical again other than rubber bands and wads of paper, which then was directed at the entire group of us and not just me (and that made it all the worse). Otherwise it was ‘Shelby sells sea shells,’ ‘prissy Missy,’ ‘Allison (for Allie hated being called by her first name),’ ‘Banana,’ and other variations that none of us cared for but couldn’t do much to stop. The day Anthony stopped riding the bus was a blessing, but his siblings, now including his much younger brother Mitch as well as Whitney, took up the roll of picking and teasing.
When I was in late middle school, telling new friends of old annoyances, and the word ‘Banana’ was tossed around it made me almost flinch. The whole teasing had been annoying more than heart breaking, but it still grated on all of us that had had to endure it.
The next thing I knew my friends would covertly call me ‘Banana’ when I wasn’t really paying attention. I’d whip around to look at them, and they’d have a smile on their face that easily told me it wasn’t to poke fun. They genuinely were trying to get me to relax.
“Bananaaa-!” They’d draw it out slowly, but say it in a happy tone when they saw me, letting me know it was because they were actually happy to see me. It took a long while to get used to it, but by high school I was completely fine with being called ‘Banana’ by them in front of others.
It would still bother me if someone else tried to join in on it, though. It was something between us, and nobody else knew the story behind the name. No, it wasn’t something deep and dark, but it was a nickname and it was mine. I was almost proud to be dubbed after a fruit.