Before a banana browns, or even ripens to a sickly-looking yellow, it lays alongside multitudes of its brethren, high in the canopy above a tall, straight trunk. Bananas are ovaries; the fruity offspring of a tropical tree; and, as the reproductive organs of the plant, are pretty important. The huge, juicy leaf-fronds cluster around the green, growing banana bundles, partly to conceal the plant’s private parts, but also to see how they are all ‘getting on’. With each morning’s light, the fronds rustle with pleasure at the lengthening, maturing ovaries beneath them, woozy and delighted and broody.
The bananas themselves curve in semi-circular bundles like huge, multi-fingered fists; four or five per tree. There can be anything up to forty fruits per fist, so when a single banana stands out from the rest, its sisters all know pretty quickly. And that is what happened, once, to a banana in a bundle in Belize (which is in Central America). She stood out.
Right from the time when her sisters were the size of green beans, she was the length of a runner bean. They teased her, saying rude things that made her want to hide away, which of course was impossible. While every green finger in her bunch was small and delicately curved, one after the next, all in perfect physical harmony, she stuck out strong and straight: vertical (in that she pointed directly down).
"You’re not a banana at all," chorused the sisters. "You’re a cucumber!"
None of them had ever seen a cucumber, but the accusation stuck because it wasn’t far from the truth: when the rest had reached the runner bean stage, she was a courgette, only smoother and with paler skin. Even the bananas from other bunches could see her now, and they sang teasing songs which they found funny, but weren’t.
"You are the main course, you are the main course, you are the main course – we are dessert!"
"Bananas are supposed to be in fruit salads!"
"Stop growing please – you’ll pull down the trees!"
The unbent banana kept her head down as far as she could, staring at the ground beneath her and trying to shut out the voices. Why was she different? Why couldn’t she just be one of the bunch? She looked at her body and wondered whether, maybe, everything might even itself out in the end – that she would stop growing and be caught up by the others, or that someday she might have some nice, gentle curves to show off.
But as the days went by, no change came. The clenched fists of fruit swelled, but one single swearing finger remained raised. Some embarrassed people feel small; she felt huge – hopelessly, clumsily HUGE.
[I might tell you the rest of the story one day!]