I caught the tram this morning. Truly caught it. Chased it like a mad thing, dodged traffic banked up behind it, weaved, sprinted, kept balance. Climbed aboard, collected my breath, took a seat and took in my surroundings. And pleasant surroundings they were, for seated opposite me was a colourful and pleasing sight: a young woman, slim, with wavy lime-and-blond coloured hair, who sat and ate a banana.
Her lime-blond hair matched her bright lime socks. At her hip hung a patchwork cloth bag, alive with colour. Her black patent leather ankle boots gleamed. Just above the orifice into which banana descended and disappeared steadily before my fascinated gaze, a small nose ring looped between her nostrils. The young woman was thin but not starved. She worked steadily at her banana until she came to the moment of social truth (for some, the moment of crisis), the end of the banana, the moment when the skin demands of the eater a decision.
I watched. Would she ditch with a deft flick the peel beneath her seat? Might she instead reach into her bright bag of cloth for a plastic bag? The young woman (I decided she was nineteen years of age) did neither. She simply sat, and the peel sat on her lap, dying.
The dying of a banana peel is swift in onset. The peel, once devoid of the flesh that shaped it and gave it purpose, quickly shrinks and darkens, losing all meaning. Its yellow bloom gone, it darkens, collapses and becomes an elegy for its own shabbiness.
So the three of us sat there for a while, the lady, the banana peel and the watcher. Throughout, the winter sun shone bright through the window of the tram, transfiguring all. My eyes watered for brilliance, and my bones thawed.
After a time a man entered. Tall, wide and round, the man moved slowly into our space in the back section of the tram. His shabby clothes were black, his curls were black and his skin was black. He lowered above us for a time, directing his gaze where no eyebeams might intersect. His fleshy lips moved soundlessly. His hairy right hand clutched a sheaf of papers upon which columns of figures descended in lines from the top of each page to the bottom. The pages had the grey, slightly smudged look of photocopies. I peered at the pages, curiously. The man held them as a child might clutch a Teddy Bear, a talisman held close, disregarded, but not to be surrendered readily.
The man finished looking at nothing and lowered his fleshy self onto a seat between and opposite the lime- banana woman and me. We three found ourselves at the points of an equilateral triangle. The man, oblivious, muttering like the scriptural Hannah, was not a prepossessing person. His bulk projected itself towards the woman, towards – who knows? – possibly into her space.
I guessed she might feel intimidated. I half expected her to rise and remove herself. I watched tensely. The man’s free hand rose, coming to rest close to his ear. He spoke. His speech was not directed, the speech, I surmised, of telephony. I looked up and between his splayed fingers no telephone was seen. The tram lurched, the man lurched in his seat, his clothing shifted above his large belly. His naked flesh, baby-like, helpless, pleaded his innocence.
Now the young woman moved. She leaned forward and sideward, her angular face closing on the man’s. She said something I did not catch. The man did not catch it either. The woman’s lips moved again and I was able to read them. I saw the words, Can I help you? The man saw, or heard, too. After some time he spoke, now facing the young woman, his back to me. I had no clue what he said or asked. But the woman was nodding, Yes, yes, all the way to the city. You’re on the right tram. Her face, still close, relaxed and opened widely into a smile. The girl nodded again, her smile shone upon the man. Eyes locked, the two sat for a time without moving.
At length the man sat back in his seat and relaxed, unfolding himself, pouring himself liberally into the space left around him by peak hour riders keeping a fastidious distance.
The sun lit the man’s tight black coronet of curls. Those curls crouched as a perimeter around his bald patch that I could now see gleamed in the morning light. The tram rode on a short space, then stopped. The young woman rose and walked towards the exit. I did not want her to leave, not yet, not before I could thank her, bless her.
The tram stopped, the woman descended and I watched as her slim form weaved a colourful path through the city crowds.
A lovely, uplifting story to read first thing in the morning.
Thank you HCG
I’ve been wondering how you are and what you are working on?
Warmest wishes from bleak Oz to you in hot UK
I felt as you did
I watched it all unfold
The self-possessed girl
The unusual man, large, unconnected, strange
The unexpected and fearless approach, her discreet kindness
His slow uptake, his eventual recognition of her meaning
The meeting of their separate beings
The closeness that was slow to fade
The man no longer alone
The glow that transfigured the girl’s ordinary features
I left that tram uplifted and feeling blessed
That is an example to us all, Howard. It sounds like she has a heart of gold. It is remarkable how a simple smile can transform us. She must have a great inner peace.
Grace sounds like a young woman of good and kind heart. I am confident she would have disposed of the banana peel in a responsible manner. Old fuddy duddy that I am I have never understood the attraction of a nose ring, unless on a bull.
The first thing that struck me about the woman on the tram was her composure, her apparent ease eating in the public gaze
I was impressed by her thoughtfulness and restraint with the banana peel
I expected she might feel repelled or at least anxious being almost
Cornered by this large person behaving in such a highly abnormal manner
And what does she do?
She sees the human beneath the surface mess and she sees the human alongside the internal chaos
And she approaches him
She offers to help him
The young woman was no beauty
But when she smiled her face glowed with pleasure
She lit up the tram
She reminded me of the quiet goodness of everyday folks
It was a blessed thing to witness that tableau
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But what happened to the banana peel?
Good morrow good Anna
You are up betimes!
The banana peel was lost to sight
It is lost to the narrative,
Lost to its creator
Storylovers will lament the loss forever
Unless and until
The young woman be found
And reveal all
G K Chesterton ,the great jewhater, wrote beautifully (in the Club of Queer Trades) of the faith of Major Brown, who owned that mysteries come to us whose answers will not be vouchsafed to us in this
life. But in a life beyond this, all will be revealed.