Somewhere, lost in Yemen, there stands a banana tree. Not just any banana tree…your banana tree. And your banana tree grows tall and fruitful as all banana trees should. Otherwise they would not be banana trees at all. They would just be trees, or, even worse, seeds resting upon dead soil. But your tree is a tree. Your tree is a banana tree and beneath your tree is an empty chair made of ancient mahogany.
On some days people come to the chair to sip coffee with God but most of the time find only you. They say you seem close enough, though you too know so little of anything holy. And they bring you their problems to see if coffee can drown them or at least to test and see if the bastards can swim. Some problems will drown away beneath the strength of a particularly powerful brew, but most slurp the Belgian bean roast up, making them new problems altogether; more indignant and dastardly things. And the people cry and cry until you convince yourself that they are all oceans, and if you look at them like a reflection you can’t help but think to yourself that you really are quite ugly and alone here.
And those broken little problems cry. They wonder why you hate them and why you don’t love them like you do those whom they call home. And you wish to help them too, but you can’t, or won’t, or shouldn’t, or haven’t, or something. The beasties curl their knees tight to their chests dissolving themselves into little balls clutching tightly to tattered issues of Calvin and Hobbes, promising themselves that one day life will resemble those pages.
You see all their pain and wonder where all the caretakers went off to. Why no one will hold you like they hold that book. All you want is to know them, to call them all by name, scoop them up into your tree’s branches, point to the stars and say “that one is yours. That one is how you remember that I love you”. But you possess no words to convey this love…so you bawl until you wash them all away and they too become oceans, or ocean, and you really are alone in this world, except for one girl you find lounging beneath your banana tree.
Her name is Guanchala, but she calls herself Gigi. She loves listening to people sing from their depths. “There is treasure buried there”. Her depths sound like Joni Mitchell and raindrops gloriously pitter pattering against pavement. And she always smells of petrichor. She says she knows home as the place where souls and nerves all touch at once, until the edges of where she begins and you end become indistinguishable. Often she builds tire swings amidst your branches and lets her feet dangle in the void separating soil and God. On certain nights she sneaks into the valley, scales the branches and reads to you excerpts from Zora Neale Hurston. She “soaks in the moonlight glow and the soprano hum of passing lightning bugs” until she overflows with light and songs. The beauty mark at the edge of her mouth arches toward the heavens as she radiates words from within the worn beige covers of her collected stories. “She was the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop.” She tells you of dreams of sailing away from all this loathing one day; That she shall “stow away upon the S.S. Lewis and sail with you clutched tightly in one arm and her tattered beige book in the other.” But, she never asks you to help her find that boat. She is more concerned with what the two of you will become on any given day.
“What does your face look like today?” In these moments you are not alone. You are there and she is there. The two of you sit on the shore digging your toes into the sand. You look out onto the crashing waves of the ocean and upwards into the stars hanging heavy against navy skies. You take turns calling each star by name as they implode before your eyes and become dust. Now there is only man, woman, and a tree. She buries her fingers into the rich chestnut soil and holds you in her cardigan-covered arms. Stardust floats down into soil. The cries of the ocean no longer sound of sorrow, but of wedding bells. The two of you rise and begin to march towards the altar waiting beneath the banana tree.
more by JENNER PAULSON
Photograph by Charles Black