There is a banana lady in every town.
You might have to look for her, but I would advise against this. She is not someone you would like to meet.
You may find her on a less popular side street in your neighborhood. She is always facing the opposite direction from where you are approaching. She sits on one of those medical rollators, dressed in a white nightgown. Her fingers are short and stubby and they are always peeling a rotten banana. They’re her favorite.
I found ours by mistake.
I live in a quiet suburb in northern Florida. The winters are cold here, lacking the typical sunshine of our southern neighbors. I work in an office about fifteen minutes from home. I live alone, and that is how I like it. My days off are spent relaxing; reading, writing, watching movies, avoiding all human contact if possible. I have a simple, boring life and I had every intention of keeping it that way.
Until I found her.
I was driving home from work one evening in early January. It was about fifty degrees and raining hard, and since it was a Friday I was racing to get my weekend started as soon as possible. I sped up to get through a yellow light at an intersection about two blocks from my house. To this day I regret how anxious I was to get there. I was so close, and if I had slowed down for the light maybe none of this would have happened.
Maybe I never would have found her.
My little ‘99 corolla hydroplaned in the middle of the intersection. I panicked, and swerved to the right, running my car up onto a curb and sliding down the sidewalk of one of the neighborhood side streets. The car came to a stop just before ramming into a lamppost, narrowly missing extensive front-end damage and probably hurting me as well. That would’ve been the least of my concerns.
I was fine, save for a spell of heavy breathing and a few “oh my gods” as I sat on the sidewalk and watched the rain continue to pelt my windshield. I realized I had never been to this area of the neighborhood before, which wasn’t strange since I didn’t get out much. I looked out my passenger side window and saw several large houses looking over me on a small hill. They seemed to go on forever, each with perfect lawns and perfect little fences and not a single light on in any of them. This was odd, especially because it was only about 7:00, but even more alarmingly for the lack of assistance if I had caused a commotion or was seriously injured.
The rain was dying down now, and I turned to look out my windshield. Somewhere further down the street, I spotted a shape in the middle of the next intersection. It was too small to be a car, maybe a motorcycle, but I thought I could definitely see the shape of a person sitting on whatever it was.
I still have no idea what compelled me to do what I did next. In a split second decision, I got out of my car and started walking towards the shape in the road. I think part of me wanted to be a hero. If it was someone who had wrecked, just as I almost dramatically did, I wanted to be there to help as no one seemed to be around to do for me. I left my car where it was and walked, slowly, in the yellow light of a single lamppost and the cold, light drizzle of rain.
As I approached the intersection, the shape became very, very clear. It was one of those medical rollators, dark grey and worn and a tennis ball where one of the wheels should have been. I didn’t think until much later how the thing could have moved at all without the fourth wheel. It was stopped directly underneath the traffic light. Not a soul was around. No cars, no people, no lights on in the houses. I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable, and even more so when I saw what was sitting there.
It appeared to be an old lady, hunched over, with her back to me. She wore a long, white nightgown that hung to the wet road and was soggy and dripping at the bottom. She had a short bob of silver hair, and dark liver spots all over her neck and what I could see of her arms.
But then I noticed more of the details. More disturbing features. Her ears were incredibly large, half ovals that took up most of her head. Her fingers were short and stubby, but claw-like, and working feverishly in front of her. I approached her from the side for a better look, and saw her fingers peeling back a banana. It was entirely black and rotten, and gave off a sweet sickly smell that made me nauseous. She took off the black peel and tossed it aside, then jammed the rotten mush into her face, ravenously chomping it and smushing it all over her mouth.
I forgot where I was. I forgot about my car, about the rain, about standing in the middle of an intersection where there should have been tons of cars passing through. I was in a trance, watching her feed on this disgusting banana, and all the while she paid no attention to me. I knew she knew I was there, for at my angle anyone could have seen me, but she was so focused on eating that she did not bother to look in my direction.
I continued to watch as she licked the rotten juice off her stubby fingers and wipe the residue from her lips. And as soon as the banana was completely gone, she reached into a brown satchel at her side and pulled out an equally disgusting banana, repeating the process over again.
I watched her for probably ten minutes without saying a word. She must have eaten twenty or thirty bananas in that span, all one after another, never tiring or giving any indication that she had enough. It was like she was satisfying a hunger, a ravenous hunger for rotten bananas as if all her energy relied on them.
I decided that this had gone on for too long. I stepped closer to her, which was a mistake, and spoke to her, which was an even bigger mistake.
“Ma’am?” I said, trying my best to sound like I had normal concern for an old lady in the road, and not the kind as if I were concerned with someone eating like that.
Mid-bite, she paused with rotten glob in hand and turned to look at me. I now saw her face, that hideous face that has haunted me ever since. Her large ears were brown and hairy, covered in a dark fuzz. Her face was equally hairy, and her cheeks a pale yellow and stuffed with food. But it was those eyes I will not soon forget. They were strikingly white, almost glowing, burning like white flames and staring into my soul. I was frozen, looking into these eyes and seeing a raging fire burning bright behind them. I saw all the traumatic events of my childhood; my mother storming out, my father drinking himself to death, my best friend being killed in a car accident. But then I realized that the last one had never happened. My best friend Bryan and I were heading to the midnight premiere of a movie that night, one of the few times I welcomed human interaction. He was alive and well.
I looked further into her eyes.
I saw my car, crushed and mangled and rammed head-on into a lamppost. I was outside the car looking in, where my friend Bryan was in the passenger seat, his face torn and bloody. And then I saw fire. I saw white flames engulfing the vehicle and heard Bryan’s screams of agony as he was burned alive, trapped inside and there was nothing I could do.
And then everything faded away. The flames turned black and I was moving backwards, further away from the car, my hands extended to try and reach the door to pull Bryan to safety. Everything was dark.
I woke up in the street, my head pounding with an incredible ache and my clothes soaked in water. I lay on my back, staring up at a traffic light, the rain falling steadily. I sat up and looked ahead, and there was no sign of the banana lady. There were lights on in the houses and people watching me from their lawns, people running to me from their cars. I heard shouts of concern and shouts of panic. I was dizzy. I saw more people coming towards me and yelling, “Are okay? Are you okay!?” But just as many were running right by me. I turned my head slowly, looking back down the street, back to where my car had run up on the curb and narrowly missed a lamppost. It was still on the curb, with a massive crowd surrounding it.
And it was burning.
Credit: A.E. Madden
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