She stood there looking at the produce for a suspicious amount of time. The bananas were bunched together in large, happy groups. She hated to disrupt them. Beside her stood a man emitting a ton of bad energy. Apparently he was impatiently awaiting his turn to pick out bananas, but Perry was an unapologetic picky producer chooser.
Perry also felt that she never quite lived up to her name. The gender fluid ode to a pear tree was all too stately and classic, she felt. Perry constantly felt like she was trying to compete with such a trendy name when she herself was about as far from trendy as the Republican party was from giving a damn. She often asked why her parents didn’t go with something more systematic like “Nicole” or “Margaret.” Nonetheless, the name was Perry, and she was still standing beside the bananas with a vacant stare. Perry, the pear tree.
The man finally huffed past her and grabbed a large bunch of about seven bright yellow bananas. He tossed them in his cart and walked away. Perry stood, perplexed as to why he made that decision. Those bananas were probably only good for one more day. Either he had many people in his life who loved bananas, or his life was too rich to worry about a few bananas going bad. Whichever the case, Perry envied his nonchalance. The man either had all friends in the world or not a care in the world.
With subtle precision, Perry took three bananas, each from separate bunches. One was all yellow, no green. One had faint green stripes along the angled edges. The other was almost completely green. Enough for the 3 days. Each one would be perfectly ripe by the time she sliced them for her morning cereal.
I boarded the tiny speed boat under protest. No one had told me we were going out on the water, so I hadn’t left my cell phone behind. No case on my phone, and I had no pockets. I clenched so tightly to my phone that my knuckles were white. When I looked around the boat, passengers seemed familiar, but I couldn’t be sure. The captain said we would be traversing a pretty congested area of the river, so the boat would be converting to plane for a few miles or so until we dodged the traffic. The force was oppressive as we lifted into the air, and water sprayed at us from all sides. I looked down to all the minuscule boats that trickled by beneath us. My phone suddenly became slippery in my hands, and I looked around for anyone who had a safe place to store it. I pressed the home button. No one had texted me yet. As quickly as we ascended, we began to descend. More like fall. My stomach fell too. Instinctively reaching for my sinking stomach, my hands lost the phone and it skidded on to the floor of the boat. I dove after it and saw its screen was cracked and the keys all wet. Clambering back to my seat, I heard someone call out to me. “Put on your seatbelt! We are about to land!” Beside me sat my cousin. Why the hell hadn’t anyone told me to put on my seatbelt? What’s more, why hadn’t I noticed my cousin sitting right there? The captain of the speed boat yelled for us to brace for impact. Frantically I reached above my head to pull down a sturdy lap bar like everyone else had. Looked almost like one from a theme park roller coaster. Then I realized I only had a flimsy rope with a broken clasp. “Help me!” I called out to my cousin, the captain, anyone who would listen. “I don’t have a seatbelt. Please help me!” I had a choice: hold on to my phone or the flimsy rope. I held to the wet rope, and my hands burned as it started to slip away from me.
Perry woke up the next morning looking forward to coffee and breakfast. She hadn’t slept very well after the stressful dreams. Actually, she just didn’t go to sleep after waking from them for fear of picking up where she had left off. Her mind had a vindictive way of continuing dream sequences even after wakefulness and late night bathroom trips had disrupted them.
Coffee drained and dripped, making a gurgling noise as the last of the water perked through the filter. Perry sliced the first banana into paper-thin slices and placed them into a bowl of cereal and almond milk. Spoon by spoon, she rationed the banana with each bite of cereal.
After breakfast, Perry sifted through her clothes and picked an outfit. Getting dressed in an outfit that made her feel somewhat confident was a good start to the day— also just incentive to get out and interact with the world. Jeans, plaid shirt, and sandals. The day had so much to offer if she were willing to take hold of it. Perry got in her car and drove around downtown trying to decide what to do. Coffee shop? But she already had coffee at home. Brunch? But that was too expensive and eating alone made her anxious. Library? It was closed on Sundays.
Perry drove around the same series of blocks nearly a dozen times and went back and forth over the bridges. The gas handle neared empty. She smiled, recalling the time when she and her best friend had been driving around together, so consumed with a hilarious NPR piece that they’d neglected to see the gas tank dwindle to fumes. They ran out of gas on a random, hometown backroad. Until Perry’s dad arrived with a gas can, the friends played hide and seek in a sunflower field on the roadside. It was one of the best days. Perry missed it. Last year her friend had moved to Pennsylvania with her boyfriend. They didn’t talk much anymore.
Impulsively, Perry reached for her phone while she waited on the long red light. The battery percentage was low. Shit. Must’ve forgotten to plug it in the night before. Great excuse to head home, Perry thought. She pulled back into the same parking spot, walked inside to greet the solitude, and closed the blinds. She folded her clothes neatly across the footboard of her bed. She’d wear them again tomorrow. Wearing only her underwear, she slid beneath the cold sheets, carefully placing her phone (which was now safely plugged into a power source) beside her pillow. The volume was on loud.
I walked along a narrow pier watching the sunset melt into a bizarre color palette that I’d never seen before. There were greens and odd hues of orange flaming up from the retreating sunshine. Looking to my left, I saw a figure approaching. I had nowhere to go except off the pier or directly toward the person, so I just waited and hoped they’d dissipate like dreams often made people do. The figure didn’t go away, though. Instead, a crowd multiplied behind the figure, and each became more familiar then the last. The main figure came ever closer, too close. The figure stooped to one knee and slid a wiry bronze ring on my finger. It was the kind of ring you get in a gum machine— the kind that turns your finger green. In the center of the ring was a geometric figure of a white tiger’s face, it’s mouth open. “We knew you’d love it!” came a chorus of voices behind the proposing figure. It was my family. “We helped organized everything!” I stood speechless, looking at this figure stooped in front me. I had no idea who this person was. How did my family know what was going on? Had they planned this? And for God’s sake, who told them I would like a fake ring with a white tiger on it? It was all fake. Everything fake. I rubbed my eyes trying to recall the person I’d made such a lofty commitment to— someone who apparently thought it was okay to propose to me on this pier underneath green skies. Swiveling the ring around my finger, I could already see a slight green stain. I pulled the ring but it wouldn’t budge past my knuckle. My hands began to swell, and my head filled with water. I ran away from the figure, closing my eyes in anticipation of the pier’s end.
Perry woke up and brushed the hair from her eyes. Her pillow was damp with spit. Dreaming usually caused her mouth drift open, thus making pillowcase-washing a twice-per-week venture. Perry reached for her phone. It was at 100% with no notifications. And damn, she had slept all through the afternoon and night. It was the following morning.
Coffee drained and dripped, making a gurgling noise as the last of the water perked through the filter. Perry sliced the second banana into paper-thin slices and placed them into a bowl of cereal and almond milk. Spoon by spoon, she rationed the banana with each bite of cereal.
Perry began another day. She grabbed the same clothes that had been folded at the end of her bed. The smell of fresh deodorant still clung to the fabric. Perry went driving again, this time with intention. There was a cafe on the outskirts of town that served what she considered to be the best chai latte in town. Feeding quarters into the meter, Perry calculated the time— how much time she needed, how much time she had. The quarters clinked inside the machine.
“How many?” asked the host at the front.
“Just me,” was Perry’s reply. She wished she had the confidence to say, one please!
“We get pretty busy with big parties this time of day, so is okay if I seat you in this little half-booth in the corner?”
“Why not,” Perry replied.
The host took her past tables overflowing with happy people and tables where couples sat together on the same side. That looked fun, holding someone’s hand and feeling that across the booth would just be too far away. I bet those are the type of people who buy bananas with abandon, Perry thought. She sat in the corner booth and waited for the server.
“My name is Naphtali, and I’ll be taking care of you today,” the server said with a robotic tone.
“What does your name mean?” Perry asked. Oddly abrupt.
The server didn’t even seem taken aback, but answered as if it were part of the greeting routine. “It’s Hebrew for wrestling or struggle.”
“Do you identify with your name?” Perry prodded.
“I think we all struggle to some degree,” the server replied, “so yes— I suppose so.”
“Don’t what? Struggle or identify with your name?” Naphtali prodded.
“Identify with my name,” Perry replied, solemnly. “Can I get a chai latte to-go please?”
I sat inside the dank house with no real trajectory. A convergence of feelings— hiding, waiting, and searching— made each motion feel heavy. That’s how dreams always made people feel, right? I couldn’t quite pinpoint who I hid from, but it was someone disapproving. I couldn’t quite tell who I was waiting for, but it was someone I loved. I couldn’t quite figure out what I was searching for, but when I thought of it, I felt purpose that burned away the musty film in the room. The explosion of sentiment had me burst outside, running aimlessly, just hoping the right person saw me (or didn’t see me.) If I moved fast enough, I could evade the person I feared, find the one I loved, and discover where I was actually headed. Running brought me to an underground subway. Just so happened, I had a ticket in my pocket that granted me passage. I sat alone, the subway car swaying to-and-fro on the tracks.
The alarm woke her up. It was the first time in a long while that Perry had actually set an alarm. She denied the snooze setting with purpose, made note of there being no notifications on her phone, and nodded to herself calmly. It was still dark outside.
Coffee didn’t drain or drip on this morning. It made no gurgling noise as the last of the water perked through the filter. Perry sliced the very last banana into paper-thin slices and placed them into a bowl of cereal and almond milk. Spoon by spoon, she rationed the banana with each bite of cereal until she’d reached the last.
Putting on the same clothes as the two days before, Perry stood. She decided to make her bed and flip over the pillows so the spit stains wouldn’t show. She left her apartment that morning, not even bothering to lock the door behind her. Perry drove and drove, approached the sleepy town then circled around again. The same song was on repeat in her car. It was one of those instrumental songs with dramatic pauses and hopeful lines that lifted, then broken away in minor disarray.
Perry remembered being in 2nd grade and the teacher asking each student what their favorite words were. Kids spoke up with words like “happy,” “Halloween,” or “unicorn.” They all yelled in unison. Perry remembered covering her ears and pulling a piece of scrap paper from her desk. She buried her head in her arms, scribbled a word on the paper, then walked to the front of the classroom. The teacher unfolded the paper, and her eyes looked perplexed. Perry thought it was because her teacher was surprised at such impeccable spelling skills. Instead of admonition, the teacher simply folded the paper that read “melancholy” and put it in her pocket.
Perry began to drive over the bridge again. The darkness was starting to dissipate into another day. The bridge was empty except for a lone figure walking along the pedestrian designated area. As Perry got closer, she recognized the figure to be Naphtali, the server from the cafe down the road. Perry pulled over, the headlights from her car nearly blinding Naphtali.
“What are you doing?” Perry asked. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah– Walking to work. I work opening shift at the cafe.” Naphtali’s eyes were still shielded and squinting through the headlights. “Better question is, what are you doing? I’ve seen your car driving back and forth. You look pretty suspicious, you know?”
Perry paused then replied, “Just thinking.”
“Well you’re wasting gas,” Naphtali replied with a grin. “If you’re not doing anything later, come by for another chai latte. And maybe stick around this time?”
Perry didn’t answer the question, just looked away intently.
“What?” Naphtali asked.
There was more silence.
“My name is Welsh,” Perry said. “It means pear tree.”