The Banana Thief

Did you steal my bananas?
Did you steal my bananas?

Libby was a girl I shared a dormitory with one winter.  She was bubbly, colorful, and cheery on good days, and dramatic, loud, and pushy on poor ones.  So goes cohabitation, a mixed bag like Forrest’s chocolates.  We met when she moved in, and she came from a tiny country I’ve only ever heard about in the movies.  Of course, I didn’t want to tell her that, and rushed off to go look at a map.

Our second day was rocky.

I was drinking one of my many daily cups of tea when she came over to ask about my life, and family.  She had excellent stories about cooking at home, and we both commiserated on the high price of groceries in Iceland.  $12 for a 1/2 pint of blueberries is cost prohibitive to students, families, and everyone really.  She asked if I was married, and said there was a guy back home for her, if only he’d make up his mind.  Then she asked, “And you’re a Christian?”  We talked about it for a while.  I told her about my parents and grandparents, and my family traditions growing up.

My beliefs are my own, deeply held, and, while not identical to my parent’s and grandparent’s, they stem from a complex combination of family, culture, and individuality.

Thank you Iza, for this sheep picture that helps me demonstrate: Now is not the time for this.
Thank you Iza, for this sheep picture that helps me demonstrate: Now is not the time for this.

It turns out Libby had not been looking to have a conversation.  She told me that she, her family, and everyone in her country is deeply Christian, and she was ‘disappointed with the lack of Holy Spirit’ found in Iceland.  She’d never been anyplace where people openly admitted to being gay, or not Christian, or thought it was alright to have children before marriage.  Then she told me It’s your responsibility to develop your relationship with God, and rely on him in all things. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself when you end up in Hell’.

That’s not a nice thing to say to someone.

I still think about that, grinding my teeth together in frustration, because at the time, I was too appalled to think of anything to say to her.  All I can tell you is, in that moment, I felt thoroughly disrespected as a person.  Do I judge you for the specific branch of Christianity you believe in?  Do I tell you you’re confused, the Jewish are the chosen people, and you’re not meek enough to inherit the earth?  Even if I thought that was true, I would never say it to you; Besides being incredibly rude, that’s a form of religious persecution.  My beliefs are my own, and being agnostic, Catholic, atheist, worshiping the Sun God Ra, or anything else you choose has absolutely nothing to do with me.

I respect you enough to let you make your own decisions in this life.

Things got tense after that.  Libby checked in a couple of times in the following months, asking if I had seen the light yet, and telling me to attend sunday service at a local church with her.  Let me tell you, I wouldn’t have gone to the grocery store with Libby.  After my third “No thanks, I’m actually headed to ______ this morning” she got a little more passive aggressive.  Libby began to play Christian rock on her computer in the living room, loudly enough to drown out the T.V.  If I was talking with anyone else about an interesting news article, or being stressed about classes, she’d interrupt with ‘See, that’s proof God is watching out for each and every one of us’ or ‘Put your faith in Jesus he will lift your sorrows’.  I usually ignored it, but got a lot of satisfaction once from telling her ‘I’ve actually just got a headache, aspirin will probably get me a more immediate response’.  Heh.

If you’ve made it this far you’re probably wondering, what on earth does this have to do with bananas?!?

Where are the bananas?!?
Where are the bananas?!?

Well, I’d taken to mostly ignoring Libby.  I’d told her some of the things she was saying made me uncomfortable, and the only change that brought about in our relationship was that she now sang hymns whenever we were alone in the common space together.  Full volume, singing in the back of the choir style, hymns.  On this particular day, I saw Libby opening all the kitchen cabinets.  She would look, and occasionally reach up for something.  That’s normal in a kitchen, unless of course, you live with a bunch of roommates, and everyone has there own individual cabinets.  So, I asked Libby if she needed to borrow something.  ‘No’, she said, and went back to her room.

Around that time, but perhaps a couple weeks later, I went into the kitchen to grab a banana (See, there are bananas in this story!), and realized one of my last two was missing.  María, another roommate, was there eating cereal, and I asked if she’d borrowed one.  We often borrow supplies from each other, and she’s great about replacing everything within a day or two.  “No.” She said, “But I meant to ask if you’d grabbed my skyr the other day, like half of it’s been eaten.”  Ah well, we thought, it’ll be replaced by whoever.

The next week, two of my bananas got eaten.  I asked every roommate if they’d borrowed one, but they all said no.  The week after that, I went to bed with two attached, beautiful, yellow and green-tipped bananas on the counter.  When I woke the next day, one yellow banana lay there on it’s side, across from one mushy black banana, white mildew creeping up it’s end.  This continued, for months.  A couple of the roommates suggested I’d just mixed up how many bananas I had, or maybe I hadn’t noticed one getting ripe.  But let me tell you, I’m a bit particular about fruit.

This is all mine.
This is all mine.

The facts are:

1) Every week I go the the store and buy precisely 18 pieces of fruit

2) 6 of those fruits are bananas.

I eat 2 pieces of fruit a day, and sometimes want an extra one as dessert.  Two each day is 14 pieces (one at breakfast and one after class to hold me until dinner). 4 are left for when I’m feeling spontaneous.  I know exactly how many bananas I have at every moment, of every day.

Things were disappearing from the kitchen.  Someone lost a couple of frozen hamburger patties, and everyone was short on cheese.  The roommates asked a couple of times if I’d borrowed their fruit, because they knew how much I like it.  Someone’s box of cereal was gone, and they’d just bought it yesterday.  We were all pretty flummoxed.  Nothing like this had happened before, and we wondered if the stress of school was getting to us.

Then came the terrible incident of the stomach flu.

I’m particularly susceptible to influenza as an adult.  I get it a couple of times a year, for 1-3 weeks, although the record was 4 times in one year, one of which lasted 5 weeks.  It had been going around campus for ages before I caught it, and when I emerged in the common space, pajama clad and carrying my hot water bottle, the roommates knew what was coming.  I was too sick to read Harry Potter, so I occupied the couch and watched movies 1 through 7 over the course of three days.  I’m a pathetic sick person, but have been tremendously lucky with roommates the past couple of years.  They made the appropriate sympathetic noises, and sometimes stayed to watch a movie or two in between classes.

The morning of the fourth day I woke up feeling like I could eat something, and put on clean pajamas to go get toast and a banana.  As you may have foreseen, someone had eaten my last banana.  I would like to think that my reaction was less… dramatic than I remember, but I doubt it.  I haven’t hit that level of hysterical red-zone since 2005, and probably not since toddlerhood before that.

Fueled by hunger, illness, and the angst that comes from the dashed hopes of a missing breakfast banana, I unleashed my wrath upon the roommates.

“Who would do such an unbelievable, horrible thing like this?!?”

“What kind of monster steals bananas from a sick person?!?”

“I cannot believe this, I… You… I can’t…!”

Bring me my @*&!!% bananas!
I NEED my BANANAS!

I prowled the room like a velociraptor, arms tight to my chest, swinging my head back and forth looking for any sign of weakness.  The roommates, most of whom had been peacefully eating breakfast at the table, stared at me.  Finally María managed, “I definitely didn’t take your bananas, but I would be happy to go buy you some, right now.”  I’m pretty sure I told her I wanted my own bananas.  Exhausted and cranky, I went back to bed and slept until the afternoon.

When I woke up, I found four beautiful, yellow bananas sitting in my fruit bowl, and María asked if I was feeling better.  I ate one, and did.  I apologized to everyone, and then we compared notes on what was missing from the kitchen.  Most everyone had food from their fridge shelves or cabinets missing, and a couple had meat from the freezer gone.  We resolved to keep a closer eye on the kitchen, and saw a couple of incidences that were odd, like when I asked Libby why she was eating the lettuce I planted, or when María asked her why she was looking in Gudrun’s cabinet; it didn’t come to anything.  We talked with Libby a once or twice, but you just don’t want to accuse someone of stealing if you’re not sure.

The 2 things I am sure of are: Nothing else went missing after Libby moved out, and my acceptance and respect for the life choices of others does not extend to the terrible, awful, monsters of the world that steal other people’s bananas.

Sincerely,

Bettina

Note: This was the very fist blog post I wrote some moths ago.  It could use some re-writing, and if I told the story today I’d do it differently, but reading through it gave me such a clear picture of what I was feeling at that moment, that I want to keep it in original form.

I’ve been waiting since August to publish it, it is my tiny revenge 🙂

Another Note: The sheep clock photo comes from my friend Iza.  It doesn’t showcase her photography as much as it’s an excellent example of her quirky humor.  Her blog is in Polish, but the pictures tell a story all their own.

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