It is a hot day, and in natural consequence, the high street is a hive. The fruit stall sits behind the pavement, a beacon, Mother Nature’s exhibit of all her colours. You’re a long-time supermarket shopper but ignoring this display would feel like sticking two fingers up at the world itself. Bananas are the safest bet. They won’t get battered as easily as something like a peach and can easily fit in at the top of your bag, even with more shopping to still be done.
The stall is handled by a man about 10 years older than you, and a girl around your age. The man seems to be more interested in attracting new customers with his shouts, while the girl is a people person. She looks happily surprised when you make your request – most people are probably concerned with much more exciting things than buying fruit today. Handing the bunch over to you, you absorb the sincere smile that is missing from many a retail worker (not that they can be blamed). You will be buying more bananas.
First it is bananas as a snack, then sliced bananas and peanut butter on toast for breakfast each morning, then weekly batches of banana bread. During one desperate episode, with groceries running low, you consider bananas with pasta. Only consider.
You don’t ask her name. That isn’t so important. Everybody has a name. Not everybody has eyes that silently reassure you, even though their owner doesn’t really know you, and you don’t really know her.
You’ve set banana pancakes as your next culinary quest when you find that she isn’t there. You ask the man about her. She’s in hospital – got bitten by a stray spider hidden among the bananas. She was lucky to have not stopped breathing entirely. The venom from the spider causes asphyxiation, apparently. Still, she’s in a sorry state. The man is going to be going it alone for a while.
The next week, it feels too odd to not follow your now-ingrained routine. The man says that the girl is recovering well. You realise that the scent of the oranges reminds you of eating the citrus fruits among a large bowl you shared with your grandmother, sat in her garden watching the way the soft breeze blew kisses across the grass. You recall that the colour of the purple grapes is that of the hand-me-down lampshade that you used in your bedroom in your first apartment. You purchase a passion fruit, because you’ve never had one before. You stop off at a café and search “rare fruits” on your phone.
She is back the following week with a bandaged hand. She smiles her smile, knowing that you cared about her, and says that she’s doing ok now. She isn’t such a fan of bananas now, she jokes. You buy apples today, for a crumble, and neither of you mention that anything has changed. The crumble will be delicious. You know it.
Amber Aspinall is a Creative Writing student from Kent, England. You can follow her on Twitter: @Amber_Aspinall.
Image: Mahdiar Mahmoodi