About a month ago, I was waiting for the train for my morning ballet class. Okay, technically it was afternoon, but who is counting other than the clocks and the sun and the strange people that are in bed by ten pm? Seated on the platform bench, I had just started a new book. With my bag the size of Brooklyn that was holding the entire day's worth of activities on my lap and my elbows strategically propped up on this convenient carry-along desk of a Santa bag, I nodded my head up and down in complete agreement with the reflective dialogue between the author and me.
When I got to about my sixth nod, I realized there was a man's voice entering into the dialogue, and in fact, as I became more consciously aware of my physical surroundings, I realized that for the last three and a half nods that man had been saying something to me in a forceful tone. Removing my fixation from the page, I lifted my chin to meet the gaze of a man who was standing right in front of me with a very earnest expression. Aware of my ability to go into the zone (and by "zone" I unfortunately do not mean the zone of an athlete where shear greatness can be achieved, but rather the zone of someone who runs through every neurotic thought at once, thereby cutting oneself off from the immediate outside world so much so that being pulled directly up into a funnel cloud and landing in a different city might go unnoticed) that I immediately panicked on the inside.
"Is this man trying to tell me that there is a fire?" I thought. "Did someone just try to abduct his child? Did I just miss, yet again, a giant seven foot snake that went right by my head?" (Yes, that recently happened.) Calmly closing my book and maintaining outward dignity, I looked the man in the eyes and said, "I'm sorry?"
"Gimme money for food!" he said gruffly. Slightly disappointed that there had not, in fact, been a seven-foot snake, and slightly annoyed that this man had tricked me with intonation into thinking that this was a life or death situation, I was very confused. "I'm sorry?" I said again, this time not because I hadn't heard him but because I needed confirmation.
He said with even more violence, "Gimme money for food!!!!" Fighting back the urge to remind this fellow of my mother's most uttered motto that you can "catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," I took a big breath, inhaling the situation and exhaling the passive-aggressive response. And as the negativity seeped from my lungs and out onto the subway platform, I felt as if the morning grump escaped with it.
And that's when I saw it. Like a beacon of golden light, it was the answer to our problem! Atop my very necessary and now magical bag of pointe shoes, almonds, tennis ball, books (yes, bookssss), and mason-jarred green tea, was my perfect, I reiterate perfect, Banana. I capitalize the word "Banana" intentionally because it deserves it. This heavenly Banana was absolutely flawless. I had groomed it from Day One, when I purchased it, plucking its green potential out amongst the rest, knowing from the start that on Day Three, when all the colors of its rainbow would align to create one monochromatic coat of yellow, I would be able to partake in its splendor. I had spent the night of Day Two anxiously awaiting and anticipating, eagerly planning the post-ballet class ceremony. The day of no green and certainly no brown. And the morning of this appointed date, after I crammed my equipment into my bag, I strategically folded my "normal person" clothes on top, gently nestling the prized Babe in its very own pocket of protection.
Looking down at the beacon and jumping with Disney princess glee, I shouted, "Here! Have my banana!" Delicately plucking Banana from the folds and tempted to give it one last kiss before I sent it off on its true destiny, I nearly soutenued as I extended it in offering to the starving man.
"Gimme money for food!" he said with equal anger to match my naivete.
Mid paddle turn I stopped, absolutely stunned.
For what seemed like three years, I was frozen in confusion in B+, my right hand holding Banana, my left hand delicately holding the edge of my imaginary skirt. "Gimme money for food?" I thought. "He doesn't understand. He must not understand that I am giving him my perfect banana!"
Snapping back into railway reality, I half sighed, half laughed, "Go ahead! Take my banana!" almost adding the word, "Silly!" at the end but then cutting myself off when I saw the man's face go from what I had assumed was hangry to now what seemed more along the lines of murderous.
"Gimme money for food," he slowly growled.
Still slightly confused but starting to let it sink in, I slowly lowered Banana to a gentler level. "But I'm giving you a banana," I whispered.
Taking a deep breath that nearly sucked Banana back up, the man yelled once more, "Gimme money for food," changing what was once a semi-normal NY occurrence into an uncomfortable situation that would lend itself to either the crowd laughing in hysterics or calling the police immediately. All eyes on us, my eyes partly filled with tears of rejection and partly piercing with protective rage for Banana, I retorted, "Well, if you took my banana then you wouldn't need money for food!"
And then, as if I was the one who was clueless, the man gave me one more stare down, saying with his eyes, "How dare you not give me what I ask for." Likewise, I stared him down, thinking "I know what you really need. And it's nutrition. And I wanted to give up Banana for you. But you don't get it."
And with the blink of our eyes, he walked away, leaving me with a platform full of stares and ironically a bad taste in my mouth.
I sat on the bench and wondered why he didn't see things my way. I wondered what he would have bought with the money he wanted from me. Pizza? A donut? Ho Hos? And those are probably the GOOD scenarios. I just wanted to help him. Give him what was best. What his body needed. No, it wasn't kale, the world's best rated nutrient-rich food, but it was better than a Ho Ho! And it made me angry that he turned down what I had intended as selflessness.
I placed my martyred banana back in its nest and slowly made my way back to my book. Blinking away potential threats of tears of hurt and disappointment, a word on the page caught my eye. Fruit. I kid you not. I read the paragraph, which talked of the great fruit that we are given everyday. And I thought about my own fruit. Not just Banana, but everything else. My health. My family's health. My current employment. (Note: if reading this after September 21, 2014, please replace the word "current" with "past".) My friends.
And then I think about how many times I have asked for, begged, and secretly demanded things. Gimme this job. Gimme this role. Gimme this commercial so I can buy this apartment. And I realize maybe I don't know what is best for my life after all. I may think it's that job or that role. And I may have nothing but good intentions. I may believe I would make the world a better place if I just had XYZ. Just like that man may think that he needs that money for food.
I like to think that there is Someone looking out for my best interest. Someone who knows just what I need. Someone who patiently listens to my requests and empathizes with the desires of my heart, but has far greater knowledge of my path than I could ever imagine. Someone who guides me away from rooms of latency and perhaps even destruction and ushers me down the hallway toward the room that was made up for no one but me. Someone who, when I beg for money, takes me by the hand and leads me to the biggest, most beautiful and fruitful Banana Tree.
I have a ways to go, but I like to think that I will become more accepting of my bananas. That when given them instead of money or a job or a role, I will respond not with another demand but instead a grateful heart and a word of thanks. Perhaps I'll eventually stop asking for jobs and roles and money. Hey, I might even stop asking for bananas. I may just learn to say, "Point me toward the kale."