Over the course of my life, I’ve met thousands of people — tens of thousands, perhaps. Between store clerks and coworkers, bus drivers and partygoers, I might meet a couple people every day for the first time, and, usually, for the last time. And I’ve been alive for what, 7,500 days now? Jesus, that’s depressing to think about. I mean, 7,500 days and what the hell do I have to show for it? Chest hair, that’s what. I’m just one shave away from complete emptiness.
Anyway, my point is that there’s just a goddamn planet’s-worth of humans out there, and the more of them I meet, the more it occurs to me just how isolated all of us really are. Sure, I have some good friends, a girlfriend, a family — all that nice, wholesome stuff. But ultimately we’re all just ourselves: brains on spinal sticks, walled off from other walking brains by skin and bone. No one can truly know me, because, well, no one else is me. Although I guess you all know that I’m pretty weird by now.
What you are certainly not aware of is that I was once a banana smuggler. Should you have prior knowledge of my potassic exploits, I highly encourage you — if only to maximize the limited number of days you have remaining on Earth — to consider not stalking me any longer. After all, we each only have the tiniest nothingth of eternity to leave our mark, so why spend it following somebody else? That’s something I’ve never understood about college: this desire to follow the beaten path, to achieve that which has already been proven achievable. If I’m going to be an isolated brain on a stick, I might as well go where no brain has gone before. In other words, I might as well smuggle bananas.
To understand my banana smuggling is to truly grasp the very essence of who I am. Firstly, and crucially, I like bananas. There’s not much sense in smuggling something if you don’t like the stupid thing to begin with. I mean, theoretically, I could’ve been running some sort of Crossroads black market. Of course, because I didn’t sell my bananas, I must’ve thieved for the fruit alone.
Wait a minute, do I like bananas? To be honest, I still haven’t really thought about that part. I suppose I must, or else I’d be totally insane. Shit: Maybe I don’t like bananas. But I digress.
Secondly, I had limited access to food when I started at UC Berkeley, or rather, I had a limited supply of motivation. And given that acquiring food in college takes some degree of movement beyond walking to the kitchen, I found myself locked in a constant mental struggle between laziness and hunger. Anyway, it was awfully convenient to have a source of sustenance lying around my residence hall room. In fact, it was beyond convenient: It was probably the sole reason I didn’t starve to death. So yes, I did take snacks back to my room whenever I went out to eat, but only to satisfy my life-and-death need for accessible nutrition. And, as ice cream and hamburgers — both somehow mediocritized by the Berkeley dining hall — were difficult to stuff into a backpack wholesale without making a mess, bananas seemed the obvious choice to alleviate the situation.
The third reason I smuggled bananas, I think, is that I love the exhilaration of crime. Not crime like murder, per se. More like driving my uncle’s police car — sirens blaring — over trash cans, or trespassing into a Little League at night and tipping over trash cans, or smuggling home a backpack loaded with bananas, eating them all at once out of some strange desire to prove the world wrong, then hiding the slippery peel evidence in an unlucky trash can. Why did I enjoy such a strange pastime? Once again, I have no idea. Maybe it made me feel alive. Maybe it made me feel unique. Or maybe I just hate trash cans.
I began this meandering rant talking about how none of the many people I’ve met really, deeply know me — hence the banana example. But as I failed to make sense of my own yellow-peeled stupidity, I realized that I don’t even know me; I’ve merely met me. The horrible truth is that I’m not sure exactly why I smuggled bananas. The real reason might just have been that I needed to do something — anything — to convince myself that I wasn’t just another collegiate brain taking classes for my major, that I wasn’t just another person blindly following the path to the top of a meaningless corporate hierarchy.
Despite my best efforts, though, I found it increasingly difficult to stray far from that path. As the semesters rolled on, I worked harder and harder to stay on course, to maintain a 4.0 GPA, to get promoted at my job, to imitate friends who could never see the person I really was. And the scariest part of all is how well I succeeded in pursuing other people’s dreams without knowing my own. Banana smuggling certainly wasn’t the best way to express my uniqueness, but I still wish that I had the courage to run away from the comforts of the expected.
Hopefully one day I’ll fully understand why I smuggled bananas, and then, if I’m lucky, I can finally figure this whole life thing out. Because if there’s anything I know about myself — and I’ve only just learned this — it’s that I fucking hate bananas.