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Banana Blues

February 2002 

Ten years ago.  That’s when I first saw it– a long, yellow, rubber thing, steered by a speedboat, whooshing vertically across the sea.  A banana boat.  That’s what this silly thing was called.   It skipped across the water with life-vest clad humans perched precariously astride its slippery back.  It zipped here and there bringing its passengers to varying levels of hysteria until, finally, it lost its balance, sending them crashing into the waves.


Okkkaaayyyyy, I thought.  Why would I want to go to the trouble of getting on something so that I might eventually fall off it? My husband flashed me a look of cultivated exasperation.  Or was it boredom? Whatever it was, he meant to say I was being pompous about something as basic to life as fun.  It was just a banana boat. People rode it.  For fun. Harrumph, we both grunted at each other.  Still, this overripe, steroid-overdosed, ocean-traversing- phallus-fruit was a bit over the top. I was simply never getting on it.


I am anal, true. Obsessed with reason. Boring. A colossal killjoy. Call me by any name and on this subject, I will gladly own it, but my antagonism towards the banana boat has little to do with my aberrant psychological profile. I just don’t like weird things zipping back and forth across the sea. To me, the ocean will always be a vast expanse of rarely disturbed blue.  That’s what I rely on it for.  I don’t like jet skis or strange rubber shapes careening across it, leaving a trail of diesel, causing random disturbance on that rollicking patch of azure heaven. When my city-ravaged body hurls itself into the ocean, I want nothing but wave sounds to catch it, bird songs to cheer it and only the purest of breezes to flirt with it.


Then I became a mother.  First chance he could, my husband took our son –you guessed it- on his first ever banana boat ride.  Okay, so it made a cute picture.  The product of our love and combined gene pool on a genetically engineered banana.  Cool. Of course I made sure no one would fall off this banana, at least not until my son was big enough (hopefully married with children) to fall into the water and not be forever traumatized. I made everyone swear that no untoward event would cause the untimely banishment of this fruit from his diet. So there they were, the slowest banana boat on the ocean. I was appeased.


Sensing his victory, my husband moved in for the kill.  Next vacation, he presented the family with kayaks—a silent way to explore the ocean.  It was great exercise, too.  We would all be fit, tanned, exemplary citizens of the sea.  We would not harm the precious ocean with noise, fuel and other poisons from crazy little motor-driven inventions.  We would paddle.  Be one with the waves. This was more like it.


Joy and appreciation were still etched on my face when it happened: the proverbial dropping of the other shoe.  As the kayaks were being readied for our first trip, I saw it–yellow, resplendent and unabashedly proud to be the only fruit impostor in this part of the sea.  Our very own banana boat.  And on its back my precious, heartbreakingly enchanted boy. Right behind him was his Papa, sporting what was surely the widest, most triumphant grin ever to break a human face. 


What do you do?  I was now reluctant part owner of a banana boat.  I bore my fate with dignity and grace. Still, I wouldn’t ride it.  It was a bonding activity exclusive to father and son, I said to my husband reverently; something that was theirs alone.  I delivered this gift with utmost sincerity, my eyes almost glistening with tears. He nodded, hovering between suspicion and gratitude.  In the end he settled on the latter.


It was back to city living for a while.  We moved into our new home just as a beautiful angel staked its claim on my womb.  Life overtook us and our sea adventures were kept to a minimum.  My condition was looked upon with extra love, respect and devotion. The banana boat disappeared mysteriously, as a fallen relative hushed away to mull his tainted future. For a brief spell, I had my ocean back—pristine, quiet, safe from big yellow intruders.


Until last year.  With our little angel safely welcomed into the world and the family once again in rhythm, we hied off to Boracay. I hadn’t been there in years and didn’t realize it had become the Edsa of the sea.  We were in the water five minutes when it made its presence felt.  Ahhhh.  The ubiquitous banana boat (now with it’s sister, the double banana boat and a friend, the crayon or pencil boat).  Once the family had settled in, our very own banana was pumped into full glory.  And so we were back.


This time, I was prevailed upon to ride.  Seeing one whiz by every five minutes must have hypnotized me as I found myself agreeing, entranced by my little boy’s shining, sheepish “please”.  Please Mama, my husband mimicked, with a hint of vicious glee in his voice. Okay, Mama would ride the banana boat, but only if it is taken across the ocean as a boat and not a banana—whatever that meant. And so it was.  Of course this event had to be recorded for posterity but by then I was too overwhelmed by my own acquiescence to protest.


It was all right, I must admit, especially since we cruised rather than zipped.  I relaxed and allowed the faux fruit to take me where it might.  Alas, the unusually nippy Boracay air became too much to bear.  And so this Mama asked to be brought back, cutting short the historical ride.  Later, I overheard my husband telling my son that mamas shouldn’t really be allowed on banana boats because they got cold and always wanted to go back. They shared a brotherhood guffaw. It made me smile. Deliverance at last.


And so I have learned to live with it.  I may not ride the Herculean industrial fruit again but at least I gave it a chance.  What can I say? I like to swim undisturbed. I don’t want to have to keep checking for rubber rings, noisy Un-boats and giant fake fruit plying the waters ready to injure my innocent vacationing head. Really. Death by banana boat.  We all want our lives to be peppered with fun, but comedy is not something you want to surround your death.  Imagine all that stifled giggling at the wake, not to mention the facial contortions of the person brave enough to deliver the eulogy.  But that’s taking the issue south.


The bottom line is, I’m an old fashioned girl.  I travel the sea by legitimate boat, like my oceans quiet and prefer my fruit in a bowl. Really, is that too much to ask?

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