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emma jackson

is a Buffalo native and second-year UB English student. She likes art, breakfast foods, and moving from one place to another.

And He Only Bought Bananas:

A Short Story About the Surreality of His Existence

You’re in Wegmans.  You’re standing behind a cash register, scanning items, bagging items, doing your job.  Register number four.  Paper.  Plastic.  Nickels.  Dimes.  Twenty-dollar bills.  It’s a busy afternoon, and the faces of the customers change so quickly they all seem to blur together.  All their voices become one, a chilling discord.
      Among the never-ending nasal buzz, the endless whining of children, the constant pop hits subtly breaking the static of the loudspeaker, you hear a man’s voice say, “Hello.”

      You shift your gaze toward the conveyor belt.  On it lies a single bunch of bananas.
      The cacophony around you suddenly halts.  The lights dim at the end of each aisle, until the other end of the store — which is now inexplicably empty — is completely shrouded in darkness.  The market has become a void, but you do not notice.  You simply notice the man standing before you, and, taken aback, address him:

      “Oh, hello, Mr. Secret.”
      “Hello,” he repeats, giving a slight upward nod.  His tone is calm.  He emphasizes the second syllable, for which he lifts his pitch upward as well, only to let it fall as the last sounds of his seemingly mundane greeting hit the air.
      You nod absentmindedly as you observe two children standing beside him.  They are remarkably quiet.  They look too young to be so serious, but they give you the same polite, somewhat awkward nod as their father.  Their faces display no emotion.
      The ceiling has grown above you, the darkness at the end of the aisles has crept nearer, you have become so small... you do not notice.  You look at the bananas.
      “I’ll just have these bananas,” he says.

      You look up.  The words are echoing throughout your mind, empty but for the phrase.  The phrase which he stated so matter-of-factly, so passionately yet somehow simultaneously so nonchalantly.  You can hear the period fall at the end of the word “bananas” following his descending tone.  A quieter voice in the back of your mind — still his — tells you that God is blind to this interaction.  You do not doubt it.
      “Alright,” you reply.  You pick up the bananas, which are much too heavy.  You do not notice this, nor do you notice the darkening of the ceiling above you.
      You scan the bananas.  A price shows up on the computer screen, but you don’t notice this either.  You are only aware of the unfaltering eyes of the man and his children, breaching reality and resting upon your very soul.
      He raises his right hand, pointer finger outstretched, and inhales, as if he is about to make a point; however, he simply closes his mouth (you hear an audible “mhm” — again, there is an upward shift and subsequent rapid fall in his tone as the sound progress) and nods, lowering his hand and moving it instead to his back right pocket.  His hand emerges, now holding a worn black leather wallet.
      He removes a credit card, gray and emblazoned with the image of the whistling “original” Mickey Mouse.

      “We... chip,” you find yourself murmuring.
      “Ah, yes. The chip.”  There is a heavy emphasis on “chip,” which is again spoken at a slightly higher pitch.  He nods, furrows his brow slightly, and inserts the card into the card reader with intense focus.  There is a beep, and, satisfied, he removes his card and reinserts it into his wallet, which he then reinserts into his pocket.
      He picks up the bananas, nods at you, and begins walking away, followed closely and silently by his two children.

      You do not realize they are all walking perfectly in sync.  They are also walking in time with your own heartbeat, but you do not realize this either.  What you do realize is, the bananas have not been paid for.

      “Wait, Mr. Secret,” you call out.  For all the vastness of the space around you, your words do not echo.  They instead hang in the air, and gently fall as he turns around.
      “Did I pay for it?” he asks.  You slowly turn your head from left to right.  He sighs, and walks back.  His children remain standing several feet away from you.
      He once again removes his card from its resting place, and inserts it into the reader.  As before, it beeps.  He lifts his head and looks at you, his brows raising quizzically.

      You nod.  The transaction is complete. He nods back at you.  You turn to look at the computer screen, and when you look back, he is gone.  You turn again to the spot where his children stood moments ago.

      They are both gone.

      You look around you, and finally you notice the darkness that looms before you.  You can only see a few feet into each aisle, and the ceiling above you has been engulfed as well.  Wegmans has given way to an impenetrable void.  You hear nothing but the sound of your heart beating, ever so softly.  You are alone in the last corner of the universe.

      You blink.
      Suddenly, the regular noise and light and close quarters of your workplace return to you.  Another customer stands where he stood, just a moment ago.  How long was it?  Logically, such a small transaction would have taken a mere minute, but this exchange... this exchange felt eternal.  You scan the items that the conveyor brings toward you and try to recall the exchange in its entirety, but you are quickly forgetting it.
      You stand before register number four with an overwhelming sense of dread that you cannot quite place.  You greet customers.  You scan their items.  Their faces and voices blend together, and you are consumed again by the routine, until your shift ends and you return home.
      You take a shower and go to sleep.  You dream of a single bunch of bananas, and wake up in a cold sweat.

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