Its almost flamboyant the way your leaves tower out of you. Bright green fans reaching up and out, as if dancing, or like wings flying. Your energy is infectious, dangerous; but even your spiky patterns feel like an invitation, a reason to smile. You’re proud of this. You’re proud of how you stand out in the fruit bowl, towering above all the rest.
You wanted me to stand out too. You wanted me to learn to be proud.
You’re not here, in the ‘fruit bowl’, anymore, but you’re part of me. I’ve learnt to see the world in all its textures. To embrace the spikes, the greens and browns, the danger. You’ve left behind your signature sweetness, sharp and sour – a taste I’ll never forget.
You taught me how to get drunk. Red wine, sometimes Rose. Now, I’ll drink anything. But with you, I remember the grapes.
When I think of you, I find myself squelching on red. It’s getting everywhere, all over my clothes, my skin – and that stuff stains. All over the floor, there are tyre tracks – great big circles dancing over and through each other. Soon you’ll be holding my hair as I’m being sick. There’s a big smile on my face though, painted in red:
‘You’re a terrible influence on me, you know.’
‘You are too!’
You always encouraged me to get naughtier and naughtier. Just one more drink. It’s like before you, I didn’t know I was a 25-year-old woman – prime time to be crazy, to give myself up to drunkenness:
‘Never take life too seriously, Hannah.’
Yes, you taught me to squelch through life. To stomp down on the grapes, rolling beneath my wheels – to make something beautiful.
I never thought I’d be able to let go like this. But here I am, wilting like a sunflower, grown too tall for its pot. That’s what happens, about four drinks in, my body just gives in. Forgets its pain.
You adjust the straw accordingly, of course, so that I can still reach it even when I’m completely doubled over. The ‘leaning tower of Hannah’, we used to call it. A sight like no other. At the pub quizzes this image only gets better. We never settled for normal straws, oh no. We got ours exclusively from Ann Summers.
By the end of the night, I’m laughing so much I’m falling into you, dissolving. I no longer know what answers to put down, but that doesn’t matter, because I do know, in that moment, that this is what happiness is.
And this is just what the doctor ordered. Well, he said that having one glass would work the same as my pain medication – so I guess seven is even better!
You taught me a lot of things. I’ll never be able to remove the stains that circle around me and on me – their red is a reminder that to live is to welcome the wilting, to dance as I dissolve.
Making me laugh is dangerous. Especially when there’s milkshake involved. You should know that.
‘They said it would be fun. Come work for Hannah, you’ll love it, they said.’
It’s dripping down your face now, staining your tracksuit. I’m still laughing. You’re swearing, a lot. Strawberry Potty-Mouth.
‘Oh fuck, I smell like sour milk!’
I can’t breathe now. I’m just hanging out of my chair, dangling over like wobbling jelly. The more people stared, the louder your jokes got. We didn’t care what they thought, we never did.
We’re sat at home now, a punnet of strawberries between us. It’s been a while since the Milkshake shower, but as you put a berry in my mouth it all comes back to me. Your bright red hair framing your face falls onto a top I now see again covered in milk.
It doesn’t smell sour to me now, though.
I don’t say anything, I just watch you continue to eat the strawberries, as their red tinge seems to complete the make-up on your face.
You will always remind me that what seems like a sour mess might just be a memory waiting to happen.
She needs to check her emails. Her diary is bulging with appointments: so many places she’s got to be; so many people she’s got to call. It’s a busy life, keeping the wheels rolling (and making sure they don’t fall off, either!). It’s just another day in the office. She sighs deeply, falling back into her chair, her head in her hands. How is she going to manage this all by herself?
Enter: the PA. Small and mighty. Filled to the brim with energy. Sweet, inoffensive but raring to go. There is nothing dull about her – she’s all colour: deep purple and full of life. She gets out her notebook: time to make a list.
- Respond to emails
- Check the calendar is up to date
- Check the rotas are all covered
- Call to make that appointment…
‘Oh wait, I need the toilet’
That’s right, the job description is not exhaustive. My ‘PA’ has to move me to the bathroom, hoist me up and, well, help me with everything else too. And later, if I sneeze, she has to wipe my nose. Then she has to prepare my meals, sometimes she has to feed me. It’s always a big mess. Then there is the cleaning. Then moving me again. Then checking for pressure points on my body, four times a day. Then there’s the physio exercises – fighting against my body. Opening up hips that don’t want to be opened. Stretching hamstrings and feet – pulling out toes that want only to claw together.
This is just another day in the office.
My blueberry, bursting with energy and enthusiasm – despite all of this. There’s a reason they call you a super-food. Truly small and mighty.
I normally don’t like the formality of calling my care workers PA’s. It seems to be too cold. But when I become that woman whose diary is bulging with appointments that aren’t just medical, I’ll be proud to call you my PA.
On the outside you were quite tough. Quite conservative, like you were holding in lots of layers.
You were only 25, but much older than your years. You had an air of sophistication – like you’d go well with some posh dark chocolate.
But you were quite fresh too – so different to what I was used to. You attended reading groups, you spoke about university. You were refined, held together by thick skin.
But once you allowed me to peel back your layers, I was surprised at what I found inside. You were a bundle of contradictions: shy but outgoing, sensible but silly, plain but beautiful. Each segment distinct, your own.
You brought into my life so much more than what I first expected. Talking to you brought hours of stories that seemed cut straight out of TV dramas. It got political at times too. Here, we were poles apart, but you brought out the debater in me. You brought me out into the world, and showed me how to be true to myself and my beliefs. It was there we found common ground.
On the outside we’re both tough, our defences up, until someone peels back our skin to find the segments that hide inside.
Banana (a letter to the self)
You’re the type of the green that promises yellow. A green that comes at the start, recently plucked from your bunch. Your skin is tough, taught. It has to be.
You’re cradled by wicker, a bed of tightly woven willow branches. There is strength here, too. One that pulls in different directions, its patterned squares like arms embracing. Like the people who have supported you throughout the years.
We all play our part. The Grape, the Strawberry, letting go and being okay in the mess. The Pineapple and the Orange, being proud and being true. The Blueberry, the might, the strength.
And what about you? Your green, your yellow, is made important by the colours around you. Reds, oranges, browns. They follow your lead, just as you follow them.
As the sun hits you, and time passes, your green gives way to yellow, and spots dot your surface. This is when you soften, sweeten, ripen.
All around you, walls break down and soften too.
Everyone plays their part, brings their colour. And no matter how hard or how messy it gets – that’s what makes a fruit bowl, that’s what makes a team.