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Could the old man in the banana suit, sitting across from me in the corner of the train, mumbling obscenities, half-caked in his own vomit, be feeling the deepest sort of loneliness he’s experienced so far in his seventy-something years on this planet?


Was the costume a party prop? Was he mad? Where were his friends? Why was no one looking him in the eye? Could the alcohol tracing his veins be the solution to his wife’s new life without him? How long did they sit through the daily struggle for pleasant conversation over breakfast? Does he still only occupy half the bed when he sleeps? Do the two of them have one son? Why hadn’t they spoken in months? When was the first moment he realized that his son disliked him? Was his son a good kid? Did his son do well in school, stay out of trouble, make the all-conference baseball team as a Freshman but never quite impress his father? Was the day his son was born the happiest day of his life? Was the day his mother died the saddest day of his life?


Was his son conceived on a passionate night of drinking at an office Christmas party as the banana-suited man’s wife kissed the then-Santa-suited man on his white-furred lips before stripping him down to nothing in the janitor’s closet? Had they just been laughing about how their boss always combed aside his hair in the same finicky way? When he first met her at a meeting, did he say out loud: “Wow,” as he shook her hand? Did they laugh about it afterward?


Could he have gotten the job in an effort to outdo his father, a failure, a drunk? Did he graduate from college to outdo his father as well? Were any of the friends he made in college true friends? Would they stick around? Did his mom raise him well? Did he tell her everything? Did she live well on her own? Did she shed a single tear when her husband was killed? Was he even sad? Was he old enough to know what was going on? Did he know that his father was in trouble with some bad people? Did he know that each time they had to move was an effort to keep his father out of trouble? Did he know exactly how his father’s kneecaps were broken by the full force of a Louisville slugger?


Did he eat dirt as a child? Was his face always so rosy? How was he to know? What is to be done? Why is it like this?


Was he born into this world a poor wrinkly thing, sobbing and waving his arms and sniveling and begging: please, no? Before that, was he just a thought? Or was he a sign, maybe? Did he appear in the margins of ancient hieroglyphics as something scholars couldn’t quite figure out? Did he float way up over the trees, tugged this way and that by the passing winds?

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