Gail Louise Siegel

Wilson Dreams of Banana Peels

In my son’s old room (my office), the original Les Miserables playing in French, trying to work myself up to a little scribbling. I scrawl these words in a small notebook with a blue Uniball Vision. There is no comparison between typing and the gut-level, sensual pleasure of watching ink transmute into ideas, mountains, symphonies. Magic.

Now, as I type them into a document, the words look manufactured, stripped of anything personal. Your words (whoever you are) lean like my words. Your sentences are the same font, conform to the same margins, as mine. I’d love to read books in the writers’ cursive, with their misspellings and forgotten commas.

But, to my topic. Saturday. On Saturday I was driving from one Chicago suburb to another with my husband Wilson, to lunch with my family. It was my brother’s birthday. My husband, crutches propped against the door, was berating me about my behavior. My behavior in his dream.

“You and Jennie,” he said. “You had invited all of these people over to the house.” Apparently it was the bungalow Jennie and I had shared on Dewey Street in Ann Arbor in 1980. Thirty-five years ago. Or perhaps the one we three all shared on Ashley Street two years later.

“I just wanted some coffee, but you had, for some reason, let everyone bring their own coffee maker.” He was agitated. “The sink and counter were a mess. Coffee makers everywhere. I couldn’t believe it.”

“Wilson,” I said. “It was a dream. Why are you mad at me about something that happened in your dream?”

“It was ridiculous. Jennie Spitz is never staying with us again,” he insisted. “She had all these banana peels stuck them to the backsplash behind the kitchen counter, so they were drying out on the walls.”

“Oh,” I said. “I know where that came from. She. Or we. Used to wash out and dry plastic bags.”

I could see them, in my mind’s backward-looking eye. Plastic bags suctioned to the drab, yellow tiles. Ziplocks tented over big wooden spoons in the dish rack. Years later, when I had children, I told Jennie I’d abandoned re-using plastic bags for fear of germs.

“Still,” Wilson repeated. “Banana peels? It was disgusting. I couldn’t believe it. All those people. She is never staying with us again.”

I braked at a traffic light at the corner of Kostner and Howard. To my right, a park. To my left, the Tiny Tot preschool that my sister had attended against her will 45+ years ago.

“Well,” I said. “I will call Jennie tomorrow. I will tell her.”

He was still exasperated. “There was this woman at the party. She was a documentary filmmaker. I ran off with her.”

“You ran off with the filmmaker?”

“Yes,” Wilson nodded, happier now. “I did.”

I lifted my foot off the brake. We were three blocks from my parents, my brother, his wife (and his girlfriend). My husband would hobble through the revolving door on crutches like a man in a slapstick comedy. Like a man living his life. I would give my brother a coffee table book about Italy. A handy doorstop for a 50+-year-old man on unemployment.

And I would call Jennie in Massachusetts on Sunday, lie back on the living room couch and indulge in a long chat. I would forget to tell her about the banana skins. We’d be too busy talking about Les Miserables.

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Gail Louise Siegel’s work has appeared more places than she can count, mostly because she is disorganized. FRiGG, Ascent, Salamander, New World Writing, Matter Press, Smokelong Quarterly and Post Road are among them. She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives outside of Chicago.