The Non Believer
“I don’t know.”
She continued gathering my costumes - the Caribbean woman whose job it was to gather the performers’ costumes. Man, did she really hate that job. I don’t blame her. All she did was clean, steam, and hand out a warehouse full of costumes to a bunch of wannabe actors, writers, and directors.
I stared at and examined the striped pajama top and bottoms. And then the large, furry, yellow head.
I lifted the ticket and read. “It says ‘Bananas In Pajamas’. Have you ever heard of them?”
Caribbean Woman shrugged.
“I really don’t know. I’ve never given this out to anyone. It’s brand new.”
I consulted with one of the company’s owners, and she explained that this was a popular children’s show in Great Britain called – unsurprisingly – “Bananas in Pajamas”, and that it now was gaining popularity in the U.S.
“What do they do? Or how do they act?” I asked.
“They’re just super silly characters with English accents. Just be goofy with an English accent and you’re golden.”
Excellent. I was to be a golden banana. With a really shitty fake, British accent.
I do remember this weekend being insanely hot, because prior to this show, I’d performed in *another “head costume” (costumes when you have to wear a fake head over your own. Most companies pay a little more for this type of costume. This one did not.) and downed two big bottles of water afterward, and was still thirsty. Quick theorem I developed:
San Fernando Valley + summer temperatures + head costumes = possible renal failure.
I can still picture the back yard of this house: Concrete deck, swimming pool, and not a damned sliver of shade. Not a single tree in sight. God dammit, that pool called to me with its siren song.
“’allo, kids! I’m a Banana in Pajamahhs! ‘ow are we doin’ this ahfternoon?” I announced as I entered the party, feeling 100% of the dipshit I must have appeared to be.
I inquired (or “enquired”, as I was British, you see) as to the birthday boy’s whereabouts, and I was quickly led to a toe-headed 4 year old in short pants, playing by the pool. I knelt beside him.
“’allo, birthday boy. An’ what’s yooor name?”
I saw two little eyes peer through the translucent eyes of my costume. There was a pause. Then:
“You’re not real.”
He said it just like that. “You’re. Not. Real.”, as though he had never been more certain of something before in his life. I’d like to believe I gave him his first opportunity to feel true pride. I panicked, hoping none of the others heard.
“Of COURSE I’m real! I’m ‘ere, aren’t I?” (I picture myself doing some sort of clod-hoppy, stupid, bouncing dance to prove I’m a real…whatever I was.)
He stood, looked me dead in the eyes (again, MY eyes, not the costume’s) and repeated himself, like the bad guy in an awful action movie:
“You. Aren’t. Real.”
Regardless of the sweltering temperatures, I broke into a cold sweat. What the fuck do I do? I have to spend an hour entertaining a kid and his friends who will probably utilize the time by trying to yank off my head and screaming, “Faker! Faker!”
Resigned to my fate, I decided that honesty would be my best course of action. I whispered:
“Okay, you’re right. I’m not real. You figured me out. But,” I paused and pointed to the group of his friends getting situated for my show, “THEY think I’m real. Can you keep a secret and help me make them believe?”
This was a major roll of the dice. If he understands my point, excellent, I have a clean slate and can start over. But if he can’t comprehend what I’m saying, or if he simply calls bullshit, I’m fucked. In the ass. With a banana. Wearing pajamas.
A crooked smile crept across his face.
He proceeded to grab my hand and lead me to the party goers, announcing that I was a REAL Banana in Pajamas, and that we were to do whatever I said.
I don’t recall how the rest of the show went, if I face-painted kids or opted for the crappy magic show, or if my kidneys shut down under the sweltering blanket of the sun, but I did learn that if you show a child respect, they might, just might, give it right back.
Or they could possibly tear off your head.
*I’ll let you in on a little secret: Those poor suckers you see in the head costumes? They can’t see SHIT. Especially tiny children that are knee to waist high. I’m sure I have trampled more children than Godzilla did Tokyo highrises.