...Som loved his aunt — and the forest behind her wooden house and the lake where he went fishing for white snapper — but not her bananas.
Definitely not her bananas.
His mother though, told him his aunt’s bananas were good for him. They were the special ones. Couldn’t he see how he was a head taller than the other boys in his class at school in Khanom, and how all the girls smiled at him when he rode by on his bicycle? So he’d eaten bananas when his aunt gave him two from a bunch, and thought of Yoo, the girl he liked the best.
He imagined going for walks with her in his aunt’s forest — he could hold Yoo’s hand when she got scared by the dark and cobras — but he was too shy to ask. Yoo had to be the prettiest girl in the world even with a tooth missing; why she smiled at him, he didn’t know. Maybe she really liked him. But she also smiled at Tom, and stood close to him at assembly when they sang songs about the King.
The King was old now, and he was in hospital in Bangkok, so his mother said. But his pictures on the calendars were from when he was young and handsome. Som wished he could be King one day, and then Yoo would become Queen.
His mother was like the Queen. And he loved his mother very much, and felt sad for her when she cried at his father’s resting place in the temple grounds amongst the grass that needed cutting.
Maybe he could be a monk, instead. Shave his head, wear orange robes and sandals, and visit the village houses with a begging bowl at sunrise. Collecting fruit and packets of sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves. After breakfast he would cut the temple grass, and his mother would smile again. But he couldn’t have Yoo, so that wouldn’t work...
...Part of the forest had been cleared, and Som gazed at the rows and rows of young plants, gently swaying in the warm breeze. They went back as far as his eyes could see. The closest seemed to be inviting him to touch and feel their tender leaves. He looked sideways at his aunt. He hadn’t seen her like that before. Her eyes twinkled like stars and she had a smile on her face that made her seem beautiful — like the ladies in his mother’s magazines. She reached out and held his hand. While her hand felt warm and comforting, he wished it was Yoo’s hand.
He felt a tear drop onto his cheek and run down his face to his lips. It tasted salty. ‘Thank you, they’re lovely,’ he said, while thinking maybe Yoo would be his girlfriend now he had many bananas...