I had never seen a banana gallop like a horse, until that day, when I held one in my hand and decided it was a horse, rocking it back and forth on the table, its beautiful yellow coat shining in the shaky fluorescents, oh, the slickest I’ve ever seen. I had taken it from the bowl on top of the fridge, just like the others, but this one was different, for a reason I can’t explain. It was a beautiful and interesting horse, I decided, so that I’d have somebody to keep me company all the time. Much better than a person, yes. Some people keep plants and water them, or tend to vast collections or trash, but I wanted a horse, merely for the fact that I had seen one before. Do you know how they move? Smooth.
I didn’t know much about the horse, or any horse really, but I thought it was impressive that I could know one. I should be grateful. That’s the secret to being happy, I think, so I took pride in it. It was the most valuable thing I had, everything I’d ever wanted, right in front of me. Something living, breathing. This horse had chosen me, and I owed it a full life, whatever that means.
I had no idea how to take care of something so new, so I just stared at it for a while. People like me don’t own horses unless they’re the kind that somebody found in an abandoned barn. But this horse made me feel like I was really somebody, and for that I loved it. I didn’t want people to pay attention to me. I wanted them to pay attention to my horse. Then maybe they’d forget about me. Think of the free time I would have if I only had to worry about a horse instead of my personality.
This was a big change, loving something even though you’ve never loved before. In the beginning, I made sure his peel was tidy, everything was soft, and I took him to work with me, nestled between ice packs in my lunch box. I wanted my coworkers to see the new thing I had, something they didn’t have, despite the hassle of them noticing me. I couldn’t stand my manager, the one that told me she wasn’t a union woman, in place of saying good morning, every morning. “They take too much from me,” she’d say. And for twenty minutes, she’d explain that, next thing we knew, everybody was going to be using the same currency. “Can you imagine anything but the dollar?” she’d squelch down the spaghetti sauce aisle. That was her favorite to stock, so that’s where she’d sound most confident. Maybe I would have believed her if she wasn’t missing her left front tooth. But she was just a human woman, the only other lesbian I knew, which made me feel lonelier.
Nobody noticed my horse, even though I arranged it very respectfully on the breakroom table, on a napkin even, to make sure I didn’t scuff his skin. I prepared conversations in my head, word for word, waiting for someone to compliment me, just like I knew they would.
“Nice horse, young lady!” at least one person would say, but I should anticipate several more.
“Thank you. Purebred. I bought it myself,” I would say.
I thought maybe I should mention it makes me look rich. Sometimes people don’t respect you unless you’re wealthy or spiteful, and saying that means both. Somebody once explained to me that you’re supposed to marry for money or love, and now, I didn’t have to settle for either. I’m self-made, I told myself. Respectable people own horses.
“Haven’t you ever seen a yellow horse?” I said it in my head, knowing they hadn’t.
“Oh, I’m not familiar with the breed,” they’d say. I’d tell them all about it.
“Yellow horses are convenient because they make no sound, not one. Hairless. Don’t worry about shedding. Compact. Put it in your pocket. You have to be careful when you feed a horse though, any horse, since their teeth are as big as one of your fingers. You can feed him if you’d like. Here,” I’d say, “take a carrot.” I’d say, “Gentle, gentle,” very soft to his stem so that they could see how bonded we were. But he wouldn’t eat. “Oh, he mustn’t be hungry.”
“Horses are supposed to love carrots, you know,” the manager would say. Then I’d get frustrated because how could they think they know my horse better than I do?
“How do you know anything about horses,” I’d say. But secretly I’d know it’s true, he hadn’t eaten one bite since I got him. He was looking thin.
I bought him a loaf of sourdough from the bakery, because I read in online magazines that it was popular now, fluffy and hearty, the type of bread that makes you feel self-reliant. When I placed it in front of him, he seemed to grow smaller, and I noticed the bruises for the first time. I asked him if he would like some butter. He was silent. Then the flies came, the small fruit ones. They swarmed as his skin turns brown and hairline wrinkles formed. He didn’t move.
I wanted to say that he’s sick. Please, please can you help my horse? Then they’d ask me what kind, and really, in all honesty, I’d say I don’t know, but I love him.
“I hear you’re supposed to eat them before they go bad,” someone by the vending machine said.
“That will help?”
“I think so.”
So I did eat him, I’m doing this for your own good, horse, I said. I listened for a sound when he hit my stomach, and after a moment I heard a gurgle. I’d like to think he said goodbye for the first time, so I whispered it back. Goodbye.
Taylor Craven is a recent graduate of Allegheny College. She lives, works, and writes sometimes from western Pennsylvania.