Bananafish Chit-Chat

“Ask me something else, Sybil,” he said. “That’s a fine bathing suit you have on. If there’s one thing I like, it’s a blue bathing suit.”

Sybil stared at him, then looked down at her protruding stomach. “This is a yellow,” she said. “This is a yellow.

“It is? Come a little closer.”

Sybil took a step forward.

“You’re absolutely right. What a fool I am.”

“Are you going in the water?” Sybil said.

“I’m seriously considering it. I’m giving it plenty of thought, Sybil, you’ll be glad to know.”

Sybil prodded the rubber float that the young man sometimes used as a head-rest. “It needs air,” she said.

“You’re right. It needs more air than I’m willing to admit.”


This is from the second to last scene in J.D. Salinger’s short story A Perfect Day for Bananafish. It carries on like this, with a few inlaid comments as Sybil bends down to scoop up a fist of sand or the young man steadies the floating device with Sybil secured on top. But mostly it’s just this bright, quick dialogue between them. J.D. Salinger has an incredible knack for slangy, natural dialogue that can fan out an entire character in a single line. The story ends with a great tragic turn that definitely adds plenty of mystery and thoughtfulness to the rest of the comparatively idle story. But still, these lines of sparkling chit-chat are far and away the best part of the story. I’ve read the dialogue between the man and Sybil over again at least ten times, like it’s a years-old IM conversation between me and an old friend. There’s something so savory about each line, sparkling with its own personality. I think I could read an entire book of Seymour (that’s the young man, never named when he’s actually present) parlaying nonsense with Sybil or anyone he likes talking to. I think I’m only just realizing that what draws me to this dialogue so irresistibly is that it reminds me of some conversations I used to have with a strange old friend who I met when I was around 11 and kept in touch with for about ten years after that, at least through the first couple years of college. Except for the few conversations we had that were deadly serious they were mostly utter nonsense on either end. I just dug up one of our old chats from ten years ago. And just for the context of the chat, I called him by a nickname that wasn’t in any way related to his real name, but neither of those names was “James” which I just pulled out at random:

me: hello kiiidd

KZZ: hey

me: what’s doing?

KZZ: nuthin

me: hey do you know who hasn’t sent me an e-mail in awhile? i’ll give you a hint it starts with e and it rhymes with “lawn”

me: get it

KZZ: no hahah

me: his name’s eon

me: get it?

me: like the distance in space

KZZ: yea i sorta get it

me: get your head together

me: it’s simple mathematics

KZZ: well honestly i don’t know what in gods hell you’re talking about

me: blasphemy!

me: how dare you take the lord’s name in blasphemy

KZZ: sorry

KZZ: it called for it though

me: i don’t think he’ll understand

me: you son of a wench

KZZ: how do you know it’s a he

me: ohhhhhh

me: you got me

me: i should take this up with the authorities

KZZ: you don’t have to

KZZ: its not that big of a big deal

me: you’re talking in circles

me: lets just get down to business

KZZ: ok

me: alright

me: down to important matters

me: such as the heist

me: if you know what i mean

me: if you catch my meaning

KZZ: im not sure if i do

KZZ: to be perfectly 100% honest

KZZ: with your sorry ass

me: what’s with this tomfoolery?

me: when anyway, how did it go?

me: were you “successful” or “unsuccessful” is more or less what i mean

me: if you catch what i’m meaning to mean

KZZ: well to be perfectly honest with your sorry ass i have no bleeping idea in gods green hell of what the hell you’re bleeping talking about

me: i’ve asked you once and i’ll ask you again

me: and perhaps a third time

me: but after that you’re on your own

KZZ: youre not online

me: i know i’m here just for you

me: don’t you feel prized?

KZZ: oh i thought i blocked you or something

me: would you do that?

KZZ: well it doesn’t really make sense because we couldn’t talk if i blocked you

KZZ: but maybe i blocked you and there was a glitch in the system

me: son of a wench

me: why would you block you you damn kid

me: hahah too many yous

me: now i look ridiculous!

KZZ: hahah

KZZ: good one

KZZ: i get it

me: thanks

me: see this whole conversation was building up to that

KZZ: because we have a lot in common right

KZZ: so im like you

KZZ: i mean me

me: it took me weeks to come up with this

me: so was it worth it?

me: wait what

KZZ: hahaha

KZZ: if that was true i’d be impressed

KZZ: impressed by how stupid you are

me: you don’t understand

KZZ: understand what

me: wait what?

KZZ: understand what

me: wait who are you again?

me: is this james?

KZZ: yea hahah who’d you think i was?

me: no i’m just kidding

me: i knew it was you

me: you never understand me

KZZ: well since you know it’s me now, do you have any confessions you need to make

KZZ: to me

KZZ: and only me

me: why did we even agree to this arrangement if you’re going to be bowling every friday night?

me: what about you?

me: wait what?

KZZ: because bowling is the most important thing in my life

me: yea i know

me: don’t think i don’t know that

KZZ: well then why are you bringing it up

me: why are you bowling it up?

KZZ: haha im laughing out loud

KZZ: for the first time in my whole life

me: really?

me: your father never made you laugh out loud?

KZZ: no one did

KZZ: except for you right now

me: wait a second

me: is this actually james?

me: like for serious this time

me: let’s be adults

KZZ: yea why wouldn’t i be james

KZZ: who the fuck else would i be

me: don’t get hostile

me: let’s just talk about this

KZZ: i’ll kill you

KZZ: i swear

KZZ: whats your address

KZZ: im gonna come over and kill you

KZZ: i mean

KZZ: give you presents

KZZ: not kill you

KZZ: i swear

me: can mine be chocolate?

me: a gun*

KZZ: yea….thats right…

me: oops

me: wrong turn

KZZ: a gun will certainly be present

me: oh i’m driving by the way

KZZ: in the area

me: over to your house

KZZ: ok come on

KZZ: ok gum on

me: can i have a chocolate gun?

me: *gum

KZZ: yea i’ll give you a piece of gum

KZZ: *shoot you

me: ok but first i have to go to sleep

me: i have to wake up in 7 hours

me: to go to the fucking zoo

me: to see the penguins

KZZ: really?

me: yea

me: everything i’ve said minus “penguins” in this conversation is 100% entirely factual

KZZ: oh hahhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa i thought the penguins part was true

KZZ: and everything else was phony balongna baloney

me: oh god

me: i’m sorry

me: what must you think

me: now that your entire world is upside down

me: black is east

me: up is hot

KZZ: down is hot

KZZ: right is hot

KZZ: left is cold

me: don’t be gross

KZZ: up is north down is hot

KZZ: left is up right is north

me: ok goodnight

KZZ: right is down left is sideways left is upways night dark day bronze

KZZ: people dying

KZZ: goodnight


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