One of my really good friends hates chocolate. Whatever, to each his own, right? But I couldn’t stand it, I don’t know why but it drove me nuts, every time I’d be eating snacks, like chocolate covered raisins or Hershey’s kisses, I’d be like, “Hey man, you want some candy?” and he’d ask, “What kind of candy?” and I’d remember that he always asks this, because he hates chocolate, and we’d go through the same old song and dance, me eating chocolate, him saying, “No thanks, I hate chocolate.”
Who hates chocolate? Who hates anything that bad, to choose to completely abstain one hundred percent? It’s like, I don’t really care for cucumbers. It’s not that I dislike them, but they’re just kind of a pointless food, pretty flavorless, they’ve got those mushy seeds, the skin makes a squeaking noise on my teeth. Whenever I cook, I rarely use cucumbers. But if you give me a salad, I’m not going to go picking them out. I’ll just eat it.
And besides, chocolate’s great, one of the shining achievements that defines us as a species. Doesn’t anybody remember second grade social studies? They talk about the Incas or the Aztecs, I can’t remember, but they figured out how to turn cacao into chocolate, it’s a pretty hard process, you have to separate the seeds, leave them to dry and ferment in the sun, crack them open and separate the solids from the oils. Who thought to do that? They attributed it as a gift from the gods.
If God gave me a box of chocolates, I wouldn’t say, “No thanks G, I don’t like chocolate,” no, I’d learn to like chocolate. It’s great, dark chocolate, Milky Way bars, I like all chocolate, the way it melts in my mouth while providing the satisfaction of having eaten something of substance. If there’s one junk food that I could eat as a meal, it would definitely be chocolate.
So I decided to see if my friend really didn’t like chocolate, or if he was just saying that he didn’t like chocolate. Like maybe it was one of those early repressed childhood memories, like he was enjoying some chocolate one day and then two seconds later he got bit a spider, and because he was so little, his brain couldn’t separate the two events, and he grew up convinced that chocolate was to blame, that he couldn’t explain why, but whenever he thought about eating chocolate, his skin started to tingle, like a hundred invisible tiny spiders were crawling across his skin.
That made sense to me, my theory, and so I decided to help undo the damage. I bought a big bag of Skittles and poured them into a bowl. “Hey man,” I called him over, “I got Skittles.” He was like, “Thanks dude, I love Skittles,” and he started grabbing them by the handful and shoving them into his mouth.
My plan was working. Unbeknownst to him, I had secretly mixed in a small amount of M&Ms. Just a few thrown in, just enough to make sure that he’d definitely eat at least one or two. And wouldn’t you know it? He didn’t say a word. Not at any point did he stop his chewing, roll his tongue around the inside of his mouth and say, “Hey Rob, are there any chocolates in these Skittles?” No, he finished the whole bowl.
I figured I’d best stick with the plan for a while, gradually increasing the amount of M&Ms until there’d be no way for him to escape the reality that for however long I’d been providing him with free Skittles, he had been eating and enjoying the hidden M&Ms.
This went on for weeks. Finally, I was at the point where there were more M&Ms than Skittles, and so I was about to let it out, the big reveal. “Hey, there’s something I wanted to tell you.”
“Yeah Rob, there’s something I wanted to tell you also,” he interrupted as he poured another fistful of candy into his open mouth, “I just wanted to say that I appreciate how nice you’ve been to me lately, always buying me candy, I know it’s not a huge deal, but it’s a nice gesture on your part, always lifting my spirits with a huge bowl of Skittles.”
“Yeah don’t mention it,” I replied, “What I wanted to tell you was …”
“It’s just that,” he continued, “You’ve been so great to me, all the free candy and everything, and I feel like I’ve been such a mope, just kind of hanging out, eating candy, not really expressing exactly how happy you’ve made me. You see, and I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this, I’ve kept it a secret for so long, but I have no sense of taste whatsoever. I can’t taste anything. I don’t like or dislike any type of food at all, and it’s incredibly frustrating, not being able to share in the joy of a good meal or a midafternoon snack.”
I looked at him, “But what about the whole …”
“The chocolate thing?” he knew where I was going, “That’s just a story. I’m actually really, severely allergic to chocolate. And so instead of getting into the whole no taste thing, I just tell everyone that I hate chocolate. I hate having to constantly ask, but I feel like people would understand the no chocolate thing as opposed to me getting into the whole inability to taste. I don’t want pity. I don’t want people to not enjoy their food in front of me. It’s just an awkward situation and I get pretty down about it.”
“So the Skittles?”
“Well, it was nice to be able to enjoy a snack without having to ask about chocolate, to appreciate a simple act of kindness on your part without having to make a big deal about it.”
“Well why don’t you just tell everyone that you’re allergic to chocolate.”
“Because I don’t want people to go out of their way to make non-chocolate stuff for me, because I can’t taste it, and so what’s the point? They’ll probably get upset, like I’m being ungrateful, when it’s not true at all. Sometimes it’s really hard to fake the level of enthusiasm necessary to express appreciation for a specially made chocolate-free dessert. It’s just much easier to be a little standoffish about the whole thing.”
I felt terrible. But I also felt vindicated. Because seriously, nobody hates chocolate. Chocolate’s delicious. A chocolate allergy, I guess it sounds possible. But my friend didn’t look like he was allergic to chocolate. Maybe he was mistaken about that also. “So, how are you feeling?” I asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said, “For the past week or so I’ve been having a lot of trouble swallowing, taking really deep breaths. It’s almost like … It’s almost … It’s …”
And then he looked me right in the eye, and I couldn’t tell in that moment if he knew or not, if he even suspected that I’d been spiking his Skittles. But there was definite eye contact, for a moment, he saw into me, into my eyes, we were locked. I think he did figure it out, in that last second he knew just what I had been up to, but he couldn’t do anything about it, because he couldn’t spit out his words, he was struggling, choking. He raised a hand up in the air as if to accuse me, but then his other hand clutched his throat, and then he dropped dead, falling headfirst into the coffee table, right into that big bowl of half Skittles, half M&Ms.