A few summers ago I went upstate on a camping trip with some of my friends. If you walked into the woods a little bit, there was a pretty decent sized clearing, so we’d bring a cooler, one time we brought out a Frisbee. I love playing Frisbee, and I’ve got a pretty good throw, but I let loose with this unusually wild toss, and the disc went spinning into the trees. “It’s all right,” I ran toward where I saw it enter the woods, “I got it.”
And I tried to play it all cool, just casually separating the tiny branches, like I wasn’t scared of whatever might be in this brush, spiders, a rabid raccoon. I have no idea what poison ivy or poison oak looks like, so I was trying not to let anything touch my legs, but it was pointless, imagine the thickest patch of woods.
I saw the Frisbee, any damage that could’ve been done by any poisonous plants, it was too late to worry about that now. I’d grab the Frisbee and act like the retrieval wasn’t a big deal. But just as I reached down to pick it up, I noticed a bunch of smallish green fruits. They were everywhere. I looked up and this one tree had like hundreds of apples.
So I picked about twenty or so and made a little basket by holding the bottom of my t-shirt out. “Hey guys, check it out, apples!” and my friend Josh said, “Apples? You can’t eat those.” I said, “Why not? Of course you can eat these.” I knew you could, I remember I went apple picking one time when I was a little kid, and this guy at the orchard picked one right the tree, he wiped it down with his shirt, and he bit right in.
So I did the same thing, I wiped it clean of anything gross that might be on the outside, and I took a bite, which I immediately realized to be a big mistake, because even though it felt like an apple, even though it had that characteristic apple crunch, this thing was beyond sour, like I don’t think there was any apple flavor at all, no anything flavor, just pure, unflavored sour.
I tried my best to make it look like everything was fine, so I chewed and swallowed, all why really struggling not to make a face, I wasn’t breathing through my nose, even though there wasn’t a bad taste to speak of, but I was reaching, I was doing everything I physically could to act as if I hadn’t just taken a bite out of something that I really had no business taking a bite out of.
“Gross,” Josh said, and luckily that was it. I couldn’t tell if I had successfully passed it off as a real apple, but nobody seemed interested in finding out either way. What was I supposed to do with the rest? I hoped nobody was paying attention, and luckily they weren’t, I threw the one that I was eating into the woods, but it didn’t make it, again, another wild throw. It hit this tree like three feet away.
And then I looked down at my shirt, at the rest of the apples. There was something off, I looked in close and there was something fuzzy, it was moving, there were all of these really little bugs, I couldn’t tell if they were worms or aphids or, I really had no idea, because they were so small. Did I just eat some of them? Were these things going to get stuck in my gut?
“Guys,” I freaked out, “I think I just ate some sort of a parasite, like a worm, I don’t know.” I tried to find the apple that I’d taken a bite out of, but I couldn’t tell where these things came from, if they were just on the outside of the fruit or if they had burrowed in. Is that possible? Then my skin started to tingle. I told myself, you’re being paranoid, you saw the worms and now you’re getting crazy.
Or could it have been poison oak? My friends told me to chill, that we were all drinking and that there was nothing to be done about it until tomorrow. “Just try to relax, have another beer, everything’s fine.”
I tried. But I couldn’t. I ran back to the campsite, I jogged the mile or so away to the ranger’s station. I told them everything, and they called an ambulance to take me to the local hospital. My friend Doug volunteered to stay with me, which I’m sure he regretted, the hospital waiting room was a dump, and they weren’t in any hurry to check me out.
And even worse, I started feeling much better. I think I really should have just chilled out for a minute. But no, what was I going to do, go back? Tell everyone that I’m crazy? I prayed for something to show up on those test results, anything that could have justified my reaction. But I got a clean bill of health. Everyone told me to stop apologizing, not to worry about it, but I could tell they were avoiding the subject, just trying to get me to stop talking.
I took Doug aside the next day, apologized again, especially to him, making him come with me, I tried to be extra sincere, and then I said, “But, do you think they’ll still invite me to come next time?” and he said, “Yeah, I’m sure. Just forget about it OK?” And, I don’t know, every time I see one of those guys, I’m always like, “So, when’s the next camping trip?” and they always say something vague, like, “I don’t know, nobody’s made any plans, but we’ll let you know!” and I always think, yeah, it’s probably in my head, they’d still invite me, right? I mean, I definitely wouldn’t do that again, no more wild apples. I still tell them that whenever I see them, I’m like, “Guys, I’ll never eat apples again. Really!” and I think they know I’m serious.