The Parable of the Chocolate Cake

It was a Friday in August, and I was in the hospital. In the same year, I had been in and out of the hospital many times, some stays longer, some shorter. At 7 days, this stay was the longest. It began when I was rushed to the ER, feeling the sickest I ever had felt in my entire life. I did not know it was possible to feel so bad without feeling acute pain. But this stay would have a happy ending. The problem I carried all year had already been removed, and by the end of this last stay, the last complication resolved.

But on that Friday, I didn’t know that yet. I was still in the middle, somewhere between incredible discomfort and a drug-induced haze.

It was the first day, after many days of an all liquid diet, that I was allowed to eat 3 regular meals. Solid food! How exciting. When the nutritionist took my order for lunch, she said, “And how about dessert — would you like chocolate cake?”

“There is chocolate cake?”

Yesterday I was barely allowed to eat anything. Today I was being offered chocolate cake. I love chocolate.

“Yes, I would like chocolate cake.”

Hospital food doesn’t have the greatest reputation. It tends to rank right beside airplane food. Surprisingly, the hospital food I had was not bad at all. Everything was a little over boiled and mushy, but that’s all I wanted to eat after being so sick.

When lunch arrived, I was very excited. I was excited to be eating anything at this point. And there it was, chocolate cake! I picked it up and set it aside. Saved for later. Then I ate my sandwich and sides and salad, like the good, obedient patient that I am.

Then I got full, too full. But I really wanted to eat chocolate cake. Okay, I decided, I will save the chocolate cake for an afternoon snack. I’m sure I’ll be hungry in a few hours.

The afternoon came and went, and I never got hungrier. If you don’t eat for many days, your stomach will shrink in capacity, which is what happened to mine.

Dinner arrived. I ate the meatloaf and soup. At some point, as I was about to eat the fruit salad, I remembered my chocolate cake. I was getting pretty full. I should probably stop now, but I felt like I should eat fruit. Be healthy and stuff. But if I eat fruit, I will definitely be too full for chocolate cake.

And then it struck me.

I thought, OMG, this is like a metaphor for your life. You keep deferring the freakin’ chocolate cake. YOU COULD DIE TOMORROW AND YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO GET TO EAT THE CHOCOLATE CAKE.

Ok, at that point, I wasn’t in danger of dying. But I may have been earlier that week, I’m not sure. But at that point, I was clearly recovering. But y’know, it’s been a really rough year. I am great at the deferred life plan. I am the kid who can just sit there and stare at the marshmallow.

So right then, I ate my chocolate cake.

I only managed a few bites, and it was only hospital cake, but I thought the chocolate icing was the most delicious thing ever.

The point of life is not to only eat chocolate cake. To regain my health, to make it through life, I need nutrition from the meatloaf and sandwich and salad and soup and fruit. But if I live my entire life, however long or short it may be, without eating chocolate cake, that seems to me like a failure to live.

Like what you read? Give Ailian Gan a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.