Jack couldn’t resist, his reply was always the same. “Yes.”
No matter the question, he believed in absolute positivity. To refuse was not only rude, but showed a depressing lack of adventure and free spirit.
“Life is here to be enjoyed,” he said. “How can I not taste the fruits of the world?”
For Jack, food was life. There was so much pleasure he associated with his first taste of a fresh pear, a peanut butter sandwich, marmite on toast, the chill of cold milk, it instilled a love of life in him from an early age. There was so much to love, he banished the dreaded ‘n’ world from his vocabulary. He said ‘yes’ to everything he was offered.
As he grew older, the joys of fried fat exploded his teenage taste buds. It was exciting to try the greasiest fried chicken, not from the corporate chains, but the dodgy value wings offered by Dixie or VFC in the back alleys, burnt crispy on the outside, still pink in the middle. Every time he was asked if he wanted to go large on the deal, there could be only one possible response. “Yes.”
The hotter the better. Extra chilli sauce on the kebab? Take me home, baby. Of course, monsieur.
It became an obsession. He dreamt of food. There was so much in the world to try. Korean farm-to-table feasts, Japanese ramen with mountains of beef, pork and fish nestled in the scrumptious noodles, mountains of Italian pasta, mouth burning Thai whole fish, eyes and all, Kerala curries with extra piles of Naan to wipe up the juices, steak tartare with a dripping egg yolk, cooking in his stomach.
But therein lay the problem. The more Jack ate, the smaller his world became. The travels he planned in his journals remained there. As his stomach became heavier, his legs became weaker, less able to support the weight above them. The 12 Krispy Kreme donuts he obviously couldn’t refuse denied him the opportunity to try the Buddhist salad round the corner. He couldn’t walk the extra distance.
He still never said the dreaded word when asked if and when he planned to go on holiday, to explore those other countries with their exotic cuisines. “Yes, I will go,” he said. “Just not right now.”
When disaster eventually struck it was during a five course meal in the local Indian, halfway through a fiery Widower chicken, weighing in at an epic six million Scovilles. Well, he couldn’t turn it down.
Dr Tennant sat the obese young man down and asked him why he did it. When Jack told him the doctor sighed. “Here’s a question you can say no to,” he said. “Do you want to die?”
Jack flushed. He tried to shake his head, but only sweated, his neck was too engorged to shake. “Well, I…”
“Do you want to live?” said the doctor.
“Yes,” said Jack, pleased to be able to answer. “That’s what I am doing.”
The doctor shook his head. “No, you’re not. Filling your belly isn’t the same as walking without gasping. Dreaming of the world isn’t the same as seeing it. I’m going to ask you again. Do you want to die?”
The word still hung on the tip of Jack’s tongue, he struggled with the doc’s clear rationale, but with that struggle came the realisation that he was right, the realisation that between the two poles lay a whole world of opportunity, a universe of maybe.
“No,” he said. “I want to live.” It would be the most positive thing he ever said.