One of the cutest things I ever saw by way of candy was a chocolate potato inside a miniature crate. Potatoes. Chocolate—the simple things in life. It was around Christmas time, and I was with my boyfriend at the mall—strolling hand in hand—ooing and awing over simple things.
Seems like the best flavors are the simplest ones, like a baked potato with butter, or a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Seems like the best moments in life are the simplest ones too, likewise simple personalities, and also simple dreams. Brian was always like that—a simple person doing simple things. How I loved him.
Brian was like a potato. He was a down-to-earth, nature-loving guy. He didn't mind stowing his two black-powder rifles in a home-made bag. He enjoyed the Nature Channel, John Wayne, Sunday sermons, baked potatoes, and chocolate ice cream. He exuded a sense of confidence—a comfortableness with himself that I found wonderfully appealing. Everything about him was so uncomplicated.
When we’d go out, he’d always put his hand on that exact right place in the small of my back, with just the right amount of pressure that said he was there, but not to lead me—that spot that made me hungry down to my toes to be near him. Simply put, it meant he loved me, and he always would.
We’d dated on and off for the last five years, always picking up where we’d left off—a casual friendship that slowly filled the corners of my heart, then rounded them, and then made me love him. And I did love him. I did.
He had a slow-thinking spirit. And the things he learned about me, he stored in logical order inside that curly head of his—like the time I said I loved reading westerns, and so he read some on his own. And the time I wrecked my car—bent the axel, crushed the headlight, and he thought a bit and fixed them—the axel by yanking it in place with a tow-rope and his truck, and the headlight with a block of wood, a few screws, and a little glue. Rope. Wood. Glue and screws. Simple things—practically free. And he did it all for me. He was a simple, no-frills potato guy. That’s why I was surprised on Valentines Day.
That day he sent me a ceramic mug chuck-full of chocolate kisses. And the messenger, his roommate, was grinning when he handed me Brian’s card, telling me I was really, really gonna like what it said. I read it and knew why. It simply said, “Will you be mine, Valentine?” And I knew what my answer would be.
I expected something simple that night in his apartment, a little cuddling after he gave me the ring—maybe a moon-lit walk or maybe we wouldn’t talk at all, just hold hands and watch TV—me with my head in that crook of his arm, he with his hand on my knee.
But when I got there, he handed me the end of a piece of string and said, “Follow it.” I gasped with the fun of it—even teared-up a bit. “Thank you for doing it this way,” I said. And I followed the string through the door and into the living room, over the couch, the chair and the TV, winding the string in a ball as I went. Once in a while I’d find another kiss, glittering in foil. "Oh, this is so much fun; you're so wonderful, Bry." He was filling me with chocolate kisses, and he was a potato kind of guy.
I remember climbing over the counter and behind the fridge, saying “What a great way to do this.” I crawled around the refrigerator following that string, winding it round and round the ball. "This was such a great idea. Was it yours?" I asked, and it was.
I wound and wound that ball (as large as my fist now) down through his hall and into his bedroom. I think I paused there for a real kiss, and to say, "Brian, I love you so much!” before I wound the ball up and over his bed, around his lamps and light fixture, and through the drawers in his bureau. Every time that I found another kiss, I wept a little more. I cried until my nose started running.
Anticipation gathered up inside of me. I couldn't believe he loved me so much he'd propose to me this way. What a great way to give a ring. I wondered if it was small and dainty, or if it was a rock. I wondered if its setting would be heart-shaped and gold, or maybe round and silver. I gasped at the thought of him placing it on my finger.
By the time I crossed the living room again, I was so full of emotion that I was uncontrollably sobbing. I was really a mess; I was so blissfully happy. And he was just beaming. He knew that I was a chocolate kind of girl. I loved the simple, sweet, romantic side of life. And he was giving me a feast.
When the string disappeared under the bottom of the garage door, his roommate popped his head out of his room, wanting to see. But Brian shoed him away, leaving all the sweetest part for me. I loved him for it.
Down on the floor, at the end of the string, was a tiny wooden box that held the ring. I was so happy, I dared not look at it; dared not even take it. Besides, my hands were full of string. I closed my eyes, and Brian lifted the lid. He was going to give me the ring. I took a deep breath and dared myself to look, and almost gagged.
There was no ring.
In the box was a piece of candy, a chocolate potato, like the one we'd seen at the mall. This was no proposal. All this hoop-la for a piece of candy. Everything I'd said while following that string...
My mind raced blurredly, struggling for something to say. More sobs escaped my throat, but this time not of ecstasy. Nope. This was more like utter humiliation. And as my dreams caved in around my flushed ears, he just grinned like a potato-headed fool. He was so proud of himself for remembering that I’d liked those chocolate potatoes—that he'd found the exact right Valentine's Day gift for me.
It was a good thing I was already crying; otherwise he may have guessed my agonizing disappointment. I think I spilled out the “Thank you so much” that was gurgling in the back of my throat seconds before. I might have said this; I really can't be sure. But he just stood there beaming.
My love for him dried up that day, like a baked potato left in the oven too long. Our love-life melted like a chocolate bar lying too long in a hot, hot car, and it left a mess all over. It’s really not complicated; some flavors just don’t mix well. I was made of chocolate; he was made of earthier things.
The worst disappointment I ever had to swallow in life was a chocolate potato at the end of a whole lotta string. Seems like the worst things in life are chocolate potatoes. Sugar-coated potato dreams. Shattered expectations—the great big disappointments that come in life by your own making. Seems like I made things a whole lot worse by putting a chocolate coating on that potato guy. Likewise, on his love for me, and also on my dreams. I always was like that though—drizzling decadent chocolate all over potato things. The truth is: it just breeds humiliation.
It’s simple really. Life hands you a string; you follow it. You’ll find some kisses now and then; eat a few—savor them. But save some for later too, because there with the kisses, believe me; you're bound to find a chocolate potato or two.