Living in a Box

Chocolate may not be an aphrodisiac. But it helps, discovers editor Iain Ball

I’ve been glancing at her. She’s been glancing at me. At least, I think she has. There’s not much to look at on the last carriage of the 8.25 to King’s Cross. You could end up looking at everything by accident. And perhaps I’ve just noticed her glances because they’re a startling shade of amber.

This has been going on for weeks. One Friday, after a huge effort, I try a small smile. Surprised, she sends one back. Right! I think. This is encouraging.

I have absolutely no idea what to do next.

I call my friend Lisa, an expert on matters of the heart and commuter train etiquette.

“Why don’t you try, I don’t know… talking to her?” she suggests.

This seems radical. I don’t want to come across as some kind of maniac.

Lisa sighs. “How long have you been waiting now? Even pandas don’t take this long.”

“What do I say?”

“You work for a chocolate company. She’s a woman. Think of something, Ling-Ling. You’re becoming endangered.”

I awake the following Monday painfully aware of my own mortality. Gloomy as this is, it’s strangely helpful on the 8.25.

“Hello,” I hear myself say.

“Hello,” she says, startled.

Her name is Zoe. She is French. She is a chemist, doing mysterious things with molecules and microscopes. I explain what I do.

She raises a precisely arched eyebrow. “Very rich in flavonoids,” she nods. Our eyes lock. I am suddenly aware of a subtle benefit to my job not mentioned in the contract.

Zoe eats a piece of chocolate every day. She is, however, very particular. It must be dark – at least 85% cocoa. Good chocolate also needs “a polymorph V molecular arrangement,” she explains. This can sound surprisingly sexy when said with a French accent.

The next morning I scrub up more smartly than usual, leaping aboard the 8.25 armed with a 70g bar of Rabot 1745 Coastal Ecuador Hacienda Iara 90% Dark Organic. One of our chocolatiers has assured me that, yes, it has the right molecular structure, saying, “Not many people ask me about that.”

Zoe accepts it with delight, reading the tasting notes on the front: “‘A charmer with a smouldering intensity.’ Hmmm.” She slips it into her bag.

I am feeling triumphant. “If you’re brave enough, we have some 100% dark too,” I suggest hopefully.

“And how do you describe that?”

I think for a minute. “Er… ‘a charming dominatrix’.”

She smiles slyly for a moment. “Oh yes, I’m brave enough,” she says. “Are you?”

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