A few years ago, on my birthday—the day after Christmas—a Siberian tiger named Rasputin killed a man in the San Francisco Zoo. No one knows how Rasputin escaped his cage. He wandered around, stopped, darting fiery glances around, his eyes burning bright, then shrunk into a wiry ball, and sprung himself through the crisp air, landing on a man in a leather motorcycle jacket and a Santa Claus hat. In an instant, the tiger shredded that helpless heap of pepperoni-red face, beer-belly, and flailing limbs into a million sinewy stripes. Then he stared at a holiday stew of red velvet, white fur and steaming intestines spilled on the emerald green lawn, and yawned.
From afar came the lusty hooting of a caged owl. Rasputin licked his paw and stretched like a giant pussycat—almost purring—when a cop charged into the picture—Die Hard grit, soot-black pistol—hopped on a bronze turtle, squatted, aimed and fired.
Rasputin raised his muzzle to the distant deep skies, bared his bloodstained old teeth—growl turning into a baby’s whine—and dropped dead.
Bad luck. Now, I never liked my birthday from the get-go.
Rasputin wasn’t the first one to become a murderer the day after Christmas. A few years ago, on my birthday, a crocodile ate an Australian conservationist. The guy was famous, a TV personality. He used to stick his head into crocodiles’ wide-open mouths. Or maybe he stuck crocodiles into his wide-open mouth. Something like that. I’m not sure, I never watched the show.
My birthday arrives soon, and—with all the beasts and blood—I’m terrified. The day is a blow-out clearance event. “Everyone Must Go!” Some birthday. Death day!
I know the overwhelming majority of humans will not be devoured by beasts. They will go in a less impressive manner; according to statistics, cardiac arrest during defecation is the most popular way to go. But I’m still dreading it. What about you? Are you afraid to die? I hear some people are not.
Oh, well, supposedly I have a generalized anxiety disorder and therefore many things scare me. Like death. My therapist told me to use a 1 to 100 scale to rate events in terms of their relevance to my life. I try. Everything seems to be #1—the most significant event in my life. Like the crocodile hunter. Or the man-eating tiger.
I’m a vegetarian. I eat turkey made from tofu for Thanksgiving. (It is called Tofurky.) Turkeys are like people: first they stride between brilliant orange pumpkins, royal and dumb. Then they sit in the middle of the table, legs spread out like a visit to the OB-GYN, naked, tan and indifferent like dancers in a strip club on the day after Christmas. Wait!—the turkeys should be #101 on my scale.
Maybe I’m just bargaining with Death. If no one kills anyone maybe no one will kill me? Maybe I will not die? Wrong, I know. Tigers kill. Cops kill. I’ll die. But I don’t want to!
I see a squished skunk on the side of the freeway and freak out for days. Once I saw a swollen human in a fierce whitewater river in Nepal—the thing looked like an air mattress; I still remember the purple legs. I still freak out. Okay, okay, on a scale from 1 to 100…. Of course it is #1—I’m going to freaking die, like the crocodile hunter, like the Nepalese air mattress, like the bloodthirsty tiger, like the skunk.
So I celebrate every minute, every fleeting moment. My life is a never-ending holiday. A masquerade. Every morning I put peacock feathers and glass beads in my hair. I paint my fingernails. I wear high heels to take the recycling out. I waltz and salsa and shimmy while shopping for organic Greek yogurt, but I’m still scared. Why?
The answer is simple. The crocodiles, the turkeys, the cops are me. There is no scale. The whole world is me, and every remote f***ing grain of sand is me, my body and soul; the pain of every dying fly sends electric shocks through every one of my cells—and no scale will help me. I need to go blind, deaf and undergo a lobotomy—or die—in order to stop feeling the finite nature of the world. To stop feeling its pain.
All I can do is just sit here and type away, tap, tap, tap on my keyboard. Tap-tap. Knock-knock… Wait! Somebody’s at the door! Wait a second… I’ll be right back… Oh no! There’s a big slimy crocodile at my door! And it’s followed by a fearful, bloodstained tiger! It’s Rasputin! Help!
“I will eat you up!” says the crocodile.
“It’s the end!” growls Rasputin.
Enjoy your life! Celebrate, dance, jump in frenzy. Hava Nagila, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Birthday! Eat your juicy turkey—or Tofurky—for the beasts are on the way. Happy Death Day!