I am going to die.
I know because I read the newspapers; eight nationals, every morning, each one of them like a menu. Generally you can get a decent selection of the various means of expiration. Every other page would contain some morbid illustration of brutal crime, violent losses in far-off places, health scares, statistical probabilities of contracting terminal illnesses, natural disasters…all pervasive reminders of our mortality.
Here the choice comes in for the discerning readers; they make a mental note of the epitaphs they don’t particularly care for, and try their utmost to avoid having those narratives written into their eulogies.
We know we’ve all got to go some time. But reading the papers gives us hope. With keen eyes and decisive action, we (believe) can pick out the gravest threats to our lives and make the odds work in our favour.
Get crushed in my car because I text while driving in some Welsh backwater? Can’t have that. Nope, no stabbing by random yobs in the street for me. Join the army and see the world, spill my guts and “not grow old”? Erm, I’ll pass.
Voila, three doors slammed shut in the Grim Reaper’s face. Get in.
Sometimes, we get spared the agony of choice. This particular week, for instance, every chef was serving up the same special. Every waiter making the same strong recommendations. “It’s sensational stuff. Believe me, you won’t regret it. You’ve got to NOT go this way. Not by receiving a cervical cancer vaccine.”
The cervical cancer vaccine was instantaneously propelled to the top of the pops, and there it stayed for three excruciating days. No one with half a mind on living out her life expectancy was even going to so much as be caught in the same room as one of those murderous little vials, let alone consider the hideous thought that the girl’s tragic death might be the result of some other problem. Across middle Britain, mothers are patting themselves on the back; their teenage daughters saved from an early visit to Saint Peter.
On Thursday evening, the truthiness-mongers were eventually told the inconvenient truth. “A malignant tumour in her chest? Oooooh, reeeally? So that’s what is was? Swell, we sure as hell jumped the gun on that one. Oh, what about the facts? We’ll file it in a tiny side column somewhere in page 15.”
Another day, another dollar.
As for the rest of us, we sit at our breakfast tables, smugly pleased with another well-engineered postponement of our deaths. Life is good.