There is an episode of The Twilight Zone called "People are alike all over," in which two Earth astronauts crash land on Mars. One of the astronauts has unguarded optimism about the Martian civilization they will encounter and the other is cynical, expecting to find nothing new under the sun. The hopeful astronaut dies in the crash and the pessimistic one is left to cope with the Martians.

The inhabitants of Mars earn the skeptical astronaut's trust by presenting him with living arrangements that would be familiar to him. He is given an Earth house with all of the amenities of a typical suburban dwelling and told that he can live out his days in peace.

The house turns out to be a cage in a Martian zoo.

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The zoo seemed like a perfect place to take a girl on a date. It is wholesome and benign, alive with happy children and the wonders of the animal kingdom. There is, however, a subliminal metaphor of animal urges and unashamed nudity, which can only propel a date in the right direction. It doesn't seem to make sense but the best way to get down and dirty with a nice girl is to start with something wholesome and benign.

I met her in line at a convenience store and she was a knockout. She was way out of my league but I thought I'd give it a stab. "Would you like to go to the zoo with me?" The zoo thing kills 'em; they collapse like a house of cards.

"Sure, I haven't been to the zoo since I was little. I'm Cindy, what's your name?"

Cindy seemed too good to be true. She was movie star beautiful and picked me up from my bus boy job in a brand new candy apple red Corvette. I thought I was dreaming when she asked me if I wanted to drive. I looked around the parking lot twice to make sure I wasn't on Candid Camera before climbing into the driver's seat of her car.

By the time we got to the zoo it was clear that Cindy had issues. Big as a house, crazy as a loon issues. Over the course of the twelve-minute trip to the Como Park Zoo she mentioned suicide more than a dozen times and murder twice. I found little comfort in the fact that she seemed six times more likely to take her own life as somebody else's.

When we got to the zoo she bounded out of the car with the enthusiasm of a child and actually skipped toward the monkey house. What is charming in a six-year old schoolgirl is scarier than hell in a twenty-three year old crazy chick and the nervous man in the ticket window had to presume she was out on a weekend pass and I was her guardian.

She rambled incessantly, to the curious stares of little old people and children on field trips, of how she felt as if she lived in a zoo.

"It is so hard to be beautiful, everybody staring at you all the time, everybody wants something from you. Sometimes when they're looking at me that way I just want slash my wrists and spray blood all over the ogling bastards!"

Nervous teachers and school children moved away from us in waves, "come along children, time to go to the rare bird exhibit."

We eventually had the monkey house to ourselves and her ranting was moving me to believe that, in her case, suicide was probably a viable and fortuitous solution. I leaned against the glass of the chimpanzee exhibit, resigned to her bizarre chatter, and tried to focus instead on the playful chimps.

One of the little apes caught my eye and held my gaze. He climbed the tree branches that had been erected as his jungle gym. He climbed to the top branch of the simulated tree and grabbed one of the ropes that hung from the ceiling as simulated vines. He never broke eye contact with me as he looped the rope around his neck over and over again. He was looking directly in my eyes when he fell from the branch with the rope coiled around his neck.

I saw his fall in the slow motion that accompanies shocking events and began to yelp a warning to the custodian at the far end of the exhibit when I realized the chimpanzee was only kidding. He had surreptitiously held on to the last coil, so that instead of snapping his neck, he swung playfully with his one handed grip on the rope. He repeated his macabre theatrical play over and over again, staring at me the entire time.

I don't go to the zoo anymore.


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