Gilgamesh was a mighty king who ruled the great city of Uruk. Many were its towers and bright were its gates and turrets. But Gilgamesh grew proud and cruel in his strength, and the gods became angry. Instead of just taking Gilgamesh aside and having a little chat, in which the gods could have said something like “Hey Gilgamesh. Dude. Bro. You know we love you. Look at all you’ve got! You’re the mighty king of Uruk fer cryin’ out loud! But lately you’ve been having sex with the wrong housewives, you’ve spent half the company funds on pet projects and nose candy, and now the bridges and tunnels haven’t seen a repair crew since 1955. Get a grip, pal!”
The gods do not work like that. Instead, Enlil, the king of the gods, called upon Ninsun the Great Wild Cow Goddess to bring destruction to Uruk. For, as Enlil said, “even though the many peoples of Uruk really aren’t to blame for Gilgamesh’s behavior, he’s a symbol and a proxy. Capiche?”
Ninsun the Great Wild Cow Goddess went shopping in the Hobby Lobby of the Gods, and did fashion the Bull of Heaven from primordial clay and sticks taken from the Kingdom of the Dead. She breathed life into the nostrils. “Lo,” did she say, “You are now the Bull of Heaven. Go forth and destroy!”
Then the Bull of Heaven went forth to destroy high-walled Uruk, for great was Gilgamesh’s arrogance. Never mind the rest of you poor suckers, said Enlil. Tough noogies, said Enlil. Hard cheese. And the Bull of Heaven did go forth and ravage the bars, and the clubs, and the meetups, and the 6 to 7 pm steakhouse happy hours with the comfy booths and the accommodating waitstaff and the half-price special artisanal cocktails. The Bull of Heaven did ravage walking with your fellow humans in the parks and the streets, seeing live concerts, plus every single Chinese restaurant in Uruk even though they had NOTHING to do with any of this; and he did ravage special events such as the parades with the bagpipes, and the free dancing lessons in the plaza, and the personal tours at the Met Museum that my friend Maureen can sometimes get us signed up for, off-peak.
The people of Uruk cried out to Gilgamesh to let him know that great was the suffering, plus to let him know what a gigantic dick he was. “You’d better fix this, and fast” they said. Gilgamesh did not know how to fix it, so he sent his friend and personal attorney Enkidu to slay the Bull of Heaven. Unfortunately, the Bull of Heaven did slay Enkidu, and Enkidu went down into the Kingdom of the Dead. No more are there special cocktails in the Kingdom of the Dead than there are in Uruk. Yet this brought no comfort, neither to the people of Uruk nor to Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh had nothing else up his sleeve, so after a little bit of finger pointing, he went on a quest. Alone, because, you know, social distancing. Gilgamesh traveled in his smallest private yacht over the Waters of Death having never a care until he realized his desalinator was on the fritz and he hadn’t had a shower in a while and he was out of crackers for the caviar. Gilgamesh did plug into his GPS the coordinates for the mythical Island of the Distant One, where dwells Utnapishtim , the wise man whom the gods made immortal. And Gilgamesh did dock his yacht at the boathouse of Utnapishtim.
“Timmy! Tiny Tim-Tim! So glad to meet you! Heard all about you. I’m Gilgamesh,” said Gilgamesh, pumping the hand of Utnapishtim without even using hand sanitizer first, never mind dust-free nitrile gloves. “I hear tell you’ve got the Herb of Eternal Life! So they say, not that I’m asking for myself. Anyhoo, I’d like to buy me some, to bring Enkidu back from the Kingdom of the Dead in case I need to throw him under the bus again. Plus to kill the Bull of Heaven, which is ravaging Uruk right now. The numbers Wall Street is putting out, you don’t want to know.”
Utnapishtim then did give Gilgamesh the side-eye, but not so he’d notice. “Very well. First, you must go to the center of the Waters of Death. You must dive to the bottom and pull up the Herb of Eternal Life that grows there. No scuba! Free dive! No cheating! Then you must come back and stay awake for a whole week no matter how tired you are.” You’d almost think that Utnapishtim was making this shit up on the spot.
But Gilgamesh was not the sharpest Mighty King in the drawer, so he took the bait and did all that Utnapishtim decreed. He cheated a little since he actually did use his dive equipment, but that’s to be expected. As soon as he returned to the Island of the Distant One, he was so tired he lay down and said “I’ll just rest my eyes for a minute.”
And Gilgamesh fell into a deep sleep. Utnapishtim knew he would deny it once he awoke, claiming he’d been wide awake the whole time. Each day, Utnapishtim baked bread and placed it by Gilgamesh’s head. When Gilgamesh at last awoke, he saw 7 loaves of bread in a row. The one farthest away was fresh from the oven, but the nearest loaf was covered in an unappetizing greenish-black mold. And Gilgamesh turned to Utnapishtim and said, “why do you always buy that organic crap? Just get Wonder Bread for god’s sake. You need the shelf life these days!”
And Utnapishtim muttered under his breath, for sore was his distress. “Maybe YOU should get the Instacart for 5 weeks in a row, then clean the bathroom and wipe down all the doorknobs and, oh yeah, vacuum once in a blue moon. Who knew how to unmute their Zoom mike? Not you.” But he did not say this aloud. Here’s what he said aloud. “Sorry Gilly-boy, you lose. No magic herb or Wonder Bread is going to fix this. Go back to many-towered Uruk and ask your doctor how to get a clue.”
Thus ends the tragedy of Gilgamesh.