Ana Consuelo Matiella’s Essay on Death

Ana Consuelo Matiella


I am now 16 months away from 60. My mother died at 58, although she lied about her age. She was probably more like 59. Being so close to my mother’s age makes me make the days count.

In the morning, I think about death when I ride my bike down Alberta Street in Portland. There’s so much traffic, I plan my funeral.

Miriam, you are there and you make a speech about how much you loved me and how smart I was. I had good taste in clothes, you say. You still have my hand me downs. You are wearing my hand me downs. Oh, so much black.

In the mist of the morning, on my bike, with the cars swishing past me, I think about the music I want Dan and Sara to pick to play at my funeral. Neil Young Harvest Moon, maybe. Or Joni. “I am on a lonely road, traveling, traveling,” except that Alberta is populated by all manner of Portlandia. I just saw a young woman who is a dead ringer for Raggedy Ann. This one has bright pink hair and what appears to be a full-body tattoo. Those stripes on her legs aren’t socks.

When I pass the “Nutri-taco” food truck I hear the blast of norteñas. Yum! This part of the neighborhood smells like corn tortillas!

The vintage shop has an orange mini dress that I wore in 1966 with white go-go boots. Now if that doesn’t make you feel old, I don’t know what.

On hearing the roar of the bus behind me, I pedal hard, foolishly hard for someone my age, 16 months away from 60 with IT band syndrome. The bus barrels by and once I know I’m still alive, I remember that I read somewhere that an occasional adrenalin rush is good for the blood. Thank you, I say and throw a kiss and a nod at the sky like the soccer guy from Slovenia.

That is when I decide. When I die, I want to die on a bicycle. Everyone has to die of something, is what my dad always said. And now thanks to my age, the narrowness of the street, and the power of a biodiesel engine, I have been put in a position to think about how I would want to die. Today I know two things about death: One is: Everyone dies. And two, everyone has to die Of Something. So what kind of death would you choose? The heart attack, maybe? Miriam, it was you who said it, “The heart attack is the death of the just.” It’s quick, a little painful but it doesn’t last long.

The word cancer makes me want to swerve as I feel the hot breath of the bio-diesel bus on the back of my neck.

If I die, which I know I will, let me die on my bike. It could be a little painful, but it would be quick and I have strived to be just. In Portland, if someone kills you on your bike, they build you a shrine out of an old bike, paint it white, adorn it with plastic flowers and install it on the place of your death, like the descansos all over the streets and highways of New Mexico.

Through my rear view mirror, ( I have one on my bike) I see that a delivery truck, one clearly too big for this narrow street, is coming up behind me. Realizing that it is even more clumsy-looking than the bus, I toy with the idea of popping a wheelie and getting my ass on the sidewalk. But the driver senses my trepidation. He makes eye contact with me through my little round mirror and he raises his hand to let me know that he is not going to hit me. I move a tiny bit. He passes. I wave.

Now, I have a long stretch with no traffic and I see that the shoe store has a new display and that the waffle kid has several people in front of his tiny window. It makes me glad since I was worried about how in the world he was going to make money selling waffles on the street in such weather.

So here I am on my bike on Alberta Street thinking about death and croissants because I can now smell the bakery. It’s on the left. I stop and get off my bike and walk it across the street. Two cars stop, one on each side. I look at both drivers and say, “Thank you for not killing me.”

I walk in to Petite Provence and I think about ordering a special cappuccino in celebration of one more beautiful day of life. But for the fact that the person who would have killed me would feel terrible, dying on my bike on the way to the bakery would be a good way to die.

P.S. For those of you who care, I like purple flowers.

12 thoughts on “Ana Consuelo Matiella’s Essay on Death

  1. Que pinche eres, that was very depressing, and funny, depressingly funny? I don’t think of death, so stop it. Harvest Moon is what I would like to hear at a wedding for Neil Young Die hards! You need to be around until I am ready to die, we can go together. But not in Portland, lets do a cazona in Galicia. Love you

  2. Thanks for putting those thoughts into words. I often think about how I’m going to die too. I tend to favor natural disasters, but haven’t settled on one I really like. Tornados are at the top of my list, but it would be so dirty and you would be flying around with all that trash.

  3. Ana, I hope you get your wish, but like in about 50 years.
    Last month I was riding a bike in the streets of Granada, Nicaragua, and I felt my mortality, but then I would look over at families of 3 or 4 on a bike and I felt like a coward. Your piece was wonderful. Thank you!

  4. Hi Ana,

    Want to go for a bike ride next weekend? Let’s stay away from Alberta St., however–too much traffic. I much prefer riding along the Columbia Slough or Smith and Bybee lakes or we could even trailer our bikes out to Sauvies Island and then go blueberry picking. Our there you don’t think about death, but how wonderful it is to be alive. Not that there is anything wrong with thinking about death. I wonder why I never do? Maybe too busy…

    See you this evening–Lisa

    P.S. Thanks for the cool hand-me-downs

  5. I forgot to say that I really liked your piece. I have a wonderful image of you pedaling down Alberta taking in the hustle and bustle and the little oddities. And I agree–on a bike grinning from ear to ear is not a bad way to go.

  6. Oyes Ana, Que bonito, triste, y cierto – te puedo ver en tu bicla hecha la madre con el cabello en el aire y tus angelitos dirijiendo trafico! Muy rete bien hecho. But, I’d prefer to die while taking a nap during a rainstorm. Abrazos, L

  7. Ana…thanks for sharing this wonderful meditation. I would choose to be surrounded by nature when I die…my last glance being a squirrel gathering her nuts for the winter, my final thought being how it will all continue and how it is all beautiful. Peace

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