I want to die a fantastical death.
“In 762: Li Po, a Chinese poet, tried to kiss the reflection of the moon beside the boat in which he was traveling, and he fell overboard and drowned.” I don’t wanna go in my sleep of old age; or die of some cancer. That’s such a waste of a death. I want something dramatic and exciting, something that I will always be remembered by. Not cancer. Nowadays, everyone dies of cancer. Boring.
Did you know that “in 1518: A woman uncontrollably danced for a month causing dozens of participants to die of stroke and exhaustion; this became known throughout History as The Dancing Plague.” I love to dance. I make up choreographies with my friends all the time. Our latest one was to Sia’s “Chandelier,” we performed it at my school talent show (and we got the loudest applause of anyone)!
We didn’t win though, cause Molly (the one girl in with down syndrome in our middle school) did a song, and she came in first place (for obvious reasons); but deep down, I knew we had been robbed. Molly is great, but she’s not a very good singer. I don’t understand why adults try to overcompensate because she is disabled. If they treated her like the rest of us, she wouldn’t feel so “different.” Everyone’s always trying to be so polite, but no one is being honest. If we are being honest here, Molly should not have won the talent show. But whatever, I didn’t even enter to win anyway. I entered because I love to dance. Maybe I could die dancing? That would be a fantastic.
Did you know that “in 1782: Mrs. Fitzherbert died from laughter after watching The Beggar’s Opera.” She laughed, and laughed until she died. I tried watching The Beggar’s Opera on YouTube, but I couldn’t understand what was so funny. It was almost as boring as cancer.
I could definitely see myself dying of laughter though. Aunt Eileen says my laughter is contagious. She says I look funny when I laugh, cause she can see the gap in my mouth (from my missing milk teeth). I’m still waiting for my real ones to grow, but they are taking forever. Aunt Eileen says I look like a Halloween pumpkin. Maybe I will inspire my own Plague of Laughter; not that I want to be responsible for the deaths of innocent people, but if others want to die a fantastical death, then why not go laughing.
Or like that baseball player from “the 1920s, Ray “Chappie” Chapman, killed when a submarine ball thrown by Carl Mays hit him in the head. He died twelve hours later.” The only major league baseball player to die from a pitched ball, but he died doing what he loved most. I love baseball!
Before they got a divorce, my dad and I used to play together in the Park while Norma (my mother) went to the supermarket. We hated going grocery shopping, because when it was time to check out, Norma would dig into her purse, and bust out a million coupons. And God forbid any of her coupons were expired, cause then she would pick a fight with the cashier, and demand to speak to the Manager. While she was busy arguing, Dad and I would have to deal with the eye-rolls from all the annoyed customers standing in line behind us. To avoid those shameful trips to the supermarket, we convinced my mother to let us go to the park instead. So, once a week, Dad and I would go to the park, and he would teach me to play baseball like a pro. I even played against kids twice my age. And, when it came my turn to bat, they would come in close (thinking I wouldn’t hit it very far), and dad would wink at me, and then I’d hit it so far, I would almost get a homerun, or least I’d make it to third base. I could die playing baseball, that wouldn’t be a bad way to go either, just like Chappie Chapman.
The reason I know all these facts, is because I am obsessed with the subject matter (not baseball, but death). In the fourth grade I wrote my first poem about death, and while my mother dismissed it, and said something like: “Life is too short to be wasting it thinking about death;” my teacher Mary Deavin celebrated me for my poetic skills and the emotional “depth” of my writing. She said “This is very deep for a ten year old! You sure you didn’t copy this from a book?”
My uncle Rey gave me his old computer for my eleventh birthday, and even thought the “s” the “w” and the “.” keys didn’t work, it opened up the world of the internet to me, so for my fifth grade research paper I Googled bizarre deaths throughout history. I got an A- on it cause there were a few spelling and grammatical errors (for obvious reasons), but overall, it was a very informative paper, full of useful facts I had found on Wikipedia, about people who died miraculous and fantastical deaths, like the one I hope to die too someday.
A week after my amazing discoveries on Google and Wikipedia, I started a recess club at school called FDCC (Fantastic Death Corps Club) where my friends and I sat around in the playground (behind the herb garden), and shared stories of how we wanted to die. I would lead these meetings, and every week we each had to try out an ‘almost death.’ So for example, if this week it was death by being tickled, we all went home that night, and had to try to almost die of being tickled. If next week it was death by jumping jacks, we had to try to almost die by doing jumping jacks, and so forth. During our Club meetings, we would talk about our near-death experiences, and we would have to give very specific accounts of our ideal fantastical death, of how old we wanted to be when we died, what we would be wearing, what our last meal would be, where we would die, who would discover our body, and so forth.
I knew it was a bad idea to let Kitty Mclintock join our club, cause she was an immature cry baby, and when it was her turn to talk about her fantastic death she started hyperventilating, burst into tears and rushed off to tell on us to Mr. Hassan, who told Mary Deavin, who told the Principal, who called my mother, who told them that there was a perfectly good explanation for everything, and that was that my father was suffering from cancer.
Dad died in a hospital bed surrounded by sour faces that pretended to be happy to see him. Friends and family who came in to visit him would say “You’re looking good man!” when he really wasn’t (again, adults trying to be polite, instead of being honest). They lied to his face. They’d say “Hang in there, you’ll be up and running in no time.” Adults are a bunch of idiots. Being in a hospital bed dying, makes you sick, but it doesn’t make you stupid. And my dad was a smart man, so he must have known everyone was lying to him. That’s why I don’t want to grow up to be an adult. I want to have a fantastical death while I am young, before I catch the cancer and everyone hovers around my body lying to my face, like they did to my dad.
They barely let me see him. The few times I was allowed inside, I remember his skin was bright yellow, like my pee first thing in the morning. Or like Spongebob. I called him Spongebob one time, but his wife didn’t think it was funny. I was just being honest! Dad half-laughed but barely, I think if he’d had more energy he would have laughed harder. Maybe even died of laughter like Mrs. Fitzherbert, but he died of cancer instead.
Sometimes, late at night I wake up feeling like a horrible person cause I didn’t really like to visit him in the hospital; not because he was sick, but because everyone else around him was acting fake, and wanted me to act fake too. Outside the room his wife was crying, and all his friends were comforting her; but then, inside the room everyone put on masks, and tight smiles for my dad, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Should I be happy or sad? What?!? Should I smile, or cry? I didn’t know anything and people were whispering around me, so I just heard half of conversations all the time. Everything felt unreal, like a dream where everyone knows a secret except for you, and you are trying to figure out the mystery, but they are all one-step ahead of you. Kinda like an episode of Scooby Doo, only instead of a haunted mansion, it’s a sterile hospital room; and instead of a ghost, it’s my dad’s yellow corpse-like body laying on the bed, staring up at you.
I don’t remember much, except his skin was leathery like a baseball. It was rubbery. I liked touching, and pulling at it, so every time I visited I sat in silence by his bedside, and tugged at his alien-like hand. I just couldn’t understand why it was so yellow. My mother explained to me once that it was because the type of cancer he had made toxins come out of his skin, instead of peeing them out like normal people, they came out of his pores. I don’t know, it sounds fishy to me. They lie to me a lot, especially lately. Maybe they are lying to me about this one too. Whatever the truth is, I definitely don’t wanna go like that, on a hospital bed, looking like the skeleton of Lisa Simpson. Nope. I wish I didn’t have to die at all. Every year on my birthday when I blow out my candles, I always make the same wish: I want to live forever, and not shrivel up, and get eaten by worms and insects.
My mother says, “Lili, death is inevitable. We are born to die, so just enjoy every moment, eat all your vegetables, and work hard so you can provide for your family and afford health insurance.” One day I asked her if there was a god, and she said “Religion is the opium of the people” to which I didn’t know how to respond, cause I’m not sure what that meant. But then, I asked her “If there is no god, then what is the point of anything?” and she said “there is no point Lili- now go do your homework!” and I argued “why should I do my homework if there is no point?” and she said “because I am your mother, and I say so!” and I was not satisfied with her answer. There has to be a point, there has to be a reason why I am here, and if I was really born to die (like my mother says) then I don’t just want to die some random pathetic death that I have no say in choosing. That’s so lame. Maybe I don’t have to die at all.
If I had a million dollars I could be frozen like Walt Disney. It costs $200,000 to get frozen after you die- I read that Wikipedia. I could get put in a freezer, and be brought back to life when there are flying cars, and scientists have found a cure for cancer. My mother told me cancer was hereditary, and I could catch it, if I didn’t eat all my vegetables. But seeing that I am going to be a millionaire writer for Cañaverales de Pasion (my favorite Telenovela), Norma can stick her brussels sprouts (and soggy cauliflower) up her butt, cause I plan to be frozen before I die, or at least, to die a beautiful fantastical death that will go down on the internet, as the best death that ever lived. And neither of the above requires any vegetable consumption -- unless you’re “Basil Brown, a health-food advocate from Croydon, London who, in 1974, drank himself to death with carrot juice.” I told my mother this once, and she thought I was making it up “Nobody dies from eating vegetables!” she assured me. I bet her my weekly allowance of $3 that this was no lie, but an absolute fact! She gave me a look of disbelief anyway, and when I pulled it up on Wikipedia, she brushed it off, and said, “I don’t have time for silly things. Eat your dinner and finish your homework if you want to watch Cañaverales de Pasion”. I ate the boiled broccoli on my plate quickly, stuffing it in my mouth, wondering with every bite, if that would actually be a good way to go. Maybe if mom was a better cook. But these greens had been on the stove so long they were shriveled and bland, except for the mountain of salt she added at the last minute. I was more likely to die from grossness, than from stuffing my mouth with broccoli. And thank God her cooking didn’t kill me, cause that night, on Cañaverales de Pasion, Don Lorenzo proposed to Doña Eugenia, but then she got in an accident and lost her memory. It was so good, it would have sucked if I had died, and missed it.
“In 1941, Sherwood Anderson, a writer died after swallowing a toothpick at a party.” I should like to be a writer someday and though swallowing a toothpick’s gotta hurt, dying at a party, surrounded by friends, can’t be half bad. I’ve decided I shall die on my 30th birthday (cause nothing happens after you’re 30 anyway- it’s downhill form there)!
I will die right after I win an award for: The Most Famous Telenovela Writer in History. And after the successful release of my Greatest Works: A Collection of Fantastical Death Stories by Lili Amalia Castillo.”
The day of my great death, I will be wearing a red polka-dot dress (not like mini-mouse), but like a beautiful Spanish Flamenco dancer, with lots of ruffles everywhere. I always wanted to be a Flamenco Dancer for Halloween, but my mother would say, “We don’t have the money for such lavish costumes. Besides, Halloween is not for smart people, like you and me, Lili. It was invented by Capitalism, as yet another way, to take money from the masses.” As a thirty-year-old adult, I won’t care about anything my mother said; I will have my red-polka dot, Flamenco dress, with sequin and sparkles.
My hair will be down to my knees, not like now, that I look like a boy cause Norma says it’s convenient to keep it trimmed, “it helps keep the lice away” she insists. No, my hair will be like Rapunzel’s in Tangled (except mine is not blonde, and I look more like Pocahontas). And it will be done up, like a princess, and I will wear a shiny tiara, like the one my cousin Jenny wore for her Quinceañera. And I will have glitter dust sprinkled all over my head “because I’m worth it”
I will do a dance for all my party guests (because I will also be a world famous flamenco dancer that will have won over a hundred medals), and everyone will applaud, and sing me Happy Birthday. And I will eat my entire birthday cake, all by myself, which will be a Trifle Meringue Cake with custard cream, (that Norma would never buy for me, but since I will be rich, I will buy it for myself). But before that, I will eat a bowl of spaghetti and fried plantains, and drink pineapple soda, and I will almost die from a food coma. But not quite. And almost die from a dance trance. But not quite. And then I will have the funniest person in the world (who will just so happen to be my best friend), tell jokes, and I will laugh so hard I will almost die of laughter. But not quite. And then Tim Sanchez, my fifth grade crush at school (who will be my husband by then), will kiss me for like a thousand minutes, and I will almost die of suffocation. But not quite. And then I will look at the reflection of the moon on my pool, cause I will be a millionaire, and I will have a mansion with a pool, and I will fall in, and almost drown. But not quite. I will come out of the water looking like a mermaid, and everyone will clap that I am still alive. And then, I will give a speech about life, and how it’s important to live every moment like you’re going to die. And how you should spend your years filled with dancing and singing, and laughter, and kiss the people you love, like Tim Sanchez and your grandma. And then I will remember my father (who, by that point, will have died a long time ago, but I will still think of him often), and how he once told me I was made out of stardust; and I will add that to my birthday (slash) goodbye speech, and I will even cry a little.
And just as I am about to take off to my fantastical death (that I have been planning for years), and just as I am about to sit on a monster rocket of fireworks that will leave for the night sky, from the backyard of my house; My red polka dot dress going up in flames, as I fizzle into the atmosphere like sparklers, and shooting stars, for all my guests to make mortal wishes upon; I will remember that Walt Disney was frozen. So, as the countdown begins, and the fireworks are lit, I’ll have half-a-millisecond to have a change of heart, and to alter the course of my future, of everything I had so carefully planned for my fantastical death. I will second-guess myself for a moment. And I will jolt off the rocket, and join the rest of my party to watch the fireworks fly into the sky and fizzle into the night. I will join in the OOOOOHS and AAAAAHS of the crowd. And realize “WOW, just to think I could have died and missed it!” And I will laugh, and dance the rest of the night away. And first thing in the morning, I will drive myself to the nearest bank where I keep all my millions; and I will put aside $300,000, so that when I die, I can be frozen like Disney. I know the Internet says it’s only $200,000, but the extra $100,000 is for inflation. The cost of living might go up (by the time I’m old); and in matters of life and death, it’s always better to be prepared.
"Frozen like Disney" is a story, in the collection of "Little Con Lili" by Gabriela Garcia Medina.