Ange was nothing but vowels and uncontainable weeps on the other end of the phone. Couldn't make out a damn thing she was saying. She kept murmuring something on the other line... soon got to the point.
"Toussaint, Chase was hit by a drunk driver last night."
That faint fiber of hope warms your arteries for a moment that thank God he's not dead, only injured, hospitalized, gonna be alright, he'll make it, he'll make it, for sure he'll make it- Shit! I should go to L.A. to visit him bedside right now!
And then the inevitable continues as she says...
... Which let me note that there actually are no words for the moment after being told your best friend has passed away. To try and apply diction and definition to the elimination of someone's life is an impossibility that we attempt anyways. For as many times as I've tried to informally document the space in time I was informed Chase passed away, the emotion has never become more consolable... just a bit more maluable to the category of "one of those things you deal with". Either way, the best I can give it right now is you become numb to the ground beneath you, the globe ceases to revolve, bridges collapse into the Mississippi, flames burst around you, but you don't flinch. Your debt, your woe, your worry, all meaningless to the gaping void growing in the left side of your chest. Staring at the floor never became such a productive activity. Your mind races like a schizophrenic film reel, bits and pieces of moments flash in an instant as it sometimes stops to scroll in slow motion, however there's never a moment that you can remember that goes by at the normalcy you recall it to be.
Ange goes on to give a few gruesome details I could've gone without, but I don't flinch. I thank her, hang up the phone. What I remember next is the absolute collapse, weeping while pressing my forehead against a wall. Pressing my hands against the cracked paint, pressing to move the foundation of the building to splinters so I can take a picture as to what it feels like on the inside. The pressing turned to punching, turned to weeping, turned to punching, turned to submission. I lean against the wall, wallowing in an emotional give-in, tapping out to God, or whatever higher power existing above the whole reality of it all, simply subservient to the moment.
His face, his laugh, all the tangibles, never again... Only memories... Brief memories... I hurry to recall each and every last one of them like pages blowing in the wind on the front steps of a court house, scurrying to get my case together before the final drop of the gavel, scurrying to remake this good friend in my mind before it all fades to black, before I forget. Wall punching commences, don't ask me why, these moments are heresay to what we truly mean to each other, to the fragility of the human connection, that if one of us were to perish from the face of the earth, someone else's universe would implode on notice. Hence we say "you mean the world to me". Chase meant the solar system, and before I could rupture any more of a hole in this poor wall that hasn't done anything to anyone, but keep a roof above everyone, Melissa quickly grabs me...
She doesn't need to know, she didn't have to know, she just embraces me, because in these moments, words are irrelevant. We don't speak... comfort comes in no volume or tone of sounds, she lets her arms do the talking as to say "I'm here for you. Your universe has stopped, your pulse derailed, your heart paused, your everything taken away. I'm here for you". Yeah, something like that. I don't remember how I explained it to her in words what had happened after that, but I remember falling asleep as she still kept her arms wrapped tightly around me. Anyone in a relationship can attest to trying to fall asleep with your arms around your significant other is damn near impossible. You both lay there for several minutes, what seemed like a cuddly idea, turns into a sweaty nuisance. You both break the comforting hold turned to "ok I'm going to actually have to sleep at some moment here" death clinch, and let go. Somehow, this wasn't the same. We somehow sustained the embrace til the morning. I pressed my hands against the wall while I lay, again. Something with these things I wish I could push over to a pile of dust and broken wood... I'll get back to this notion later.
The next day Melissa took me out to sushi. A first encounter with what would become my favorite meal, a restaurant decorated with lavish colors, an up-close view of the chefs chopping away, and lighting that probably cost more than the joint's monthly rent. What of it, it was all gray. I couldn't smell, I don't remember the taste, nothing entertained the senses enough for me to shake the fact that Chase was gone. Again, I was numb until the food was served, and Melissa broke the streak of silence with, "I'm sorry- I don't know how to deal with these things- I just". A smile caught my face, as I glanced down to my plate and then back to Melissa. Here I was being so selfish to my own emotions that I couldn't see the woman sitting across from me was making an attempt to catch me in this slow motion fall. In response to tragedy, we sometimes go blind to others outside of us attempting to console our state.
Melissa and I were in a what you'd call a relationshit. The attraction was high... as was the volatility. We'd fight simply to engage in public display, she'd test my limitations to see how far manipulation could be taken, and I'd kick the limitations to the floor to let her know manipulation could be tried with the next guy... not this one. She once asked me to hang out for the day, which consisted of ridicule, being told I'm inadequate, and ignoring me where ever we went. This went on to the point I called it, and said I'm not putting up with this bullshit and left. She texted later that night that we were done, to which I responded "Nice. I'll be taking all my s--- out of your place. Clearly, if you don't respect me, you don't respect anything I've loaned you". Problem is, several of those loans, were couches. I mustered the adrenaline filled strength to launch 3 couches out of an apartment. Laid them on the front lawn, and said "I'll pick these up in the morning. They're not yours anymore". Again, I'd like you to recall the phrase "lesson learned" while reading. No, this is not how you operate a healthy relationship, let alone a shitty one. However, we were both relatively young to the idea of a working relationship and imploded when it came time to put down the pride. We were futile, Ken & Ryu, China & Japan, Iowa State & University of Iowa. BUT, when Chase had passed... none of it mattered.
The beef, the pride, the rivalry... never mattered less than it did that night. In lieu of death, all things considered, love matters most. Even the most ridiculous/tumultuous relationship can't sustain a grudge during loss of life. Why? Because simply when one of your peoples passes away, titles & semantics simply don't exist. And it's not even as if the shit had disappeared, because to say "our tension and stress disappeared" would mean to say that it actually had to exist at some point. For something to disappear means it had to have appeared and obtained existence. Funny part is, the realization came that the beef, pride, rivalry, the malicious bullshit actually never existed between Melissa and I. In relationshits such as those, you get so wrapped in righteousness that you can convince yourself all these bad things exist.
Chase's passing deconstructed a lot of illusions, and had paved a path absolution. However, with this came the previous notion I spoke of while pressing my hands against the wall. Something about the world that made me want to set it to flames, smile at the wreckage and walk away with my hoodie up. Never had I wanted to drink harder, test the boundaries of mortality, ruin promise, and sabotage my future, more than the next year of my life after news of Chase.
The next 365+ days were dark. Dark in the sense of taking delight in biking against traffic, defining what I'll be for the rest of my life, and taking on the ghosts of all things past; my father, Doc, music. I gained this ability to stare anything and everything in the face while standing on the edge of a dime and grin like a mad man. In some cases, this was detrimental, and in others it was proactive. Never had the approach to music and theatre been more fearless. That ability threw me off in terms of self-destructive habits, but at some point had to be honed to an advantage rather than a set back. Doting on Doc, there was so much to his demise that could've been taken as a negative, but so much that could be learned from it. All the addicts in my family have persevered to succeed in life from all angles. Sitting observant to the entirety of Chase, right now, I can't see anything but the good in his life, smile, humor, all of it. There's so much shit that we can pull out of death, and I don't want to sound Disney flowery, but unless you get control of what you learn from adversity, you will be that guy throwing couches out of his ungrateful girlfriend's house... not a way to be.
Never thought I would, but I definitely take steps back and wonder "What would Chase do?", "What would Chase say if he saw me now?". At a concert round a year ago, we were performing the song "Chase", wrote it after everything had subsided and I was actually able to take a pen to paper and confront it, and it felt different. We had played that song over a dozen times, but for some reason it felt different. Perhaps it was the neurons in my brain firing off in a pattern I'd never experienced before, or it was my ego surging to my front lobe... but I felt something. Joel, Chase's brother, had opened the show that night and was in the crowd while we performed the song. Hours after the end of the concert, Joel had texted me as I was driving home. When I checked the text, it had said something to the effect of "I really felt Chase was present tonight while you guys played your song." Hot damn, Joel. I was thinking the same thing. I was thinking the exact same thing.
In a round-about way, that explains the title of this blog. Chase was a big fan of Joseph Campbell, the author who coined the term "Follow your bliss". Meh, to hell with following, Chase that thing down.