The first time I met Chloe, she arrived at a party wearing a very opinionated, seering yellow raincoat. I had not seen that specific hue of yellow since my freshman year in college. Funny how a color can send you back so far.
It is seven years before the raincoat.
I am enrolled in a music appreciation class. One day, we are discussing songs in terms of colors. This is particularly interesting to another student, Anna, who just happens to be blind. Anna, being courageous, raises her hand and asks us to try to explain the specific yellow we were discussing, the yellow I’d see years later in Chloe’s raincoat. Another student raises his hand to attempt an answer. He stands up, walks over to Anna, and holds her hand.
“Can I do something now?” he says. Anna nods. “This is yellow.” And he slaps the back of Anna’s hand.
Chloe liked that story. I suppose it’s the closest I’ll ever get to understanding how she experienced the world.
Imagine your experiences come through a small aperture. Everything you hear, taste, read, touch, and—more than anything—feel, passes through that tiny hole to form your experience of this waking world. Now, take that pinhole and open it just a bit wider. A little wider still. And then, if you can, imagine what that does to your life. Everything you feel becomes sensational—highs are higher, lows are lower, the light—instead of just lighting—can now also burn. The incoming streams flood in and start to cross. There are now connections where otherwise there would be none. Songs point to seasons. Words taste like food.
That was Chloe. She was exceptional. I hate that “was” is not “is.”
It is now one year after the raincoat.
Chloe, like me, is from New York and left the east coast to live in Portland. I had just moved back east after a two year stint in Oregon, and I was having trouble adapting to the particular hardships of big city living that New York City so easily offers up in droves. She was in sympatico with me: happy with Portland and aware of its Neverlandish advantages, yet high-strung like a true east coaster, and thus slightly bored with the pace of the west coast. There was a longing for home and to be surrounded by those as quintessentially neurotic as you, yet also a fear of adjusting and suffering through all the bowls of shit New York serves up each day. It was a hot topic between us—it’d come up each time we saw one another.
I tend to ruminate on my troubles, and eventually, I can figure out how to frame my feelings to have them make sense. But this anxiety, this fear, was a sensation I couldn’t imagine how to describe. Then, finally, Chloe gave it to me, clear as day:
Portland is the island on Lost. You get there, magical things happen, and you are in disbelief. You make a go of living there. Things go exceedingly well for a while, but eventually you realize time is wonky, and you must escape. You work diligently to reconnect with the rest of the world. Eventually you leave the island and get back to where you were. Then, the everydayness of your own life sinks in, and you say to yourself, “We need to go back to the island!”
I needed Chloe to figure that out for me. I couldn’t do it, because my aperture wasn’t open enough. This wasn’t just a take on two cities—it was coming to grips with how to make yourself a home and how to be a person who lives there. It was wrestling with how to feel comfortable in your own skin.
It is three years after the raincoat.
I am with Chloe and Andy, her boyfriend and my friend friend. We are sitting in the lobby of The Merchant Hotel, ensconsed in an over-stuffed, Victorian sofa. The hotel is showy: high, vaulted ceilings, rococo-framed everything, oil-painted portraiture of the bourgeoisie you’d presume lived in the place, if you didn’t already know it used to be a bank. And there we were, cracking wise in the corner about crass subjects that shall not be mentioned here for the sake of preserving a bit of honor to this recollection. Chloe, for the first time all week, had a lightness about her. Her laugh is running up the wall, and bouncing off the ceiling. We are delighted. We are drunk in more ways than one.
A lot of Chloe’s rememberances have mentioned her smile. It’s true, it was a real stunner—wide and mischevious. She was so quick to offer it up. But I’m a man of rarer game—her laugh was always what I wanted, and it was just as special. She had a 100 watt smile and a 100 decibel laugh. That laugh is what I’ll miss the most.
My friend Chloe Weil died earlier this week. I won’t make a fuss in public. She wouldn’t have wanted that. Instead, I’ll sit and try to feel as much as I can—to open myself a little wider, let a little more light in, and have the current go a bit stronger. But, I must be careful. When the current is strong, a boat can go lost.
So long, Chloe. You will be so deeply, deeply missed.