The following piece was written by a close friend of Chase McMillan. The OCA Editorial Staff would like to extend the invitation to the NYU Shanghai community and others who knew Chase to add their own memories of Chase below.
“Nobody Exists on Purpose. Nobody Belongs Anywhere. Everybody is Going to Die. Come Watch T.V”.
(Rick and Morty, Rixty Minutes)
I want to write something that Chase would like. I don’t know what that thing would be. I know his favorite scenes of any movie we watched. I know he loved that Rick and Morty quote. I know that he is dead. The truth is that despite how much we cherished each other’s presences I did not know that much more about him than any of our other close friends. Perhaps we each knew parts of each other that we seldom shared with the others. We all knew a different Chase, we all knew an amalgamation, an unholy, holy mandala of a human who held truth, and life, and us within him and outside of him. He always told me that I was one of the only people he would trust with poetry, and now that he’s gone I have no idea how to salute his existence which still lives deep within me, and within the friends that we so lovingly share.
How do I write my first eulogy? I want not to use the past tense, or to acknowledge that though some things may drift forward, like time, or be dragged onwards, like our bodies, part of me will always ebb backwards into the last moments that I spent with him. Ebb, or scratch; I’m not sure which is the best word. I want to scratch at Thursday, to pull some of it under my skin, hold it close to my chest like the last piece of him that he could give me. I want to go back to us laying on my stupid, uncomfortable futon, the same way we always did when we were alone together. He called that “beached whale time”, and it was what we all did together for an entire year in Shanghai.
The last moments we shared were us watching Samsara, eating pasta, and low moaning about how beautiful the destruction, and the abandonment scenes were. That was Chase for you, unendingly deep, completely relatable, always full of some ethereal, untouchable sorrow, and unconventional in the beauty he admired. In a lot of ways, he is the soul of our group. We were six people, give or take, who almost never got along all at once, almost never had the same good day. On our bad days, he would listen to us sell each other out behind backs, tell us he wasn’t taking sides, that he loved us all equally. On our good days he would fill us with euphoria, tell us how much he loved us, and that we were never supposed to leave each other. In his last days he was graying, growing paler, and told me that he could hear a calling for himself, and it was heart breaking that he couldn’t follow it. Much like Chase, we were always scratching at some dirty thing deep within us, and each other, and yet we were people who banded together around a person who recognized how unconventional, uncomfortable, unholy, and wonderful everyone all was. He was the soul who found something in our unspoken insanity beautiful, who related to it, walked around carrying us within him, and who loved us for exactly what we were.
It isn’t peaceful as I lay in bed occasionally clawing at my hair. I look over to my roommate’s bed where he sometimes slept while he stayed here during November. I can’t look at the doorway he last walked through, with freshly dyed blue hair, and the long black sweatshirt he always wore. I was talking to my mother, he told me to tell her that he loved her for making me. It’s not something I usually talk about with my parents, but I decided to anyway. She laughed and felt love from a stranger she did not know, and when I called her to tell her that he was dead I felt her hurt with me. The last words I said to Chase were that I loved him, that he should stay safe, and that’s so arbitrary, and so important nonetheless. I have no doubt in my soul that Chase knew we loved him, that we always love him, that though our arguments were always petty, always youthful, always selfish, beneath them was adoration nobody could explain. I don’t have the heart to pick up the change he dropped by my side table. His wig from the Halloween party that he was so looking forward to is still in my kitchen. The fairy lights he bought me still hang in the living room. It’s all so hard to recall as I scrape against the sides of my brain attempting to pull out of the past anything substantial of his. Nevertheless, I know that he is perched within my life in so many intricate, complex ways. I always told him that meeting him in early December of 2014 changed my life, and he always told me that I was the type of person he knew he would always find his way back to.
Still, this also wouldn’t be a proper eulogy if I weren’t honest about him, this I’m sure he would agree with. Often, he was inconsiderate, gruff, difficult to manage for long periods, unorganized, heavy, rude, combative when he wanted to be, and the type to lash out at everyone and anyone when he felt he had to. I was often insensitive, too sensitive, overindulgent and oblivious to him. These honest things were part of my relationship with him, they were our mountains and our molehills. They were the reasons I couldn’t deal with him some days, and when I would come home to seeing him in his underwear, wrapped in a blanket watching Chef’s Table and absolutely, unendingly depressed, I couldn’t go sit next to him and puzzle it out. His depression lay beyond my comprehension, and saying this is comforting in a small way. I’m sure there are those who were not close to him in his final weeks, days, hours who would ask whether or not Chase “could have been saved”. To this my reply could only ever be that Chase was always safe with us, as safe as any human beings could have made him given the circumstances, though we could not make him safe from himself. Despite not being able to fill the emptiness he so often mentioned to me, we did our best to give him all of the love that we, a group of largely commitment-phobic, messy, adult-children could. Chase was family, and we were his during the months where his depression beat him into my couch, and away from the outside world. We were the family that steadily saw him climbing out of his depression by the time of his death, despite its nature being sinusoidal. I take some micro-comfort in knowing that he was looking forward when he died, not backward, that he knew how deeply we loved him, that he was safe and with people he thought of as family, that he died not in the depths of his depression. I take comfort in knowing he had made future plans, talked about the things we would do in the weeks coming, laughed heartily with me, and was his good natured, kind hearted self up until the end. He was enigmatic, complex, and constantly fluctuating. The truth of our relationship means acknowledging that I was not the best, but that I did my best always. Sometimes I was harsh on him, or mean to him, neglectful of his needs. Sometimes I was insensitive, sometimes I was too neurotic to appreciate the gift of his time I had been given. But I did my best to love him, and fucking Christ, do I love that boy.
The things I remember are so full and so empty now, they’re stories I can’t share the full meaning of with anybody but him, and now when our group gets together we all look around wanting to put the pieces back together through these stories that only each one of us and Chase could have fully understood. Now we are closer. My roommate, Sam, and I hang back while walking and feel surges of love and gratitude for the people we call “our boys”. These are our friends that loved Chase even when we couldn’t stand Chase. We watch them walking up ahead, and couldn’t imagine life without them in it. In a way I now feel as though we all must be eulogized. Parts of us all died with Chase that morning, parts of us all lay next to him. Parts of Nick, and Adan, Anneli, Samanta, Mark, Kevin, and Marshall all must be eulogized, but they are also our gifts to Chase. These parts of ourselves are small stories that we cannot now share with anybody, which have to be taken to the grave, for they are ours, each of ours and must also be sent off into the void.
Chase didn’t believe in life after death. He believed that once he was dead, he was dead. In his mind there was no use in all of the fanfare humans tacked onto the event. Death could make even the most meaningful of moments meaningless, purposeless, and empty. I hope, deep in my soul, that Chase is wrong, that there is something out there for him beyond this, beyond us, beyond what we could give him because he deserves that. I will never forget walking around Shanghai with him, the pollution settling in our lungs, the combination of his cologne and cigarette smoke in my nostrils, the taste of halal food in my mouth, and a sense of urgency and peace in my gut. I will never forget the night he told me about his mother. We walked quickly beneath Shanghai underpasses near the Grand PuJian where his friends and family, and later to become my family lived. He told me his story about walking around Michigan’s streets one night at a lacrosse tournament in high school. He had never told anyone, he said, and now I’m not sure that I should. But, it brings me peace to know that despite his steadfast disbelief in the afterlife, he could acknowledge a “beyond his comprehension” section to this world. Anyway, he was walking, lost in thoughts of her, when he came across an old homeless woman awake deep into the morning. She sat in between two things, had the air of a woman who was neither here nor there; she was who stopped him with a stare as he cried for one of the first times about his mother’s death. I will never forget that woman saying to Chase “she says hello”, and though it’s eerie, I hope one day something as gap-bridging as this will cut across my life and nod to me through the dark. I look forward to the day where the universe greets me the way Chase would, I pray for just a small moment that could break through, or which could pass through the veil between us.
I guess that’s what I have to say right now about Chase’s death. I don’t know if I at all did Chase any sense of justice, if this would be something he would have liked. I only know that I’ll await the day he says hello to me again, that I’ll never be the same as I was just yesterday, before I knew, and that I will always purely love the people who shared him with me.
This is for you Chase, this is for the moments you saved my life in, for your invincibility, and for the way you rocked on the balls of your feet when you were standing still. It’s about your hands which flared out, fingers stretched, always around your shoulders when you were telling us that you “just didn’t care”. It’s the anarchy you loosed upon us, the order you brought to our lives; it’s the days you sheltered me, loved me, fought with me. I will never stop loving you; it has always been unconditional. I will never stop mourning your loss. I know that thirty years from now I’ll see your slim, square face, and those beautiful, blue eyes in everything from a stalling car’s rising exhaust, to flashing neon lights, or the whole wheat flour that you still owe me. I always told you I considered the nights you knocked on my door as “your reservations”. I didn’t know when they would be, but I knew that the time belonged to you. This is for you Chase, in hopes that one day you give a firm, strong knock at my door in the morning looking for coffee, that one day we meet again. This is for you Chase, and part of me always will be, and always has been.
You were my Chase. You were our Chase. You are pure, and immortal.
This article was written by Natalie Soloperto. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Natalie Soloperto