August 16, 2021
I first met Chloé in the spring of 2019 at Parc La Fontaine, when we gathered to say good bye to Emma, who was moving out of Montreal. Like all of Emma’s friends, Chloé was part of the swing dance community. So there she was at the park, jiggling between dancing balboa with Emma and hardening her skills at the slack line.
I noticed a Zab sticker in her water bottle, and our chat immediately turned into specialty coffee and her barista adventures. Coffee always brings people together. Chloé also told me that, as an adventurer like Emma, she would be going away soon, heading to Spain and other corners of Europe. We saw each other one last time at Cat’s Corner, during a weekend class. I shared that I would also be travelling to Europe in the summer, so we exchanged contacts to maybe meet and go dancing over there.
In the summer I finally arrived in Europe, so I contacted Chloé while in Madrid. She replied with her most recent location, Granada, and invited me to go visit and even offered to host me. Going to the south of Spain was definitely not in my route, but I decided last minute to just go for it. And soon after there I was, taking the train from Madrid to Granada in the early morning and hoping to be greeted by this girl that I barely knew from Montreal. A traveller’s mindset does wonders in our willing to take risks. I didn’t really know Chloé up to that point; but I easily accepted the worst case scenario would be simply to go back to Madrid and call it a day.
After arriving in Granada and getting caffeinated, I finally met Chloé. And any worries I had up that point were dissolved as she immediately treated my like an old friend. She had just moved in to Granada after backpacking all over Europe, was having a hectic time in her job search and paperwork for her residency status, yet she took the whole day to explore the city alongside me.
Our day together was as spontaneous as it could be when two people are hungry for discovery. There were nuggets of joy all over: from the medieval streets and archways to the magic of ordering drinks and getting free tapas; the southern heat that required loads of ice cream to cool things down; our visit to the Alhambra and the wonders of the last Muslim kingdom in the Iberian peninsula, and our awe of spotting all the Arabic influences around the city. We walked up and down the hills, talking nonstop about virtually everything. I particularly remember our talks on environment, agriculture, and ethics after Chloé found out I was vegetarian when we sat for a meal. We also talked a good deal about dancing, and I confessed my struggles at Lindy Hop, particularly when it comes to swing outs.
I got touched by Chloé’s passion on exploring different cultures, her courage to live with the minimal necessary and just go wherever her heart led her. After just a few months into her euro trip, she had already been in multiple countries, danced in a number of festivals, and met a big deal of people. I was impressed by her prowess in half a dozen languages. Chloé not only spoke Spanish fluently but could also teach me the origins of ojalá, one of her favourite expressions in the language. I shared back that the same word not only exists in Portuguese but also has an homonym in Brazil’s Candomblé. Chloé inspired me to learn Spanish, and I secretly set a personal goal of speaking with her in Spanish next time we meet.
On the following day we spent the morning together until the time I would take the train back to Madrid. We had another round of walks, coffee, and hills. I even accompanied her to get some paperwork done. All while we continued our talks, which got deeper and deeper. In our final hours, Chloé shared her fears on what the future could hold, and the limits of life, regrets, and death; in turn, I shared my own life and death story, how it had changed me, and all the teachings that I had harvested. Chloé was touched, listened carefully, was supportive, just like a good friend would.
Chloé walked me to the train station in the afternoon. When the time came for the good-bye, she asked me to dance with her and do some swing outs, just so she could have a sense of my struggles. And so we did. At the train station. By the gate. In front of the train staff. “I mostly do balboa, but you could put more tension in your swing out” was Chloé’s feedback. I was deeply thankful. We hugged one last time.
When the pandemic hit on the following year I checked in at Chloé by text, and was glad to hear that she was doing well, still in Granada. I shared that I had a dream in which she had a mansion with a butler and threw fancy dinner parties. “That’s funny, I’m pretty much homeless right now so kind of the opposite of a mansion” was her answer. Still living the dream.
I sent Chloé another message on her birthday, December 23, wishing bright days, full of joy. She thanked me and added that she had moved to Poland, to my surprise. And that was the last time we spoke.
“I miss you and those summer days in Spain” was among my last words to her.
Chloé died on July 31 2021, at age 23. I learned about her passing through Emma, the same friend that introduced Chloé to me. According to the obituary note posted by her family, she was victim of an accident while swimming in Mexico.
It’s been two days since I got these shocking news and it is still feels unreal. It’s hard to believe that I’ll never see her again, or dance with her, or speak Spanish just to hear her say “ojalá”. The sad truth is that way too often we take for granted the special people we have in life. I was sure we would meet again, either in Montreal or at some other corner of the world, in a classic Chloé fashion. Now I just wish I had told her how much I appreciated her presence, my admiration for her free spirit, and my gratitude for the beautiful moments and memories.
My soul is full of sadness and grief for Chloé. I will forever and profoundly miss my friend. In honour of her spirit, ojalá may we love, care, and live the present moment at its fullest, with each passing day.