I noticed him only because he came across a gentle soul on screen, a thankful contrast to all that testosterone, fast cars, curvaceous women and exotic locales which assailed my eyes. Poof! And he was gone, swallowed up by a ball of fire. The irony—not lost on anyone—was that he had died as he lived. A self-confessed speed junkie, a gear head, he raced them on screen and died surrounded presumably by the metal he loved. Somehow that old saying of he who lives by the gun, dies by it, came to mind.
I confess, I knew him only by face and not by name. The Fast & The Furious movies were a guilty pleasure. Of course many of us watched the franchise; but it was a common joke within media circles that these movies did far better outside the USA; mainly within the younger economies, where basic instincts, i.e. sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll and of course speed ruled.
So, I did watch many of them. They were guaranteed entertainment, especially on long haul flights: you could get your cocktail, your beer-nuts, ask for a blanket, let your neighbour through to go to the loo, and more; and yet pick up from right where you had left off.
He was easy to look at too; blond, blue eyes—that all American, wholesome feel he exuded epitomised everything aspirational; what the West once signified. But, it wasn’t his looks that got me. Somehow, I sensed his soul; through the many electrons, the protons and the neutrons, which made up his face on the big screen, I just knew: he was a gentle man; sensitive, beautiful, the kind of man who would never be rude or wild in real life. The one you would not hesitate to take home and introduce to your mother. Who you could count on as a friend.
So all the more reason, it came as a surprise, on waking up and seeing on a friend’s twitter feed that Paul Walker was gone. Intuitively I placed the name to the face I had seen in the movies; and continued only to be surprised through the day to find the outpouring of grief. It was understandable and poignant from the cast of the Fast & the Furious franchise; who must have gotten to know him well over the years. But I wondered if the sixteen year olds actually knew who he was? Or was this just an easy win to tag his twitter handle with a RIP message; share the message from therealvindeisel on instagram hoping to be noticed; to be the first to share the message out from his Facebook page; to reblog that Tumblr post by @itsludacris (of which I too am guilty.)
And now… 1973 – 2013, his lifeline, affected me more than anything. A life summarised in eight figures, one which was shorter than most Facebook timelines. Yet, I think that's how I'd prefer to go: in sixty seconds, in a flash.
Is he looking down bemused, as he catches that perfect wave? Or is the last laugh on us in the social media space?