During my last year of college I lived in a row of three houses filled with theatre majors. It was a fun block and group of people. I’m not in touch with many of them today (other than Facebook, but we’re the generation who grew up without Facebook, so a lot of us function without it … which means not a lot of online living). But through the years, oddly enough, I have stayed in touch with my next door neighbor and friend Matthew. And to some extent, through Matthew, his brother Brennen. Matthew is a successful actor in New York City and Brennen is a successful architect back in Pittsburgh (where they are from).
But when I think of Matthew and Brennen, the first thing I think about is Brennen’s Laser (dark blue, and always sitting in the common driveway, the hood popped up and Brennen’s upper torso leaning over the engine -for a purpose none of us were ever too interested in).
It’s hard, in a few words, to describe that year I lived on North Atherton surrounded by those boys, but I have memories for days. Brennen and the Laser, playing video games (the only time in my life, and only for a few months before Brennen took our Playstation away, pointing out that we’d completely stopped doing anything else). Writing music, listening to music, sitting and talking for hours at a time. It was a magical year.
It was also the year that I was first exposed to “The Fast & the Furious.” And, for reasons I still cannot pinpoint, I fell in love with it.
When John and I started dating, we watched the fourth movie on a bootleg internet site – the coming back of Vin Diesel and Brian O’Connor after the (in my opinion) blasphemy of ‘Tokyo Drift.’ We saw ‘Fast Five’ in the theatre on opening weekend. And the sixth.
And then, like a shock wave, Paul Walker died.
I cannot explain why it affected me the way it did. I was absolutely devastated. I watched all my DVDs for days, watched Brian O’Connor wearing his chucks and vans. Smiled with tears in my eyes when he spoke. Tweeted too many times with the hashtag “Remember the Buster.” I wore chucks for a week leading up to the release of F&F 7, and was there for a matinée showing on its opening day. I don’t think I paid very much attention to the movie ~ I was transfixed with watching Paul Walker on-screen. And I still cry every time I see the end sequence of that movie. Big, hot, emotional tears.
So when “The Fate of the Furious” was released, I felt a little torn about seeing it. Hubs was hoping that with the departure of Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker’s character in the movies), I would move on from my “Fast and Furious” obsession. We didn’t see it in the theatre. I listened to, but stayed quiet, about all the reviews. Was I ready to see a new F&F movie without Brian O’Connor? I didn’t know.
But I pre-ordered it on iTunes because deep down, I couldn’t turn my back on this series of movies that have grown more and more absurd as their popularity has grown. I love them too much. I still think about Paul Walker asking for his tuna sandwich, no crust and am magnetically drawn to the films. So John and I sat down to watch it this week.
To me, there was a gaping hole where Brian O’Connor should have been. But, I also considered that life goes on for all of us when we lose someone we love. Life continues, and the hole is there and the memories are there and the emptiness drums in the background, the heartbeat of the person we’ve lost.
It was better than I thought it would be. It felt like there was a story again – something that I’d felt was missing from the sixth and seventh installments. My breath caught in my throat when Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) mentioned Brian in the middle of the movie. And I cried at the end, knowing but waiting for confirmation of what I’d guessed.
I don’t know why I love the movies. Life, maybe? Good memories? And I certainly can’t explain why I was so ripped apart by an actor’s death — a person I didn’t even know. And yet, I was. I remain staunchly loyal to Brian O’Connor. The Buster. Tuna, no Crust.
And I’ll keep watching the Fast & Furious movies until they stop being made. Because I can’t give up now.