A friend of my adolescence died this week, of lung cancer, back home.
When he was a little kid, say, eleven, he (as with many of my cohort) appeared as an extra in Breaking Away. His appearance, though, was distinctive in more ways than one. He had a unique face with an uncommon shape, and additionally in the scene he most notably appears in, he is literally in the front and center of the shot.
He had a cynical sense of humor and had experienced losses and challenges early – one of his closest friends in high school died very young from some sort of renal failure that left him on dialysis from a young age.
That loss, and of course this week’s end of things, are all in the future at the moment the camera on the Breaking Away shoot committed my friend’s eleven-year-old gaze to film and thence to pixels in the fullness of time.
His expression is haunting me this week. He can’t quite believe it. All of it. The child is looking into the future and seeing something that surprises and does not delight, something that has taken him aback. That’s a fine epitaph, one that’s culturally sound and expressive on behalf of my cohort. Weirdly, it makes me happy and I start to chuckle every time I see it. It’s as if at age eleven he planted a practical joke for us to notice and appreciate today, in his wake.
Rest in peace.