Saturday, December 31, 2011

with Senna, the magic died

A couple years ago I discovered that SB used to be a Formula 1 fan.  We were walking past our local pub and a race was showing.  SB was drawn to the television and I was forced to continue home alone.  I knew that he enjoyed watching Top Gear and occasionally spouted off car related facts that indicated more than a passing interest in racing but I was ignorant to the depths of his fascination.  I later found out that Ayrton Senna was his childhood hero.

Two nights ago I gave SB a belated Christmas gift in the 2010 documentary, Senna.  I knew that it was going to be heavy because of its inevitable conclusion.  We sat mostly in silence, with me occasionally asking him for explanations regarding the F1 rivalries that he knew all about.  It didn't take long to figure out that his childhood fascination with F1 was not idle but bordered on obsession.  When we entered into that final season on the documentary no more words were exchanged. 

At the death of Roland Ratzenberger I looked over to see that SB was crying.  I have only seen SB close to shedding tears twice: once when we broke up years ago and I was bawling my eyes out he looked misty eyed and once when his grandmother died he looked distraught and may have shed one or two tears before walking out of her bedroom.  I had never, ever seen SB actually cry.

Later he told me that he and his younger sister used to watch the F1 races together, that they loved Senna and were caught up in the Senna-Proust rivalry as though it were an epic battle from the Iliad.  But when Senna died all of the magic died with him.  They continued to watch the races but it wasn't the same anymore; the spark was gone from their lives forever. 

SB told me that years later he had a discussion with an older friend who had been a motorsport fan in the 1950's.  He said that after several racing idols died year after year he couldn't bring himself to enjoy it anymore.  Years after Senna died SB had dreams where he was either driving the car on that fateful day or he was talking to Senna on the radio transmitter.  It reminded me of my dreams about my uncle.  While I was still too far in shock to understand the magnitude of loss when my uncle died, I now wake up from my dreams feeling wretched.  I imagine SB had a similar feeling over his racing idol. 

When SB mourns for Senna, he is also mourning for the loss of his childhood, for the end of a fantasy that he lived week after week through the races.  Ayrton Senna was supposed to be invincible but in the end, the man who became a legend was only mortal and this fairy tale did not have a happy ending.

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