The Most Loneliest Day (F1, ASMS + BS)
Pairing: Ayrton/Michael + Bruno
Beta: Much thanks go to evanmanic for the formal beta, and also to aitakute for spending a long time discussing this with me. Mistakes and such remain my own.
Note: A belated birthday present for lakehikaruAmor animi arbitrio sumitur, non ponitur.
The Most Loneliest Day
by Renata Lord (snowlight)
sic transit gloria mundi
thus passes away the glory of the world
October 17, 2018
Suzuka City, Mie Prefecture, Japan
The crowd’s cheer was deafening.
As soon as he took off his helmet, the wall of that rapturous sound crashed down and slammed into him. It was a familiar yet somehow always nostalgic symphony, flooding the entire racetrack; and it seemed to vibrate into heavens most high. When language failed, the mode of expression was reduced to frantic shrieking and plaintive cries, a wailing which can only be produced by the most jubilant.
He blinked his eyes. Before him, a sea of flags waved and roared. Suddenly the world seemed to only have two colors, green and yellow: the colors of Brazil, the colors of the helmet in his hand, the colors of his name.
And they were indeed screaming his name now: Senna. Senna. Senna.
He thought his heart was going to burst, so fiercely did pain tear its way out from it. It was not because of the last lap, although he did feel the blazing scent of blood crawling up his throat.
It was never like this. He had been in this position many, many times, and it was never like this.
October 2, 2018
Kanton Waadt, Switzerland
Michael Schumacher was rather shocked to have received that call.
In these years of retirement, all cold contacts from the F1 world had been handled by his personal assistant Peter, who was known for being fiercely committed to protecting his privacy. But this time, even the normally immovable Peter had seemingly capitulated to the demand of the intruding party.
“Just take the call, Michael. It sounded important, and he insisted it’s a personal matter.”
“Well, who is it?” he demanded irritably. He did not like this introduction. It was too early in the morning for something like this. He had just finished his breakfast, and the egg did not agree with him. Only Corinna could cook the eggs exactly the way he liked them, but she was out of town to see the kids, leaving him in Switzerland with substandard food and unwanted phone call.
“….just take the call. Please?”
Something in Peter’s voice reached him, and with a sigh he pressed the switch button.
“Michael Schumacher. Who’s this?”
A short pause, then a voice came vibrating from the lines. Accented but flowing English, spoken with a kind of tone that suggested both self-confidence and proper respect.
“Hi, Michael. This is Bruno Senna. How are you? I have a request I’d like to make, if that’s possible.”
He did not have time to register his surprise.
The request, it turned out, was a simple and straightforward one; but this did not make it any less audacious. Although presented in immaculate language, it essentially boiled down to this: Would he be so kind to come to the Pacific Grand Prix? Yes, the one during which yet one more record of his own was set to be broken? Because, you see, it would mean so much to the one who’s doing the record-breaking to have him there—to bear witness to the new chapter in F1 history.
The retired meister arched an eyebrow at the thought.
Strangely, the rest of the conversation went by in a blur. It was as if his head went elsewhere, so distracted was he by an uncharacteristic lightness in his heart. He said yes to the request even before he realized it himself, although this was hardly any cause for regret. The obligatory polite chitchat after that went even faster. He felt like his lips were simply going through the motions as dictated by social rules, while his real being was somewhere else, listening.
After the beeping sound told him the other end had hung up, Michael Schumacher put the receiver down and just sat in the wide sofa-chair for a minute, looking at the window pane directly before him but not really seeing anything at all.
For the strangest sense of déjà vu had struck him, and he was momentarily filled with a sense of deep wonder. Without warning, a nameless emotion began to uncoil itself from within him, much like a tiny seed finally germinating after an endless winter. At first he could not fathom what it was, nor from whence did it come. All he knew was that for one long moment, an all-encompassing absolute calm descended upon his heart, so overwhelming in its simplicity that he felt his eyes widen in a small breathless gasp.
It was then he understood. If every emotion had a color, for example the ecstasy of victory a fiery red and the daily blessings of family life a languid green, then this feeling could only be described as transparent as air. And the only one who could evoke that from him was a man by the name of Ayrton Senna.
Even though Ayrton Senna had been dead for twenty-five years.
Somehow he doubted surprise was at the heart of it, if only because it seemed so logical upon reflection. He had declined to attend almost all F1 functions in recent years, otherwise he would have caught it far earlier.
Michael Schumacher first met Bruno Senna Lalli the F1 driver ten years ago, when he was still somewhat active on the Ferrari payroll, and when the latter was still only known as “the great Ayrton’s nephew.” Even then, however, he couldn’t help but notice how different this second Senna was from the man he had known, both on the racetrack and off it. The passion for speed was the same, the drive for victory was the same, and Bruno certainly had his share of that brashness and intensity. But in the youth before him, he could detect none of the unspoken ferocity that once perennially smoldered in Ayrton’s dark eyes like dangerous quicksilver.
So many had wanted this young man to be another Senna—or rather, another Ayrton; but even the best laid out plan had its faults, and over time Bruno had stubbornly grown into his own person. The Bruno Senna today was no longer that inexperienced young man who shook his hand with an insuppressible smile. Bruno Senna was thirty-five now. He himself was forty-nine, with lines around his eyes and gray streaks in his hair to show for it.
And it so happened that, at the age of thirty-five, Bruno had Ayrton’s voice.
There was no mistaken it. Even the rough Brazilian accent was the same, down to the last syllable’s tone and pronunciation. He thought he had neatly filed that voice away in some remote corner of his memory, but all it took was that one phone call to have it all rushing back like a terrible, magnificent flood.
It was as if Ayrton was speaking to him, and he dared not to answer.
Death was never a chasm between them, but for once, Michael Schumacher was afraid of admitting to growing old. He had wished to age gracefully along with his beloved Corinna, and was fortunate enough to have it granted. But Ayrton—that was a different matter. Memories of that man somehow had the power to disrupt the flow of time, to etch eternity and a day onto a split second. In that hallowed space he stayed, unyielding and unchangeable in perfection as only his God could have made him.
And by his God’s grace, Ayrton never aged. No matter how fast the world went by, Ayrton Senna stayed at thirty-four.
Almost subconsciously, Michael raised his right hand and placed it over the left side of his chest. It was then he realized that he could breathe again. The spell had been broken.
October 17, 2018
Suzuka City, Mie Prefecture, Japan
When he told Gerhard Berger about why was Michael Schumacher here for attendance, his mentor made a face that was impossible to describe. After a puzzled pause, he remembered that hard feelings probably lingered between the two older men, even though to his knowledge no words were ever exchanged. Gerhard probably didn’t think of the German as nearly gracious enough.
Yet there was Michael Schumacher in the flesh, standing in the VIP section.
Doing his best to ignore the pain in his chest for a moment, Bruno raised his head up. He thought he saw a small smile tugging at his guest’s lips, but whether or not that was really true he could not tell. He was standing too far away, and rays of autumn sunlight assaulted his eyes, blurring his vision more than he thought was possible.
Still, in the riotous ocean of yellow and green, he somehow found himself fixated on that dark, solitary figure. To his surprise, Michael had come dressed in a subdued dark gray instead of the trademark blazing red.
That red had been gone from the Formula 1 world for a long time now, Bruno remembered. Like its owner, it passed from the heat of races into history. All these years, he spent most of his waking moments trying to chase that color; yet when he finally arrived at this supposed overtaking point, his target was nowhere to be found in sight.
No one had come to this juncture in history except him. This thought proved to be exhilarating and terrifying in equal measures. He felt like he stood on the edge of abyss, peering down to study the inscrutable future. There was no one before him now, no goal set for him to reach, no known road to follow. The path of fate does not extend so predictably like the self-repeating laps on the race track.
The crowd’s frenzied chanting continued like it would never stop.
Senna. Senna. Senna. Bruno Senna.
But he had ceased to be able to hear it. In fact, he could hear nothing aside from the beating of his own heart, faster and faster still.
Until now, he did not understand why Michael Schumacher said Ayrton Senna was the reason for that infamous breakdown at Monza. Yet in this moment, this crystallized moment filled with a kind of clarity that could only stem from heartbreak, he realized exactly why.
Or so he thought.
He blinked his eyes again. The tears were coming now, that he was dimly aware of.
The last image he saw before his vision became a haze was the figure of Michael Schumacher, standing in the crowd with such grace but looking like he was the loneliest man in the entire world.
Author’s Note: Just to clarify, Bruno is totally innocent in all this. To put it simply, his experience with Michael mirrored what Michael had experienced with Ayrton. Except in Michael’s case it was with, shall we say, far more complicated feelings.
The title comes from the lyrics of “Lonely Day”, by System of a Down. I had first encountered this song on Youtube as the background music of an Ayrton tribute, and thought it was the perfect song for him.