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Simply In Love

"I did not know you, our lives never touched
Till the day they gathered to bid you farewell
And they painted your picture, and as I looked around,
I felt I saw you in their words and their sound...

"...Your life gave them a treasure, a piece of themselves,
Something to carry, and it still serves them well...

"...And what you've left behind you, and what swept over me,
Says that your life's world grows on and on,
a piece of eternity..."

"Just One Life" by Brian Harold May

     

I am not a musician and never was meant to be one, but my Mom wanted me to play the piano. Reluctant at first, I grew to love it and went on of my own accord. This is how I received a comparatively conservative musical education, and at the age of 16, unlike my peers, I listened to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven rather than any of the pop-stars. For all I know, it could have been a matter of being different or simply trying to please the adults with my 'exceptional seriousness'. The mischievous "Killer Queen" came quite as a shock, therefore. Being a somewhat narrow-minded teenager, I couldn't accept myself taking a fancy to a rock-group, and yet there was no denying the fact that no musical piece had ever moved me that much.

The conservator in me fought hard, but it was a lost battle from the start. Queen won. So there I was, admiring a group whose name was the only thing I knew about them. A friend of mine gave me a tape by Queen - their Greatest Hits. I used to stare at the picture in a futile effort to guess who was the singer with that magnificent thrilling voice which pleased my ears more than anything else.

Have to say I was kind of disappointed when he turned out to be the tough-looking guy with a mustache. I had hoped it would be the handsome blonde..... And that dark man - a jerk, a regular jerk! I positively disliked his manner as well as his looks - just as much as I loved his voice.

A year passed by. There were so many more important things in life, I was forgetting Queen. I had to take a lot of exams - the finals at school, then the entrance exams at the Moscow State Linguistic University. I wasn't a Queen-minded person yet!

I dug out that Greatest Hits tape (the only tape by Queen I had then) months later, when, upon being accepted at the MSLU, I frequently found myself a passenger of Bus 359 Pushchino-Moscow. (Pushchino is a small town, a biological research center, 100 km south of Moscow, that's where I was born, went to school, and heard Queen for the first time....) I had a crazy schedule; one fourth of my time was eaten up by those bus-rides. It was then that the magic of Queen's music intoxicated my brain.

It takes two hours to get to Moscow by bus, enough time to listen to Greatest Hits from beginning to end, and start again. I remember once, on a beautiful sun-lit evening in fall, as we were approaching Moscow, I saw a plane coming down. Most appropriately, "Play the Game" started. My first glimpse into the harmony of the world.

Before long I knew all those songs by heart. Without understanding most of the lyrics, though. But - that was just another incentive to excel in English. I worked hard and I was a success - and it was all that mattered.

I also expanded my knowledge of Queen - I found out that the curious person with the gorgeous voice was called Freddie Mercury. I didn't dislike him any longer - but when an acquaintance mentioned in passing how handsome and attractive she thought Mercury was, I was surprised out of my wits.

So I lived and I learned, and my heart wasn't broken when I saw the announcement that a Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert would be broadcast by the 1st channel of the Russian Television. It was five months after Freddie died of AIDS. It felt sad and unfair, but that was life... Well, I thought, those rock singers are all kind of prostitutes.

However, I faithfully watched the concert. Most of the songs and almost all the singers didn't ring a bell with me. I was completely ignorant of that world, but as the concert was nearing its end, I found it exceedingly hard to fight back tears. By the time the chorus of The Show Must Go On died away, I was crying my heart out, much to the bewilderment of my family. No wonder; I usually managed to hold back my emotions. They just never happened to be that strong.

That was it - next morning I woke up a Queen fan. I wanted to hear more of their music, so I frantically started looking for their tapes. None was to be found.

In August 1992, a friend brought me another Queen tape - their Greatest Hits II - from West Germany. I could hardly wait till I was left alone with the tape. I listened to it twice before I went to bed. I dreamed of the songs at night. They were ringing in my ears all through the next day. My soul didn't seem to belong to me any longer - it belonged to the music of Queen.

I'm an idealist. Have always known that. It makes me vulnerable, so I try to be very cautious. All right, I said to myself, all you heard of Queen were their greatest hits. Make sure you aren't disappointed when you listen to a regular album. I feel like smiling now as I recall that - to apply words like regular to Queen! Insane, to say the least.

Russia moved on, though. Tapes (mostly the bootleg stuff) started appearing in the stores. The first albums by Queen I got hold of were The Miracle and Innuendo, taped over the two sides of a 90 minutes cassette. They still are my favorites - they guided me through many a tough day, sometimes soothing my pain, sometimes giving me the surge to go on with life, sometimes just bringing out the beauty of the simple things that surrounded me. I could never grow fed up with them, discovering new glistening facets all the time.

Then there came November 24, 1992. Just another day, nothing out of the ordinary. I did my homework, but by midnight I grew so weary I put everything off, got into bed, put on my headphones and turned on the radio. Within seconds, my sleepiness was gone. What I heard was the story of a man who became one of the world's greatest artists. The Disc Jockey seemed a prophet to me. As I look back now I realize the program was lightweight, pathetic, over-sentimental. But it was sincere. And it touched me to the quick. I couldn't get my mind off the man who knew he was going to die yet managed to live, to love, to sing. Who was as strong as he was talented. Whose every move was a turn in history. Or so it seemed to a romantic sophomore.

The obsession having lasted for a month, I started noticing it. First I thought I was going mad. And then - then I realized I was simply falling in love. Well... why not? That was silly, of course, but it was stronger than me. Subconsciously, I tried to imitate his manner, his gestures, his intonations.

I started drawing Freddie. I learnt every little feature of his face. His funny teeth. The deep brown eyes with a devilish spark to them. I once read a science-fiction story about an artist who painted portraits of people, but on his canvases, there were not their faces, but their thoughts. It came natural with him. Well, not exactly the case with me, but it's so true that when you draw somebody's portrait you gain an insight into this person's soul. I felt I was reading his mind... It was my way of communicating with him. And my small tribute to his talent.

To be sure, I did idealize him at first. But, as I read various books and articles on the group and the vocalist, I was beginning to understand things. The rainbow-winged angel faded away, and in his place there appeared a man - a mortal, sinning and erring, sometimes mad, sometimes wickedly vicious. And - a whirl of happiness, of radiant joy, of heavenly love. An enigma not to be fathomed in a lifetime. Worship turned into respect and admiration, affection and gratitude. Freddie's voice and spirit stood by me when things went wrong, when I felt the world was too cruel and life wasn't worth taking the trouble, when the dawn found me sitting up with studies or when I just felt lonely, forgotten and miserable.

Queen were not the only influence in life but one of the strongest, without doubt. I owe to them so much!.... Their lyrics gave the answers to most of my questions; it was through them that I was able to grasp many a realia of Life. My love of English is very much Queen inspired. Most likely, so are my skills as an interpreter.

Yet more do I owe personally to Freddie. He helped me bring out my real self. He taught me to be courageous, generous and tolerant (even though probably tolerant is what he wasn't); he taught me music, grace and beauty. The man who held the world in the palm of his hand.

I went on loving Freddie with all my heart. For all the comfort the feeling gave me, though, at one point it seemed tough. I remember I once faint-heartedly complained to a friend about how tired I was of being in love with non-existent things. To which she replied, "Maybe this is what keeps them existent?"

I'm saner now. Calmer, in a way. I know the stars are in heaven and we are on Earth. Yet, deep in my heart, there's a place where Freddie lives on. And when I hear a song by Queen I know everything's going to be all right.

I can't work miracles. All I can do is keep on trying to protect the little candle of my belief from the harsh wind of reality.

To keep existent the things I love....