Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How Freddie Mercury Helped Me Find True Love

Before I worked from home, I hated commuting. More specifically, I hated the long slog home. It didn't matter if I was driving for 2 hours or fifteen minutes. The journey between my office and my apartment was always a drudge.

Until, that is, a period of Tuesdays around 2003...when it was magic.

My thirties had brought with them the realization that I was lonely. It was a feeling separate and distinct from the nagging depression that had clung like a wet blanket around my shoulders since college. I was living alone for the first time (not counting the cats, of course) and I really felt like something...or rather some ONE was missing.

After a few unsuccessful office flirtations, I let my friends convince me to start online dating. The early results were little disasters in their own rights, but I hung in there...searching. I wanted love and I was willing to put in the work and take some risks to find it.

It was about that time I that began carpooling on Tuesday evenings...with Freddie Mercury.

It wasn't a regular thing at first. The local classic rock station had "Two for Tuesdays" where they would play 2 songs in a row by each band for the day. Queen had a regular slot and it seemed I could count on them to come on around 5:30. The first time they played Somebody to Love, I sang along. I've always loved that song and the way it makes the hairs on my arms stand at attention. Freddie knew my pain.

Before long, it became a weekly ritual. I would make sure I was in my car and on the road by 5:15. I never took note of the other song the radio station chose by Queen for that week. I waited eagerly...some days desperately for my song. It was always part of the set.

Inching through rush hour traffic, Freddie and I put forth our petition. Can anybody find me somebody to love?

It was a cry of hope. It was a prayer. It was sympathetic magic. The rest of Queen were in the back seat singing backup in complete agreement that I worked hard every day of my life and at the end of the day I took home my hard earned pay all on my own.

By the time we got to that part... you know it...where the song repeats again and again Find...Me. Somebody to loooove. Find...Me. Somebody to loooove... every ounce of my soul was behind the words. The widows of my car were tinted by the raw color of my desire as Freddie and I called out to the very Gods for the one thing that would make the daily grind worth grinding.

In the end, Freddie would hit that high note...and I'd reach for it too!

And then it would be over.

The spell cast, the ritual over, I'd crack open the card windows to let the cooling autumn air carry our wish out into the universe. And then I'd start thinking about what to make for dinner.

In the cars around me, other drivers inched by, never knowing the great act of sorcery that had taken place in the Taurus next to them.

This went on for a couple of months at least. That is, until I was just about to give up on the whole online dating thing. That was when I got an email without a picture. He was funny enough that I emailed back. His picture, when he did send one, made me smile. He said he loved me on our first date. 18 days later we were engaged.

I didn't wait for Two for Tuesdays anymore. My commute home was shorter some days as my Wookie and I bounced back and forth between his place and mine. It was a rare thing for me to drive back to my place alone, but then one day I did. And Queen came on. And I waited for the song knowing I'd already found my somebody. But the song didn't come. Instead Freddie sang We are the Champions and I thought, yes we are Freddie.

And I sang along.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


If a kid shows courage in the woods, but no one sees it, was she brave?

I was nine, caught up in the raw beauty of the blazing bonfire. The heat on my face competed with chill of night air on my back. My eyes watered from the dusky smoke when the breeze shifted my way. The crackle and pop of damp kindling sent bright orange sparks into the crisp night air, like tiny fireworks. I knew to keep my distance.
My eyes tuned in to the bright light of the flames, making the darkness beyond the fire impenetrable. I could see the faces of the other campers gathered for the sing-along.
Everyone kept a safe distance from the flames.
Except for the kid across from me.
He was part of a loud group that had been disturbing my peace with nightly parties and loud music since their arrival a week before. Just after the sing-a long started, I noticed that his parents had left him sitting there and gone back to their party.
Finding himself suddenly alone, he stood searching.
He stepped forward.
He was wearing those footsie pajamas every little kid seemed to have in the 70s and I could see the white plastic sole of his foot, outstretched, and searching for a place to set down in the narrow space between the singers and the fire.
He threaded his way through; his gaze fixed on his cabin in the distance.
The pace of the music picked up. The neck of a guitar bobbed in time. Everyone clapped along.
The boy squeezed between the guitar and the fire. The guitarist swung his body with the music.
The kid lurched out of the way and into the flames.
Sparks flew up as the boy came down.
I looked for movement from the adults around the fire, but nobody moved. The clapping continued. The singers sang on.
Suddenly, a pair of hands hoisted the boy away from the blaze. His feet scraped a dark trail through the hot red coals. Flames flickered on his synthetic flannel pajamas. The hands beat down the flames and brushed away the glowing embers that clung to the melting vinyl soles of his pajama feet.
I looked down and realized that those hands were my own.
The kid scampered away without a word or a look back.
In his wake, the cool night air washed over me. Music again filled my ears.
I brushed the grey ash from my hands and was shocked that they were not burned. I sat there for a while, mouthing along with the singing. When the music and the fire finally tapered off, I headed to our cabin.
I didn't tell anyone until a few weeks later.
"Gramama," I whispered. "I was a hero!"
We stood alone in her dining room with only my play-dough sculptures watching us from a midst her treasures in the china cabinet. I admired her simple cotton dress knowing that she'd probably made it herself--a skill she'd begun to share with me. We'd just finished another one of her incredible meals and it filled my belly like courage.
I thought she would be proud.
"But Crissy,” she said, “if no one saw you, how do you know you were a hero?"
My throat tightened and I turned away so she couldn't see me biting my lip. I had been brave and fast—that was a hero in my book. No, I thought, it didn't matter that no one had noticed.
Years later, I Googled myself and was surprised to find my name, along with my husband's, in a police blotter column. It briefly mentioned how we had stopped to give aid at a car wreck. Had my grandmother been alive, I might have shown it to her and shared the story of another night when I battled fire, this time with a fire extinguisher and witnesses. I wonder what she would have said.

I can't ask her about it now.