Short story collection- 4.
By Leila Baez / Matthew staff
I could not believe it. QUEEN. The one and only, her majesty, QUEEN. I had spent the previous nearly half a year volunteering, signing petitions, sending chain emails, and leaving scripted voicemails in the inboxes of corrupt politicians who refused to believe in the global warming they and their ancestors caused or the unmentionable horrid things they buy into. Six months of being a “Global Citizen” led me to win a lottery that granted me two tickets to the best concert tickets of the summer: The Global Citizen’s Festival. While anybody with a spare three hundred dollars could get in, and into the VIP area no less, there was a certain amount of pride I felt while standing in my designated area of the Great Lawn in Central Park, watching stars like Ben Platt, H.E.R., Pharrel Williams, One Republic, Kelly Clarkson, and Alicia Keys belt their hearts on stage. The one and only Carole King herself even came on stage and made her grand return to the world of music on that stage at that very event. Everyone was emotional during her speech, even me and, I’ll admit it, I had no clue who she was at the time. I listened to her music once I had come back from New York and I’ve been hooked ever since.
But I was not there for them. I was there, in my skin-tight faded black jeggings, black faux leather boots, retro-round steampunk sunglasses, and galaxy print raglan t-shirt that advertised my purpose for attending. In my nineteen years of life at the time, this was going to be the first time I basked in the presence of gods among humans. Brian May and Roger Taylor would be accompanied by my long-time musician crush Adam Lambert and finish out the festival with a QUEEN concert.
I waited out my time, taking pictures and videos of every performer that came on stage. By the time the sun had set and Alicia Keys had begun to sing Empire State of Mind, my phone passed out from the pressure. In a mad rush to find a charging station, two other performers had come on stage and left. It was almost time, we had to hurry. By the time Hugh Jackman came on the screen and began his speech, my phone had charged to a little under thirty percent. That would have to be good enough. By the time I returned to my spot firm against the separating gates, the crowds were roaring and I had not been paying attention to know why. I got my phone out and ready and I am so glad I did. Rami Malek came strutting on stage. The man who not only played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, but who had been the object of my affection since I first saw him play the mummy Ahkmenrah in 2006’s Night at the Museum. It was 2019. Yes, this man had been my main actor crush for thirteen years straight. He still is in 2021. At that moment, my mother had to physically hold me so I wouldn’t swoon. She took over recording him for me.
I had a gut feeling as to why he was on stage. I knew him and that cheeky grin far too well. He was introducing them. As soon as he said their name, lights started flashing, everyone, myself included. The music started and it was like a sonic wave burst throughout Central Park. We were all back in the ‘80s when QUEEN was at its stride touring the world. This was one of their many tour stops on their way back to England. Every millisecond had to be documented and treasured. We were back in the ‘80s and my hair showed it. The humid late-summer air had pulled my hair from its once tame state to a teased mess of frizz, it had done so to everyone within the first couple numbers. Wild dancing and headbanging left a lingering scent of mixed perfumes, colognes, and sweat in the air. It was spectacular. I was sobbing, screaming, and chanting out the lyrics I had known my whole life since I was three years old and Mom had their greatest hits CD on loop in the car. We sang We Are The Champions together on the way to her 25th anniversary high school reunion in 2004. Fifteen years later I was in the same vicinity, breathing the same air, breaking the same sky with my idols. Everyone was in chaotic harmony, it felt like Live Aid.
About half way through the best night of my life, Brian pulled out a stool and started gently strumming the guitar.
Love of my life, you’ve hurt me. You’ve broken my heart, and now you leave me. Love of my life, can’t you see?
The marvels of technology know no bounds. As clear as the glittering diamond stars that dotted across the endless expanse of the night sky, Freddie Mercury himself walked on stage in a shroud of electromagnetic waves. He was there beside Brian and Roger and us. I cried as I recorded him, the crowds continued to sing along.
Bring it back, bring it back, don’t take it away from me. Because you don’t know what it means to me.
Freddie, once again, you are speaking to my very soul. The first time anyone had seen a holographic image of the icon himself grace a stage, life-size, like he was truly some immortal being that has come down a second time to bring his creation back up to paradise with him. The experience concluded with the song that began my journey to QUEEN. The blinding strobe lights that formed halos in the sky now dimmed and reflected on the late night fog that was beginning to form. The grass was softer under my weary feet, beginning to grow tired from over twelve hours of standing, running, jumping, dancing. The crowd went quiet as a melody we all recognized on the first note began to flow into the crowd. I could almost see the notes, but I did feel them. A full circle, a summarization of my lifelong pilgrimage to see them, of how I had felt all day and night long. The crowd was one as we chanted like a mantra, a prayer.
We are the champions, my friend. And we’ll keep on fighting till the end. We are the Champions. We are the Champions! No time for losers, cause we are the champions of the world!
When the concert was over, the subway and shuttle rides seemed to race me back into reality. Walking the rest of the way back to the hotel may have been an actual uphill trek, but for me it was as if I had been locked out of Heaven, forced to walk down that marble staircase to the middle-ground the world was. I had my video and my memories, and those simply had the responsibility to carry me forward until I reach the promised land, where I can be in the presence of her majesty once again.