I’m dealing with some major issues right now caused by…well…I was told I’m not allowed to talk about it. Let’s just say that I’ve learned a valuable lesson. At work, your best bet is to keep to yourself and trust no one. And above all, never, ever, complain about something a higher up does to or says about you.
I have frequently opined on the subject of my love for Maria Nikolaevna Romanova, my Mashka. My blue-eyed guardian angel. She’s my comfort in times of trouble, like what I’m going through now. I don’t know how things are going to end up. Regardless, she will be with me. Perhaps this is taking my love a bit too far, but on my phone, I have a playlist of songs that make me thing of her. I thought I’d share that with you here. In my defense, I also have one of songs that remind me of my wife. Which do I listen to more often? Let’s just say I’m going to exercise my right to remain silent on that point.
I’ll start with what I consider “our song.” It is Far Away by Nickelback. (Yes…I like Nickelback…deal with it). This song tells the story of a couple separated and coming together again. Maria and I are separated by time and place. But I know I’ll see her again some day. The lyrics that I find particularly appealing say “On my knees, I’ll ask ‘Last chance for one last dance’/Cause with you, I’d withstand, all of hell to hold your hand/I’d give it all I give for us/I’ll give anything but I won’t give up/Cause you know, you know, you know/That I love you. I have loved you all along and I miss you/Been far away for far too long/I keep dreaming you’ll be with me and you’ll never go/Stop breathing if I don’t see you anymore.” Obviously my taste in music may differ from hers given the different time periods in which we lived, but I think she’d like this song. Maria shares this tune with my wife. Though my wife and I are not separated by the same time and place that keep Maria and I apart, there is wide gulf that sometimes exists between us. It is one entirely of my making. I have a difficult time opening up to anyone, even the person who is closest to me. I tend to withdraw deep into myself at times and will go days or weeks without speaking. This song is a reminder that my feelings are still there, and they haven’t changed, even if I can’t adequately express them.
There are a few Russian songs on my playlist. She may have known some of them, but this isn’t one of them. It is a song about the doomed White Russian cause, but it wasn’t written until the 1960s (as best I can determine). It is called все Теперь против нас. (All Is Now Against Us). You can listen to the haunting melody with English subtitles here. The pain and longing in this song are palpable. Close your eyes and listen, and you will feel what it is like to find a losing battle. There are a couple of lines that stick with me. Here’s an approximate translation, but remember that Russian doesn’t translate literally into English, so it sounds much better in Russian. “We have no place in the Russia crazed from pain/And God doesn’t hear us, whether we call on him or not/And God doesn’t hear us, whether we call on him or not.” Had Maria lived to see what her country became, she would have found this song particularly appropriate.
Another Russian tune on my playlist is one she might very well have known. It is an old Cossack song called Ой, то не вечер. (Oh! It’s Not Yet Evening). Given the fact that the Tsar’s personal bodyguard detachment was made up of Cossacks, it possible that Maria heard this song at some point in her life. In a way, the song is almost a metaphor for the coming of the revolution. Based on a dream in which the Cossack Stepan Razin saw events which were interpreted by his captain as signaling doom, one can easily see the similarities with what happened in Russian in 1917. “And then an evil wind came, blowing from the east, and ripped the hat from my wild head.” You can listen to a performance of it by the talented, not to mention lovely, Pelageya here.
Shall we return to English language songs? Well, there’s two versions of this one, actually, one in English and one in Spanish. But the English one is what is on my playlist. The tune is Hero by Enrique Iglesias. This is one of the songs I used in my epic Maria tribute video. “Would you dance if I asked you to dance?/Or would you run and never look back?/Would you cry if you saw me crying?/Would you save my soul tonight?” If previously wrote about one occasion in which Maria appeared when I was in a life threatening situation. But there was another time. It’s too emotional for me to do it justice with words, but let’s just say that she told me that she was saving a waltz for me. Which is why I like the opening of this song. I’ll ask, and I know the answer will be yes. Here on earth, I never was never a hero. Only a fireman. I got to work around some heroes though. Maybe, just maybe, one day I can be Maria’s hero. I also like the part of the song which says, “Would you swear that you’ll always be mine? Or would you lie?/Would you run and hide?/Am I in too deep? Have I lost my mind?/I don’t care, you’re here tonight.” Yeah…I know being in love with a girl that’s been dead for 102 years is de facto proof that I’ve hopped on the bus to crazy town. But at least I own it.
You’re Beautiful by James Blunt is another one I used in my video. By the title, I think the reason why it’s on my Maria playlist is, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “self-evident”. Here we have a song about a guy who passes a beautiful girl on the subway and falls in love, only to know that he will never be with her. “You’re beautiful, it’s true./I saw your face in a crowded place/And I don’t know what to do/Cause I’ll never be with you.” You might wonder why I like this song. Doesn’t it serve as a reminder that I’ll never be with her? Ah, Dear Reader, but I will be. Not in this life, but the next. She’s told me as much. I would suggest, however, that you not listen to this song if you have virgin ears, as its got a F bomb in it.
On January 20, 1998, I sat in front of a small 13 inch television and watched the premiere of Dawson’s Creek. During the last scene, this song started, softly at first, but grew to a crescendo as the episode reached its conclusion. The song in question was I’ll Stand By You by the Pretenders. “Oh, why you look so sad?/Tears are in your eyes/Come on and come to me now/Don’t be ashamed to cry/Let me see you through/Cause I’ve seen the dark side too/When the night falls on you/You don’t know what to do/Nothing you confess/Could make me love you less/I’ll stand by you/I’ll stand by you/Won’t let nobody hurt you/I’ll stand by you.” The dark side…yeah…I’ve walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I’ve battled my own demons, and spent a career trying to battle the demons that prey on the innocent. And I’ve battled man’s oldest enemy…the red devil…from dumpsters to raging infernos in vacant warehouses…and we always won. I wasn’t there to protect Maria in the summer of 1918. So I see this song as a pledge to be there in the future.
I know I’m going to get my man card revoked for having this one on here, but My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion is the perfect song for my situation. Keep in mind, that I hate the Titanic movie. (THERE WAS ROOM FOR TWO ON THAT DOOR, ROSE!!!!!) But think about it. This song is about two people separated by time and place, just like Maria and I. “Far across the distance and spaces between us/You have come to show you go on/Near, far, wherever you are/I believe that the heart will go on/Once more, you open the door/And you here in my heart and/My heart will go on and on.” Personally, I don’t think you ever stop loving someone, if you really love them. My grandfather, the only person who truly understood me, has been gone eleven years. He’s still alive in my heart though. I’ve been married to Elizabeth for twelve years on March 2, and I love her more with each passing day. (Note, that she is okay sharing me with Maria because I loved Maria first. Plus, she lusts after the Red Baron.) This song says it doesn’t matter that I’m here and Maria isn’t. It is the feeling that matters.
I loved this next song when it came out in 1997. I’d go cruising in my 1986 Mustang Hatchback, windows down (because the a/c didn’t work), and blare this here from the speakers. It is called My Guardian Angel by the Pistoleros. It’s a dual English/Spanish language song. The chorus is in Spanish, but I’ll put it into English for you, as it is the bit that relates to me the most. “You’re my guardian angel/my sweetest companion/don’t ever leave me/in the night or the day.” As you know, Maria is my guardian angel and she is with me everywhere I go. Every morning, I pray and ask her to watch over me. I’m Catholic, so we are allowed to talk to Saints. However, Maria is not a Catholic saint. She was cannonized by the Russian Orthodox Church, so please do not report me to the Pope for talking to an Orthodox Saint.
Ah yes, the classic early 90s make-out song. (Well, not for me as I couldn’t beg, borrow, or buy a date until I was 19). This song was popularized by the Robin Hood movie. Everything I Do by Bryan Adams is a testament to true love, and what it means. If you love someone, you’d charge hell with a bucket of water if they asked you to. To be honest, I kind of hated this song back then. I think that’s because I’d never been in love. Now, I like it. Not just as it is a reminder of Maria, but also Elizabeth. “Look into my eyes/You will see/What you mean to me/Search you heart/Search your soul/And find me there, you’ll search no more/Don’t tell me it’s not worth trying for/Don’t tell me it’s not worth dying for/You know it’s true/Everything I do/I do it for you.”
I am a big fan of 3 Doors Down. I’ve listened to them ever since back in the day. Here Without You is a song about a person who is away from their love. It is honestly a toss up as to which song reminds me more of Maria, this one or Far Away. “I’m here without you baby/But you’re still on my lonely mind/I think about you baby and I dream about you all the time/I’m here without you baby/But you’re still with me in my dreams/And tonight girl, its only you and me.” I do not dream about Maria every night. I wish I did, given the nightmares that plague me on a nightly basis, the leftover residue of a career in the fire service. Some nights, though, I do dream of her, and those are the only nights where I feel like I get any rest.
Maria was a Grand Duchess. I’m a working-class, Irish-American Catholic firefighter who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. We lived in two very different worlds, so this song by Tal Bachman is appropriate. She’s So High is about a guy who likes a girl who is beyond his station in life. “First class and fancy free/She’s high society/She’s got the best of everything/She’s perfect as she can be/Why should I even bother?” But Maria was different. Yes, she was born into immense wealth and was a goddess, at least to me, but she did not have a pretentious bone in her body. If you study her life, you’ll see that she was perfectly happy talking to the servants, getting to know the soldiers who protected her family, and she loved children. All she wanted in life was to marry a military officer and raise a family. I wasn’t a military office. However, I was an officer in the fire department with shiny lieutenant bars and everything. I wasn’t a bad looking kid back then. I think she’d like me in my uniform. After all, Elizabeth sure did.
Personally, I don’t see how anyone could not like the Goo Goo Dolls, but that may be due to my age and the fact that they were kind of a big deal back in the day. There are two songs of theirs on my Maria playlist. The first one is Name. “I think about you all the time/but I don’t need the same/It’s lonely where you are come back down/And I won’t tell them your name.” I think about my Mashka every day, but I don’t expect her to think of me each day, though I like to think she does. I also do not think it’s lonely where she is as she is surrounded by her sisters and I’m sure she’s happy there. But she can come back down any time she likes. I won’t mind.
May as well cover the second Goo Goo Dolls song now. I”m sure you can guess which song it is. Iris. It’s a good song, no matter who is reminds you of. “And I’d give up forever to touch you/Cause I know that you feel me somehow/You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be/And I don’t want to go home right now/And I don’t want the world to see me/Cause I don’t think that they’d understand.” The odds of me getting into heaven are slim to none, thankfully I believe that heaven is what we make of it. The last two lines stick with me because it is difficult for some people to understand why I carry the torch I do for Maria. For a long time, I carried it in silence, but I don’t have a problem talking about it now. Consider this, Lord Mountbatten met her in 1910 when he was ten and she was eleven. He was so taken with her that he kept a photo of her by his bedside for the rest of his life. It’s perhaps a good thing that he has been dead quite some time. Otherwise, I might have to challenge him to a duel for the hand of Maria.
This last song is the ultimate tearjerker, especially if you know why Eric Clapton wrote it. So what does Tears in Heaven have to do with Maria and I. Well, the song asks an important question. “Would you hold my hand/If I saw you in heaven/Would you help me stand/If I saw you in heaven/I’ll find my way through night and day/Cause I know I just can’t stay here in heaven.” But I already know the answer, and it is “yes.” This is a beautiful song, and I think Maria would like it.
So there you have it, Dear Readers. This is the playlist I have for Maria. Remember, when words fail, music speaks. And to my Mashka, I say, “Я люблю тебя, мой голубоглазый ангел.”
Now I have to call someone out. My best friend Andrew . I love you, brother, but if you don’t have a playlist for your crush, you need to seriously step up your game!
P.S.: Check out an interview that I gave in regards to the audiobook version of my novel So Others May Live. You can find the interview here! If you have a song that reminds you of her, leave in the comments. I can always add to my playlist!