The faint smell of damp casually assaults my sinuses as the hard steps make their presence felt on my aching backside.
Neither of these things matter.
The aged stuffiness of the old theatre in which we sit, and the noise of the kids running about, excitedly bouncing around on the threadbare carpets only add to the excitement of the moment; nothing can take my concentration away from the significance of what I was about to do.
I can hear the muffled sounds of singing. I know they are singing for me. Everything is about me. This moment will travel with me for the rest of my life, having set the wheels in motion for the rollercoaster that my soul will ride upon forever more.
We are in the middle of rehearsing one last time, for the big show that is due to open tomorrow night.
I’m nervous as hell, but really excited about being a part of this year’s Gang Show, a vaudeville style production, traditionally put on by kids from the local Cubs, Brownies and Guides, as well as my Scout troop. I’ve even got a couple of speaking parts and I can’t wait to get the show started.
I am 12, and I feel like I was born for the stage. I am one night away from stardom, and ready for the fame. I already dance at my cousin’s dance school, so I felt at ease as soon as we began transferring our rehearsals to the actual stage. As long as nothing comes along and distracts me now, I know I will be a huge name in musicals one day.
What my acting career probably doesn’t need is a distraction such as sitting on these steps right now, holding Karen’s hand and looking into her eyes.
Earlier today she held my hand. And as the rehearsals progressed, I became increasingly friendly with Karen and I’d found myself wanting to spend more time hanging around with her than fighting and playing with my male friends, though I wasn’t really sure why.
Now we are wordlessly sitting on the hard damp stairs, backstage at the Newark Palace Theatre; right there in the wings, as we wait for the next song to start.
Suddenly, her face gets closer.
The hairs on the back of my neck tingle and stretch, as time adamantly refuses to tick by.
Her face grows closer.
My knee trembles as fear explodes through my nervous system.
Her face gets even closer.
I stop breathing, I stop hearing. I am no longer here. The singing, the children’s chatter, and even the damp have all gone. I am nowhere.
Her face stops moving.
Somewhere, deep down in my genetic coding, I know it is all up to me from here, I am the man and the next move will have to come from me. I am going to have to man up and get on with it.
I am going to have to kiss a girl.
I pause as I recall the bag of pickled onion Monster Munch I ate earlier, but it is too late to worry about that now, because the fracture in time is about to heal itself. I can put it off no longer. I’ve learned all that I can possibly learn from my friends about kissing; now I’m going to have to put it all into practice.
My eyes close as my lips part and move, with a false confidence, toward hers.
The softness of her lips can only be bettered by their taste. I explode with the power of this brand new connection that links Karen’s heart to my own.
I am distracted. The world blinks out of focus for an eternity as the software in my brain rewrites itself. With its return, a new world order is born. My priorities have changed forever, because I have just learned something that will dominate my every thought for the rest of time.
I’ve finally worked out what girls are for.