I have always loved the circus. I was enchanted by the magical world from the first time I entered the big top at the age of five. The lights, the vibrant costumes and the earthy smell of soil and wet canvas, tinged with candyfloss and diesel, drew me in and continued to welcome me back whenever it came to town. Today, on my 35th birthday, I felt no different. I was just as excited and happy as I was on that day all those years ago.
‘Time we took our seats,’ said Carl as we entered the big top. We navigated our way through the busy crowd until we found our place. I made myself comfortable and looked at him. Carl winked and smiled, just like he did on the day we first met.
It seemed like only yesterday. Stressed, I had escaped the office and was hurrying to goodness knows where. In my nervous haste, I had jogged down a moving escalator and mistimed the last step. I fell straight into a Carl’s arms. It was not my finest hour.
‘Thank you for catching me,’ I had muttered as I dusted myself off with trembling hands.
‘I’ll be happy to catch you anytime and I promise I’ll never let you fall,’ he had replied.
It was a cheesy line, but it worked on me. I looked up into the darkest pair of smiling blue eyes and found myself smiling for the first time in months.
The clowns entered, in a tumble of yellow and red silk, and hooting horns, to warm up the crowd. Toppo and Flavo tripped, stumbled and wacked themselves into a frenzy to the delight of the children who had ring side seats. The audience’s laughter amplified with each mishap and wafted upwards in waves to the far peaks of the canvas tent above – and to me.
As the clowns left the ring, the Ring Master announced the next act.
‘It is a husband and wife team,’ he grandly declared, ‘and the best trapeze artists in Europe today, The Flying Harts!’
Faces lifted to the rafters and followed the white spotlight to me. I gracefully stood and began to swing, building up speed to the beat in my head. Three, four, five … and I was suddenly flying, tumbling and twisting, until a pair of solid hands caught me in mid-air. As the crowd applauded below us, Carl lifted me to meet his lips and give me an upside down kiss. The kiss had become our trademark and the audience’s applause and cheers grew even louder. It was a kiss between a husband and wife, but unknown to the families below us it meant so much more. It said …
‘Thank you for catching me.’
‘I’ll be happy to catch you anytime and I promise I’ll never let you fall.’
Carl had kept his promise ever since. The first time he’d caught me at the bottom of a moving escalator, I had been on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His encouragement and love helped me to decide to leave the corporate world behind me and follow my dream. My dream of joining the circus became his dream too and with each new tumbling routine and each new town, Carl was by my side. He was my sounding board, my best friend and always had my back. He has never let me down. One mistimed, ill-judged step all those years ago had brought us together. I had said it was not my finest hour, but maybe it was after all.