“Michael,” my dad growls, “remember the spin.” He stands at full height, and reaches for my hands. “This is the big time, you understand?” His hands dig into mine. Seconds pass, he almost smiles. His eyes get big and I shuffle backwards, remember how he looks with his belt in his hand. I put my hand over my face and hold it in. The green room at the Ed Sullivan Theater has three mirrors with three bright lights above each one, and a silver table with bowls of M&Ms, all the different colors.
The nice lady with the headset took my brothers and my dad and me up the elevator. She told me this place used to be called “CBS-TV Studio 50,” but they renamed it for Ed Sullivan. She blushed when she said it, and spoke low, as though it were her private joy. I was thankful. I said, “That’s nice,” and smiled so that she would know I was happy for her.
I try to stay on the other side of the room from my father, but after everything he says or does, he finds me like he’s forgotten something. He tells me every octave I’ve missed over the past four months of rehearsal. Tells me not to be nervous even though I am not nervous. That I have a gift and I have to use my gift. He wants me to do well, but the want stays inside a tangle of wire.
“LIVE” blinks across the televisions in the green room, and I see him. Ed Sullivan. He wears his hair shaped just so. He was running late today so he didn’t get to meet us before the show, but the lady with the headset assured us that he is very much looking forward to speaking with us. She also said that Ed Sullivan absolutely dies for our music. I didn’t know what she meant, so I smiled at her. There is a commercial break. Adults dressed in black usher us onto the studio stage. The lights come back up. Ed Sullivan says, “Here are five brothers.” He stutters a bit when he says, “They are a sensational group.”
I take two steps to the microphone and feel my body go hollow. I’m inside, and I buzz against the walls. Every instance of movement, even breathing, lifts against this gentle weight. I say and we toasted our love during milk break, just like I’ve said the words hundreds of times. I am so anxious to sing, but the silence makes the buzz louder. I look back at my brothers. The piano spills a couple of notes that float toward me. We become shapes that do not think, and I know that we are going to show something hidden. We are like a picture of a clothesline as the clothes billow. So one day, and that was Monday, I stepped up to her and I said. The line finishes itself before a drum snaps once. I take a breath where I’m supposed to, and I open as far as I can. I let everyone hold me, except they hold me with love because they really know who I am.