By Travis Turner.
She asked me the night before she left, why I could never leave. Why I never mustered the courage to get out. Was I so scared to go? I could never give her an answer. Until now, anyway. Selma is halfway to Montgomery. Halfway from where we grew up. Halfway home for us.
At the Performing Arts Center in the middle of an Alabama sweat-drenched day, I stand here waiting in line for a casting audition. The anticipation of becoming something other than myself makes me drunk. An old man stumbles up off the street, his face cracked with lines from a life of hard work. His breath and body steam of alcohol from the night before.
“Why’s all these people here?”
“They’re hiring extras for a movie being shot tomorrow” I answer.
Thunder sounds and groans become harmonious as the line stretching round the building looks upward in unison.
“Pay cash?” he says with a wink.
“Yessir. $50 a day, non-union. They need 50 for today they said, so long as it don’t rain” the woman behind me adds.
The young boy next to her says he has been waiting for 2 months for this. He says he couldn’t sleep last night from the excitement of what tomorrow would bring. We both swelter.
He talks of his dreams. His dreams of performing, escaping the tiny town that slowly suffocates his dream in favor of more practical pursuits. A SAG voucher. IMDB credits. Something that provides credentials are what he seeks. Validation. Those are his hopes. Needs.
He says his mother told him about the casting call. She believes in him. Just as mine does.
He says his father told him it was a waste of time. He thinks it’s silly. So does mine.
The colors of our skin differ; the only contrast. He is me, only younger. We are at different places in time, but more alike than either can possibly know. Stifling heat makes it hard to move.
Other dreamers much like ourselves heard a call long ago and half a mile away from where we now stand, down at the Pettus Bridge. They stood up for those dreams, stood tall committed to change in the Alabama heat against sweat, blood, and violence.
I stand here. We all stand here. Together.
The thunder cracks again and rain begins to fall, spoiling the plans of the heat, the women’s hairdos, and the dreams of the young boy. Soothes the heat though.
Plastic canopies pop open and we huddle together taking shelter from the tiny gifts from above. Tomorrow we all say. We will try again tomorrow. We look out for one another. Tomorrow will be better. We do not leave. We cannot leave. Some of us have come too far. Past halfway. Committed. Tomorrow we say together. Tomorrow.
Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (1 spot left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.