This photo, taken in September 2013, is of a girl who doesn’t yet know the significance of the brown boot she’s holding or where it will take her. She’s somewhat lost, somewhat hopeful, certainly naive. She can’t fathom, at this moment, that her definition of “making it in LA” will change drastically. Or that it would take another five years to finally work as a production assistant on a major union commercial, an important step in her lifelong dream.
This girl can’t envision that in 2019 she’ll finally be trusted to pick up an esteemed cinematographer at 3 a.m. and drive him two hours to the desert. She’ll be nervous driving another human in the dark. At 2:30 a.m. she’ll put on that very brown boot and remember how terrified she was moving to LA from Trinidad to pursue film, a “pipe dream” most called it. “Bound to fail,” they said. And as she lays eyes on the faded autograph, she’ll remember the moment she met Kimora Lee Simmons and how proud she was that the dreamer in her put her reel on a flash drive and attached it to the bouquet of flowers and then gave a stranger her phone to capture the moment.
Day 1 and Day 2 of the commercial she’ll pick up the cinematographer and return him successfully. On Day 3 the location would not be as far as the desert so she’ll mistakenly think it was an easier night. But as she steps foot on set she’ll discover her boot is broken, no recollection of how. The heel has separated from the rest of the shoe. Wardrobe will only have a pair of socks to lend her. Her only option would be gaffer’s tape. Whilst it keeps the shoe together, it does not keep in the heat. It’ll be below freezing with a water truck spraying the road. Her toes will be numb and her feet will cramp an hour into her 12-hour night. Being from a hot island, she is not prepared. Her heart will pound as they warn her of the black ice. She has never driven in any kind of ice, far less black, but has no time to contemplate the worst. Still, images of her SUV spinning across the dark road slamming into a black pole with a broken light flashes before her eyes.
Her passenger is a father and husband with a booming career who FaceTimes his son on the way home. Her job is to keep him alive and on time, in that order. She’ll know if she fails, her best case scenario, she loses her dream job; her worst case scenario, death. Mass death. She’ll do everything to heat up and get feeling back into her feet. None of it will work. The cinematographer will put on his headphones as usual, but that night, he’ll play music and go to sleep sparring her the embarrassment as she bangs her taped together Kimora signed boots against the car, hoping that’ll help unfreeze her toes. She longs for the moment she can feel the pedal beneath her feet as she drives for a job she once called her “little girl dream job”.
She’ll say her mantras. A light hum always playing in the back of her mind, the volume ready to go up or down at a moment’s notice. A life saving practice; her only tool to stop her from imagining the worst. It is her imagination that has been her greatest friend and worst enemy. A wolf she will finally learn to control. She’ll deliver the cinematographer safely and feel like “she’s making it”.
The girl in this photo thought moving to LA would be the wildest thing to happen to her. She’s wrong. She has no idea she’ll switch from acting to production, get a masters in film and halfway through the program she’ll get sick and move back to Trinidad. She’ll pray for the day she’ll return to LA.
She has no clue that because of that deferral, she’ll have to take a new class with a man she’ll end up marrying. A man who would kiss her for the first time the night before she wears these boots to Holland to win her first award. A husband who would insist on getting a Boston Terrier, Amelie.
In this photo she can’t yet imagine how high the highs would be, or how low the lows.
She has no clue that almost seven years after this photo was taken, Trinidad, the country where her dream was born, will close its borders to save its citizens from a vicious virus. She’ll have to choose between going back to be with her family and staying with her husband and Amelie in LA. She’ll be shocked at how hard and not obvious the choice is. She doesn’t have time to contemplate the worst. The borders to each country are closing. The idea that she could never see her parents again, the image of them getting sick and … she cries.
And then she’ll breathe, say her mantras and wipe her tears with a towel, because napkins are now her backup toilet paper and most valuable currency.
She has no idea that in self quarantine she’ll be most grateful to have married a kind and intelligent man who buys hand soap in bulk. Or to a stranger for taking this photo of the moment she did something brave, as blurry as it may be. Or to a pair of boots for coming into her life as epically as they left; for breaking in the most inopportune time so that she could experience just how courageous and competent she is.
This is the picture of a girl who doesn’t know she’s a strong woman in the making. Or that 2020 will ask her to be braver than ever, proving everything preceding this moment was practice.
And though she cannot feel her feet she will stay inside, use toilet paper sparingly and know Covid-19 quarantine is just another challenge on her way to her dream.