Have you ever wanted to run through the streets of New York screaming? I have and I did. As I recall, very few people paid any attention to me. And granted, it was the one night of the year when 90% of the city's population was looking, doing or watching what would normally be considered weird by society’s standards.
And just like on Halloween, my best friend did it again. She tricked me into believing that her late-night phone call was just an average chat. It was indeed not an average chat, and now I am wide awake, can’t sleep and am up blogging.
“You sound like you’re already in the bed,” she had said when I answered my cell. I was (and thinking of the 5:30 a.m. alarm prepped to send me off to the gym) but for her I make exceptions so I responded, “I am. What are you doing? You back in Jersey?”
“No, still in Atlanta [three days each week, she is filming new episodes of ‘Tyler Perry’s House of Payne’ scheduled to air sometime in the near future]. I just got back from having dinner with Shameika and Scott,” she replied, “How’s your 2008 been so far?”
I think I said something like lovely or fabulous, and I had a quick flashback of my all-night-and-into-the-next-morning New Year’s Eve/Day. For a second, I wondered if I had returned her New Year’s midnight phone call, which I had missed because of Veuve Clicquot (this hot French guy I know). Then, I remembered that I had left her a voicemail shortly thereafter. Rather than relay first-of-the-year details, I just yawned: “How about yours?”
“I would say it’s starting pretty well considering that today Tyler Perry offered me a role in his next movie.”
I bolted upright in my bed. I am glad I don’t sleep on a loft in my tiny studio. Otherwise my head would have gone through the ceiling. Out of respect for her professional privacy and that of our friendship – as with other good news and discrete moments we’ve shared – I won’t go into the details of our conversation in this blog. Suffice it to say it included a lot of laughing and crying and ended in reminiscence of the last decade.
Tokii: “Can you believe it?”
Me: “Yes! [pause] I absolutely believe it! It’s just that I have been waiting almost 10 years to hear you tell me that you have been offered a role in a major film project.”
Tokii: “Wow. You just put a whole new perspective on this for me ...Ten years.”
I thought of the seemingly endless rehearsals she endured at WCU while I waited for her in our dorm room watching late-night television (I usually didn’t make it to see her return). I thought about how she busted her ass taking more than the customary 15 credit hours each semester so she could graduate in 3 ½ years. I thought of the play she worked so hard to script, direct and choreograph as part of her senior year project; it was a raving success and she received many local accolades. I thought of the nights she spent working as a security guard before she finally auditioned for The Juilliard School. I remembered how confident I was that she would get in. I was almost arrogant about it and had to back off a little for fear that I might jinx her talent. When she told me she had received the acceptance phone call, I was absolutely delighted but barely excitable (I had already gotten over the initial exhilaration of Tokii attending the legendary school for the performing arts when she had first told me she was going to audition). I think I had replied, “Girl, I know.” I thought about the grueling schedule she endured while studying in New York City, which often pushed her close to her breaking point, but would ultimately prepared her for the real, bitter - and often cruel - world of acting. I thought of her fourth-year showcase and graduation with scholastic distinction, a recognition for completion of an honors program for exceptional undergraduate performers and composers who wish to expand their scholarly activity by engaging in an extended independent research project in their senior year. All those thoughts and everything that has happened in New York since her graduation in May streamed through my mind within a matter of 10 seconds.
"We have been through some things," I said as I briefly thought of Rickey and remembered my one-year, three-job struggle to save money to move to New York. Without hesitation, she replied, “Yea, we have.”
"I mean, there will be more things to go through.”
We’re both smart enough to know (and I’ve watched Tokii and her classmates go through enough to know) that an acting career is a roller coaster of peaks and valleys, highs and lows, big breaks and breakdowns.
“Oh, of course,” she said. “That is for sure.”
Laying back on my pillow, smiling at the ceiling, I responded, “But moments like this are what make it all worth it. These are the moments that we live for."
These are the moments that we sometimes create, that sometimes we wait for, and that sometimes just happen unexpectedly. I’m so grateful that I have family and friends who will celebrate mine as eagerly and sincerely as I celebrate theirs, who will be there for each other through every twist, dip and loop of this ride we call life. These are indeed the moments we live for.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, your body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, ‘Woo hoo! What a ride!’”
I hope I am screaming the loudest.
UPDATE: Tokii may not be able to take the role because of a Connecticut-based play in which she is starring.
UPDATE: Tokii was unable to take the role in A Family That Prays, but did take a part in Madea Goes to Jail. You can follow her work under her stage name: Bobbi James.