SCENE: Main Street, 1:23pm, vendors are setting up for the Annual Sweet Tea Festival along the street as people walk and drive by on the adjacent streets.
ME: aged 27, height 5’8 1/2, weight mid 200’s, skin warm honey brown. Hair short, damp curls, tied by lightly by a celestial scarf and pinned on each side with rhinestone GIRLS pins. Minimal jewelry, glossed lips, gold nose hoop. Reddish orange mosaic rimmed glasses. 3x American Apparel burnt orange shirt, tied up in the front black spanx peeking from under light gray joggers, dirty black and white vans. Extra large tote bag with water bottle sticking out.
Summervillie SC is, in a sense, stuck in the 90’s. Most places surrounding have fast forwarded into the 21st century, but in a land with a thriving Ryan’s across the street from a decently packed Shoney’s, it fells like no one cares much about what’s going on outside of city limits. Downtown, about 30 minutes south of here, is full of hipsters fighting for plastic bans and sexuality rights, yet i’ve found myself smack dab in the middle of a down who still has a hand drawn sign advertising weekly sales outside a beloved Piggly Wiggly. Nobody speaks to me, the fluffy girl with dirty vans and her tummy fluffing out of her tied up tee. I’m out of place in the best way; it’s like watching a movie. I’m not in it, but I can relate; I’ve been in this place before. Maybe it was all the years of watching shows like Daria and movies like Ghost World. Maybe it was growing up in South Congaree. Either way, I’m in the Twighlight Zone episode of my life. Clearly, they feel it too.
I set up shop as a spectator, a quiet corner outside of a music academy. It looks out of place too, a single chair and table elevated by an inch of red brick against grey sidewalk. Vegetation has crept up it’s walls and sides, around the table legs and over the little basket of “flowers” on the back, a little patch of oddball in this time lapse. I began to unpack: my novel, my liter of spring water, my smokes. I throw my bag on top of the table, a large tote with a Toni Morrison quote and lots of buttons, including my 2 favorites: “Eat the Pussy like a Mango” and “Do I look like a fucking role model?”. Very lady like. I don’t draw attention to myself, I just watch. A family selling beadazzled bandanas and Harley Davidson shirts sets up their booth diagonal to me. Mother, father, grandmother, 2 prepubescent girls and a baby boy. The mother attacks the table, father is holding the baby, the little girls running up and down the sidewalk making up their own stories. They try very hard not to look at me, and their father scolds them when they do. I smiled, knowing they got the “I’m telling you it’s rude to stare but really I don’t want you getting any ideas” speech. I winked at the oldest girl, who is ignoring her father and making a point to catch my eye. It’s ok kid, you’ve already got all the ideas you need.
Finally, an interaction: the disapproving cut from an elder woman holding a small dog. She speaks: “My grandchildren have never seen a cigarette before.” I peek over my glasses, take a drag, and tell her she should take them to more movies. She looks disgusted, and I feel a tinge of guilt. The southern belle in me has found her way to the surface and she, too, is disappointed. I’m sorry lady, I know i’m one of those new age girls who smokes and has sex and doesn’t really plan on getting married. I care more about making art than having babies and no, this isn’t my only tattoo. I’ll chop my hair off at a moment’s notice and I haven’t worn a slip since I left my Granny’s house. I know I’m not what you’d expect to find around here. Clearly, this is a place where the essence of small town living prevails, no matter how many food trucks and vegan shops pop up. Maybe it’s not for the outcasts to fit in, Lawndale for all the Darias and Jane Lanes. Maybe this is a place for the folks who want to live like a movie too; their own movie. Is there anything really wrong with that?