Sean of the South: Charleston

Words by Sean Dietrich

 

The sun was coming up. We rode toward Charleston, doing sixty-five miles per hour in a two-seat truck.

“I can’t believe we’re married,” my new wife said.

“Me neither.”

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In my wallet: two-hundred dollars cash. It was all I had. I had earned it by selling my guitar, one week earlier.

My late father told me once, “If you ever get married, marry a woman who don’t care about money. Happiness and money are of no relation.”

Well, she must not have cared, because I had none. I was a blue-collar nothing with a nothing-future ahead of me. I had no high school education. No achievements. No pot to you-know-what in, and no plant to pour it on. And not much confidence.

Until her.

She unfolded a roadmap on the dashboard. My truck radio played a Willie Nelson cassette. I was married.

Married. Things were looking up.

We arrived at a cheap motor-inn. She took a shower while I watched the idiot box. Andy Griffith was on.

I’d seen the episode a hundred times. Barney makes Otis jump rope to prove he’s sober. You know the rest. Crisis. Cliffhanger. Andy saves the day. Roll credits.

I made reservations at an upscale restaurant, the kind where the waiter pulls the chair out for you. I wore the only necktie I owned.

We ate food I could not afford. I paid a hundred bucks—plus tip. We walked the streets, arm in arm.

“I can’t believe we’re married,” she said.

Then the sound of horse hooves. A carriage. A man stepped out and groomed his animals on the sidewalk.

My wife remarked how pretty the horses were.

I asked how much the man charged for rides.

“Hundred bucks,” he said.

I handed him my remaining wad of cash. “How much will this buy?”

He thought about it. “How’s ten minutes sound?”

We covered ourselves with a blanket. He carted us through the streets. We saw hotels where

George Washington slept, buildings older than my grandaddy’s grandaddy’s grandaddy.

That nice man gave us an hour ride.

Later that night, my wife said, “I feel like ice cream.”

We stopped at a grocery store. I was out of cash, so I wrote a personal check while whispering the twenty-third Psalm.

My wife sat on my tailgate, eating from the carton. I laid in the pickup bed, watching the moon.

“I can’t believe we’re married,” I said.

I still can’t.

My life has changed considerably since that night. So have I. And I don’t want to be melodramatic here, but it’s because of my ice cream-eating bride.

She’s done things for me. She let me cry on her shoulder when my boss fired me. She held my hand in an ambulance after I totaled my truck.

She tutored me in college algebra. She helped me piece together my education. She told a fatherless flunky he was every bit as smart as anyone else. She loved me.

It’s not our anniversary. It’s nobody’s birthday either. I just felt like telling you about the reason I believe in God.

Her name is Jamie.