Charleston is for Lovers

We had no money. We’d been married for less than 24 hours. We rode in my beat-up Ford Ranger, painted primer gray.

My wife was seated directly beside me on the bench seat. Our hands clasped together. Our knees touching.

Trucks used to have bench seats before Planned Parenthood got involved.

We crossed into South Carolina, limping into Charleston County on fumes. The 21-year-old dropout, and his breath-stealing bride.

It was a motel. Not a hotel. Big difference. The guy behind the counter was wearing a wifebeater, reading the box scores.

I approached the counter. “I think we talked on the phone,” I said. “I made a reservation. We’re the newlyweds.”

He lowered his newspaper. He said, “Mazel tov” without dropping the cigarette from the corner of his mouth.

Our room was dated. Orange carpet. Yellow walls. A shower with a rusted drain. The entire room smelled like—how should I put this?—poop.

There were cigarette burns in the bedspread. We slept atop bath towels. We brought our own pillows. The room featured a mermaid night light with glowing boobs.

The next day we walked through the city. Chucktown was the most exotic city I had ever visited unless you count Texarkana.

The cathedrals, the shops, the cobblestones, the horses and buggies, the single houses, Rainbow Row.

We went out for dinner one night. I think it was the cheapest restaurant in town, not far from a Circle K. I wore my funeral clothes. My wife wore a dress.

The hostess looked at us, wearing our Walmart clothes. “Are you the newlyweds who made a reservation?” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, tugging at my necktie.

“We have a special table for you.”

She gave us a table on the patio. There were a few other people around us. There was a candle. A basket of bread. And two exquisitely laminated menus.

Also, there was a guy on the patio playing electric guitar. He played “I Can’t Drive 55,” by Sammy Haggar, followed by “Highway to Hell.” His voice had the same quality as a Craftsman chainsaw.

My wife reached across the table and took my hand. “What’re you thinking?” she said.

“I’m thinking that I love you.”

She gave me a warm look in the candlelight.

“What are you thinking?” I said.

My wife’s eyes were bright. “I’m thinking that someday, we’re going to be back here in Charleston, and things will be different for us.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I think our lives are just beginning.”

“You married a dropout,” I said. “Don’t forget that.”

She shook her head. “You’re more than you think you are.”

“How do you know that?”

She shrugged. “I’m a woman. I know everything.”

That was twenty-odd years ago. I still have the nightlight.

Recently, when I found out I would be performing my one-man show in Charleston in the upcoming weeks, I had to take a moment to gather myself. Because it didn’t feel real to me.

My wife found me on our porch. I was staring off into nothingness. “What’s the matter?” she said.

“I’m going to be performing in Charleston,” I told her.

She smiled. I smiled. We hugged. We kissed. We just held each other for a while. The middle-aged former dropout and his breath-stealing bride.

“I hope they tore down that motel,” she said.


  1. stephenpe - June 11, 2024 1:00 pm

    Amazing city. Finally made it there last year. Beautiful story. Thank you, Sean.

  2. JB - June 11, 2024 10:47 pm

    Forty-four years ago, brand new married, broke as a rail. We borrowed my dad’s car in order for a 3-day trip to Gatlinburg. It was all we could afford. Motel with a 25-cents-gets-you-a-5-minute-massage bed. We watched an old horror black and white on the 15″ tv screen in the room. We were too broke to go out. Spent the days going through the Smokies. It was free. Coasted back to the Atlanta suburbs with our last $20 in order to fill up the car before returning it. I understand about ‘living on love’. However, we are all the stronger for it. Forty-five years in September. I sure hope God gives us decades more. You and Jaimie, too.

  3. William McCree - June 12, 2024 9:08 pm

    For tickets to the Charleston show on June 20. click here


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