Mobile, Alabama—the Malaga Inn. This is an old French-inspired building with iron balconies and hanging ferns. I’m sleeping in the same bed Elvis slept in.
THEE Elvis the Pelvis, in this SAME room. Even the bathroom feels holy.
I can hardly hold my bladder.
The man who carried our luggage said, “Elvis used’a vacation here to hide from crowds, long time ago.”
Room 220 is nice digs, with high ceilings, wood floors, and tall windows. The balcony overlooks a narrow Church Street.
I am singing “Love Me Tender,” to myself.
The city of Mobile and I have a history together. When I was younger, five of my friends took off work to attend Mardi Gras here.
It was a half-brained idea. We couldn’t all fit in the truck that brought us.
Four boys squeezed into a single cab, one rode in the bed. We’d drawn straws over who would endure the interstate from the pickup bed.
By the time we hit Mobile, I was deaf, blind, and eyebrow-less.
That night, we boys piled into an economy hotel room which smelled like a pot of collards. There were two beds. We drew straws again for beds.
I guess I’m naturally unlucky.
The next day, we watched a parade. After that, the boys cracked open six-packs and played poker by the hotel swimming pool.
My friend and I went for a walk to get some air.
That’s when it happened. We saw a woman. She was tall, black, shoeless. Her clothes were tattered.
She asked us for a cigarette.
My friend gave her his entire pack. She lit one. So did my friend.
We stood with her. She pointed at me, “You look like my son, you know?”
My friend and I gave her all the money we had. It wasn’t more than a couple of fives and tens.
She smiled her four teeth at us. She wiped her eyes.
“How is he?” she said. “My son.”
“Please tell my son his mama loves him,” she went on. “When you see him…”
I yes-ma’amed her.
“Promise me…” she said.
“…That you’ll tell him. Promise me.”
“I will, ma’am.”
Then, she leaned against the wall and bawled.
I felt like hell all night. I wished I would’ve done something. I wished I would’ve bought her a chicken-fried steak, or found her somewhere to sleep.
Instead, we’d said goodbye and kept walking Mobile.
I’m an adult now. I’m lying in Elvis’ bed, writing this. But I’m not thinking about the King. I’m thinking about how fortunate I am. And how unfortunate some have it.
I still remember how dirty and veiny that woman’s bare feet were.
Some things stick with you.
I hardly remember the boy I used to be. I don’t keep in touch with old friends. And I wouldn’t ride in a pickup bed—not even on a bet.
But I hope I’m a better person now.
Anyway, I suppose I have unfinished business here in Mobile. Long ago, I promised someone I’d deliver a message. And it’s about time I made good on my promise.
Wherever you are. Whoever you are.
Your mama loves you.
Melodie - October 1, 2017 4:21 pm
Your description is so vivid. Wow, just, Wow! Thank you for this story.
Pamela McEachern - October 1, 2017 4:27 pm
Tender heart and tender words, that young man had that in him to be the man you are today.
Peace and Love from Birmingham.
Lovie - October 1, 2017 4:54 pm
Good man you are Sean of the South; good man.
misteaster1106 - October 1, 2017 7:05 pm
We were just in Mobile! In Gulf Shores now. From North AL. Love this! I loved plundering in downtown Mobile while my husband fished in the bay…beautiful town full of history. I didn’t know about Elvis staying at the Malaga Inn! I would’ve insisted on visiting. Thank you for letting that boy know his mama loved him…I bet he needed to hear that.
Pat - October 1, 2017 7:34 pm
I witnessed a “communion of the saints” in church this morning and I sure hope that “Wherever you are. Whoever you are” gets the message somehow, someway, that his mama loves him!
Pat Durmon - October 1, 2017 10:16 pm
This is precious.
Lucretia - October 2, 2017 2:04 am
. . .for the better persons that we become. . .for integrity . . .thank you, Sean. . .
Jack Quanstrum - October 2, 2017 2:07 am
Wonderful story! As usual you bless us with the goodness in the south as well as humble us to realize how good we have it. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Shalom!
ponder304 - October 2, 2017 11:15 am
Blessed again and so is her son!
muthahun - October 2, 2017 2:43 pm
Her memory is your blessing. And you are ours.
Peggy - March 9, 2018 11:34 am
You are speaking for more of us mothers than you can know, Thank you.
Teri E. - March 9, 2018 6:23 pm
Stayed at the Malaga 30 years ago. Did not know about Elvis.
Scott - March 9, 2018 7:47 pm
Scott T: Stayed in the same room a number of times. You open the window to step out into the balcony. Love the Malaga Inn!!
Kevin Blanton - January 14, 2020 11:09 am
Thank you for putting things in the right perspective. You’re a genius at doing that. I just read this just before 5 o’clock in the morning struggling to recovery from knee replacement surgery a week ago. Thank you for reminding me that no matter my present condition there are many far worse off and that no matter what else I had a Mama who loved me. You’re a fine fellow Sean Dietrich and you’re doing the Lord’s work in your writing.
Debbie - September 12, 2022 7:09 am