I'm not sure when my frustration shifted gears into the hazardous incandescent region of my emotions but the transition was swift. Anger relocated all of the happy feelings I get when I travel and deposited them on the side of the road. I think the giggles and smiles landed near a Motel 6. I became depressed and despondent the further away we drove. When I realized we were absolutely NOT turning around, Rage beat on the dashboard.
I couldn't even look at him on the drive home. I just sat there in the passenger seat of his car. I concentrated on the oncoming traffic or the snaking white line on the highway as if my whole existence depended on it. The weather was mild for September, but I was sizzling in my seat. Every time I thought about how my boyfriend (future husband) ruined my chance to visit Charleston, my tidal hostility was flooding well above safe harbor. If you would've told me then that this was going to be one of those stories we would laugh about later - I would've ripped out your funny bone and beat you with it. I remained in my angry state until the hum of the tires pulled my eyes into exhausted sleep and my head knocked on the cool window glass.
A thousand moons ago, my fiancé had an opportunity to interview with a company based just outside of Charleston, SC. He wasn't unhappy where he was, but we felt like it never hurt to see what other businesses had in mind and what they had to offer. He accepted the invitation to come down over a long weekend, see the sights and spend some time with the company and the interviewers. I was invited too.
Now as I'm telling this downright true story, I could use fluffy words and cliches and dress up pretty phrases so that you'd get the sense that the new job "wasn't meant to be" or it "wasn't the right timing" or even "not a good fit" for his career wheelhouse. But I'm not. He never went to the meeting. Never put on his tie. Didn't shake hands with the hosts. Never toured the property and not one copy of a resume slid across a board room table. There wasn't an interview. He got lost.
My hand to the heavens in a solemn promise of truth, he got lost and gave up looking. This was before the days of GPS. He got turned around and circled the same blocks, back and forth on the same streets and we drove through neighborhoods that had no resemblance to a hotel or an office park. We argued. We flung maps. We spilled coffee. I sulked.
It was the ONLY time in 22 years of togetherness that we did not enjoy traveling together. We love traveling. We love exploring and being tourists. Sign us up for a bus tour, a walking tour, a ghost tour and a boat tour in the same day. We're good with that. Start early, finish late. It's kinda' our thing. It's our jam on biscuits. We're good at traveling, but Charleston had a voodoo on us and we were blocked from getting there. Twenty years have gone by and it's the one place I've always wanted to go. I never forgot or ever let him forget - how close I came to visiting Charleston.
So Charleston became our "joke". The joke that snuck in at parties whenever the city was mentioned. We'd hear...
"They're honeymooning in Charleston - how grand!"
"We're having a couples golfing retreat in Charleston next weekend."
"I have a business trip in Charleston. We're bringing the kids and staying a few extra days."
"My husband and I are going to Charleston for a weekend getaway...."
Hostility and tension would climb up my back and wedge deep into my shoulders. My lips would pucker and make a tight kissing noise. If Chardonnay was available, my lips would unwind to take another sip. As soon as I cleared my satisfied gulp, I would throw open the shutters of my envy filled eyes and then say louder than necessary "HOW NICE FOR YOU BOTH! I've ALWAYS wanted to go to CHARLESTON!"
In all the years that have passed since the interview that never happened, I honestly never stopped thinking about Charleston. I devour books about Charleston, James Island or Folly Beach. I peruse area maps and find The College of Charleston, Rainbow Row or the City Market just for fun. I gaze at pictures online, follow EXPLORE CHARLESTON on Instagram and study Charleston's history from The Battery to the Dock Street Theater, from Gullah to Gershwin and how the locals say that the Ashley and Cooper Rivers merge together to form the Atlantic. I picture every balcony facing Southwest because that's the proper way to capture the refreshing ocean breeze.
I've visited Charleston virtually many times but I'm proud of my one and only Charleston collectible. Even though I didn't get it there, it serves as my visual reassurance that the dream of visiting The Holy City will come to pass. My prized Charleston possession is a vintage mug, weathered and cracked discovered in an antique store. The blue and white mug sets on my mantle and I change the decorations around it depending on the season. My Charleston mug keeps vigil.
On Valentine's Day 2016, I slipped the red satin ribbon off of a white 12 X 12 box expecting to see a traditional love gift appropriate to unwrap in front of our children. The gift wasn't heavy, but felt solid like a framed picture or a book. My guess was pretty close, because it was a notebook filled with slick sheets of 3 ring clear inserts. The first page was a glossy computer print out of Charleston at night, with watercolor lights pouring into the harbor.
I gasped. (Of course I gasped.)
The revelation of his gift initiated a facial expression chain reaction. My head tilted right, my jaw went left and my wild eyes leapt across the room and into his expecting smile.
"WE are going to CHARLESTON!?!?" I exclaimed
"We are going to Charleston," He said smoothly. "In October."
I gazed back down at the notebook and slowly turned the pages. All the Holy City details were there. The hotel, the restaurants, the tours, the gardens, the USS Yorktown and of course - a map marked with arrows leading into the city and a note off to the side....
"We're not getting lost this time!"
Frantic Finch is on her way to visit the city of her dreams.
Now I need to wish for another place to go.
**As of the launch and timing of this post, we have had the most unfortunate bad news. My husband's dear aunt passed away today and we will postpone this trip for a happier time.**