Ah the South, with its slow paced glamour and whispered secrets, playing hide-and-seek amongst the sigh of Magnolia blossoms. I was in Charleston, imagining shades of Scarlet O’ Hara, elegant plantations and mint juleps. I was actually in the lobby of the Holiday Inn hotel, about to battle with mid- summer’s white glare in pursuit of the old South. I was sipping something cold when he came in through the out door and stopped me in my tracks. I thought I’d been struck by lightening! A blue eyed, stranger caught my eye, held my gaze briefly, smiled and then looked away. I tried to do the same, with added nonchalance to taste, but it was no use. I just kept on looking. My travelling companion, healthily immune to the idea of instant attraction, tried to remind me that we were about to start a walking tour of the city. She was armed with maps, guides and ‘essential’ information about hot biscuits and collard greens. I on other hand, was so disarmed by that smile, that I left my copy of 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' on the table. She bundled me through the revolving doors and out into the heat, with vague promises that 'we're bound to bump into him' trailing off like wispy smoke into the blue. I don’t remember much about that afternoon now. My pursuit of the Old South had metamorphosed into a search for my new love! I was now only hazily aware now of the stately grandeur of colonial mansions and the melancholy sweep of willow trees. It wasn’t until I was wandering round a pretty little churchyard, muttering about simple twists of fate and straining my eyes at the dedications on gravestones that my formely patient yet now hysterical travelling companion tugged my arm violently and hissed in my ear: ‘Look! There he is!’ I turned round and there he was, smiling in that inclusive, confident and endearing way that only Americans have. He introduced himself.
Hi I’m William.
Yes and I’m Scarlet. No, not O’Hara but the shade my pale English cheeks must have turned under the radar of that blue beam.
I’m an architect.
Oh really.How interesting. I teach Communications.
Sorry? I don't understand. Your accent.
Who do you think you’re fooling, Scarlet, or Suze .I couldn't even remember myy own name now. I was becoming dizzy from that smile and the sweltering seesaw of inconsequential yet loaded questions and answers being passed politely back and forth. Eventually I heard myself saying , yes, I would love to meet you on the front porch of the hotel later on for a drink, if you like, if you can, if you’re there. Shut up Suze!
Whoever it was that said time flies when you’re having fun, has obviously never met Liam the yankee (or was it confederate) architect, because in the heat haze of that Southern Man afternoon, I had to watch the arthritic progress of my wristwatch hands creak painfully towards the appointed hour of 10pm. My friend made her excuses when he arrived. Nice to meet you. Please forgive! Appointment with overseas phantom on the phone. What a bore! Much rather stay out here and chat. Her monologue was so plausible and so prolonged that I was ready to run to the front desk, call for help and have her physically removed from the scene. Eventually she muttered her farewells (again) and left me on a front porch worthy of the Waltons, in this navy blue, silvery night with a stranger I suddenly felt I’d known all my life. He showed me his drawings and poems. I attempted, gamely I thought, to convey the idea that I knew what they meant. Ah yes. Quite. I understand. Interesting perspective. At once poetic and artistic - or something. Only the dim light and the effect of that third mint julep saved my blushes as we talked about the South and ourselves. Why was my English accent becoming more cut glass by the minute? I need another drink! He gave me his card and told me he was leaving in the morning. I felt the elevator of my hopes drop from the roof to the cellar. Don’t leave, I wanted to scream! You might be the love of my life. How can you do this to us? Us? There is no us, fool! At 2am I finally dragged myself away. We exchanged one brief, shy kiss, email addresses and handshakes and then he was gone. With the wind, you might say. As I walked back to my room, I felt my heart lurch with liquor and longing. I wanted to run back down the hall and tell him - what? Well who knows, but whatever it was, it remained unsaid. Instead I went to my room and was greeted by the enthusiastic flapping of my travelling friend. Well? Well? Yes, that’s where I am, at the bottom of one. Please go to sleep and leave me alone.
Nine hours later I opened my bedroom door to find a paper cone, filled with rose petals and no note. I looked up and down the hallway, frantically chasing the shadows of the night before, but it was no use. He was gone. I slumped back into the room. Never mind, said the room mate, from somewhere inside the minibar with queasy good cheer. Perhaps you’ll hear from him when he gets home. Oh yes and perhaps I’ll see a little southern fried piggy flying over the elegant rooftop of the Holiday Inn, quoth I. I never did see that piggy, or Liam, the sad eyed, confederate architect - again.