Flying South

by Harriet May

barn_va

The first time Sam came to Charlotte, N.C. with me we had been dating for six weeks. It was June last year, and it was a crazy idea, and not because we were in that first, uncertain phase of a relationship. “I want to come with you,” he told me, without blinking. “To Charlotte?” I replied, incredulously. I had to check several times. “You know it’s the south, right?”

Now, just under a year later, we have been to Charlotte together a total of three times. A month ago I woke up to several missed calls from my mother and a Whatsapp message that read: call me. My dad, 59, had suffered a heart attack and no one could tell my mom definitively whether or not he was dying. We booked flights for the following day; my dad survived.

This last time, we are flying in to Charlotte, then driving up to Virginia where Vanessa is getting married. It’s a five hour drive, which is nothing in the U.S. but if we were to spend that long in a car in England we could choose to go north and get to Newcastle or south to Newquay and span the entire country. We don’t have a car in England, though, only a motorcycle, and I have an annoying (Sam might say dangerous) habit of falling asleep as the pillion passenger, so there is no way we’d attempt such a distance. We don’t care much for leaving London anyway, where we can get everywhere by bicycle.

“What is a mason jar?” Sam asks at the rehearsal dinner, as Vanessa is having her bridesmaids write a final to-do list. The next day, he is not wearing the cowboy boots he bought when we were in Las Vegas, in January, because they do not fit underneath his British-made suit. He has found some mason jars and is pouring Woodford Reserve into two, straight, which we sip on as everyone helps themselves to barbecue and mac’n’cheese. “We’re having an aperitif,” I announce to the table.

Later, a couple from Napa discount the claim that the Shenandoah Valley wines are out to rival theirs. “The grapes don’t get ripe enough,” I’m told by a breezy Californian, in the business. “Meaning they’re too tart?” I enquire, making a sour face for effect. He nods in agreement. “You got it.”