We grew up in Summerville, South Carolina, lived 7 minutes away from one another, knew the same people, but did not know each other. My future husband lived 7 minutes away from me for most of my life, and I wished I met him sooner. He told me we met at the right time. The summer of 2014, where our modern Carolina love story began.
I was a college girl in 2014. I was that cute girl who didn’t know how to flirt, and guys never approached me. I was always the cool “sister” or “friend.” I had family members questioning, “You’re a beautiful girl. Why are you single?”
I never had an answer and rolled my eyes.
But there was this guy who worked at the gas station near my house. Mind you, my university was two hours away, so I only came to this gas station when I was home for the weekend or long breaks.
He had chocolate skin, a Kool-Aid grin, and his customer service skills were as my age group says, 100!
I would go in his store and talk to him, see him smile, buy candy I didn’t need, and we built a rapport. But I couldn’t tell if he was being a great worker or interested in me. It didn’t matter. I learned that not only did he work, but he attended the College of Charleston.
I was taken back. Where we grew up, if a young Black man was attending a historic school like C of C, and working 30 plus hours a week, that is a hard-working man! As a young Black woman, that interested me.
But our rapport still revolved around me telling him I wanted to be a journalist for local news, and he wanted to be a software developer.
That summer in 2014, I met another guy, and he soon became my boyfriend. So, I slowed down going to the gas station. But Christmas 2014 had an effect on the gas station guy and I.
I came home for Christmas and literally needed gas and snacks. The boyfriend I had for the summer, he and I broke up the week after Christmas. I ran into the gas station to gas up and get snacks to head back to university life. Instead of me approaching gas station guy, he picked up a conversation with me. He asked about my holiday and how journalism classes were going. I was shocked he remembered. I thought he was just being friendly.
We conversed and then he said, “What are you doing two days from now? Maybe we can meet up.”
One side of me was saying “Finally!” But the other side of me didn’t want to move too fast. I had just broken up a measly three-month relationship. You know how southern moms are. My family probably would have called me “hot in de draws (which means promiscuous)”. You know what saved me?
I told him the truth.
“I actually can’t meet in two days. I’ll be heading back to school. Remember my school is two hours away?”
He told me, “Well maybe next time.”
Looking back now, I wonder why we did not exchange numbers in that moment.
Fast forward to the summer of 2015. I was now working at the grocery store not far from his gas station. My best friend’s birthday was approaching, and we were going to Atlanta for Birthday Bash.
The gas station guy came into my store, and he still looked good in his work clothes, the chocolate skin, and the conversation was good, as usual.
This time we discussed summer vacation while I helped him bag his groceries. I was telling him I was actually doing some writing that summer. I had been shadowing journalists at a weekly newspaper in town. He was telling me he was saving money because he wanted senior year to be easier financially. I agreed with him.
He walked out with a bags of groceries. And he came back in two minutes later.
I was worried I was talking too much and forgot to give him everything.
“That’s not what I came in here for. I don’t mean to be too forward, but can I have your number?” he asked.
I quickly grabbed receipt paper and a pen from my register. I happily put my number down and said, “I’ve been waiting so long for you to ask me for my number.” I gave him my number and said, “Talk to you later Fred.”
He now jokes with me and says he was not expecting me to announce that I had been waiting for his number for so long.
I went to Atlanta the next day with my friends. We enjoyed Birthday Bash. This was like the first time guys approached me, instead of approaching my friends (I was starting to have self-issues when it came to dating).
I loved the new feeling.
While at Birthday Bash, I didn’t have pockets on my clothing or a clutch.
This was the first time I was glad I had huge breasts. I could use my bra as a purse for God’s sake. I placed my phone in my bra and danced the night away.
Dumbest thing I could have done!
My phone died the next day. It had a great charge, but it kept cutting on and off by itself. Finally, not cutting back on at all, I think water damage had occurred.
Because my parents are worry warts, I contacted them on my friend’s phone and let them know the situation.
When I got back to Charleston two days later, I was glad my dad had an old phone in the closet. I placed my SIM card in the phone. I had several missed texts from everyone, including Fred.
I kid you not, he thought I was ignoring him. I told him the story of what happened. I am so glad he believed me. Because truth be told, if I heard that story about a phone dying on a girl’s trip, I wouldn’t believe it.
We talked on the phone and texted and visited each other at work for weeks until our first date.
The Caribbean Jerk Festival in Charleston that July was our first date. It was enjoyable too! We had great conversation and learned that we knew some of the same people.
As the weeks went on, the dates went on, and it was kind of scary that we clicked so well. It made me nervous because I assumed maybe he was just trying to get in my head and pants. August came and it was time for me to head back to college for my senior year.
I literally tried not to get closer to him anymore. I know, it is crazy right? I chased him for so long, and now all of a sudden, I was ready to turn him loose. Well, he was persistent. He gave me reasons on why I should still stay in contact with him.
Well, I listened, but things were a little complicated. One of my college crushes had recently graduated from my university. He still stayed in contact with me, and even came to visit me when school started back. Fred visited as well.
I told Fred about my college crush. He told me I needed to make a decision between him and the other guy. He explained that if a woman ever tries to put him second to another man, that means she did not really care for him at all. Honestly, I respected that. How would I feel if a man was putting me second to another woman?
This was a difficult decision because both were great men!
However, I chose Fred. We did the long-distance relationship until we graduated from our respective colleges in May 2016. If my parents were to tell the story they would say a two-hour ride from Summerville to Florence, South Carolina is not long distance. I understand that, but our institutions of higher learning were two hours away, weekends meant everything to us!
When he would come to visit, I used my slow cooker so he, my roommate and I could eat (she was the better cook though). Fred and I did our homework together, ate together, and explored the city together. My favorite thing would be how my roommate and him had to put me on to good movies. They would joke and tell me I was losing points on my “Black card” because I did not know classic Back movies. My roommate told me she liked seeing Fred and I together, and it made me feel good. I valued her opinion.
Then there were weekends when I went home, and I introduced him to the outside family. Biggest mistake ever! All of my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side loved him. They enjoyed him so much, if we had a weekend function and he was not around, they would inquire, “Why did you come to the party empty handed? Where’s my man Fred?” I would then state, “I came empty handed because I do not need my boyfriend around me at all times.”
Well that attitude changed when we graduated from college, the same day, in two different cities, and missed each other’s graduations. We made up for it that night though! He came to my family get together, and our friends partied with us when we went to downtown Charleston that night. The club we went to was so much fun. As the Nelly song goes, “sweat was dripping all down their body.”
The week after graduation it hit me! It was then I realized I liked the idea of him around me at all times. That summer of 2016 was so much sweeter because we could spend time together. I was now seeing him three times a week and it felt good. While we enjoyed our time together, seeking employment became a priority. We looked for jobs in Charlotte, Atlanta, Virginia, Charleston, Columbia.
By the end of the summer, a company in Virginia reached out to Fred for a career opportunity. Obviously, he took it. I took a journalism job in Camden, South Carolina, a few weeks later. When he moved to Virginia for a job, and I stayed in South Carolina, we did the long-distance relationship again.
He was now six hours away from me, but our pockets had to handle flight tickets and long drives to see each other. I now had a job in my field at this point, but still in South Carolina. I must say, when I visited him in Virginia, I saw a new world. I saw that melting pot that everyone said big cities have. The people were faster drivers and there were a multitude of healthy food options too! Those things were not common in South Carolina.
Fred would come to visit me, and I liked it most when he could attend interviews with me. Poor guy was dating a journalist and did not know it entailed wacky hours and personalities.
One of the things I struggled with while we did this long-distance Carolina love story was my parents explaining to me how after they got married, my dad was a long-distance truck driver, and my mom only saw him once a week. It was also hard not to compare my love story to other people’s long-distance relationships. I had to realize they went through trials that Fred and I did not endure. We endured trials they did not endure.
The final thing that was difficult was people asking, “Are you sure he really is faithful? You don’t know what he’s doing in Virginia.”
I even had a family friend — who was much older than I — say I needed to be a fisherman. She explained when a man goes fishing, he takes two of everything with him. Two lunches, two times the bait, two fishing rods, and so on. She told me I needed two men.
That was a hard pill to swallow. How could I be sure Fred was being honest about what he was doing and being faithful? How could he be sure if I was faithful? What if he was being a fisherman? I removed the thoughts from my head.
I told myself what is done in the dark will come to the light.
As 2016 turned into 2017, 2017 turned into 2018. I was laid off from a newspaper job and moved to another newspaper. He stayed by my side. He enjoyed working/training with his company, and we made it work. Do not get me wrong, we spent hundreds of dollars on travel, people trying to break us up, and different work schedules, which made things complicated. However, thank God for Google Duo, Maps, and YouTube.
After he proposed to me at the beautiful Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston in February 2018, I moved to Virginia that July. It felt like it was a long time coming. This move was hard for me because I was taught that man and woman should not move in together before marriage. Honestly, I see why that is important (I’ll discuss another day). However, I feel as though it strengthened our relationship because instead of seeing him for four days, I was able to see his actions and moods every day.
We finally married March 16, 2019, and so far, all the drama and distance has been worth it. I love him more now than I did the day we got married. That sense of coverage, respect, and love he provides is rare. It usually comes with drawbacks, but not with him, and this modern Carolina love story.
#ModernCarolinaLoveStory #Love #BlackLoveUnited