I went to bed last night with a troubled mind. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I was quietly preparing to teach the youth this weekend at the Statewide Lectureship. I was trying to call up memories of my own adolescence, or rather; I was trying to drag myself mentally back down to those awkward depths of wild misshapen emotion and soft pink teenage confusion that defined my youth. How did I live? What did I love? How did I think my future would turn out? How terribly wrong was I about everything?
These thoughts haunted me in my sleep and I was visited in the night by a horrible dream.
In my dream, I was a young man slouching uncomfortably in front of a large assembly of friends and family. I was getting married. But as I looked out over the sea of faces watching me, I felt my cheeks begin to burn as my face turned red with embarrassment. I was making a terrible mistake. I had made a series of promises I never meant to make and had committed myself to a relationship that I never meant to be committed to.
There on the front row, I saw my mother and father, both frowning disapprovingly. Next to them was my older brother with a mocking smirk (he was enjoying this). Several hundred of my closest friends and family were scattered behind them, each with varying degrees of blank expressions or fake uncomfortable smiles. And there, at the back of the room, stood Andrea with the sweetest expression of friendship and good will that I have ever seen. Her face was glowing with joy. We locked eyes for a moment and I sadly looked away, looked back to face my bride who I was reciting my vows to. My bride-to-be standing tall and proud next to me, on a wooden stool: A Costco sized bottle of Bullseye Barbecue Sauce.
“How did this happen?” I thought to myself, “I mean, I like Bullseye barbecue sauce. I like it a lot. But do I LOVE Bullseye barbecue sauce? Do I really want to marry Bullseye barbecue sauce?” Yet there I was staring into the face of that angry red bull on the label.
In reply to my vows to cherish, honor, love, and adore, the sauce said nothing. The minister had to lean forward and read the vows off a label on the side of the bottle. As he came to the end, he continued reading on to the next label and everyone laughed as he announced the grotesque ingredients of the bottle that would soon be my wife till death do us part.
I lifted my head to the ceiling and wailed in torment but it was drowned out by thunderous applause.
Later, at a reception, after having my picture taken holding the bottle in my arms and watching out the window as my father got into a car and drove away shaking his head in shame, I sat staring down at a piece of white cake next to the Costco sized bottle of Bullseye barbecue sauce. The cartoon face of the bull watched as I poked a pattern of holes in the cake frosting with my fork. The judging black eye of the bull burned into me and I tried to ignore it. My mouth was too dry to eat even a single bite of cake.
My mother suddenly showed up. I quickly stood and she gave me a hug around the neck. “Congratulations,” she said sadly.
“Thank you,” I said vaguely. But I was suddenly distracted. Over her shoulder, I could see Andrea hovering through the room, greeting friends. She handed an old woman a cup of water. Scrunched her face at a baby and laughed. She placed her cheek on her father’s shoulder and smiled and then casually glanced in my direction. Immediately I looked away.
“How long do these types of things last?” I whispered quietly into my mother’s ear.
She hesitated. “I have a bottle just like that in my pantry that has been there for over ten years.”
As she walked away, Andrea finally came and sat down across from me at the table.
“Thank you for coming,” I said. “We really appreciate how much you have done for us.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” she replied, and the twinkle in her eyes showed just how much she truly meant it. And I felt my heart swell with the realization that this woman truly loved me. In spite of all my failures and all my idiotic delusions, this beautiful young woman would support me in all of it. She would stand in the back of the room and nod approval of whatever brainless scheme I came up with, even if it was something as stupid as accidentally marrying a Costco sized bottle of Bullseye barbecue sauce.
“I’m young,” I told her, “and foolish.”
She took my hand, “The two are the same.”
“Will you wait for me?” I asked, and then I motioned towards the large bottle sitting next to me at the table. “This might take a while.”
“As long as you need.” And then she squeezed my hand and looked at the hundreds of people sitting at tables around the room. “Hey,” she looked me in the eyes again, “would you mind if I served out some Chicken wings?”
I woke up the next morning and frantically pulled back the covers to find only Andrea lying next to me. I fell back onto my pillow with a sigh of relief.
“What’s wrong?” she turned to face me.
“Nothing,” I said, “I just… I’m glad I married you. That’s all.”
“Ooookay,” she said.
“Hey, do you ever wish we had gotten married sooner?” I asked.
She considered this. “Yeah. Sooner would have been nice. Maybe a year or so earlier, at least.”
“Yeah.” I nodded, trying to remember if we had any barbecue sauce in the pantry. “I just had some things I needed to work out I guess.”
“I know,” my wife said, placing her hand on my arm, “I know you did.”