By Dustin Tyler
“Testing, testing, is this thing on?”
The guests smile and some even chuckle as my now brother-in-law delivers the first line of his best man speech. At about nine this morning, while I was shaving and hoping the bender I went on last night wouldn’t effect how my suit fit, Jonathan sat in the corner of my hotel room pressed up against the window which overlooked a parking lot, finishing up the speech. He chuckled to himself the entire time as he moved the pencil from the paper to his mouth and back again.
It was almost like he was picturing himself in a film, playing the lovable but constantly-getting-in-trouble brother of the bride. Truthfully though, he’s not that type of character. He’s a great guy, handsome and well spoken with a degree in economics and a green belt in children’s karate.
Hours before his speech started, I married his sister. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did it anyway, feeling guilty the entire time. She sits to my right and has a smile on her face so large, you’d think she just found her Prince Charming; in her eyes, maybe she did.
When we took our wedding pictures outside the church and reception hall, the photographer had to keep reminding me to smile. She doesn’t deserve this. She deserves someone who isn’t hiding half of himself from her. Someone who wasn’t always deceiving her and taking advantage of her kindness.
“Sleep over tonight,” I hear her say in a memory. “I work early tomorrow,” I say, hoping there won’t be a followup question. That was about three months into what is now a four year relationship. The longest I’ve ever had. Two weeks ago, following a particularly engrossing Mel Gibson film, she asked for the four hundredth time in our relationship: “Stay over?” I can’t think of another excuse, so I stay up the entire night, watching her as she sleeps peacefully, wondering if our whole marriage will feature me as an insomniac. I haven’t had a good nights sleep since then. My conscience is an alarm clock with no snooze button.
The crowd of guests roar, as Jonathan makes another joke, one I didn’t even hear. “But seriously, I can’t remember the last time I saw my sister this happy,” he continues.
I can’t take it anymore.
“I hope your marriage is as great as the…”
“Stop!” I yell. I stand and grab the mic as Jonathan looks at me, my wife looks at me, the flower girl looks at me. I make eye contact with none of them but feel each of their stares. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been living a lie. Deceiving all of you.”
My wife is standing by me now, already crying as she asks me what I’m doing. I still don’t look at her.
“I didn’t want to lie. I wanted a kind of life you see in the movies, a wife, kids, friends, all of it.” I sip from a cup of water. “But not this way.” I finally look my wife in the eye—the woman I’ve been lying to for four years—and confess. “I’ve been sleeping…with a sleep mask. It’s black like a blindfold with a strap in back. It keeps light out of my eyes. I’ve used since I was ten years old. I need it to fall asleep at night!” I admit it and for the first time all day, I feel like I can breathe.
It’s short lived. Suddenly a metal serving tray is hurled in my direction. I deflect it with my hand and as I do, I spot the waiter who threw it. He’s an older man, grimacing and running at me full speed from across the room. I hear a loud thump. It’s my wife fainting, and before I can assist her, Jonathan begins throwing his children’s karate moves at me. A kick, followed by a punch. I wonder why they both hit my hip, then remember he stopped training as a 4’0 eight year old. He only ever practiced his moves on an instructor, who stood 6’4. He is now unable to throw anything higher than what he could when he was a child. He’s grunting as he attacks me, using as much force as he can. I grab the chair I was sitting on when he began his speech and use it as a shield, deflecting his blows and eventually knocking him off balance.
The waiter is still charging me, but he’s not the only one. The women in the crowd are split; half running to my wife, the rest using their purses as bows and dining rolls as arrows. I hop over the the table and try to run through them. I don’t want to hurt anyone else, emotionally or physically. I spin like a football running back, making it about ten feet from the table when I’m caught and overpowered. A pile forms on top of me. Women, children, men, staff from the hall, all jump in. Overhead, I must look like I’m buried under a mountain of people. I feel pain on every part of my body. I can’t breathe. But suddenly I realize, it’s pitch black. I can’t see anything under the mound of people. It’s as dark as when I’m wearing my sleep mask and without the burden of being a liar, without feeling like I’m hiding who I am, I calmly fall asleep.