Sixteen years ago today, I was frozen to my ugly green college sofa, clinging to a box of silver, unable to move. My friend Jen was busy getting ready for my wedding rehearsal that was happening in two hours.
Jen: Phoebe, do you want to shower first, or should I?
Phoebe: <doing my best impression of deer in headlights>
Jen: Phoebe, did you hear me?
Phoebe: <crickets chirping>
Jen (waving a hand over my face): Hello? Are you okay?
Phoebe: I can’t move.
I can laugh about it all now. As does Jen. At the time…okay, even at the time, there was a small functioning part of my brain that could still laugh about it. But I was seriously, definitely frozen in place. Why? Because the idea of standing up in front of dozens and more of our friends and family to declare life long love to Josh scared the ever-living bajeezus out of me.
Luckily, the bridesmaid chosen to hang out with me was Jen. Jen, who had been the one to lure me to the theatre where I first met Josh. Jen, who broadly hinted to Josh that he should ask me out. Jen pried the box of silver out of my hands and set it aside and said the words I will never forget –
“Don’t think of it as getting married…think of it as getting a parcheesi partner for life.”
It was completely absurd, but it worked. It allowed me to start moving again. And yes, I still laugh about it.
We made it to the wedding rehearsal, which honestly, I barely remember. All I know was when the priest had us sitting up on the altar, facing out into the church, I thought “I can’t do this. I should have listened to Josh. We should have eloped like he wanted to. What was I thinking? I can’t do this in front of everyone!”
By the end of the rehearsal, I was really questioning why I wanted the whole traditional wedding…you know, the one with guests. A Vegas elopement suddenly seemed like the best idea ever. Meanwhile, our families and wedding party were mingling in the parking lot across from the church. We were all laughing and chatting when my stepfather said loudly “Okay, everyone get up against the truck.”
I looked at him and wondered if he wanted to take a group photo, but that seemed odd. Then he said even more loudly “Get down! He has a gun!”
We all scattered behind cars and trucks in the parking lot. I remember Josh shoved his little brother and sister towards their Suburban, but his sister stood there, looking confused. I grabbed her and took her behind the truck. My grandmother, who was partially deaf, was also confused until someone yelled at her to get down. Later on she laughed about it, how she stood there like a nicely dressed target. At the time though, it wasn’t as funny.
Turned out there was a drug bust a few doors down from the church. Some guy with a gun was running to warn the people at the drug house. There was someone else on a bike with a gun. There was a van that came around the corner, the door slid open to reveal another guy with a gun. While I can’t remember what happened in the church, the scene outside of it is burned into my memory banks. I remember being crouched behind a truck, knowing that if people started shooting, I couldn’t let Josh’s little sister get hit, that I’d have to take a bullet for her if need be. And then I had this conversation with God about how if I died the night before my wedding a virgin, I was NOT going to be happy with Him and He WOULD hear about it.
Thankfully, no shots were fired, the men with guns were gone and we decided not to stick around. As I got into the car, my maid of honor looked at me and said “Does this sort of thing happen all the time here?” Ha!
But go figure – after all that, the wedding didn’t seem as scary as it did a few hours before, when Jen had to pry me off the sofa. The wedding went smoothly, no fears, I was just happy to be there, lol!