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Everything Happens for a Reason

It's no secret to long-time readers that Jeff and I have been going through a rough spot these past several months. On the surface, the issue was Jeff getting a job, but the underlying issues go much deeper, as they often do. We went to a therapist (about whom I have mixed feelings) and she narrowed the visits down to Jeff. That experience is an entry unto itself and not really relevant to this one. What is relevant is that Jeff has been seeing her and is really solidly working to begin a career as a law enforcement officer and I'm happy about that. What's been harder is trying to find the spark in our relationship.

It's not just about sex, though that is probably the most manifest symptom of how I've been feeling. Even in the best of times, Jeff and I tend to have the opposite reactions to stress. He wants all sex, all the time, while I shut down and don't want anything other than a warm body next to mine for a hug. Imagine how much more that becomes the case when the source of the stress is the relationship itself -- and the more Jeff wants to be close, the more I just can't do it. My sex drive essentially shuts down when this is going down and we've been struggling with that on top of everything else. I mean, for Pete's sake... if we can't even have a good orgasm together and everything else is gone, what's left?

So this last weekend was conceived as an exercise in at least finding two pieces of flint to strike together, if not the actual spark. I asked my parents to take the girls, and they kindly agreed. Jeff took them over on Friday, the same day I got a raging yeast infection. It didn't bode well for the weekend. Not that it was all about sex -- but being intimate was definitely a goal.

Saturday dawned and attempts to sleep in were thwarted by a brilliant sun, leaf blowers and annoying animals-who-might-as-well-be-children. Friday night we had discussed spending the morning at the gym, followed by a leisurely soak in the spa and pool sans children. After we booted all four-legged creatures out of the bedroom and had a brief morning tryst, Jeff said, "Why don't we go to Jerome?"

"Sounds like fun, let's go!"

So we packed up quickly (gods, it's so much easier without kids), and headed out. Jerome is an old mining town perched on the Mogollon Rim of Arizona. The houses and buildings were literally built into the side of the mountain and many of them had access to the mines from their basements. Now it's an artist-y, tourist-y type place that Jeff and I love to visit. We conceived Gabrielle in the shadow of Jerome when we briefly lived in Cottonwood back in 1995. We moved to Flagstaff from Cottonwood and used to take trips down through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona to visit Jerome with the girls. Jasmine's ghost played at the hillside park and in the Connor Hotel gift shop.

We had a great day and came back home to Mesa late. I was tired and a little depressed. I can't say exactly why, but it was a tense night. We had an argument of sorts and I honestly felt that maybe we were beating a dead horse. Talking that night was out of the question. I entertained a good, cleansing cry on the couch while Jeff fretted upstairs. In a word, that night sucked.

Sunday morning we woke up and started talking. We worked through some of the issues from the night before and after a few hours, decided to head to downtown Tempe for the day before we went to pick up the kids in Big River. First shop we hit was the bookstore and I found myself in the relationship and sex section with an armload of books. Maybe I tend to look to books too often for guidance, but it's better than crack, right? Anyway, I had some other fun stuff too, and finally we headed up to the register, where we encountered Snarky Bookstore Guy. Snarky Bookstore Guy (hereafter referred to as SBG) took great interest in our purchases as he pulled them from the basket with painstaking slowness.

Now you know I once worked in a bookstore. It's a culture I am familiar with, that I know and love. I "get" intellectual snobbishness and indulge on a regular basis. However, I have manners about it. SBG either had no manners or had some kind of nervous tic that probably gets his ass kicked on a regular basis. Let me give you a visual. Remember Garth from Wayne's World? Well, put him in moderately stylish clothing and maybe update his glasses a little and you have SBG.

SBG pulled the books out one-by-one and created a stack. Other than saying, "I can take you over here," he didn't say a word to Jeff or I, didn't make eye contact and basically seemed to inhabit his own little world. When my brother was little, he used to think that if he closed his eyes, the people he didn't see ceased to exist. Maybe SBG was like that. I don't know. What I do know is this. After he created a stack of our books with excruciating precision and turtle-speed, he pulled a Dr. Phil book from the top and drawled, "Dr. Phillip McGraaaaaw." And chuff-chuckle-snorted. Now I know that Dr. Phil is a cliche. I know he's not, y'know, in with the intellectual-I-eschew-all-pop-culture crowd. I don't care. I picked the book up not because he did or did not write it, but because when I opened it and looked inside, I saw some things that I think can help Jeff and I work through this rough patch.

Bleep! Scanned it. Turned it over. Carefully started a new pile. Picked up the next book, a lovely book on erotic massage, illustrated with gorgeous multi-ethnic photographs. Looked like fun to me. SBG chuff-chuckle-snorted again. I looked up at him, waiting to see if he had something to say. His eyes were scanning the back cover of my book. I felt faintly violated and wondered if he actually had the gall to be laughing at Jeff and I, or if he had some kind of book-induced Tourette's Syndrome that manifested not in cursing, but in making sly fun of married people. He didn't meet my eyes.

Now SBG moves on to the next book, a collection of fairy tales retold as erotica. Guess what he did? Perused the back cover and made that goddamn noise. Again. Didn't look up. Again. I looked at Jeff to see if he was noticing this, but he was looking at the display behind me. This process played out over the next several books until finally, he was done. Jeff paid for the books and SBG somewhat contemptuously wished us a nice day.

Here's the deal. I know I've made fun of a book purchase before, but I would never -- never -- be so openly disdainful of a customer while they were still in the store. Does he get points for honesty? Did he have some kind of condition? Did he need a good ass-kicking? Maybe he was nervous because his only partner is made of vinyl? I'll never know.

Anyway, one of the books I picked up was called "All About Us," and was basically a book of questions meant to be filled out by a couple. We spent the entire trip to Parker answering the questions together and do you know we both learned new things? It was great. Some of it was hard and some of it was funny. But somehow, I think it may have been our flint.

So now we have this little glowing thing, this spark. We're doing all we can to baby it, to help it grow. I wonder today if Saturday night had to be as bad as it was so we would be forced to have Sunday morning. I wonder if Snarky Bookstore Guy didn't actually make me more determined to work through some of these books even if they are pop-culturish. I wonder, as I often do, about the series of coincidences in my life that are never really coincidences. Everything happens for a reason.

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