Some Things Are Meant To Be
Colleen met me at the door one night with some disappointing news. The college where she was teaching had to move. They could no longer pay the monthly rent on the buildings in which they were located. They were to evacuate ASAP and the move was to take place over the upcoming Christmas break. They were moving from the campus in Memphis, a small town up by Port Huron, to a vacated college campus close to Ypsilanti. That meant I would have to move my family to the Ypsilanti area, too. Thankfully, we found a nice place just a few blocks from where the college was going to be relocating. It was not as nice as the home we had before but it did have a really large patio and deck in the back yard. Another bright spot about its location was that Audiomart happened to have a store in Ann Arbor, only a few miles from Ypsilanti. Consequently, I asked for a transfer to that store. I thought I might just return to full time sales.
The president had other ideas. He said he needed a good manager there and immediately transferred me to manage the Ann Arbor store. It was one of the better stores in the chain, located in a beautiful mall, and there was tons of traffic every day. I know, in a college town many of those who came in were little more than "rug rakers," but the potential was there for sales. Within a week I took over the job as manager and set out to make this store successful.
From the time I first became a manager I knew that I had been short-changing my family life. My wife had begun to complain that I was not there enough and that our children missed me. She also started to complain about our lack of intimacy. In her words, "A peck on the lips as you walk out the door does not constitute a romantic, meaningful relationship!" As anyone knows, when the wife isn't happy, nothing much goes right around home until she is.
I was getting stressed out about it, too, but I didn't know what I could do to change things at the moment. I had to succeed in my job. Colleen and I talked and I finally told her that I had to stick with it. However, I promised that things were going to change soon and I would cut my own hours back to at least a quasi-normal number somewhere below 60 per week.
Thankfully, the Ann Arbor store had a great assistant manager named Mike. He was an outgoing guy and willing to help me whenever I needed him to do so. He was savvy, too, and he said he would cover for me if I needed to take some time off. So I did take some time off for a two-hour lunch once in awhile. That refreshed me somewhat but it did nothing for my marriage.
Matters at home continued on the decline and it wasn't long before I realized that our sex life was pretty much nonexistent. Colleen began making comments about the "Absent Lover Syndrome," and she would remind me of my promises on a regular basis. Obviously the few and far-between quickies in the morning were not satisfying her.
You might wonder if I had stopped being attracted to my wife. I had not! Colleen is a very attractive woman. She has reddish-brown hair and a great complexion. At 5'3" and 110 pounds, she is what I lovingly call "my sexy handful." Her 36-24-34 build was still about the same as when I married her, even after two kids. I'm not saying that my wife is perfect, just that she was certainly not the problem where sex was concerned. She is very desirable!
Having said that, however, Colleen does have a down side. She has a dynamite temper and her fuse can be lit very easily. Anyone who doesn't live up to her expectations irritates her. God forbid if anyone would ask her to find time for someone who doesn't "measure up" (to use her words). Early on I decided that her good side was the one I wanted to be on, so I had a tendency to accommodate her moods even though I disagreed with her.
One Monday night, after I had been at the Ann Arbor store for a couple of months, I came home at my usual time and found Colleen still awake. It was after 11:30 PM and she was normally passed out by this time because she had early classes at college. I kissed her and told her I was surprised to see her awake. We talked for a bit. She was concerned about how my schedule never permitted us to have friends over as much as she would like.
Without thinking it through, I suggested that we invite a few of my colleagues from Audiomart to a Saturday barbeque. She wasn't at all enthused about my suggestion and asked, "Don't you get enough your friends at work? You know I don't particularly care for the type of people you work with. So why would you think I would want them in my home? I want to invite friends from the college or our church."
Immediately I realized I had not been sensitive to what she had in mind, so I tried to reach a compromise with her. I suggested that we only invite a few from Audiomart that she knew and liked, and she could invite a few friends from college or church. She finally agreed and we were able to go to sleep without getting into a fight.
The next day I notified those on my list to be at our home by 5:30 PM Saturday for a barbeque. I also told them that wives were welcome. The only single guy I invited was Mike, and he said he wouldn't be bringing a girl. When asked about hard liquor, I told the guys they would have to bring their own. I was going to provide beer but not the hard stuff.
The day before the barbeque my wife made out the list of things needed and I went to a local grocery store to buy them. The final bill was almost $150, which in the late '80s was close to two weeks grocery money for us. I didn't care, however, because I wanted to make an impression on the guys who worked with me. They worked hard and I wanted to make it special for them. Of course, I wanted to do the same for those from our church and the college.
Colleen asked a young friend named Becky to spend the afternoon helping with the final preparations. Becky was a college student and a very attractive young lady. Colleen also invited her to stay for the party. Becky accepted. I wasn't trying to play matchmaker but the thought crossed my mind that Mike was going to like her.
The children had been invited to stay with some of their friends for the weekend. That was good news to me because I knew I could party hardy Saturday night and sleep late on Sunday. I didn't have to open the store until noon.
All went well with the preparations and everything was set to go. Shortly after 5:00 PM. I was about to go outside to prepare the barbeque grill when there was a knock at our door. Thinking it was an early arrival I opened the door. I was stunned to see a face I wasn't expecting to see.
"Bill," I exclaimed. "What's up, and what are you doing on this side of the world?"
"Hey, it's been a long time since I've seen you," he replied. "I was out this way and I thought I'd drop in to see if you wanted to get a beer and catch up."
"Man, I'd like to," I replied, "but we have company coming in about thirty minutes for a barbeque. Hey, why don't you join us! We have plenty of food and lots of beer, so we can enjoy a couple of beers together right here. What do you say?"
He paused before he finally committed himself. "Free beer. What idiot would turn down an invitation like that? Certainly not me! Get out of my way and show me to the beer!"
I laughed at his humor and led him into the family room. I told him to relax while I went to the kitchen to retrieve a couple of beers. Colleen and Becky were both putting the finishing touches on everything. Colleen's back was to me as she casually asked who was at the door. When I told her it was Bill, she spun around with a look on her face told me that she was not happy with my response.
"Bill? Bill who?"
"Bill from Audiomart," I replied.
"What is he doing here? He's one that I specifically did NOT want to come. Someone must have told him about the party," she said through gritted teeth. "You didn't invite him to stay, did you? Well, DID YOU?"
"Colleen, do I really have a choice? C'mon, just relax and go with the flow. You know that you're always saying, 'Some things are meant to be.' Well, maybe this is one of those times," I said, trying to console her. She didn't respond, but the look on her face said enough.
It was my fault that she had such a low opinion of Bill because in the past I had mentioned that his lifestyle was rather unsavory due to his involvement with other men's wives. He often bragged of "closing the deal" with the wives of some of his married customers. He usually did this when he went into their homes to set up their new sound systems. Knowledge of that kind of lifestyle would be more than enough to cause Colleen to react as she did.
After her angry comments, Colleen returned to whatever she had been doing and I went to the refrigerator and grabbed a couple of beers. As I closed the door, Becky and I looked at each other and I rolled my eyes. She smiled and looked down. I walked over to give Colleen a kiss on the cheek. I reassured her again that all would be okay. I could tell, however, that she was livid with me.
For effect, I tiptoed out of the room and headed for the family room where I found Bill bent over admiring my sound system.
"Man, I didn't know you bought this system. It's one of the very best we've ever sold," he assured me.
I laughed as I handed him his beer and informed him that I hadn't bought it at Audiomart.
"Why not," he asked?
"Because, even with Audiomart's discount to salesmen, I could get it for hundreds less through a dealership that loves to undercut Audiomart's prices," I responded. "In fact, I also bought a small bedroom TV there."
"You know you're biting the hand that feeds you, don't you," he said rather critically.
I paused and then told him, "If they paid better, and didn't expect so much for what little they do pay, I might feel bad about it. I don't, however, so let's not go there for now. Drink up and let's enjoy the evening."
Before any more could be said, someone else was knocking on our door. I excused myself to welcome them. Bill started walking toward the kitchen area saying something about giving himself the free tour of our house. I didn't say any more to him as I walked to the door.
It was not long before all the guests arrived. They were milling around, trying to get familiar with their surroundings and each other. Soon it seemed that everyone was trying to talk over everyone else while they munched on the hors d'oeuvre.
When it was time, I was glad for the chance to go outside to take care of the frankfurters and burgers on the grill. The noise everyone was making didn't really bother me because I knew they were having a good time and that was the purpose for the party. With the beer flowing, and the BYO-liquor being freely poured, the party was quickly getting into high gear.
As I stood outside flipping burgers, I happened to look into the window of our kitchen. What a surprise it was to see my wife, standing at the kitchen sink, laughing and having a very lively conversation with Bill.
My wife is a great conversationalist, so that didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was that she was having this energetic conversation with a man she had so much as said that she despised only minutes before. I just shook my head and went back to minding the burgers. It crossed my mind that Bill the Salesman was proving once again that he can win over just about anyone.
With so many guests milling in and out of our house the AC had been turned off. We had opened all the windows to keep a breeze flowing. When the meat was ready to serve, I got everyone's attention with my loud, shrill whistle, which could be heard inside as well as outside. Then I announced that the meat was ready and they should come get it.