The Retreat

A short story

It's past 4 pm when Ritch and I sit down to have our chat. He sits with his back to the window, in the seat Davey occupied for the previous two days. Rather than leaving the seat hunched up near to the coffee table as Davey had, Ritch has it pushed back further into the wide recess of the bay window he sits relaxed with his legs outstretched, comfortable, confident and un-foppishly handsome.

My spiritual teacher once told me that, when walking into a room, always locate the power chair, Ritch has done just this, for the first time since I encountered him he looks at home, like he actually wants to be there. With the power seat gone I take the chair which I have unconsciously labelled 'Peter's' chair, my back to a sturdy pillar, knowing it be second best I understand where the power lies in this room so accept it without argument.

We sit eight feet apart, the low table between us. I assume Ritch is going to impart some words of wisdom to help me on my life journey and I have some loosely prepared for him in return. He speaks first, "You know, if I didn't have a girlfriend I would ask you out for a drink". I stop breathing, talk about being back footed, I was not expecting that. I have no idea how to react.

I am rarely, if ever, asked out. To me the word date conjures up images of small talk in a low lit venue where two people do their best to hide their true selves as they present their suggestions of the perfect partner, often fuelled by alcohol, their attentions distracted by nibbles and music and followed by an awkward moment when one of them decides whether or not to make a pass, if successful the facade then has to be maintained, which of course in my mind it cannot so it all ends in disaster. Partly for this reason I have a long embedded skill of keeping men at a distance romantically, ensuring that they know I am not interested even before they start. They don't start.

I have no idea how these relationship things start, yes, I was married once, but only because I gave in when my husband begged me to go out with him and then, under the influence of some extremely good hashish and a trustworthy supply of MDMA, I thought it was love.

I don't do dates, ever.

Actually the word date also brings to mind a dried, sweet, stoned, fruit often bought by middle class mothers during the festive season and then hardly eaten, but I digress

OK so he didn't ask me out but he did say that under different circumstances he would. "That's nice", I respond feebly. Wasn't there a hole in here somewhere? Perhaps now is a good time to pries it back open and get crawling. Ritch calmly goes on to tell me why he would ask me out and a little bit about why he couldn't. I stutter a lot, trying hopelessly to appear calm and to gain my composure. Shit, despite not wanting to go on any dates I did kind of wish he was single just to see what would happen.

The conversation turns in the direction I originally expected and we tell each other what we see in as far as next steps in life might go. I hear myself telling him I can see him working with young offenders, I can, but it is not what he wants to hear and it is not really what I want to talk about, I want to go back to him not asking me out.

I relax and the chat continues. I enjoy listening to his voice and responding to his questions, naturally honest in my answers. The sun has tipped his hat and is bidding us a good night. With no electricity switched on in the room I sit fascinated as Ritch talks, his soothingly smooth accent hypnotizing me, rhythmically slowing my mind, his form, a silhouette against the beautifully window framed deeply greying skies, is surrounded by a pale yet noticeable shimmering glow.

I had tried to explain to the group yesterday morning that I visually see lifes energy, also known as the etheric(previously known as the aura). I rarely talk about it in normal company. I am always a little uncomfortable when I do bring it up, mainly because I am sure that everyone sees it and they just do not talk about it and that by mentioning it I am going to look like a fool, stating the obvious, like asking other people if they know grass is green. Anyway yesterday I had brought this up, Peter had asked me to explain myself more which I had done, very badly. Ritch had mischievously asked "can you see it around me" and I had just replied "no" to raucous laughter which had drowned out my explanation that I only see it under certain conditions and the conditions at that moment were not right. But I could see it now, around his head and behind his shoulders, it was low but it was there, golden bursts of energy seeping from his being.

After an hour or so I became aware that we were sitting in the guesthouse of a Monastery in the dark talking nonsense to each other and that perhaps it was time to leave, to let the resident Monks do whatever it is that Monks do after a bunch of lost souls have withdrawn from their space. This is typical of me, just when things are perfect I tend to break it up. For a glass three quarters full kind of girl, I have a talent for destroying the moment. Before we rise to leave he tells me he would like to write more of his thoughts to me in an email, I hand him a card with my email and mobile number on it assuming that I will never hear from him again, we make to exit.

Ritch gathers his things together as I wait out front. If there is one thing I like to do, and do well, it is to hug. I watch him as he strolls towards me ladened with bags, a pair of white trainers tucked under one arm, I am not sure how this is going to work but I go for it anyway, "a hug?" I ask. He steps towards me and we embrace, I say embrace, I put my arms around him and his luggage and he sort of pushes his elbows around me as best he can with his hands and arms otherwise occupied. It is lowest rated hug of the weekend by far. I am mightily disappointed, I wanted to feel the energy pulsing through him, see if I can feel how many hearts he has. Stepping back we smile and do the usual, take care and drive safely routine, I get in my car and start the engine.

As I drive slowly away I sigh, a long audible exhalation unwittingly releasing emotions I didn't realise I was holding in, I turn off the drive and make my way through the un-visited village. I have gone about two miles when I remember that I don't really know where I am and in which direction to go, still driving I find my mobile phone press the navigation icon and set my course for home. The roads are clear I switch the CD player back on and with no one to hear me I joyfully belt out the tunes as loud as I can. Now is the time for Michael Franti's wisdom.

Arriving home in very good time, (a little too good, I hope the Parishes I whizzed through cannot afford speed cameras), I dump my overnight bag with no intention of doing anything with the contents for at least a week. I am greeted by a streak of black and ginger as cats Morville and Stewie rush up excited to see me home. Satis the girl cat nonchalantly raises an eye but doesn't lift her head from the back of the sofa making it quite clear that has coped very well without my presence, thank you very much.

I spend the next half an hour on the floor talking cat, telling them all about my weekend and listening to what they have been up to. In part they look at me suspiciously and ask me why I cannot stop smiling. I manage to waste nearly three hours doing nothing much but drinking chamomile and avoiding anything that might constitute unpacking. At 9.24 pm I open my laptop, my smile intensifies wondrously, there in my inbox is an email from Ritch

Subject: ..you..