The Retreat

A short story

It is commonly known that creativity comes from the right hand side of the brain and the left controls the logical. Logical left is concerned by its day to day battling with this world driving us to want success and power, the more we are affected by the western world, and its controlling media and gadgets, the further away from us the right brain gets shoved resulting in unfulfilled humans, creativity redundant. Peter explains this to us, somewhat more eloquently and possibly not blaming the way of the world for the domination of the left brain. He gives us a few minutes to draw visions of our future selves, animating the right brain benefits of doing so.

I grab my workbook determinedly, felt tip poised and find that I still have no idea what future I want. I stare at the blank page, it stares back provoking me, ridiculing my fear of the truth. I look up, Ian is pushing his pen carefully around his paper as if he is designing NASA's next space station. Ruth has a pen top between her teeth and scribbles determinedly. Davey is drawing what, from this angle, looks like a stick man being electrocuted. Of course Ritch is looking habitually bored, not drawing anything, like this is beneath him. I am sure I read his thoughts. "Didn't I do this, like, when I was five years old?, yawn!" That does it for me I am inspired, the telepathically received thought in my head as I get to work. The dream future of a five year old floods into my being and I draw a house surrounded by fields dotted with horses and goats and a never ending allotment full of thriving vegetables and herbs. I carefully illustrate a couple of tall skinny people in the picture just for good measure, they are apart, busy in the fields, but waving to each other showing that they communicate cheerfully. I am childishly pleased with the result and wonder whether my mother would consider displaying it on her fridge if I post it on.

With our masterpieces complete it is time to speak our future visions out loud. Everyone looks at me I have nothing yet to say which really throws them as it is the first time this has happened in the history of the retreat. I nod towards Davey with raised eyebrows, he ignores me and looks at Ian, I look at Ian, we all look at Ian; Ian is the first to share. As I listen I am silently grasping at stories of my future self but none of them can be spoken with truth, my stories are sticking two fingers up at me and running off from whence they came back to the land of bullshit. I give up and resign to listen to what everyone else has concluded about themselves, maybe it will help to let go, just see what comes out when it is my turn.

My turn comes, "I want to be happy" I gush. Five words summing up my future self, no rational path to follow, no power, no success, I just want to be happy. It is the truth. I manage to pad it out a bit throwing in words like healing and growing to justify that the last two days haven't been a complete waste of time. Everyone is smiling as if they have always know this is what I need and I am the last to know. I am going to be happy if it kills me.

We are done, it is 3.05pm Peter rises from his chair and tells us the last task of the day is for us five paying retreaters to sit together, without he or Kate in the room to pat each other on the back and state the positive qualities we see in each other. It is a formulated assignment and we are given specific instructions on how to facilitate it. Kate and Peter leave the room a little too quickly for my eyes, thoughts of leaving early and getting home for a Sunday night on their minds is obvious.

Left alone we are all a little alarmed at the prospect of what we have been asked to do. I am not sure about the others but I haven't really connected with any of them apart from Ritch and I am damn sure I am not going to tell him what I really think in front of the others. We are giggling, deciding who is going to be the target of the ego boost first. Eventually we zone in on Ian, bless him, he does have that kind way about him, maybe I will look to see if he has foot marks up his back before we leave. This goes quite well, Ian is a good man we all have good things to say about him. Next it is my turn, Ritch pipes up that this shouldn't take long, cheeky git. Everyone is very sweet to me, Ruth is thrilled that I have decided to be happy; Ritch does not want to tell me what he thinks now but would rather speak to me later in private that is the best thing I could have heard from him, I smile.

For some reason although Ritch is next sequentially we skip him, completely forgetting Ritch's earlier comment I say it is best if we leave him to last because it won't take long, I have this faux pas pointed out to me by Ritch, Ian comes to my rescue with the line "yeah but it's all about the comic timing", everyone laughs thankfully closing the hole in the floor I was just about to crawl into,

Davey's turn, silence fills the room the poor guy is looking like he needs a nuclear bomb to go off to save him from possibly the most awkward moment of the whole weekend. Ritch speaks first telling Davey that he thinks he tries too hard to be something he is not and perhaps he should try just being. Davey is mentally phoning the White House with his request for the pushing of the red button. I jump on the back of what Ritch has said saying that I kind of agree but using positive words like "reminded of myself" to try to diffuse the situation. Ian and Ruth say nice things, they are nice people this is what they do.

Ruth is grilled by me about the power suite she keeps harping on about, I am concerned that she is going a little left brained and I am not so sure she would look good in a cape. She tries to assure me that she is just going to be a little stronger with people, she is pissed off that I have challenged her, is she already wearing the suit? Ritch doesn't allow anyone to say anything much about him making it quite clear that the whole thing is a farce in his eyes and, actually, he still hasn't decided whether to be here or not.

The time has come to leave, I hug Ruth making no attempts to keep in touch, and I think the feeling is mutual so we part comfortably. Handing Ian a card with my contact details on I ask him to email me some of his photographs, only if he wants to, and hug him also, Davey scuffles past towards his car, forced smile, eyes cast down mumbling his goodbyes. Kate is busying herself loading a car outside which I swear has the engine running so that she and Peter can do as quick a getaway as possible. I stand back and look at Peter with a big smile on my face, I really want to convey to this man the gratitude I feel to have been in his company for the last two days, I give him a long hug and say "thank you".

Ritch materializes at the bottom of the stairs having successfully managed to dodge any weepy goodbyes, I feel a pang, I don't want to leave I feel safe here, had fun, and to be honest with I want to spend some more time with this beautiful Celtic being. "Would you like to, erm, stay for a bit, and, erm, have a chat" he asks, his Scottish drawl faltering slightly. Would I? Now let me think about this, oh look I already answered, "Yes I would". I check with Peter that it is OK for us to hang around for a bit, he smiles his permission and waves goodbye.

Ritch tells me that he just needs to get his stuff together so I go out to my car just to pass the time. I see the back of Ian and Ruth's cars disappearing up the lane, Davey is sitting in his car I presume his is trying to work out how to manoeuvre his vehicle past the big red van parked directly behind him. I walk over and tap on his window, he is actually just staring into space, I motion to him to open his door which he does, "I didn't get a hug" I tell him smiling, if anyone needs a hug this weekend I know it is Davey. He removes his seat belt and gets out, I give him a kiss on the cheek and a big bear like, hoping that the gesture might avoid him driving off a bridge and ending up in the Ouse on his way home.

Still killing time I decide to move my car I start the engine, a Spearhead track booms from the speakers "That's the sound of sunshine coming down. . . “ I switch it off, now is not the time for Franti's wisdom. Parking in the driveway in front of the guest house I roll myself a smoke, sit quietly and I wait.