I thought to myself what if I just leave. Just leave and not tell anybody and maybe hope they’d forget about me and I could move on with my life not having to think about those mistakes that led me to this point. It didn’t work of course. Everyone has a phone these days. A way to find you or try to find you. As soon as I was one day into my self exile my phone began to blow up with calls and texts wondering where I was, am I okay, friends telling me it’s not the end of the world that things will get better. It just takes time they say. Well, maybe I don’t want time. Maybe I wanted the life I had laid out for me and when that gets stolen from you it doesn’t matter about time or healing. You are in too shitty of a place to comprehend those meanderings. I ignored all pleas for my voice to be heard. To be told of my whereabouts. It didn’t matter right now. I had to do something for myself. What better than to spend two weeks in a house full of strangers and try to write that great novel I had always planned. A writer’s retreat. Made me laugh when I first thought about it. As soon as I began my drive there it felt like the best idea I have ever had.
As I pulled into the driveway of the two story house in which I would spend my next two weeks I felt a sort of relief. The source of all my problems was hundreds of miles away. I was at this strange house where I would have to spend many nights far from everyone I knew. For the first time in three months I didn’t feel tense. The elephant that sat on my chest seemed to shrink in size or maybe become a cheetah. I was alone and it didn’t feel so bad. At the end of the driveway was a gravel square lined with railroad ties that I assumed was for parking; for which I did. Gathered everything that I packed and headed towards the front door which was open so I stepped inside and met Mary. An older lady of about sixty that looked just like a lady who would run a writer’s retreat would look like. Small, gray hair, and oddly stunning green eyes. Had that southern hospitality that which was strange for her being in the north.
“Hello, ” I said as Mary came walking towards me. “I’m Adam. Think I’m the first to arrive.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m Mary. I’ll be your host and light housekeeper for the next fourteen days. Though just because I say housekeeper doesn’t mean I’m going to go behind you and pick up your dirty undies off the floor. Treat this as you would your own home. I’ll be making breakfast every morning at seven. Lunch and dinner are up to you and the other guests. Now, grab your stuff and I’ll show you to your room,” she continued to talk as she led me. ” You will be sharing the room with one maybe two others just depends on the luck of the draw. They will be co-ed so be respectful. No smoking inside. If you feel that you have to do it there is a gazeebo out back that is away from the house you can feel free to use. Here is your room. There is much more to cover but I will go over that when the rest of the guests arrive. So, stay close by.”
“I will. Thanks.” I walked into the room and Mary made her way back downstairs. I walked to the first bed that I saw and fell on to it. Closed my eyes and let sleep overtake me.
No matter how many miles I put between me and the life I was trying to escape if just for a little while, there was no putting distance between my subconscious and what had happened. As I slept I had a dream. I dreamt about a girl with blue eyes. Eyes you could get lost in if you weren’t careful. Eyes that embarked all the clichés that could be told. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. In this dream she stood beside me. I felt movement down at my side. I slowly cocked my head down to see what it was. She was taking my hand in hers. Lacing her fingers through mine. I looked at her. A smile that expelled happiness shone back at me. I felt her hand tighten in mine. It all felt so right. A perfect fit. We stood there for what seemed like forever. Looking at each other her lips opened and the three words that ruined my life whispered out; I love you. Her hand then slipped from mine and she began to move away, as if she were being pulled with an invisible rope while wearing roller skates. A sort of floating away while never trying to reach out for me to stop it. As if what were happening was okay. Then she was gone. I stood in that place and watched myself step out of myself. Leaving only a shell of the man I had become. I awoke crying. Something that had never happened to me before. Something that I never even knew was possible.
As I laid in bed staring at the ceiling wondering why I had to take that insidious nap, I heard voices coming from elsewhere in the house. I sat up and made my way downstairs to find six people gathered around Mary. They were holding mugs filled with some sort of hot liquid.
“There’s our early bird,” Mary said. “Thought you might have skipped town. Everyone is here. Go to the kitchen, grab yourself a coffee or tea, whatever suits your fancy. We will move to the living room and begin orientation.”
I did as she said and made my way to the kitchen. Picked up a blue mug, filled it with piping hot brown liquid; added sugar and milk. I turned to join the others in the living room to find a twenty-something blonde standing behind me.
“Refill,” she said lifting her cup in a cutesy way.
“Go right ahead.”
“Ready to write your ass off?”
“Don’t know. Been blocked for a while. Figured a change of scenery might help.”
“What about you?”
“My mother paid for this. Got it as a present for my twenty-seventh birthday. Told me I need to meet new people. Get my work out there for all to see. I just went along and now I’m here. Drinking coffee.”
I was about to speak when Mary poked her head in. “We will have a meet and great after the orientation. Now come join us. We have a lot to go over.”
Kristy and I looked at each other and smiled like we were children caught disobeying a parent. I grabbed my coffee and walked to the living room for an orientation that lasted over an hour and bored us to tears. It was practically the same speech that I got when I arrived just stretched to last way longer than need be. When Mary had finally finished she excused herself and left us to our own devices.
“Sometimes I wonder why I do these things,” said a male of about thirty. “This is my third time. Never accomplished anything. Most I wrote was a ten page short story that I ended up tossing for being pretentious bullshit,” he looked at the rest of us and replied to our questioning expressions. “So why do I still do it? We’ll say the friendly atmosphere. Or the fact it gets me away from the wife and kids for two weeks out of the year.”
“Thanks for that inspirational speech,” said Kristy. “Really giving me the boost of confidence that I may actually get something done.”
“It’s not my problem if you don’t reach the goals you set for yourself. I’m here for myself. Not to babysit a writer with low self confidence.”
“So you’re going to be it then?” said a brown haired lady of about fifty years old. “Always an asshole in the group. Glad you showed yourself right from the bat.”
The “asshole”, who turned out to be a failed high school English teacher named Peter, made a grunt and left the room.
The fifty year old lady spoke. “I’m Celeste. Nice to meet you all.”
Then there was Andy, an eighteen year old who was trying to write the next great science fiction novel. Said it would be in the vein of Robert Heinlein with a little Stephen King thrown in just for kicks. The last was Forrest. A male of about seventy who just told us his name then excused himself to bed. Andy followed saying he needed to get an early start. Which left Celeste, Kristy and I.
“So what do you write, Adam?”
“Short fiction mostly. No specific genre. Had a few stories published in magazines but nothing big. You?”
“Poetry. Wrote a lot as a teen. Mostly angry why won’t that boy talk to me bullshit. Never submitted anything. Never had that urge.”
“Some writers go their whole lives without the intention of ever sharing their work. There’s no law that says you have to share what you write. I mainly write cookbooks which there’s no point in writing if you don’t send them out to the public. But I have also written a multitude of short stories and poetry that I’d never share with the public. They were written for myself. A way to remember those times that passed that meant a lot to me. The loves lost. That one man that broke my heart and I never recovered. Personal things that only matter to me,” said Celeste.
“You should talk to my mom. She believes I should share everything.”
“She’s just looking out for your best interests. As a mother I know where she’s coming from.”
I sat in silence, not sure if I should ask what came out of my mouth.
“The guy that broke your heart, how’d you cope?”
“You just have to. You take your time and you deal. People will tell you that it takes time and you will get over it but you never do. If the love was real you feel it forever and there are those days, years down the road there will be that one little thing that will send all those memories coursing through your brain. You will love again. The sad thing is, it may never live up to that love you had. But that is life, as they say. Any specific reason you ask?”
“Apparently we have a big day tomorrow, so I’m going to hit the sack. Goodnight guys,” Kristy said as she stood and headed towards her room.
“Guess we should do the same,” said Celeste.
I climbed the stairs and entered my room to find Peter asleep in the bed I took my nap in. I gathered my stuff from around his sleeping quarters and set myself up in the empty bed across the room. Climbed in and closed my eyes.
That night I had another dream. I was sitting at the bottom of a pool. My eyes closed and the clear blue water surrounding me. A splash erupted behind me. The one responsible moved towards me as if in slow motion. The figure swam down from above me. Reached out with both hands caressing my face. I opened my eyes and saw that it was my love. The girl with the blue eyes. She moved her lips close to the top of my head and kissed me above my left eye. My eyes closed and the dream ended.
I woke the next morning to find Andy and Peter in my room playing chess. I stood, not saying anything to them and entered the bathroom to relieve myself and brush my teeth. Back in the room I sat on the edge of my bed and watched the game in progress.
“Was that a legal move?” asked Peter.
“Not sure. Not really hundred percent on the rules. Heard a while ago that playing chess will open the mind to other possibilities. Just a thing I do before I write.”
“Have you actually noticed a difference?”
“Not really. But if you don’t play how will you ever know?”
“Seems like a procrastination tactic to me.”
“We all have our quirks.”
Andy turns to me. “How’d you sleep?”
“Same as always.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Could go either way. Leaning more towards bad.”
“You going to do any writing today?”
“Haven’t thought about it. If I can get my mind right, then maybe.”
“Want to play the winner?”
“I’ll have to pass. Chess was never my thing. Halfway through I get frustrated and stop giving a shit.”
“I can see that.”
“Think I’ll go for a walk. Clear my head.”
As I walked out of the bedroom door Peter called out to me, ” You missed breakfast.” I ignored him and continued down the stairs and out the back door. I walked past the gazebo that was designated for smokers and find it empty. I walked through the backyard and stumbled upon a clearing that led into the a wooded area and followed it in. About ten minutes in I heard the stomping of footsteps as if someone were running. They were coming closer and soon I saw Kristy running slowly towards me. She slowed to a walk and followed beside me.
” Morning Adam. You missed breakfast.”
“So I heard.”
“It was really good. Waffles, eggs.”
We walk in silence for a while.
“What was that about last night with Celeste?”
“What do you mean?”
“Asking about the guy that broke her heart.”
“Just asking a question.”
“You sure? Seemed more than that.”
“You’ve never had your heart broken?”
“Well sure. But nothing as serious as what you two were getting at. I’ve fallen in love, it didn’t work. I got over it. Nothing that I’ll be thinking about years from now.”
“Just consider yourself lucky.”
“Oh, I wish I had someone that gave a fuck. I wish there had been someone that loved me unconditionally. I would trade all the relationships I’ve had just for that one. I wish I had someone that years from now I would look back and just be like, fuck that was good. What ever happened to that?”
“When you get that, and you will, don’t let it go. It may happen once maybe twice. But just don’t let it go. If there’s anything you take from what I say, let it be this. Don’t ever just play along with the guy. If you aren’t feeling what he feels let him know. Don’t play with his heart. Don’t string him along because you are scared. Because you don’t want to upset him. Trust me. It will be better for the both of you if you just tell him the truth before it gets out of hand.”
“I’m not ready to talk about it. Hell, my friends keep calling wanting to know where I am and if I’m okay. I can’t bring myself to tell them how I really feel. I’m sure as hell not ready to tell someone I don’t even know.”
“Is that why you really came here? To get away from her?”
“I have to admit. Women are fucked up sometimes.”
“That’s not an excuse.”
“I think there are just things that screw us up. Lead us to make decisions that aren’t the best.”
“How is that fair?”
“It’s not about fair. It’s just life. Shit happens. Sometimes things don’t work out like we want.”
“Then why say it is want you want? Only to turn around out of the blue and say fuck it, I want something else?”
“It’s just life. People are fucked. You have to put a lot of faith that what someone is telling you is the truth. That’s what love is, right? Wholeheartedly putting your faith in that person. Trusting that they will be there for you through thick and thin. Love isn’t about if they can fuck good or how good they look on your arm. If you can’t put all your faith in that person you should never tell them you love them. You are just asking for the shit to hit the fan.”
We walk a few more feet in silence.
“I can see what you are doing. I told you I don’t want to talk about it. You’ve already gotten more out of me than even my best friends.”
“I don’t have an agenda. Just trying to help someone that looks on the verge of doing something he’ll regret.”
“It’s too late for that.”