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The Prayer Seeker


thought he should say too, and perhaps she gave him space for those, but they did not
come and he could not say them.
“What will you do?” she asked him at last.
He considered this. She, more than anyone, deserved an honest answer. “I’ll do what
it was I left work to do. What I told people, if they asked me. I’ll try to learn how to pray
again.”
“Yes,” she said. Almost as if it was what she’d been expecting to hear, even though
he did not see how that could possibly be true, in spite of what they’d just talked about.
Because this time what was passing between them felt deeper in a way he couldn’t fully
explain. “I didn’t think you’d tell me that because you’ve always been such a private
man, but yes, it makes sense. I mean, as I said, there was always something else,
something outside what we knew, that you were searching for, wasn’t there? Even if
whatever it was might be a thousand miles away. In some ways, I knew early on that I’d
never be enough and, in the end, it was one of the reasons I left.”
Michael closed his eyes, ran one slow hand through his hair.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Perhaps you were right. Perhaps you were wise to go.”
Later, when the conversation was over, he walked around his flat. The dining room,
the S-shaped hallway with its two antique mirrors, the spare room where he kept his
computer and most of his books, the bathroom, the tiny kitchen. He walked around it all,
laying his hand across the angles and shapes that made up its structure: the frame of a
picture; the corner of a shelf; a door handle.
He finally came to rest in his bedroom. He sat on the bed, gazed around at the deep
green walls, the pale wooden wardrobe, and leaned back onto the pillow. He closed his
eyes.
Perhaps he ought to pray. It was what he wanted and what he longed to do, or rather
discover again. But he had set off on this journey with no provisions, no map and no
compass, and with no companion either. So be it. He would have to make do with what
he could glean along the way.
Still, he had no idea how to begin and that knowledge terrified him.
He tried to think logically and tell himself how simple it was, if he only allowed
himself to believe, but the room stayed empty of anyone but himself and he could not
bring a single prayer to mind. At last it was Ruth that came to his thoughts, though she
had been there all along. Another part of his past, though more recently, that he needed to
consider. He thought of her. He could almost see her face right there in front of him, the
slight crease at the curve of her mouth, her gloriously dark hair, even the scent of her, as
fresh as apples and as clear as sunlight. The warmth of her voice and her laughter filled
him and, for the first time in six months, he let the memory take him up, knowing now
that it was indeed memory, not hope.
As thoughts of her drifted through his mind, he found himself anchored by his
breath, the soft ebb and flow guiding him into whatever needed to happen. He arranged
himself into the most comfortable position on the bed and waited. Then it was as if he
was laying in front of himself every aspect of his life with Ruth as it had taken place.
Laying it there and waiting for something to happen, waiting for someone to take it, store
it away. Days he’d spent with her, experiences they’d shared. The weekend they’d been
together in Brighton and walked along the beach hand in hand, the times they’d gone to
the theatre, the meals out. How easy she was to be with, and how exciting. Because, oh
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