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The Prayer Seeker

always been fluid, as for a variety of reasons he hadn’t wanted to. Besides it hadn’t
seemed important, and it certainly wasn’t something he discussed with anyone else.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not ruling it out, but I’m not considering it either. I’m
thinking more of a time for retreat, if you know what that is?”
An image of himself kneeling in a darkened room, praying, hands clasped around a
small wooden cross flashed across his mind and he shivered. It was almost as if
something in his gut reached out beyond his skin, crying out for what he couldn’t fully
understand, perhaps had never understood. Then the sensation was gone. He shook his
head and resolving to ponder it later when he could be quiet and alone. In the meantime,
Douglas was nodding a response to his tentative question.
“Yes, a retreat – isn’t that when someone goes away to pray, or find themselves? My
wife’s cousin went away for a month to somewhere in Bristol some years back. I’m not
sure it really worked out for her though.”
“I’m sorry,” Michael said. “Everyone is different, but I’m sorry to hear she didn’t
enjoy it. However I don’t want to go away anywhere; I want to stay where I am. I simply
want to change the things around me, to make the difference there. I want to see how
things will be if I let them.”
And that was the simple truth. He should have been pleased at this small step towards
whatever he was searching for, but instead Michael found himself feeling suddenly
empty at the knowledge that everything was about to change, even though it was he who
had instigated it. For one moment after he’d spoken to Douglas, he wanted to get up,
laugh it off and take back the notice he’d given. He wanted to stay in the life he’d known
for years and not dream of anything else. But he didn’t get the opportunity as Douglas
brought their meeting to a close and, before he knew it, Michael was outside in the
corridor, returning to his desk and taking great gulps of air as if he’d just leapt off a high
rock into the watery depths below. He had no idea if he would be able to drown or swim.
Only God, if He was out there somewhere, would know that.
The month of working out his notice vanished more swiftly than Michael had
expected. It was astonishing how thirty years of a working life could be laid aside so
easily and, in some ways, he wondered if he’d ever been truly there at all. What was the
word Douglas had used? Engaged. Yes, that was it. But no, Michael didn’t think he’d
ever been fully engaged with his job, not at the heart or in the gut, where it mattered.
During that month, he spoke to colleagues he worked with regularly and those whom
he’d never paid much heed to before. He spoke to his clients too. With his colleagues,
he’d hoped his news would be downplayed, the reasons for it remaining private. But
instead he found that when the first person to express regret at his decision – Mandy from
Claims, as it happened – asked him what he was intending to do when he left, he simply
told her just as he’d told Douglas. The fact that he was honest about his uncertainties and
didn’t try to cover them up with words or possibilities that would keep people at bay
surprised him most. He’d spent his life keeping people away from his inmost thoughts so
he wasn’t sure what this change might mean.