I’ve been quite vocal about wanting to take myself on a silent retreat. When the idea first came upon me, I wanted a weekend – two days of nothing but silence. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? Then I decided a week would seem more like heaven. Lately I know that the only silent retreat that will do me any good at all must last a minimum of two weeks. Tonight I almost got an impromptu silent six-day retreat . . .
It’s a nice church off the main thoroughfare in Jonesboro, Georgia where The Front Porch Players hold their rehearsals and stage their shows in the gym with the blue floor. Their upcoming production is Dearly Departed, a comedy that shows us once again that Southern funerals are never just about burying dead folks, and if you haven’t seen it, you ought to. Write that down. My daughter Alison is in the play, and because she has had some health issues as of late, I am staying with her and going to rehearsals.
Tonight, just before we back out of the parking space to head home, nature calls my name, so I go back in to avail myself of the church’s bathroom facilities, and let me tell you something: that women’s bathroom has the cutest pink linoleum floor you’ve ever seen. I want some on my kitchen floor, though Alison thinks it better if I paint my walls pink, my cabinets turquoise, and put down black and white linoleum on the floor. I can live with that. Especially if I find me a nice mid-century sofa. But that’s another story for another day.
I open the bathroom door to find the gym completely without form and void and darkness upon the face of the deep. I did what anybody locked in the church bathroom would do, I said aloud, “Let there be light” then gave it a few seconds. Nothing.
I say again, a little more forcefully this time: “Let there be light” and wait a few minutes for a chance to call it good. I really, really, really want a chance to see the light and declare it good, but nothing doing. In this church on this night, the only thing that would divide darkness and light was me standing in the doorway of the women’s bathroom holding the door open, keeping the bathroom light on by running my hand in front of the light switch that turns on when it senses movement and off when things are still for too long.
The bar on my phone is in the red, meaning I better give some serious thought about who to call. I call Alison – it goes straight into voicemail. I ring her again, and again, it always goes straight into voicemail. She started a facebook group this afternoon, and people are flocking to it, which is, as you might imagine, infinitely more interesting than her mother calling in a plea that she not be locked in the bathroom overnight.
I consider walking over to the door, but I have no night vision to speak of, and I remember there being tables and chairs in between me and the door. That could hurt.
I text Alison: HELP! I’m locked in the bathroom, and I can’t get out.
I remember that I have the director’s number, so I text her the same message, and I get the same response: nothing.
Though it eats up more phone battery, I try to reach Alison on the phone one more time. Nothing. I call Karen. Crickets.
On the verge of being resigned to a lock-in for one, I start laying down some plans of how I will spend the next six days until church members begin to arrive in all their finery on Sunday morning. My phone battery will be completely out of juice soon, and I begin to wonder if I can make it with no contact with the outside world for that long. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’ll have plenty of uninterrupted time – something I’ve longed for – but I left my stitching bag in the car. You know I did. But wait – there’s a piano, and I’ve been saying how I want to play the piano again. Now I’ll have the piano, the time, and nobody to howl and complain while I tickle those ivories and sing.
My spirit brightens. I feel a little better.
There’s a kitchen, and though I’ve never been in it, any church worth its pews has food around somewhere, so I’m sure I won’t starve. There is a couch on stage as part of the set – and there are covers and pillows, too – so I’ll have a soft place to sleep, thank goodness.
Then reality strikes . . . to get to the kitchen or the couch or the piano, I have to walk across the gym floor, and if I do that, I will surely set off the alarm. Which will bring in at the very least, a deacon or two, but more likely, will mean the arrival of police cars, fire engines, ambulances, helicopters, swat teams, dogs, robots, bomb squads, and local newspaper reporters.
As my spirits plummet at the prospect of my unplanned six-day retreat, my phone dings. “Stand still so you don’t set off the alarm,” Karen texts me. “My phone was in my pocketbook in the backseat of the car. And besides, it was turned off from rehearsal, but I turned it on when I got home, saw your message, and I’m getting my keys and will head back over.”
I hear them laughing before I see them walking, Alison and Karen, and within a few minutes, I am freed from the lion’s den – praise Jesus – and on my way back to Alison’s house. And what of my silent retreat, you ask? Well, I’ve about decided that I’m just going to ask everybody around me to be quiet for a week or two and call that Enough.
I’m penning 100 stories in 100 days, so you know what that means, right? You’re reading rough drafts of most stories, so please be kind and don’t judge. Said another way, I’m showing you my warts, and I’d sure appreciate it if you wouldn’t hold that against me. If you’d like to read along, mash the button in the orange bar at the top of the page and follow the directions. Thank you.