Three White Beads, One Red

Ha, no way was I going to be the one to talk.

Another time: At Polaris (don't recall if it was Polaris I or Polaris II), the other leadership trainees had bestowed upon me the "silent but deadly" title, with an emphasis on the first part. I didn't know everyone there, but it did not take long before everyone knew me, or at least that character trait, the one that, a way back in 7th, or was it 8th grade, prompted Marty Luna to give me my cholo name - Silent.

The point is that while I can listen with the best of them, talking has never really been my thing.

Though within the same span of two or three years, those things (Polaris, and Marty Luna) were then, and this was now. Yes, someone would slip-up and talk, but it would not be me. And so, my initiation into the OA, or at least the part that involved not talking for the duration of the ordeal, was going to be a breeze. Or so I believed. We were each given three white beads and one red. Confessing to an infraction would cause one white bead to be smashed for each offense; you could loose the three, but once the red one was gone, well, you could forget about earning your place in the group that year.

We were not long into the morning hours, our imposed period of silence having begun right after breakfast, and were out along the dirt road, shovels in hand, engaged in some road work. Now I know what you're thinking, and I assure you we were not some prison road gang, or even a bunch of misfits out of some juvenile hall detention center though, if not for our clothes, you would have been forgiven the error of mistaking us as such - the labor of digging boulders from the middle of the road, or smashing them where they lay, the enforced quietude, now that I think about it, was all very similar.

All of a sudden someone blurts out, "hey, here comes Mr. Bowman." Doh! What the... who said that? Geez. Was that me? A pair of blue eyes look around, did anyone hear that. Guilty, but. Maybe no one heard. Impossible. It wasn't a whisper, but. Maybe everyone else was distracted by the digging, the shuffling feet, the rising heat of the day. Impossible. No accusatory eyes looked my way, and I didn't notice any hurried scribbling in a secreted little black notebook. But still...

I knew what would happen if I confessed - bad, but not horrible, and certainly not end of the world stuff. I didn't know what would happen if I didn't confess. Well, I guess I've done it now, but how did the most reserved one in the bunch end up being the first to gab. The afternoon heat continued to rise right along with the dust. Other than during our one-hour lunch break, no additional thoughts were turned into words. One o'clock turned into two, then three, four blurred right into five o'clock, and then came the hour of decision. I don't recall what my reasoning was, but ultimately no decision, no choosing one course of action over another was necessary; there was only one path. If an initiate, any one of us, could not be responsible, could not accept the consequence of an action, we probably did not belong anyway.

At the end of the day only one bead had been broken, and by the end of the weekend no others had joined it in the dust beneath our trampling feet. Perhaps a lesson had been learned. Perhaps I had simply fallen back into character. Perhaps a bit of both.

The year is 2020. No beads exist to be broken, but choosing responsibility, when the wrong path, this time, could very well be world-ending, is more important than ever.