When Men Tell Me Their Secrets and I Remain Silent

I was with a large group of men I didn’t know. We were not allowed to speak to one another. Several of them confided in me anyway.

Picture of woman with her back to the camera, at the end of a long line of people.
Picture of woman with her back to the camera, at the end of a long line of people.
Image credit: Unsplash

Pulling the Bowstrings

On Friday night, we were asked to meet in the Firebowl with minimal sleeping gear: tarp, sleeping bag, rain gear. We waited in silence until we were led down a torchlit path to a small clearing in which four young adults, dressed in pseudo-Native American costumes, spoke of why we had been chosen for the honor society. Their speeches included the request that we always aim our own personal arrows high, that we always try to fly straight and true to ourselves.

Sleeping in a Field of Men

After the bow had been passed, we walked through the woods for about half a mile. My arms ached from carrying my gear and I was grateful for the sliver of moon lighting our way.

The Stars and the Birds

I awoke in the middle of the night and peeked out from underneath my tarp. The sky was a dazzling splash of stars sprinkled through the inky darkness and I smiled. “At last,” I thought to myself. I had left our home in Ontario a month before and I missed seeing the night sky. I fell back to sleep contentedly, glad to have seen the night sky without the usual light pollution.

Fear of Loneliness

After a silent and very small breakfast, we were divided into work crews. I was placed with Dan, Robert, and Eddie and we were told to clean the ceiling fans in several of the buildings. The fans in the mess hall could only be reached by a rolling scaffold and we took turns climbing it and wiping off the thick fur of dust on each fan’s blade.

That Shooting Haunts Me

After cleaning the ceiling fans, we were tasked with helping to clean up the brush around the grounds. Another crew had trimmed the hedges surrounding the parking lot and Robert and I had to load the trimmings into a tractor that hauled them to a nearby chipper.

I’m Afraid of Those People

After a long day of scant nourishment and hard labor, we were formally inducted into the Order of the Arrow and were finally permitted to speak. The ceremony was followed by a hearty feast and I found myself sitting next to Peter, who shared that his stepmother, like me, had been a foreign language teacher. She taught in a school with similar student demographics to mine: low income, almost entirely minority, low standardized test scores.

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Credit: Boy Scouts of America, Order of the Arrow symbol

Written by

{writer | educator | Ed.D. | hiker | leader | feminist} email: lorimann921@gmail.com

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