“No, I’m not going to do it. You can’t change my mind on this, I’ve gone as far as I can go.”
I walked over to the bench and sat down. The soggy tissue I clutched was past being usable.
“Look, it’s only a game, they won’t even notice.”
“And that makes it right? No, enough! It stops here.”
Sandra was not going to take no for an answer. “Everybody has done it, it’s just part of the program.”
Taking a deep breath, I sat up straighter. “No!” I then bowed my head and began praying, in an audible whisper. I’m not sure when Sandra finally got up and left.
It had started simply enough. We were having some problems at home, and I had made the mistake of talking about it with a counselor at work. Maybe it wasn’t really a mistake, but right then it seemed like it. The next thing I knew, we were a part of this group therapy program and doing strange confidence building things. Some of it had been very easy, but some I thought I would die before I got through them. Like having to stand up and tell my most embarrassing secrets. But the highlight so far had been the “Ropes” course. I had actually climbed fifty foot into the air and then walked a tightrope 150 ft. I was wearing a safety harness and roped to the lines above so I wouldn’t be hurt. But it was still terrifying. I was almost to the end when I realized that I could just step off at any time, because the only way down was to be lowered with the harness. That was when I lost my fear of continuing.
And then there was the day Bill had to write a love poem to me, and read it to me on a public bus! I had no idea that was his assignment. I was just told we were to take the bus. He stood up, and asked for everybody’s attention, and then started reading. It was beautiful. I cried then, too. But that was because I was happy.
Now this assignment! No, it was not something I would do. This was not going to advance anything, or push me beyond my limits. That’s what the entire program was about. Making us stretch our limits, to understand that we were capable of so much more. And it was working. I had already made the decision that I was going to go to college and take the writing courses I had always wanted to do but didn’t feel I could, or wasn’t worth spending that kind of money on.
We had met in the parking lot, returning together to the meeting room, to “brag” about what we had done that night. Everyone was to share what their assignment was, and tell how they were able to complete it.
I listened to them all. Marilyn had actually gotten up and sang at the karaoke bar. That was an amazing step for her. She had such a beautiful voice, but was too timid to share it. Stu had gone up to a strange girl and carried on a conversation. Now that was something! And now it was my turn to report.
My legs didn’t want to support me; I could barely breath. “I refused to do it.”
The sound of many indrawn breaths from around the room was all I could hear, except for the pounding in my chest.
“That was NOT an experiment to push me beyond my limits. It was an experiment in indecency. To touch somebody inappropriately is wrong. I don’t care if they expected it to happen in a bar, it’s wrong. You wanted me to go beyond my norm? Well. Here it is! I won’t follow orders that are harmful. I refuse to do what I consider to be wrong. That is what I did tonight.”
I stared straight ahead, my back ramrod straight, unblinking, waiting for the ostracism. Then it came.
Clapping! I heard the clapping of many hands. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. A standing ovation?
Sandra stepped forward. “You did exactly as we hoped you would. That is the limit we wanted you to pass, for you to know that you had the ability and the strength to take a stand for what you believe in. Congratulations!”
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