"I have to get arrested," announced Steve Bees at breakfast.
"Rob a bank, that's fairly reliable," suggested Charlie, between bites of scrambled egg. "Don't tell them I sent you."
Steve shook his head, as if shaking away an irritation. He'd been speaking to Greg. Greg smiled at Charlie, briefly. Charlie didn't see him.
"Have you done anything illegal?" asked Greg, with the same kind of dry humor Charlie had used.
Steve tried very hard to not look irritated. Neither master was taking him seriously, which is what they tend to do if they think we're being overly serious or self-important. Steve clung to his composure and persevered.
"No, I have never done anything illegal, that's why I have to get arrested."
"That's not usually how it works," said Greg.
Steve held even more tightly to his composure.
"If you laugh, they might cut you some slack," I suggested.
"Oh, don't you start," he said, but then he did laugh and took a bite of toast. Then he tried explaining himself again, more fully.
"All my life, I've kept myself safe. I've been a good boy, and I've stayed out of trouble. For me to make the kind of difference I want to make--that's going to end. The people I admire--they make enemies, they break unjust laws...and, honestly, I'm afraid. Everything I want for myself, could be jeopardized. So I think I have to get arrested, just to prove to myself that I can. Find a direct-action campaign and join it. What do you think, Greg? Is this a big mistake?"
"I don't know that it's a mistake," said Greg, slowly, "as long as you don't implicate the school, and we can teach you how to be careful there. But civil disobedience is a means to an end. You may be putting the cart before the horse."
Before Steve could reply, Joanna jumped in. She was sitting next to me, eating miso soup.
No, he's not. It's like sex," she announced.
"Well, I hope so!" said Steve, taken aback and laughing.
"No, I mean, it's like having sex for the first time," she clarified. "I mean, if you're gonna have sex, you want it to be for love, for pleasure, for magic, whatever it is. Something big. But the first time is going to be pretty awful, because you're nervous and it's awkward. So there's something to be said for just doing it, getting the first time over with. Save the mind-blowing experience for later."
"Well, I wouldn't know," admitted Greg, who is widely rumored to be a life-long celibate, "but the metaphor sounds reasonable. If you want to engineer a learning experience, just make sure whatever cause you pick is also worth it. Because even your first time can have consequences." He said this with a straight face, in his dry, somewhat prim voice, and the rest of us all smirked and snorted with laughter to hear Greg talking about sex. He normally doesn't. Then he smiled--he was in on the joke.
"So, Steve," said Joanna, "do you have a specific protest in mind? Where are you going to go to lose your political virginity?"
"A gentleman never tells," he replied, with a grin. But then he took his food and moved to another table. Greg followed him a moment later, to continue their conversation away from Joanna's teasing, I suppose. They probably had some important things to discuss relative to Steve's plans to become a criminal. The rest of us scooted over, evening out the gap the two of them left at the table.
"The first time isn't always awful," Joanna said to me, quietly. "Not if you really like the person you're with."
I have no idea why she said that to me. I could think of no response.
We all ate quietly for a bit, but then we started to focus our attention on other conversations. I saw it happen--my ear tuned in to a conversation behind me and at the same time I saw Charlie's attention caught--his eyes focused and he moved his head a little, like a cat when it sees something interesting across the yard. Joanna must have seen his eyes, too, because she turned in her chair to see what he was looking at. She turned back pretty quickly so she wouldn't be caught staring, but I could tell she was still listening.
Usually, we don't pay attention to conversations at other tables, but this one was kind of half-and-half. Dave, a yearling who works in the Dining Hall, had paused in his work to ask Joy and Kit about magic. The two women were sitting directly behind me and Dave had squatted down between the tables so that he didn't tower over them. They had turned in their seats to talk to him, and if I'd turned my seat I would have been right in the middle of the conversation.
Dave apparently was having trouble with using prayer as a magical technique.
"How do I know if anyone is listening?" he asked.
"Try talking," advised Kit. "And if what you say is interesting enough, someone will turn up to listen to you."
"Someone?" queried Dave. "Who? Who or what will listen to me? Does that matter?"
"It matters," said Joy. "To work with an archetype you need a personal relationship with it. And there are ways to choose an archetype that is suited for your particular temperament and magical goals. But which archetype you choose, what your relationship with it is, even what, exactly, an archetype is, whether it's a thought-form or an independent entity, it's really not my place to tell you. That's stuff's personal. It's really all up to you."
"If someone wanted to talk to me," interrupted Charlie, "and believed that whether I actually exist is entirely up to them, that would not work."
Joy laughed at that. Kit frowned.