Flightless

Flightless

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    It was 1999, I was 22 years old. I was abused, brainwashed,controlled,owned.

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    In the cult town where I had lived for nearly ten years, parents had come to seek refuge. They truly believed in a sacred obligation to protect their children’s souls from worldly evils that terrified them. Those terrifying evils ranged from the "Jew-controlled media" to the Three Days of Darkness, for which some of our friends were preparing.

    When the Three Days of Darkness arrived, there would be no more electricity.

Old Church in Baltimore City
Photo: Rose Anderson, 2018

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     We would have to draw our curtains closed, and prevent everyone from the strongest of men to the smallest children from peeking outside. Anyone who dared look would see demons overrunning the earth, and die instantly from fright.

    The Three Days of Darkness never came, but I wore black to signify that I was already dead. I carried within me a darkness from which I could never break free.

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     My husband asserted his ownership. I was bound to the home, used for the sole purpose of bearing a child each year. I had no right to tell him no, to deny him his "marital right". To disobey my husband was to disobey God.

    This was the second year, and the second child.

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    Many parents in my town lived in fear that childhood vaccinations were a government conspiracy. It was well known in this place that in the late 1980's, just a few years before my arrival, there had been an epidemic. A child in the cult had died from measles. Even then I knew that this was almost unheard of.

    I wanted my child safe. I wanted my child vaccinated.

 Domestic Ruin and Vulture Photo: Rose Anderson, 2012

Domestic Ruin and Vulture
Photo: Rose Anderson, 2012

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    My young life had been taken from me, but I found within myself a fierce determination to protect my children. I was not about to let the life of my innocent child be sacrificed on the altar of other people’s fears.

    I made my plans carefully. My husband COULD NOT KNOW.

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    Once my husband left for work, I would take my two children to the city, an hour away, and get them vaccinated. I just had to be sure he was gone before I showed any sign of making a day trip with the children.

    That morning, I dressed them both, put them in the double stroller, and headed out for our usual walk around the park down the street. I assured myself that he would detect nothing outside of my usual morning routine.

    It was my daily practice to walk to the park, look up at the sky, smell the freshness of the air, and live vicariously through the birds flying away from me. Nature was for everyone, rich or poor, and no one could take that away from me. It grounded me to keep my children close and revel in nature. Today would be no different, even as I prepared to secretly defy my husband.

    It was not to be. My heart rose into my throat to choke me.

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    I emerged from my nature-inspired reverie and saw my husband sauntering down the street towards us.

    “Why aren’t you going to work?”, I asked as he approached us.

    “I’m not”, he said, grinning. “I took the day off to spend with you.”

    He had remembered: it was my birthday.

    It had not even occurred to me that he would do something like this. Today was not about me. Today was a precious day to take care of my children, the day that the clinic in the city was giving vaccinations.

    There was my husband, ready to spend the entire day with me.

 Killdeer Feigning Broken Wings to Draw Predators Away from Her Eggs Photo: Rose Anderson, 2012

Killdeer Feigning Broken Wings to Draw Predators Away from Her Eggs
Photo: Rose Anderson, 2012

    He handed me a gift wrapped in tissue paper.

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    I slowly tore away the paper to reveal two small vintage glass birds, translucent blue, green, and eggshell white that I had admired in a thrift-store.

    I looked down with a forced smile as I choked on my weak “thank you”.

    I had disappointed him with my reaction, and he became angry. He shouted at me in exasperation.

    “You’re supposed to jump up and down and scream with delight!”

    How could I be delighted with this? I looked at the beautiful birds in my hands, feeling the weight of the glass. My husband was often disappointed where his fantasy of a submissive and grateful wife collided with my reality. Even as a brainwashed as I was, I knew somewhere deep in my soul that there was something terribly wrong with this picture. In this picture, even these lovely objects that I had desired now became representative of my powerless captivity.

    The birds I held in my hands would never fly, and neither would I. But I longed to fly up and away, free as the birds I watched over the park each morning. So much deeper within me than I could see that day, there had to be a latent knowledge of the truth, a glimmer of hope, or I could not have gone on.

    There was nothing else I could do. My plan was on hold.

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    This was the only world I had ever known; it was the only identity I had ever had. Abused, exhausted, and brainwashed from the cradle, I could not yet evaluate which was the greater risk: to stay, or to flee.

    If I left, where would I go? My family lived here, in this cult. If I took my children--now a third set to arrive in eight months--how would I care for them? What would I take with me? Would we be homeless? Would my husband find me, take the children from me forever, or even kill me?

    On this day I walked back to the house with my husband and children to resume my duties as mother, homemaker, wife. I placed the glass birds in a prominent place in the house, resolving that they would represent me, not the captor who gave them to me.

    There would be another day to resist. There would be a day to fly.


Terns in Flight
Photo: Rose Anderson, 2012

One Artifact at a Time

One Artifact at a Time