I did not want to move out of my parents house, but my future had already been decided. There was a bed for me in the “dorm” that was in the basement of the church. The only windows were tiny daylight windows at the top of the cement walls. I would soon be grateful for the dirt and cement walls and tiny windows, as there were gunshots in the street every night. I was to share a room with three grown women (I guess I was grown now too) and we shared a wall with the boys’ room; three men in there. The boys’ room didn’t have a window. The boys’ room was the one in which I hid with the babies that were taken from my arms by their father.
I bought a car from someone in the church, I started adulthood in debt, since I had taken out a loan from a local credit union. The church member sold me a car with 200,000 miles on it and an oil leak. I vowed that I would never own more than I could fit in that car. I started a line of credit with a home improvement store and bought storage totes. When I moved to the dorm, I left everything packed so I could leave quickly if I wanted.
Every day I would call home. My heart felt like it was being ripped into pieces. I missed my sister, brother, pets, and parents. When I lived at home I would take care of them every day. As moving day had approached, however, I could feel my personality changing to be more like the people of the cult. Was this my way of making the leaving easier? I yelled at my sister. She was struggling, and I rejected her. Was I trying to toughen her up before I left? But I had loved her more than anything. Why did I yell at her? I did my best to protect her and brother, but I just couldn’t.
I would call just to talk; Sister was doing chores, and now having to do fill the role that had been mine. I was now no longer a part of their daily lives, and they weren’t a part of mine. They were moving on without me. My family was fine, they didn’t need me. The pets wondered where I had gone.
After hanging up the phone I would be visibly upset. There was nowhere to hide at the dorm, so I would have to go talk to my “counsel” before one of my roommates would tattle on me. This was the survival of the fittest: in order to keep yourself above others, you would have to report to the higher authorities. Though if it was too obvious, you would get busted. You must approach them humbly, so as not to get called out for being arrogant and thinking you were above anyone else. My counsel was the associate pastor’s wife. They had four boys whom I babysat, and their family lived on the other side of the basement of the church. The church basement was divided in half with separate entrances. They had real windows on their side.
She gave me a week of crying to her, then told me that I had to stop calling my family since it was only upsetting me. I couldn’t stand the thought of it, but I had to do it. My family became strangers to me. I had no idea what they were doing, and they had no idea what I was doing. I was counseled to get to know my room mates better. I can still remember the feeling that I had when they would tell me this. It was something along the lines of “hell no! I don’t want to!” But I tried anyway. We all shared a kitchen and cleaning duties, and most of us also worked together. We also all attended Institute; the dorm was considered to be the housing for their fake bible college. Many of us were together all day every day, and I needed to get to know them better.
I have been thinking today of my baby pictures, the ones from when my brother was born. I loved him so much and as we grew we did everything together. When he was bullied before the church time, I would stand up for him. When he was bullied in the church, I would stand up for him, though to no avail. I remember the day my sister was born, when I was 10. I held her and loved her and I didn’t want to put her down. I wanted to protect her, and have that same loving relationship as with my brother. But my voice was restrained, I didn’t feel that I could stand up for her. I feel that so much changed when I moved out. I left them. I shouldn’t have left them. I became what I hated. They must have thought that I wasn’t on their side anymore. We were no longer a sibling unit.
To Brother and Sister: I am so sorry that I left you. I regret that decision more than any other from that time. I did not mean to hurt you. One day I hope that we can find solidarity with one another. I feel like we have the foundation of love. We are adults now, but that doesn’t have to change the relationship. I love you both and am so proud of you. I am here for you always.
I love you.