Coba looked out through the bar’s of her cage at Rehtom. The bar’s were covered with chipped gold paint. Little bits of rust start to encroach what was once a beautiful enclosure. Sometimes the light would shine through the cracks of the drawn curtains just right so that the vibrant parts of the paint that remained would give off this heavenly glow. It was majestic enough to always bring Coba solace. Rehtom loved Coba… A face of soft creamy white feathers. This rounded heart traced the edges of Coba’s face. Soft and welcoming each feather delicately placed by fate.
Feeling the ache in her bones. The ache of not stretching out to her fullest since she outgrew her cage a long time ago. Rehtom was handed this little owl by fate. She took out the best cage she could at the time and put the precious owl in the cage until it was able to be free… ‘You are such a pretty little bird’ Rehtom would repeat like a skipping record while clipping Coba’s young wings. It was important for an owl to get out and stretch but Coba was too young. Coba couldn’t escape yet or she could get hurt- was Rehtom’s concern. Clipping Coba’s wings was so Rehtom could feel in control to ensure Coba was safe. Thinking back, there are memories sprinkled throughout Coba’s mind.
Perched firmly on Rehtom’s hand walking on a windy day Coba felt the warm sun slowly leaking through her feathers. Rehtom saw the joy and excitement she lifted her hand but only to about shoulder height. Rehtom was worried about Coba being too attached to the idea of flying. Never too much freedom at any given time, just enough. Coba can think of this memory and still feel the excitement, heat of the sun, and the wind tussling her feathers. A shadow of control, manipulation, and lack of support tinged the memory. What was once just a shadow in a memory has slowly turned into a contagious toxin. More so a highlight of what was truly going on.
Like dried paint chipping away from the edge’s of the cage. Coba starts to feel herself wake. Each loving memory has this same shadow, slowly growing and festering. Coupled with the times Rehtom was too involved with the other trapped animals in the home and wouldn’t open the curtains for weeks or months at a time. Coba would hang onto the memory of the illuminated flakes of paint left on her aged cage. The memory was enough to keep this flame of hope flickering inside of her that there was more to be experienced. There had to be more to life. The music from the radio, stories of the TV, and the blue sky she remembered sometimes seeing out the window.
Rehtom used to take Coba out of the cage more often. However every time Coba came out, she was resistant to getting back into the cage. Rehtom was scared Coba wouldn't go back and eventually the decision was made to stop taking Coba out for her own good. ‘I do not want her to leave and get hurt’ Rehtom would bellow out, justifying her actions. Her lonely and sick soul was whispering another story. Rehtom’s love was the kind that hurt. Unable to let go and watch your hard work flower and bloom… ‘What if the little one does not tell people that you are who made her what she was…. What if…’ Fear of loneliness consumed Rehtom so much that Rehtom was unable to see how her love was holding now grown Coba back. Even if it was slowly killing Coba... Rehtom was so consumed with Coba’s potential she decided if she couldn’t take claim to it that no one should have it. More comforted by the idea of Coba being alone than happy with anyone else! Even though Rehtom did not have the time or love for her she was too jealous to let go.
One day the pain of the cramped cage was too much. Squawking to be let out or the curtains opened! Any release to help ease the pain! It had simply been too much for too long! Coba was gasping frantically feeling the will to give-up slowly envelop her brain like a virus. The fire within her flickered with just enough heat to keep the darkness from taking over the last bit of her. To prevent becoming the compliant appeasing parrot like Rehtom is asking this Barn Owl to be, today…. Sometimes Rehtom wants Coba to act like a different type of bird or maybe even a different species entirely. When Coba couldn’t entertain Rehtom…. Rehtom would spend her time with the other animals in the home. Coba didn’t have it in her to pretend to be anything else any longer… Nothing other than a barn owl being held captive by someone who once loved her but like a sword the line between good and bad can be thin and veiled. Reality soaked into Coba. Coba inhaled long and slow… Letting in all the hope and strength she had then with a sudden, strong, deep exhale stood tall expanding her wings. The old rusted cage brokeway. Exhaling away the doubt and the lies of who she was told she was. Stretching her wings a full 42 inches tip-to-tip. The pain of having hardly moved for so long breaking away from her body like concrete.
Gris, the pot belly pig started squealing like an alarm. This moment of ecstasy and false freedom snapping away like an old rubber band. She can hear Rehtom coming to see what the commotion is. The capuchin, Fuga, saw the fear, panic, and pain in Coba’s eyes as she looked back and forth for a way out. Fuga hopped over Gris’s back and opened the front-door of the house. Rehtom was in arms reach. Coba spread her wings and lept! She fell to the ground having never truly flown.
Coba had no time to wallow in self pity or anger at herself. Rehtom grabbed her tail feathers. Coba squawked in pain looking back at Rehtom’s eyes. The memory of warm brown eyes gone and replaced by wide, crazed, black eyes. Rehtom , scared to death of being lonely, tugs Coba in her direction by the tail while looking for anything to tie around her foot. Coba frantically looking at the open door knowing the clock and chance for freedom is slipping away.
Just then a german shepherd named Vojak saw the beautiful owl as he was passing by the cracked door. He barked out to her. He saw the mess, the prison… Coba saw a chance at freedom for the first time. She ran as hard as she could, losing multiple tail feathers to Rehtom’s grip. She hopped onto Vojak's back and they took off on an adventure of their own… Vojak and Coba’s story isn’t one meant for the here and now. Perhaps knowing that a story is starting with a dog falling in love with a caged barn owl that has no idea if it will ever be able to fly away or not is indication… Vojak didn’t see a warrior or phoenix leveling up to her next level of enlightenment. The beginning of that love story is like a sword, a thin line between healthy and not -- love and not… For now let’s take the time to rejoice with Coba. Coba experienced trauma after trauma and was unable to acknowledge the victories in between the eruptions of trauma.
Freedom and enlightenment comes in stages and waves of hardship. The first time Coba saw the night sky was a new level of enlightenment and freedom. The day Coba is able to soar in the sky will be a new level of enlightenment and freedom. When Coba feels trapped she thinks back to that rusted cage. What if only Coba had stretched her wings sooner? Coba took a vow to fight complacency moving forward. Coba hungered to be free in the night sky like the other night owls. Coba was already a survivor but would have many more battles as a warrior ahead of her.