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The deer that broke my heart: the story of a daughter's rebellion against her father's hunting tradition




Every time I was supposed to go hunting with my father, I tried to convince my family that I was not feeling well. At first I asked my mother for understanding, referring to headaches or severe abdominal cramps. These were the initial excuses when my role in the hunt was simply observation. I watched my father kill animals and thought he would never ask me to do such a thing. He spared me until my sixteenth birthday, then predicted that I would soon kill my first deer.

Drops of sweat were creeping down the back of my neck, I was wiping my wet hands on my jeans. I changed tactics. I started showing symptoms of the disease a few days before going to the forest. To postpone this imminent atrocity, I was ready to do anything. I once ate a raw potato because a friend told me it made me hot. And diarrhea if you overdo it, I quickly learned. The second time I fell off my bike on purpose and allowed myself a few weeks of peace.

Not because of me, but because of himself, my father checked on me every day. I knew that he selfishly wanted to hang a picture of me and my first animal to take its life on the wall. In the kitchen, where all his little deities hung: a picture of me when I was barely a month old, a cross, a deer head and a wedding picture.

As I lay recovering from the new wounds I had purposely inflicted to avoid another hunt, I made up my mind. I decided to resist. I will say "no". I don't go hunting. I don't want a gun. I don't want to hear a stray bullet. I will not witness the fear of animals. I will not watch the pain. I don't want a scary look. I do not want to!

I even said it out loud: "I won't!"

A slap followed. And one more. List of culprits: teacher, internet, books. There was always someone to blame.

I knew punishment was coming. The worst. His ace up his sleeve. That punishment the coward never names, but executes until I break. Silence. He didn't say a word to me. I knew he would choose this method because he always did when he was hurt. I overestimated my limits. After only ten days I felt like a plant when you lock it in a dark room and don't water it.

Before dawn, he took me to the dungeon. The silence smelled of death. I held the rifle steady. Unsuspectingly, he found himself on my whim. Filled with rage, I shot the deer straight in the head. It only took me a moment to take my life. To feel like a coward forever, to make my father happy.

Deer in the Woods

As a child, I always imagined a small blue balloon above the killed animals. I wrote "Get well" on it in my mind. I believed that all animals understood the same language when they died. It seemed to me that if I spoke these words in a foreign language, the little dead creature would have a chance to recover. I've always lied to myself and I did that even when I killed him. The blue balloon was a cleanser of bad conscience and endless sadness that embraced my whole body.

I sacrificed myself for his happiness. This realization drained all the love I had for him out of me. It blew out like air from a perforated beach pillow. My mother said that I was exaggerating, that my anger would pass me by, that I was too sensitive. She tried to make sure we were alone in the room several times, but we didn't say a word. I didn't get the feeling that he was sorry or that he was trying for our relationship. He let everything be as it was. I used to imagine what I would say to him when he apologized and look at him naively as he walked into the room, thinking that that wonderful moment had arrived. But he didn't think about it. As usual, he was rummaging through drawers or asking me to help him with something. I felt silly to myself for even thinking about it.

His goal was accomplished, and every time I thought about it, my heart sank. I wrote in my diary that I am a beautiful vase that has broken and now even the most patient person in the world cannot put it back together. I wrote about sadness, about loneliness, and about understanding, when we talk at school, how children without parents feel. When we had to imagine in PE that the ball was someone you were mad at, I imagined my father. And I drew this in my journal. On days when grief completely overwhelmed me, I wondered if I had been foolish to give up on my father over a dead deer. Those were the moments when I doubted myself. I burned the diary because I didn't want to risk finding it. I didn't ask anything from him and I made sure that he never knew more about me than was enough to live together.

By graduation, I forgot all the words I wanted to say to him. Only emptiness remained. I was looking at a tall and thin young man in the mirror. I was shedding pounds in proportion to the sadness that was growing inside me.

When I turned nineteen, I packed my bag and left. I started living by my own rules, free. I only returned home for two major Christian holidays.

My picture with a sour smile next to a dead deer got a place on the wall. In a smaller format, it adorned the left side of the wall. I sat under it the morning I told him I was vegan.

Feeding a Deer

Žrtvoval sem se za njegovo srečo. To spoznanje je iz mene izželo vso ljubezen, ki sem jo čutil do njega. Izpuhtela je kot zrak iz preluknjane blazine za na plažo. Mama je govorila, da pretiravam, da me bo jeza minila, da sem preveč občutljiv. Trudila se je poskrbeti, da sva bila večkrat sama v sobi, pa vendar nisva spregovorila niti besede. Nisem dobil občutka, da mu je žal ali da se trudi za najin odnos. Pustil je, da je vse tako, kot je bilo. Včasih sem si domišljal, kaj mu bom rekel, ko se bo opravičil in ga naivno gledal, ko je vstopil v sobo, misleč, da je prišel tisti čudoviti trenutek. Ampak on ni razmišljal o tem. Kot ponavadi je brskal po predalih ali od mene zahteval, naj mu pri čem pomagam. Sam sebi sem se zdel neumen, da sploh razmišljam o tem.


Njegov cilj je bil dosežen in vsakič, ko sem pomislil na to, me je stisnilo pri srcu. V svoj dnevnik sem zapisal, da sem prekrasna vaza, ki se je razbila in je zdaj niti najbolj potrpežljiv človek na svetu ne more več sestaviti. Pisal sem o žalosti, o osamljenosti in o tem, da razumem, ko se v šoli pogovarjamo, kako se počutijo otroci brez staršev. Ko smo si morali pri športni vzgoji predstavljati, da je žoga nekdo, na katerega si jezen, sem si predstavljal očeta. In to sem narisal v svoj dnevnik. V dneh, ko me je žalost popolnoma preplavila, sem se spraševal, ali sem bil neumen, da sem se odrekel očetu zaradi mrtvega jelena. To so bili trenutki, ko sem dvomil vase. Dnevnik sem zažgal, ker nisem hotel tvegati, da bi ga našel. Od njega nisem ničesar zahteval in poskrbel sem, da o meni ni nikoli izvedel več, kot je bilo dovolj za skupno življenje.

Do mature sem pozabil vse besede, ki sem mu jih želel povedati. Ostala je le praznina. V ogledalu sem gledal visokega in suhega mladeniča. Kilograme sem izgubljal sorazmerno z žalostjo, ki je rasla v meni.


Ko sem dopolnil devetnajst let, sem spakiral torbo in odšel. Začel sem živeti po svojih pravilih, svoboden. Domov sem se vračal le za dva velika krščanska praznika.

Moja slika s kislim nasmeškom ob mrtvem jelenu je dobila mesto na steni. V manjšem formatu je krasila levo stran stene. Pod njo sem sedel tistega jutra, ko sem mu povedal, da sem vegan.

Wild Scottish Stag
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