During that first year in the United States, the woman at a local Vital Statistics office in charge of birth and death certificates happily accepted a large and unofficial pile of money to register my "birth in the United States" three years after I was born (another grating pain in my life because it often gets flagged as false, due to that three-year discrepancy of having a birth certificate that says 1977 on it but is filed in the 1980 birth records book, in an office that is never more than three weeks behind in filing). She thought she was helping a child war victim temporarily hide in the United States, but she was also profiting from the situation. I stood on my toes and strained to see the exchange of the document and the stack of cash in the worker’s kitchen. I was barely even tall enough to see the top of that kitchen table.

When the woman who illegally adopted me refused to return me after the war, even the Vital Statistics worker walked away in anger, although still feeling the tug of self-preservation and the distressing chains of having been ensnared as a willing actor in trafficking. She continued to help with the coverup for as long as she could, albeit from more of a distance. When she was still alive, she was who we would reach out to for fixing things when the office refused to acknowledge the misnumbered and misfiled certificate as genuine.

Eventually, she died of old age, still carrying the secret that had been forced upon me. Managing to get proof of my “legal” existence became more difficult after that point. It would become a tangled mess of conning, coercing, and guiding bureaucrats, forging and replicating documents when they were not available, and not-always-successful attempts at timing official requests perfectly for when the most malleable workers were in the office.

Other than that extra work and inconvenience, the identity still functioned on and off for a while. The record was there, in an official office (when it could be located in the wrong section of the records), and U.S. culture and government are permissive of that, especially since additional documentation was procured in that same year when I was three. A name change document was also attained. It was applied for because two official documents were needed to acquire any further documentation, such as a social security number, which was also eventually attained successfully, later that year. Without a hospital record, and with only the late-filed birth certificate as documentation, a name change document for a minor clerical-level alteration was the easiest and most affordable second one to pursue, since the priest at the local church refused to get involved and create a retroactive baptismal document.

As I got older, getting them to reliably certify my forged birth certificate would eventually become such a hindrance that, as an adult, I would go outside of what was familiar to me and would seek additional citizenship in a third country just to have documents that were reliably and properly filed somewhere on this earth. The bureaucratic portion of the process to gain that citizenship took over five years instead of the standard six months - because no one in the U.S. Vital Statistics office could locate my birth certificate to confirm it for my new nation.

Five years into that delay, l finally gave in and walked a new U.S. Vital Statistics clerk through the process of finding my certificate where it resides, in the wrong year’s record book, and had her set aside a copy of that certificate on the office counter next to the phone in expectation of a call from the foreign embassy, which I was scheduling at the same time. From there, the approval for my new citizenship was processed in less than a month. If it will remain valid is uncertain, because it was based on a forgery. But as of this writing, it’s at least been less of a hassle.

The coercive recruiter's own family was angry with her for breaking conventions and not returning me when the war was over. Her solution? She told me the whole family had gotten together in two large tour buses to come to visit me, and that those buses had been run off the road in a storm, killing all of them in one go, except for a few of her immediate local family members (two sons she did not have custody of, her mother, a sister, and a cousin who lived near Yale). I don't know what she told the rest of her family about me, but I spent a lot of time tucked away in closets when they came by unannounced, which they often did because many of her aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. lived in the area.

My life became very limited and unprotected. I was nothing more than a convenient tool for a psychopath who had lost her own biological children due to her dangerous and unethical exploitation of them. Her ex-husband, a naval intelligence officer, removed them from her care after he discovered she had brought them to South and Central America with her as cover while on a government operation. He found out that she had her small sons helping with large-scale drug harvests, a behavior she thought was logical and cute. Now, I was a replacement for those children, and even her own family was no longer there to protect me.

The closest thing to magic that humanity has is lies.

And it's one of the worst kinds of magic,

because it claims the truth is a lie

while still leaving it there to suffer,

unchanged and in its original form

- the truth -

while the world believes the lies.

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