Orphan Survival Stories Index |
At 12 years old, I was living on the streets of Jacksonville. I was eating out of dumpsters and garbage cans, but only the ones located behind the better restaurants. If you have to be a bum, then you might as well be a high-class bum or there is no point in living anymore.
I had been given $5 in the park for letting this old man rub on my leg while he did whatever it is that grown people do when they are rubbing a young boys leg on a dark park bench late at night. I had heard from some of the older bums underneath the train bridge where we slept at night, that the best food to buy was Chinese. It would not spoil as fast and could be kept for several days without making you sick.
So I walked into a Chinese restaurant to place an order to go and then sat down at one of the booths. I was trying to steal as much sugar as I could and get it into my pocket without being caught. All of a sudden, everything and everyone got very quiet, as four men came walking into the restaurant. One of them was in a police officer’s uniform. It was about 3 a.m. I was really hoping that they would not question me about being out at such a late hour. However, they did not even look at me as they walked by. They just continued down the aisle, turned the corner and came up the other side of the restaurant.
I could not believe how quiet it was. There was not a sound, whatsoever. Not even from the kitchen, which had been clanging pots and pans, before the men walked in. They made their way down the aisle walking very slowly, looking at each person sitting in the booths. I noticed that a woman stuck something in her mouth. All of a sudden, one of the men yelled out.
"She's got it in her mouth!"
The four men grabbed her and wrestled her to the floor. One man held her head, while the other held her legs and another her arms. The fourth man started beating her in the face as hard as he could. I could not believe this was happening. There was blood squirting all over her booth and all over some of the people sitting in the booths next to her. Everyone started yelling, screaming and running everywhere. I just sat there shaking, too afraid to move. I had not seen anything like this, since I left the orphanage the year before.
The police officer just kept beating her in the face, until she opened her mouth and spat out a large chunk of food. The officer reached down on the floor and picked it up. He looked at it and then threw it as hard as he could onto the table.
He looked over at the other man and said, "It's just a damn F-in piece of egg roll!"
"Where are the damn drugs?" yelled another man dressed in plain clothes.
"We don't have any drugs. We are just visiting here from Canada," said the woman.
The police officer grabbed her by the hair and raised her off the floor. Then he slammed her back into the booth and started banging her head against the wall.
"Where are the God damn drugs?" he hollered.
The man who was sitting with the woman jumped up and pushed the officer away from her. The police officer grabbed his blackjack and raised it in the air. The man sat back down and shielded his head with his arms. The officer slammed his blackjack as hard as he could down on the edge of the table.
"What the hell is everybody looking at?" he screamed.
People started getting out of their booths and running out of the restaurant as fast as they could. When I stood up to leave, the police officer looked at me and said, "Where the hell are you going, boy?"
"To the bathroom. My dad is in there," I said.
"Then get your little butt in there and don't come back out," he ordered.
I ran into the bathroom and locked the door behind me so they could not get me. I sat huddled in the corner for hours and hours. I would not open the door even when people knocked. I just could not believe that there were people out in the "real world" that would do this to other people, especially the police. The orphanage did this kind of stuff to us all the time. However, that was 'cause we were orphans and no one cared about us.
I knew "Old Topper," the officer who walked around outside the orphanage fences every afternoon, but he was nice. I talked with him all the time through the orphanage fence. He would never beat anyone like that. He was a good policeman.
Well, I knew at that moment that things were not going to change for me in the outside world. I had no idea what I was going to do. I had nowhere to go and no one to help me. However, I did know that I would have to get off the streets very soon, because the police would beat me, if they caught me. Because I had no place to go, I made the choice to move in with the old man who liked to rub my leg when I visited in the park. He was a schoolteacher and he told me that I could never tell anyone, especially the cops, what he did to me. And I never did.