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I WON'T BE BACK FOR MANY A DAY



It is a very scary thing for a young boy to be heading out into the world on his own, especially when he has been a prisoner in an orphanage most of his young life. Though I was only 8 years old, I still had many smarts about myself. At least enough smarts to try to survive on my own, on the streets of Jacksonville, Florida.

Even though I was somewhat withdrawn, I was a very aware little boy. I learned very early in life what adults were capable of doing to young boys and girls, if they did not do exactly as they are told.

Out the second-story window of the boys’ dormitory I went. I quietly slid along the roof on my rear end, making my way over to the large oak tree at the end of the porch. I climbed down to the ground. I tiptoed along the porch, until I got to the azalea bushes and then ran as fast as I could toward the large, white gates at the entrance of the orphanage.

It was rather cold and I was quite scared. This was the very first time I ran away from the orphanage all by myself. I had no money or food and nowhere to go. However, all that really mattered to me now was getting away from the beating and abuse that we children had to suffer almost on a daily basis.

I stopped at the front gates and turned around to see if anybody was coming after me. Luckily, no one was coming. I just stood there in the dark for a moment. I was remembering a song, which I had heard that evening on the Ed Sullivan Show. Some black man named "Harry" somebody or something like that was singing: "I'm on my way, for many a way. I won't be back for many a day. Da da da and da da da, and I'm going down to Kingston town." I stood there for a moment singing that song very softly to myself. The song told me that there was a good place for me somewhere in the world – a place that was far, far away from this orphanage.

I stood silently watching as the cars drove past. I stooped down, hiding myself in the dark shadows of the pine trees and bushes that surrounded the front gates of the orphanage. The cold wind from the passing cars was hitting me, making me shiver as they passed.

Bravely, I pulled myself together and walked out the gates, and down Spring Park Road. I was heading out into a world that I knew absolutely nothing about for the very first time. I walked for what seemed to be hours, before I came to a large metal bridge that was painted silver.

"The Main Street Bridge," I said aloud.

I raised my shirt collar and stuck my little hands in my pockets to keep myself warm. I leaned forward, placing one foot in front of the other and began walking up the steep incline of the bridge. Huffing and puffing, I made my way to the center portion of the bridge, before I stopped. I raised my head and looked around at the beautiful city of Jacksonville, Florida. Oh, what a beautiful site it was to see thousands upon thousands of lights way off in the darkness. To see for the first time in my life, hundreds upon hundreds of brightly lit red lights on the back of cars, as they exited from the large bridge. I looked at the faces of the people in the cars as they passed me by. Not one of them even realized I was standing there. Now it was just I, scared and all alone.

"Being out here in the world is no different than being in the orphanage," I thought. "There's really nobody in the whole wide world that really cares about me. They don't even know that I'm alive."

I sat down on the sidewalk of the bridge and began to cry.

"Are you ok?" said a strange voice coming from behind me.

I jumped up, placed my back against the metal railing of the bridge and stood there shaking.

"Are you ok?" the man asked again.

"Yes, sir. I'm just a little bit cold and tired, sir," I said.

"Let's get off this cold bridge and go somewhere that is warm," said the man.

We walked for several miles talking with each another. Then we went into a little coffee shop restaurant where the man bought me a hamburger and a coke. He told me that he was a schoolteacher and that I should not be out on the streets alone at night. It was very dangerous, especially for young kids.

While we were eating, I told him that I was from the orphanage and ran away, because they beat us all the time. He invited me to come to his apartment for the night, so we could talk and be friends. He even let me take a good hot bath in a real bathtub for the very first time in my life. Then he told me that I could spend the night.

We said a prayer together and I asked God if I could stay and live with him forever and ever.

After I fell asleep, I suddenly awoke when I felt the bed jerk. There was my friend Bill standing at the foot of the bed. He had no clothes on whatsoever. He made me promise him on my heart that I would never tell anyone about what he did to me that night. After he went to sleep, I got up very quietly and dressed myself. Then I snuck out of the apartment house.

In the cold and the darkness, I walked back across the great big metal bridge and back into the gates of the orphanage. I stopped for just a moment and started to cry. I turned around and looked back at the outside world through the orphanage fence. Softly I started singing to myself: "I'm on my way, for many a way. I won't be back for many a day. Da da da and da da da, I'm never going back to Kingston town."



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