Orphan Survival Stories Index |
A ROAD TO NOWHERE
"I hope you never come back here again," said the prison guard as he slowly closed the large steel doors behind me. I nodded my head in his direction, thanking him for his kind words.
It was February 6, 1969. I had just completed a three-year sentence handed down to me by the Superior Court in Fairbanks, Alaska. I had received one year for buying a six-pack of beer while attending a party and another two years for having escaped twice from the local jail.
I stood looking down that long, winding road wondering where I should go. Having been raised in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage, I had no mother, no father, aunts, uncles, brothers or sisters. I had no one, not even any friends, other than maybe a convict or two.
I will never forget standing there looking straight ahead, thinking it made absolutely no difference what direction I traveled as I took my first step. I was 23 years old and on my own for the first time in my life. I never realized until that very moment that being on my own was just as lonely as being in the orphanage or in prison.
"Where are you going to go? Where are you going to sleep tonight?" I thought.
"What are you going to do, Roger Kiser?" I asked aloud as I shook my head.
I looked toward the north and then toward the south. I turned and looked east and then west. Other than the sun coming up behind the clouds, there was nothing that made a certain direction any more important than another.
I thought about some of the other inmates who were released over the past few months. Every one of them had talked about going home to their families. They talked about sitting down at a real dinner table with a real family and eating a good home cooked meal. Never once as a child had I ever sat down at a dinner table to have a meal with a real family.
"I've never even had a home cooked meal before. Just institutional food and stuff like that. Food is just food anyway," I thought.
I reached down, picked up my bag of clothes and started walking down the road leading away from the prison. The end of the road seemed to get closer and closer to me. I knew that when I reached the end of the road, I would have to make another decision on which direction to travel. My mind raced uncontrollably trying to figure out if there was someone, anyone, anywhere in my past that I could ask to help me. As I reached the end of the road, I stopped. Once again, I set my bag down on the sidewalk and looked around in every direction. I could see nothing except strange looking houses, trees and paved roads that lead absolutely nowhere as far as I was concerned.
Off to my right, I saw a dog limping along the roadway.
"Here boy," I yelled.
The dog hobbled over to where I was and hunkered down in front of me. I slowly knelt down and petted him on the top of his head. I reached down and took his paw in my hand. I saw that there was a sandspur caught in his foot. Carefully, I pulled out the sharp object and threw it in the bushes.
Down the street, I saw a McDonald's Restaurant. The dog followed me as I walked. I purchased two hamburgers and a coke. I walked behind the restaurant where I sat down on the ground and gave the dog one of the hamburgers. After he had eaten it, the dog licked me on the face as though he liked me and then ran down the street leaving me standing there all by myself.
Once again, I sat alone having absolutely no purpose or direction to my life. I stood up, brushed myself off and started walking, to where I had no idea. I would follow a road until it ended, then another until it ended. Then I would turn right or left onto another road and continue walking until it too ended.
I would walk until someone would speak to me. Then I would stop, because I had something to do and a purpose for being there. When the conversation ended, I would head down another road looking and waiting for something else to happen.
Over the next five years, I lived on the streets. That entire time, I never considered myself homeless. I was not homeless, because I did not have a home to lose in the first place, only numerous institutions, which were all now behind me.
Having lived in orphanages for most of my childhood, I did not know how or where to begin to make a home for myself. I guess because having a real, honest to goodness home was nothing more than something I had seen on the small black and white television at the orphanage. A real home needed a mommy and daddy, and I knew nothing of those types of things.
For years, I traveled many a road just trying to find some place to belong, always looking and hoping that someone would show me the way or that someone would take time to show me what I was supposed to do to be normal.
I worked many odd jobs here and there. I ate and slept many a cold night in metal garbage dumpsters. I will never, ever forget what it was like to have nowhere to go and absolutely no one to turn to. I will never forget how lost, lonely and scared I felt. I just never seemed to know what it was that I was supposed to be doing or what I was supposed to be looking for.