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ARE YOU OK?



I believe that I was about 16 years old when I spoke to a girl for the very first time. There might have been an occasion when I spoke to a girl before that, but I really can't recall it.

Mrs. Winters was the head matron at the Children's Home Society Orphanage where I lived. I was there from the time I was 6, until I was 16. If there were two orphanage rules that you did not break, they were "No boy ever talks to a girl" and "No boy is to ever step foot on the sidewalk that leads to the girls’ dormitory." Those same rules applied not only to the boys, but to the girls as well.

When waiting for our breakfast, dinner or supper, the boys sat on one side of the screened porch and the girls sat on the other. In nine years, no one ever spoke a word to someone of the opposite sex. When the dinner bell rang, we walked single file into the dining room. The boys sat at their tables and the girls sat at their own. In nine years, no one ever spoke a word to someone of the opposite sex.

When we attended church, the girls sat on one side of the room and the boys sat on the other. In nine years, no one ever spoke a word to someone of the opposite sex. Every Christmas, we children got one gift a piece. The girls received their gifts and then the boys were handed theirs. In nine years, no one ever spoke a word to someone of the opposite sex.

I do recall us boys being allowed to play baseball with the girls, but only on one occasion. Still, we were not allowed to speak directly to the girls. If we had a complaint, we had to address our concerns to the house parents who were umpiring the game.

When I came up to bat, there was a new girl who was pitching. Her name was Elaine Smith. She had a brother named ‘Bill,’ who slept in the room next door to mine. Elaine was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I don't really know what came over me that day. I mean I was only about 10 or 11 years old at that time, so I really don't know why she stood out to me.

She slung her arm around several times and threw the baseball. I just stood there unable to move. ‘BAM’ went the baseball as it hit me in the face. I dropped the bat and grabbed my face with both of my hands. Blood was going all over the place. I sat down on the ground and just stayed there with my eyes closed.

Within seconds there were people all around me. When I opened my eyes, there knelt Elaine right next to me. She reached out very carefully and moved my hands away from my face.

"Are you okay, Roger?" she asked.

When I looked up, I saw the matron standing next to us. I started to answer her, but instead I closed my mouth and shook my head so she would know I was okay. I just sat looking into a girl’s eyes for the very first time in my life.

GOD, how much I wanted to speak and ask her to be my girlfriend, but I was just too scared. As the years passed, Elaine and I continued to look and smile at one another as we passed in the dining room, but we did not speak to one another.

That was about 46 years ago. Most of the kids from the orphanage are now in prison or dead. The ones who did make something of themselves have been married five or six times and most are very unhappy. I hope to one day, find Elaine Smith so I can return the favor by asking her, "Are you okay?"



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