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EXACTLY LIKE ME



My flight from Seattle, Washington arrived at the Jacksonville, Florida airport at about 3 p.m. I remained in my seat, because I was in no hurry to get off the airplane. Why should I be? I had nowhere to go. I had no family. I had no home and I had no friends. I had nothing, except the clothes on my back.

I had just turned 19 and had just been discharged from my tour of duty as a medic at Bassett Army Hospital, a large medical facility in Fairbanks, Alaska. I took a Checkered taxi from the airport to the downtown area. I told the driver to drop me off in front of the Florida Theater on Market Street.

Jacksonville is a very large city and though I knew my way around, I could not get my bearings, unless I started from the Market Street, Florida Theater area. That was the area I always went to when I ran away from the orphanage that I lived in as a young boy.

I just stood watching, as people passed me on the street. I stood watching, as people by the hundreds shuffled past me on their way to do whatever it was they had to do in the free world. I never had anything important to do when I walked the streets as a boy, except maybe scrounge for food from one of many garbage dumpsters in the alleyways of the big city.

I began to walk toward the Trailways bus station over on Bay Street. As I walked along, I wondered if I might see any of the homeless bums who had fed me when I was a cold, lonely and hungry little boy. Old men who had no jobs and smelled of liquor. Old women who pushed shopping carts around with whatever valuables they might have had. Some of them stood all by themselves, constantly jabbering and talking to invisible people.

As I neared the bus station, they began to fill the street. They were dirty and most were unshaven. Some of them were walking, while others were sitting along the sidewalks with their backs against the brick walls of the buildings. Some were laid out on the sidewalk, with their arms folded across their chest, as if they were resting in peace.

I looked at each and everyone them as I walked along. I looked into their eyes and wondered why none of them cared if they were important or not. Why didnít they care how they looked? I watched them drink from their bottles covered with brown paper bags. They would take a drink and then laugh out loud. They did not seem to have a care in the world. They all seemed to be happy and acted as though they were carefree.

I felt a little sad as I walked among them. Here I was a young man without a past to guide me. All I had were my memories from the orphanage and they had taught me nothing. No one had prepared me for what was now happening to me. What was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to go? How does one get a check or open a bank account? How do people buy cars? Where do you get some of those papers to fill out to get a job? How do you cook and where do you buy those pots and pans that you cook on? I did not have the slightest idea how to take care of myself. I was in the middle of a very big city and I might as well have been totally blind. The orphanage had accomplished absolutely nothing in all those years, except to feed, clothe and house me. I stopped for a minute in front of one of the many stores along the street. I looked up at my reflection in the large plate glass window. I turned back around, and looked up and down the street. My heart sank in my chest when I came to the realization that I was now standing among people who were exactly like me.



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