Orphan Survival Stories Index |
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
I am not exactly sure how old I was when the Duval County Juvenile Court finally allowed me to move out on my own. I had already been sentenced to the Florida School for Boys Reform School, mainly because I had refused to ever return to the Children's Home Society Orphanage after my release(s). I believe that I was almost fifteen when they allowed me to rent a room of my own. It was a small room in a two story, white, wooden building located about a block or two from the juvenile shelter.
Somehow, I had managed to get a job at a local sheet metal shop located in the Arlington area of Jacksonville, Florida. My room was about eight miles from the shop, and I had no transportation. One of the older men that I worked with told me that he would give me a ride to and from work, if I would give him several dollars a week. The problem was that he missed one or two days of work each week. By the time I walked the eight miles to work, the men had already loaded up the trucks and left the shop. Every time Mr. Murphy, the head boss, would tell me to go on back home.
Every day it was the same routine. I would return to my rooming house, change my clothes, and then walk down to the Krystal Hamburger to get myself something to eat. After eating, I would walk the five miles or so over to Park Street and sit in a small, local park. This was an area of town where my friends and I would gather throughout the years when I had run away from the orphanage.
Some days no one would show up at all. I would just sit there for hours, all by myself. Other days one or two of my friends would come to the park, and we would roam the back streets together.
"Do you know what time the next bus comes?" asked someone walking behind me.
As I turned around, I noticed a young girl, about my same age, standing behind the park bench.
"No Ma'am. I do not know anything about the busses. There's a bunch of them that come by all the time though," I responded.
The girl sat down on the bench beside me and we began to talk. Over the next hour, she told me about her family and I told her about my life in the orphanage. She and I talked on and on about the schools that we attended. I was rather a shy boy and I was quite surprised that someone as pretty as she, would want to sit and talk to someone like me.
"You sure are awful nice and you talk real nice too."
I just sat there smiling from ear to ear. I could not believe that this was happening to me. I just could not believe that someone thought that I was smart, or that I was worth talking to.
All at once I saw my two friends, Donald and Johnny, come walking across Park Street.
"There are my friends coming right there," I told her. "Can you do something extra special for me?"
"What's that?" she questioned.
"Those are my friends and they both got girlfriends. Can you tell them that you are my girlfriend? I do not mean like a real girlfriend. I know that you cannot say anything like that. But I mean like a girl who’s my friend."
She just smiled at me and then she shook her head. By then both Donald Watts and Johnny Nash had arrived at our location.
"You’re sure here early today," said Donald.
"I didn't work again today. I didn't have a ride.”
Both Donald and Johnny were now looking at the girl.
"Oh, this is uh. This is Judy. She's uh...she's uh,” I stuttered.
"Hi, I'm Judy. I'm Roger's new girlfriend," she blurted out. She then slid over next to me and placed her arm on my shoulder.
Both Johnny and Donald's eyes got very big. I just looked over at Judy and I thanked her with my eyes.
I cannot tell you how wonderful that made me feel as a young boy. For that moment in time, everything in the world was wonderful and beautiful. I was so proud that my friends would now know that a girl liked me.
"Well, we’re going to the movies. You guys want to go?" asked Johnny.
"I've got to be home by six o'clock," Judy said.
"It's just before four now. You got time," Johnny told her. "If you guys want to go, we'll meet you over there."
Johnny and Donald walked away and headed toward the theater at Five Points, which was about half a block away from the park.
"I got some money of you want to go to the movie. I'll pay for the movie and I'll give you this whole dollar for your time," I told her, as I held out a dollar bill.
"Why would you want to pay someone to go to the movies with you?"
"I don't mean anything bad. I really don't," I told her.
She just sat there looking at me somewhat funny like.
Well, the four of us went to the movie and we had a wonderful time. It was the first time in my life that I sat that close to a girl.
After the movie, the four of us walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus to take Judy home. As the bus was pulling up to the bus stop, Judy looked over at me. Then she looked over at Donald and Johnny who were both staring at me. I just stood there not having the slightest idea of what to do.
"Later, Rog,” said Judy. Then she turned and walked toward me.
"Bye," I said as I barely raised my hand.
Judy walked over and she kissed me on the cheek, and then she hugged me very fast.
"Whoa," said Johnny, as he slapped me on the back. "How long has this been going on?"
I stood there somewhat in shock, unable to speak. I stood there silently watching as the bus lights disappear into the darkness.
"I’ve been seeing her for a little while now, but it was like a secret. Her family invited me to their house and we all had a real supper. She is not an orphan like me. She has a real family, and her mom and dad really like me," I lied to them.
That was the first kiss I remember receiving from a girl. I do not remember a kiss as a little boy. Not even one time; not even by my mother.
I have always wondered why my life took the turn that it did. Was it from all those terrible years in that orphanage, several years in a reform school, and then on to jail. Was it because I went to prison for another three years?
Along the way there were but a few good things that happened to me as a young boy. I think those few things left a "heart-print" somewhere deep down inside of me. Somehow, and for some strange reason, I was able to capture and to hold on to those few precious memories. I was able to use those few kind things as a cornerstone to build a life for myself.
I will forever remember that young girl. A very kind young woman who was able to read between the lines, even though she was looking at a blank piece of paper.