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WHAT WAS LEFT OF ME



I didn't mean to be young.... really I didn't. When did this happen to me, why only yesterday I did not exist at all? Somewhere, somehow I just seemed to happen...alas, what have I done?

Those thoughts came to me yesterday as I stood outside the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida. This was the only place that I ever knew as my "home.” I stood there in my own silent space waiting to do an interview for a television special about orphanages. Slowly, I turned my head and looked through the six-foot high, steel fence toward the compound.

Just yesterday, the matrons of the orphanage hustled around speaking in harsh tones. We young boys ran down the long, dark hallways of our two-story dormitory playing "Hide and Seek," as the matron got mad and cursed us. I wonder whatever happened to “Hide and Seek?” Do my own children play it? Has "Hide and Seek" become a long gone secret, lost somewhere in the universe?

Off in the distance I could see the large stalks of bamboo where I once played as a little boy, jumping from the trees and swaying to the ground as if on a cushion of air. The same green stalks with which the matrons used to beat me until I would bleed. Did the bamboo miss me when I went out into the world to find what was left of me?

My eyes moved across the grounds and stared at the exact spot where we orphans had once built our secret army forts. Where are these symbols of my youth? Where are the structures that took a thousand years to build? Where are the hundreds of little soldiers who helped me build them? Are they now dead and broken like many of the children who passed through these large white gates? Did the mighty forts miss me when I went out into the world to find what was left of me?

I raised my head and looked up at the window where I once slept. Many lonely nights I spent crying, my head resting on the sill of that window. I watched beautiful monarch butterflies as they landed on the screen of that very same window. Do they no longer leave their magic sprinkled about my windowsill? Did the butterflies miss me when I went out into the world to find what was left of me?

Somewhere in that neatly stacked pile of white bricks hides a cold, dark, scary, closet; a small room full of ghosts and goblins. A space where I knew fear and hunger for many a night and day. Did the monsters miss me when I went out into the world to find what was left of me?

The old oak tree where they hung me by my neck is still standing. It no longer looks as tall as it once did. Why did I have to learn about dying at such an early age? Did the mighty oak miss me when I went out into the world to find what was left of me?

"Should I not smile?" I thought to myself, as I looked at the building where my eyes first witnessed a woman's naked body. Shaking and scared my seven-year-old eyes watched in wonderment as the head matron, Mother Winters, peeled back her housecoat exposing her body. Did her naked body miss me when I went out into the world to find what was left of me?

I have been to many far away places during my life. For years I traveled from star to star, and now I am old and grey. Today I have returned to the orphanage, the place I once called home. I have come back today to see if I can find what was left of me.



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