“I was born into a cruel, uncaring family that never wanted me. I was the only child my mother ever bore because she never wanted a kid but got pregnant and her husband refused to let her get an abortion. They divorced shortly after I was born, and I was left on the front steps of our neighbor’s house. I eventually made it to an orphanage and there I spent my formative years.

The orphanage was pretty much the worst place on the face of the planet. I was always bullied for one reason or another. My head was too big, I wet the bed every night, I smelled bad… they always called me ‘Little Hitler’ and I never knew why.  

My only companion in the world was a stray dog I found when I was ten. I named him Brownie because he was brown. We did everything together. He was my comfort from the mean bullies that harassed me, he was by my side when I tried to escape the orphanage, and he was there for me when the head of the orphanage told me I would never ever be adopted. The bullies noticed my affinity towards Brownie and conspired against me. One day they were nice to me and though I should have seen right through their evil scheme, I was unaware. They gave me some extra food that day. They told me it was leftover chicken. But as I took a bite, they started snickering. The chicken tasted a little funny, but I was hungry so I kept eating it. As I took another bite, the bullies busted up laughing hysterically. Through clenched eyes and wide mouths they told me that I was eating Brownie. I was traumatized. That was the day I was broken. I became hard, unfeeling, uncaring. I refused to let anything get under my skin from that day forward. It worked because eventually the bullies stopped messing with me. I wasn’t enough fun for them anymore, so they began to target other kids. I was off the hook from my perpetual torment, but a new torment began. My inner voice spoke louder than any bully could. I believed I was worthless, garbage, refuse. I stopped speaking, I ate little, and I contemplated suicide. 

By the time I reached eighteen – the age of release from the orphanage – I had attempted suicide twice and I hadn’t spoken a word in two years. The orphanage released me onto the streets. I was on my own.

Most kids that graduate from orphanages find their way into gangs and become drug runners. It’s dangerous but provides a sense of security and family to someone who has never experienced those things before. I didn’t know what would happen to me; I didn’t really care. I was ready to die. My two suicide attempts had been failures – I couldn’t go through with them in the moment – so maybe being released onto the streets was my death sentence. It was about time. 

It wasn’t long before I ran across a street gang called The Dragonis. They beat me to a pulp, then took me in. I became a drug runner. They called me ‘the mute’ because I never spoke. I had vowed never to speak another word in my life. All that changed the day I met my mother.

I was on a drug run, delivering some crack cocaine to a trailer in the ghetto. The buyer turned out to be my mother. I had never met my mother, so I didn’t know she was my mother, but when I turned around to leave after she paid me and I gave her the drugs, I heard a gasp escape her lips. 

‘Anthony?’ She faintly whispered.

I stopped dead in my tracks. Nobody knew my name. I hadn’t spoken in years. Who was this woman? How did she know my name? 

What I did next was completely unexpected. Before I knew it, I was speaking for the first time in years.

‘How do you know my name?’

‘The birthmark on your neck… you’re my son!’

I reached my hand to the back of my neck where my splotchy birthmark was. Could this be my mother? I didn’t know what to say. I just stood there, motionless. My mind was trying to process the situation, but it didn’t seem to be working.

‘How are you?’ She said softly. She said it almost out of duty rather than care, and I picked up on that. I realized she didn’t care about me and it hurt more than anything had. For the first time in years, I allowed myself to feel and a single tear dropped from my eye. I turned and ran out the door. If she didn’t care about me, why should I care about her?

As I ran quietly away, I heard her voice one last time. She said ‘come back sometime.’

‘Not likely,’ I said to myself as another tear escaped the prison of my face.

A few months passed and I continued running drugs, escaping the cops, and finding a sense of belonging with The Dragonis. But it was only a matter of time before the gang got busted and everyone dispersed. Most of the members got caught and went to jail but a few of us escaped. 

I was on my own again and for the next few weeks I lived on the streets, on the brink of starvation. I ate leftovers out of people’s trash cans and stole clothes from thrift stores to wear.

I went back to my mother’s trailer one day and it had been burned down. My mother was gone and her house was too. I always wondered what happened to her, but I never saw her again.

One day I was scoping out a rundown gas station to get some food when a trucker stopped to get some gas. He thought I looked suspicious and started talking to me.

‘Hey if you need a job, I could hook you up. You look pretty bad, friend, why don’t you come with me and I’ll get you a job. You should take care of yourself better. You’d better not try to rob this gas station. That life never ends well, friend. Come on with me and I’ll recommend you to my boss. We’ll get it all worked out.’

He was the first person to ever call me friend and something about him was comforting. I don’t know why I did it, but I got in his truck that day and he became my first friend. His name was Ed. He got me the trucking job I have to this day. I’ve been a trucker for fifteen years now and it’s all because of Ed. 

Ed died last year. I spoke at his funeral. I told everybody there that he was the kindest person I had ever met and that he was my first and only friend. Nobody has ever treated me the way Ed treated me. He was solely responsible for getting me off the streets and providing me a way to make some money and provide for myself. He even let me stay with him for a few months. 

One time Ed and I were eating lunch together and he pointed out a woman across the diner. His eyebrows raised in a goofy way and he said ‘you should ask her out.’

I didn’t want to let Ed down so I walked over to the woman, who was very beautiful, and asked her out. Just as I was doing just that, a man walks over and sits down next to the woman. I hadn’t noticed the ring on her left hand. She wasn’t very happy and I received a cold hand to my cheek. I returned in defeat to Ed, who was trying to contain laughter. I never found love, and now my only friend is dead. I feel like that little kid back in the orphanage who felt so hopeless he tried to kill himself. I had nothing to live for then and I have nothing to live for now.”