I'm not from here. This has been a long time coming.
Let me start off by saying this will be a long read. I'm also going to tell you that what I'm about to type is something I've carried with me for the last 24 years, and I haven't really spoken much about it since I was a child, and I've never spoken about it on any kind of public forum such as this. You are free to not believe me. I in fact, encourage you to doubt anything that you're told from anyone. I'm typing this message because as I've gotten older and I've spent over two decades developing a life, to the best of my ability, I've carried an immense weight on my shoulders that neither therapist nor psychiatrist treat as anything other than a method of repressing memories at best, and the delusions of a lunatic at worst. I do not blame you if you draw those same conclusions. I'm typing this in what I believe has become the most publicly traded speaking-place on the internet for the sole purpose of attempting to drop the weight I've carried and move on with my life. This is more of a personal cleanse, than an attempt at intrigue, and if no one reads this message and it becomes buried among the innumerable posts on Reddit, I will have at least gotten it off my chest.
I, am not from here. And by "here," I don't mean where I currently live. I mean where any of us live. Anyone reading this, right now. It's now a few days after my 30th birthday, and this time of year always strikes me, because I started kingergarten on my birthday, when I turned five. I thought, at the time, everyone did that. You turned five, and when you turned five you go to school. I didn't realize my birthday just happened to coincide with the first day of school. And a little over one year later, in about two weeks' time, it will have been 24 years to the day that my entire world vanished. I was born in San Diego, and lived in a poorer suburb of San Diego as a child. I lived at an apartment complex called "Lemonvine Apartments," that were a bit slummier versions of the Lemmonvine apartments found in Lemon Grove (A suburb of San Diego). My parents were divorced, but friendly. My mother was was young when she had me, and she was beautiful. She was in her early 20's and was aspiring to be a model and would regularly take trips to LA to do photoshoots. She did glamour modeling for magazines. She had a darker skin tone, being one quarter Indian (Indian, not native) and it gave her an "exotic" look. My favorite picture of her as a child was her modeling a luxurious wedding dress for a bridal company. I used to sleep with that picture when she would go to LA, and I would stay with my Dad, who worked for the city of San Diego. They shared custody pretty evenly, and we even did Christmas together as a family even though they had split when I was still a baby. My dad, his girlfriend, my mom, who was single, and me. Maybe things weren't as good between them as I remember, but, I was 6. So if there was drama behind the scenes they did a good job of hiding it from me.
On September 17th, 1996, I was staying with my dad's parents in Riverside California. They had a small farm where they raised chickens, pigs, and goats. No horses or sheep or anything. But my grandma had several pet ducks that would eat seed from your hand, fly away and return every year like clockwork. My dad had to work at night for a week and my mom was in LA, so I stayed with my grandparents. Schools back then were pretty cool with this kind of thing, and I was sent home with the sorts of nonsense assignments you'd expect of a first-grader who'd just gone back to school after Summer break ended. The 17th was the third day I was staying with my grandparents, and my grandpa had told me to be careful outside, because he'd seen a rattlesnake and wasn't sure where it had went. So, since no one knew where the mystery snake had gotten off to, six-year-old me, decided to go hunting for it. In hindsight, letting a 6-year-old go looking around a farm for a rattlesnake was probably not in any parenting 101 handbook, but it was the 90's and I guess they didn't actually expect me to find it. There were woods on the property but I wasn't allowed to go in there, so they probably figured that's where the snake had gotten off to. I spent all day outside playing jungle exploration on the farm, trying to track down this rattlesnake. And, much to my excitement, when I decided to open the well house (Which, for those who don't have one, looks kind of like one of the green electrical boxes on the side of the road) there it was. Curled up, rattling away. I immediately slammed the door shut, and ran to my grandparents' house to tell them I'd found it. Now this might be my six-year-old memory exaggerating, but I'm pretty sure that snake was at least 900 feet long. Give or take. I found it though. I was excited to tell my grandpa I found the snake, so he could.... do what he did, and go out and shoot the thing. I ran in the back door of the house, which lead you into the laundry room and through the kitchen, I paid no mind to anything until I turned left and entered the living room, expecting to see my grandparents, my uncle, and the neighbor couple all sat in the living room where I'd left them. Except they weren't there. And it wasn't the same living room anymore.
The furniture was completely wrong. The hard and memorably-uncomfortable hardwood furniture my grandpa loved so much was gone. The coffee table he made out of a tree stump was gone. Replaced by fluffy grandma-looking furniture. A three-person sofa with a floral design on it, the TV was in the wrong place, and newer than my grandpa's old "sit on the ground" cabinet TV. The hardwood panneling on the walls was gone, or at least covered by blue wallpaper. The hardwood floor was a shaggy off-white carpet. The pictures of my Dad, my uncle, me, and my grandparents were gone from the walls. Replaced by paintings and pictures of people I didn't know. As confused as I was by this, I was more confused by everyone being missing. In my 6-year-old brain, I accepted that they may have completely rearranged the house while I'd spent the day looking for a snake, but I didn't believe at all that they'd all just leave me alone. And I didn't see anyone leave, I didn't see the cars go down the road. So I walked out the front door, which was attached to the living room (As..they usually are) and thought maybe they'd gone to the chickens or the pigs. Both should have been visible from the front porch, but the chicken coop was gone, and the pig pen had lost its fencing, and there were no pigs to be found.
At this point I was beyond confused, and I was getting very scared. I didn't want to be alone, and I didn't see anyone. Even though they lived on a small farm, the neighbors that had been visiting lived just across the dirt road, so I ran down our own dirt driveway and across the road to their house, assuming that MUST have been where they went. I remember getting more and more scared as I ran to their house, and I remember starting to cry when their house was the wrong color. It wasn't the faded yellow house it used to be. It wasn't even the right house anymore. Never the less, I banged on the door. I remember that at this point I was crying quite profusely, because I didn't understand what was happening, and I kept wiping my face, which covered it in dirt after having been digging around under stumps and logs for snakes all day. When the door opened, and a woman in her late 40's to early 50's answered, and I'd never seen her before, I just started bawling uncontrollably. Everything after this point is largely a blur, because nothing was right. I knew where I lived. I knew where I went to school. I knew where my grandparents lived. But I met the people who lived where my grandparents lived, and they were not my grandparents. I did not know them. I begged for them to get my uncle to tell them who I was. But my uncle wasn't there. Through a series of various police and people in suits I was brought back to the town I lived in after spending what seemed like 10 hours in the local police station trying to contact my parents. I had my home phone number memorized, but told them my dad would be asleep. But when they called that number, the person on the other end had no idea who I was, or what they were talking about. I was asked to give the police officers my address, and sat in the local police station while the police in my home town went to my address. When they finally called the station back, they were informed that the name of the apartment building was incorrect. Lemonvine Apartments didn't exist, and the address I gave them was to an apartment complex called Merit Manor. And the apartment number I gave them was unoccupied. I believe at this point they were operating under the assumption that I had given them the wrong name of the apartments, and the wrong apartment number, but I did in fact live there. When I was finally brought to my home town, after changing hands a couple times between police, I was asked to give the police officers my address again, and was driven to where I lived.
That was it, that was my apartment complex. But, just like everything else, it looked wrong. It was painted a different color and the sign that used to have a large image of a Lemon reading "Lemonvine" now read "Merit Manor." I took the police to exactly where I lived, and just as they'd said, no one lived there. From this point forward, the police attempted to contact neighbors, all of whom knew me, but none of them were who they were supposed to be. Every person who came out of the apartment buildings around me were the wrong people. And they didn't know me. From this point they attempted to contact my father, which should have been easy, as he worked for the city. But no employee by his name apparently worked for the city in any capacity. As day turned to night, and I spent endless hours sitting in the police station as they attempted to find any person in the world who knew me, I couldn't do anything but cry, and cry, and cry, endlessly. A woman in a suit who I think was either a detective or just someone who happened to work in the station sat with me for several hours and tried to keep me calm. She gave me a stuffed dog. A dalmatian puppy that looked a bit like one of the dogs from 101 Dalmatians, and told me his name was Sparky. She said I could keep Sparky, and that when they found my parents, Sparky would go home with me and make sure I didn't get lost again. She said he was a good dog, and he'd protect me, if I took care of him. During this time they attempted my school. I told them I went to Shawnee Elementary. It was easy to find, it was really close to where I lived. But a school by such a name, you guessed it, did not exist. My school was now apparently called "Anza Elementary." At one point I was asked if the police had ever taken my fingerprints, and they had. In kindergarten my entire class had our fingerprints taken by the police at the school gym, for.... basically exactly this reason. Unsurprisingly, this did not help, at all. They couldn't find my parents. My grandparents. My neighbors. My apartment, or even me. They couldn't even find me. I was too young to remember what my social security number was, but I severely doubt it mattered. They asked my birthday, and any relevant information that could help them figure out who I was and where I belonged, but nothing I told them turned up any information about me. At some point during the day I was briefly taken to the ER, as the police suspected I may have sustained some kind of head injury. After being looked over by a doctor, they found nothing wrong with me, and I was sent back to the police station.
I ended up staying with someone that night, I'm not entirely sure who it was. Someone from child services I imagine. I couldn't stop crying long enough to really focus on what was happening after this point. I'd cried myself to sleep several times in the police station and cried myself to sleep again at the house I stayed at that night, despite the woman who I was staying with (not the same woman who gave me Sparky) doing everything in her power to calm me. I clung to Sparky so hard I'm surprised I never popped his head off. I didn't have my picture of my mom. I didn't know what was going on, and no one could find out where I belonged. This didn't make sense to me. I was only 6, and just barely. I lived were I lived and my parents were my parents and my school was my school. They didn't just all disappear one day. In between fits of crying and waking up I begged to go home. I begged for the lady I was staying with to try and call my dad again. I just kept begging to go home.
Over the next few days, I was interrogated and questioned by different people at different times at different places at all hours of the day. Police, investigators, people from departments I still don't know, child psychologists, everyone under the sun was asking me questions. I was back and forth between the police station and the house I was staying at, until eventually someone told me that they thought they'd located my parents and they were coming to get me. Finally, I was going home. Finally, this was over. Finally, I could get away from all of these strange people asking me the same questions over and over again. When the couple showed up to the police station, my heart fell into my feet as they were not my parents. But they'd had a son that had gone missing, and I fit his description pretty closely. The woman started crying when she saw me, because she immediately knew I wasn't her missing son. But I was out of tears to cry at this point. Eventually I was collected by Child Services and I was taken to a foster family where I stayed for a few months. The police launched a campaign, asking for anyone to come forward with information about me. They took my picture at the police station for the news papers, to put on the news. I never let go of Sparky for even a second. They didn't want me to hold him in the photo because I didn't have him when I arrived, but I needed him, and would throw an immense tantrum when someone tried to take him away. They had me put back on the clothes I was wearing when they found me, but they'd since given me new clothes to wear.
In those months I spent at the foster home, parents of missing children would come to the house to see if I was their child. I didn't realize this was what was happening until I was older and looked back on it. They didn't just pull me out and say "Is this your kid?" They were a bit more subtle about it. The parents would come to "meet me," and upon realizing I was not their missing child, they'd often leave in tears. Looking back at all these families that came to see me in desperation that they were going to have their child back, I feel so horrible for them. It's a feeling I can't really explain. Like a type of guilt, like I wish I had been their child so they could have them back, and know they were safe. Most of those people probably never saw their children again, but I try and imagine that all of them were reunited, even though I know that isn't likely. This guilt was one of the things that kept me in therapy as an adult, but like I said, no therapist has ever bought my story or believed what I've said. The most common belief suggested to me has always been that I was abandoned as a child and lived in an abusive home, dumped on the side of a dirt road in the middle of farm land and I repressed all the negative memories I had of my past.
I didn't stay in that foster home permanently. Eventually, while my case wasn't officially closed, I needed to start going to school, and I needed identification. I was issued a birth certificate for the date that I told them was my birth year, but the day and month were listed as September 17th, the day that I was "found." I never understood why they didn't just use the day and month of my actual birth, but I imagine it was because they didn't think I actually knew what it was. My name was unchanged. I started going to school sporadically. One of the child psychologists who had seen me recommended I not be placed back into a full curriculum immediately, and suspected I suffered some form of PTSD. I was put in the "special" class, and was only made to go to school twice a week initially. Eventually I started going to school full time and changed foster homes a few more times. I really can't say how much time passed before it happened, but eventually, I was placed up for adoption. I was never actually told I was up for adoption, so I'm not sure how soon after I was "found" it was. But eventually people started coming to meet me, but these people weren't looking for a missing child, they were looking to adopt one. But I definitely did not represent myself as a good candidate. I had a story that no one believed or could verify, I insisted my parents would eventually find me, and I rarely had a day that I wasn't crying until my eyes burned.
This story doesn't have a happy ending. I never saw my parents again, and I was a ward of the state until I was 18, and went nowhere from there. My teens were filled with delinquency and I did a brief stint in something similar to Juvi in San Diego called "Chaparral." I never went to college, and never really started getting my life together until I was around 24. I haven't talked publicly about this before now, at least not since I was a child speaking to everyone who was trying to figure out where I came from. I still have Sparky. He's old, and worn. Still in one piece. No longer white, he's now a dark shade of grey. He sits on my dresser, and is there, just like he always has been, as long as I've been here.
So, Q&A: While I haven't publicly brought this up or spoken about it in any large-scale fashion, I've told the story to people who wanted to listen and I've gotten one question, understandably, repeatedly (Including from my shrink), so before you ask it, I'll try and answer it as best I can. Q: What things are different in the place you came from compared to where you are now?" A: I'm not really sure. I've been asked about countries, states, laws, planets, languages, you name it. The fact is, I don't really know. I was 6. The continents could have been completely different and I'd have no idea. I wasn't particularly bright, either. I mean, I was hunting for rattlesnakes. I also thought California was a country. I can say, the president of the United States was not Bill Clinton. I can't remember exactly what his name was, but we had to learn it in kindergarten. I believe his name was Robert something or other. I want to say Robert Willmer but don't quote me on that.
Anyway, that's my story. I doubt anyone will read this, and it will likely be buried 10 pages deep in fifteen minutes, but it's now off my chest, in the open, and I can go to sleep with hopefully a little bit of weight off. ..............
Edit: I genuinely didn't think this post would be noticed at all so I went to bed after I posted it and haven't checked it until now. When I get off work tonight I'll try and answer everyone's questions to the best of my ability.
Double edit: This post has garnered way, way more attention than I ever expected. At the time of this edit there are well over 300 comments and nearly 1000 upvotes, and my inbox is full of messages. I'm trying to respond to everyone's questions as best I can manage or am able, but it's currently very late and I will have to sleep soon, and then I'll return to replying after work tomorrow. I thank everyone for their support, and to the people that don't believe my story, you have the right and every reason to hold that belief. As people have begun investigating this, I am asking that if you find reports from the 90's of my story online, to please not post them publicly. I have a family now, and I don't want them to be harassed or accosted. Please feel free to privately message me (The inbox works best, I'm still trying to figure out the messenger system) and I'll respond to any questions you might have as quickly as I possibly can.
submitted by I_miss_home
Hippity Hoppity, this is no longer your Property (to manage)
After graduating college my girlfriend and I moved to a new state where she was accepted into an engineering program. We found a lovely garden apartment style complex that advertised 100 Mbps internet speed included in the price among a few other amenities. When we met the property manager, he seemed strict but well mannered, nothing out of the ordinary. Until we signed the lease...
The first problem:
Suddenly, walking into his office was not allowed without an appointment. I had come by to ask a question, saw him browsing social media, and figured he was as available as he made himself to us when we first came by, unannounced, to view a model apartment. Nope. He refused to answer my question and asked me to make an appointment via email.
The second problem:
The terms of our lease included an attachment to complete within 48 hours of accepting the keys that details all discrepancies within the unit. We submitted the attachment via email around the 40th hour. The property manager responded that the terms recently changed from 48 to 24 hours and since we had passed 24 hours, we would be held liable for all found damages. When citing our copy of the lease which explicitly stated 48 hours, he informs us that we signed an outdated copy and would need to make an appointment to come by the office and sign a new lease.
The third problem:
The internet speed was not 100 Mbps as advertised. It was less than 15 Mbps off peak and about ~5 Mbps on peak. We again contacted the property manager to complain but were referred to make an appointment.
The fourth problem:
We made an appointment to address the previous three problems. During this meeting and after I finished voicing our issues, the property manager leans forward and says, "There are other communities in this neighborhood that may be more accepting of people like you and your girlfriend. You're welcome to break the lease and leave."
"people like you and your girlfriend"
I had thought he was referencing our no nonsense response to his nonsense (daily communication, scheduling multiple meetings to address these issues, etc) but my girlfriend believed he was speaking towards our skin colors. Her, a black woman, and myself, a white man. My girlfriend jokingly told me to check my privilege before getting serious and explaining to me that we were experiencing discrimination at the very least.
I did some research and discovered the property manager worked for a larger organization that owned several complexes throughout the country. I found their director of human resources on LinkedIn and made a connection. I then emailed her copies of all email correspondence, screenshots of the lease, pictures of the internet speed flags advertised by the road, and more screenshots of online speed tests. We further noted his comment and the implications behind it.
The human resources director replied within a few hours and promised us she would look into the issue.
About two days later, the property manager called and asked us to come by his office at our convenience. We showed up near the end of the day, and sat down across from him. He then proceeded to ask us if we would be willing to write a letter stating we accepted his apology (despite not yet offering said apology) and in return he would credit us a months rent, accept our damages attachment, and promise to have the ISP on site within a week to assess the internet issues. We declined. He got personal with us and revealed his job may be at stake and asked us to reconsider.
My girlfriend leaned forward and said, "There are other communities in this neighborhood that may be more accepting of people like you. You're welcome to leave."
The property manager was replaced in a week with a super sweet older woman who not only gave us all the things the original property manager had promised; the one month credit, accepting the damages attachment and then further scheduling maintenance to fix said damages, having the ISP assess and upgrade the internet to promised speeds, but she also made it clear her office was always open for anything we may need.
I looked up the old property manager about a few months later on LinkedIn. Still unemployed.
submitted by AE2AW