Bubbles looked at the sight before him realising it was the same one he’d looked at for the past ten years.
Four grey walls, a small excuse for a window and the crushing reality of this was his world.
Now in his sixties, he had spent the last forty of them in rooms just like this one.
With age came the understanding of a life less well spent. When he was young and vibrant, the name Bubbles had been a moniker he had thrived under.
In old age, he knew there was nothing ‘bubbly’ about him. He shuffled nowadays in his gait; his appetite was diminishing, he health more and more dodgy as each day went by.
He had tried a few times to have himself known as George, his real name, but there didn’t seem to be any way he could change a lifetime of being known as Bubbles. Somethings he knew just stuck.
Today marked his last day. He dreaded that tomorrow they would release him, and the thought terrified him. He’d spent so much of his life incarcerated, he knew he’d become institutionalised. He knew it, everyone knew it, and for many around him, it was the source of jokes as to how Bubbles was going to manage on the outside.
The social worker had taken him under her wing, had spent time with him educating him, as best she could, about the outside world. So much had changed that for the most part, he could make neither head nor tail of any of it.
There was no family to go to. They had moved on from him, dissociated themselves, changed their names, moved towns he’d not heard from any of his ‘family’ in a lot of years.
He was on his own; he knew that he’d either make a go of it or he’d be back inside as soon as he could manage it.
He had reckoned there had to be more to life than the one he’d been leading all these years. He was excited and at the same time very anxious about venturing outside.
There were plenty of stories of guys who didn’t make it, ended up back inside and plenty more who couldn’t cope and took life into their own hands.
He had his stuff packed by the break of day. There was a halfway house arranged for him, a job with the council street workers so he knew he wouldn’t starve and he had somewhere to be.
It was the lack of routine that scared him the most. Being his own boss, responsible for getting up and to work, knowing he was now the master of his destiny. When you’d lived a life of total organisation that in itself was a huge ask.
He shook hands with Phil, the guard on gate duty and took his first steps in so many years, into the sunshine.