After you have been locked up for a while, you forget to even want freedom. Some guy escorts you when you need to take a leak, another escorts you to a playing field to allow you your daily dose of sweat. Then the day comes when someone escorts you to the gate and tells you that you belong on the other side. Funny thing is, that can be one of the loneliest moments in your life.
When it happened to me the loneliness did not go away for weeks. I walked the streets of east London where I had grown up and there were a million faces, but not a single one I knew. I took a tube map one day and decided to fill my time travelling to stops I had heard of but never been to because when I lost my freedom I was a boy. I went to Canary Wharf and Canning Town, Tower Hill and Tooting.
I went nowhere at all.
When you are inside you start to collect and keep things. Things that are utter tat on the outside feel like prized possessions in there because you own hardly anything at all. Two years before I got out I shared a cell with a thief from east London who said that I kept a hold on anything keep a hold on the card he gave me. He said when I got out I should ask for a girl called Cherry. Cherry was a London escort.
For two years I held on to that card and wished for the freedom to call the London escort service number. Now wandering the streets of London for weeks, I find that I don’t have the courage to dial the number.
I think I am afraid to call the number and find the escort service no longer exists. Or they would hear the anxiety in my voice and think I am unstable and reject me or, if I am honest to myself, I was afraid I would hear that Cherry no longer works there.
It was a rainy Friday afternoon when I finally got the courage to call the escort service. 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon and I knew I had to either grab my freedom or let the fear win and maybe sit on one of the street corners in London and watch the rest of my life slip away.
So I called the escort service. The phone rang 3 times before a perky voice answered. “London Escorts”.
Turns out there was no Cherry, but there was a Kim, and a Rachel and a Fiona to listen and one day at a time there was a future for me. I know it might seem a bit strange to the average Londoner going about their business, with their supermarket trips and meetings and families waiting for them at the end of the day. I have none of that but I know something that they don’t – freedom without friendship is nothing.