Bryan stepped off the bus and instinctively felt with his fingers for the ID badge that always hung on his shirt. It was not there. It was not there because after 2 years in prison, he was now a free citizen. When he had walked through the prison gate this morning, he had felt a sudden sense of freedom and happiness, thinking that he could leave his past behind and begin his new life as a free man. But now, standing at the terminal, he felt like a stranger in a strange land, as if he had stumbled by chance into a new world in which he had to find his way again. The sun shone brightly on the terminal, but it did not match his mood. He felt a little lost. People came and went, laughing and chattering, passing him by, but it only made Bryan aware of how much he did not belong. He wandered aimlessly for a while until a sinking feeling in his stomach prompted him to head to the mall for something to eat. In his wild youth, he had spent hours at the mall with his buddies, rummaging through the floors and shoplifting, sometimes as a hobby, sometimes as a profession. Until one day he was caught while his "friends" managed to escape and was sent to juvenile prison. He soon reached a 1950s-style diner and quickly sat down at the counter to order a sandwich and a coffee. While sipping his coffee - a delicious coffee with a perfect aroma, the best coffee he had had in two years - Bryan overheard the two baristas talking. “I cannot believe people are so rude these days!” “I hear you. Yesterday a customer spilled his coffee and then yelled at me for taking a minute to give him a free replacement.” The other barista laughed. “Well,” she said, “yesterday is over now. Maybe we'll get the civilized people today!” Bryan smiled, finished his meal, and left the mall to get back out into the fresh air. As he walked along the sidewalk, feeling that sense of strangeness again, he tried to remind himself that he was a different person now, one who had vowed, once he set foot outside the prison gates, never to return. But now, with a heavy heart, he wondered if he had a future. He stopped in the park. The children played without any sense of danger, without any concern for the world. Their shrill cries synchronized with their short legs as they playfully chased each other up and down the playground, playing ball. Then one child snatched the ball out of the other child's hand. “You little devil,” Bryan thought, unconsciously saying it out loud. Then he heard laughter, and Bryan realized he was standing just a few feet from a bench where two mothers were sitting, grinning broadly at him. “He is, isn't he! It's a wonder how they all get along, even though they get into all sorts of mischief every day!” “Little kids are like that,” smiled the other mother, “they start each day with a clean slate and don't worry about the past. They don't let anything spoil their fun!” “Kids are so smart,” he replied gently. “They don't let their past get them down.” Bryan walked on, lost in thought, only becoming aware of the world again when he noticed the shiny bronze letters on the building in front of him."Hector Rodriguez, M.D." At that moment, the door opened and a woman came out. "Oh good, someone's here!" She said excitedly, "I have to tell someone! I am going to be a mom!" "Um ... are congratulations in order?" he replied hesitantly. "Oh, yes! To my doctors! Last year I had malaria and thought I was going to die and this year I'm pregnant with my first child!" She took a deep breath. "Life is full of surprises! And it's so good to be alive!” she gushed, hugging Bryan. His first hug since his release. “It's good to be free,” he murmured as he watched her get into her car. Bryan continued walking until he reached an elderly man pushing a silver-haired woman in a wheelchair. "Good morning," he said to Bryan. "Good morning," Bryan replied with a hearty nod. He lowered his head to greet the woman, but she just stared at him blankly. The 'old timer's' disease may have taken her from me, but not the love we shared. I just have to remember that for both of us now and take each day as it comes. As long as she's alive, every day is a gift," he said cheerfully to Bryan as he carefully manoeuvred the wheelchair down the curb. Bryan smiled. For the first time in his turbulent and scattered life, a feeling of comfort and warmth came over him. Suddenly, he felt focused. On his short walk he had listened to people, he had seen the good and appreciated that he had been given a second chance at life. Yes, starting over would be a long, uphill battle, and he would have to keep pushing himself to make it to the top. He would not allow his past to become a sand trap, but a stepping stone that he would use to jump back into the world. Because he had realized that every day was a new day, and he would use each one to build his new life! Because even if he had been wrong in the past he could still get it right today!
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