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I lay on the cold concrete floor of my 5m-by 5m cell - by D

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No Time For Regrets

'N' Level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison

1st Prize

I lay on the cold concrete floor of my 5m-by 5m cell and stared at the harsh fluorescent light, freedom tantalisingly out of reach.  I stared into the tremendous void, a pale grey nothingness that my future holds.  I thought about my life and how I ended up this way; about the ruin, wreckage and devastation.  I have caused to myself and others; about self-loathing and self-hatred.  I thought about how and why and what happened, and the thoughts came easily but the answers eluded me.  Images of happier times swirled in my mind’s eye punctuated by pangs of deep regret.

My life was a twisted, crazy dance, going in a thousand directions at once.  My addiction to drugs and lust for an extravagant lifestyle plunged me into perpetual darkness.  I saw nothing except the night.  I craved the pleasures of drugs, the rush of action and promise of riches that the seedy drug trade seemingly offered. So, I schemed and dealt ‘death’ in exchange for money and mindlessly fed my insatiable appetite for drugs.

I was like a hurricane that barreled through people’s lives leaving only destruction in my wake. I hurt my family and burnt innumerable bridges.  Inevitably, things spiraled out of control and the long arm of the law eventually caught up with my fiancée and me.  She was sent to a drug rehabilitation centre and I was sent to prison.

There, a routine medical screening found L to be in the early stages of pregnancy.  With this revelation, our situation was made even more complicated.  How was L going to cope with raising a child singlehandedly while I was in prison? The future seemed so uncertain and I was helpless to do anything.  Despite overwhelming odds and the possible implication of birth defects, L resolved to keep the child with great courage and determination.  Our son, Z, was born shortly after her release and I ached with desire to hold them both in my arms.

When I first held Z in arms at a rare open visit, something deep within me sparked.  As I gently took Z, who was blissfully asleep, into my arms, he stirred and opened his eyes. The world receded and there was only him and me.  He had L’s mesmerising eyes and was a picture of cherubic innocence.  The way he smiled melted all my fears and worries away.  It all seemed insignificant in that moment.  Lying in all my arms was my own flesh and blood.

I felt the collapsing of an emotional dam and rivulets of tears flowed freely, tears of profound joy.  The longer I held him, the harder it was to bear.  I was forced to admit that I had fallen in love with the moment and was dreading the end of the visit. The visit was over in the blink of an eye and I did not want to say goodbye.  However, it had left me with a delighted feeling of hope and a happiness that is beyond expression.

Z is a matchless gift and I realised that I have a bounded duty to help unfold my son’s full potential; to equip him with the necessary skills to negotiate life’s obstacles; to imbue him with discipline, honesty and responsibility.  It is his inviolable right to have a happy childhood and he deserves better one spent bearing witness to our worst selves.  How was I supposed to do all that if I did not first make myself better?

In a perfect world, I would have liked to say love conquers all; that the love L and I shared was unwavering and ceaseless.  Unfortunately, time - a wild, capricious and impersonal beast had whittled our love down to an infinitesimal and tenors remnant of our fiery passion.  After she told me that she was moving on, the gnawing of my broken heart kept me awake countless of nights hopelessly wishing to bridge the impossible gulf between us.  During the day, I had to put on a facade but inwardly my heart was a turbulent riot.  I felt a constant, lonely ache.  My deepest regret was that I could not give Z and complete family.  I only had myself to blame.  Treading the primrose path had cost me dearly.

Our painful experiences can be taken as an insurmountable barrier and as a reason to wallow self-pity and regret or as an impetus for change.  I choose to take things in my stride and take heart in the limitless possibilities of the future.  More importantly, I have a role to play: that of a father and a good one at that.

Z has given me tremendous strength and reason to change.  He is my purpose; a deep, profound and beautiful, liberating purpose.  My son is a beacon of hope, my bedrock and the prime motivating factor in my resolution to tread a different path.  I was weak and pathetic and lacked self-control.  I have to change, I need to change and at this point, change is my only option, unless I want to live the rest of my life in prison and lose my son too.

There is no time for regrets.  All that matters now is that I make myself someone else for the future - one free from the letters of drugs.  I hope to be a better man and find success in life so that my son can bear witness to a man he can model himself after.

I have danced with the devil and nearly lost everything.  Momentary pleasures are nothing compared to the unbridled joy I feel whenever I hear my son say ‘Daddy’.  All I want him to know is this: Z, I love you.

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