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I shouted, I raved and ranted, but they did not listen - by M.H.

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We Are In This Together

'N' Level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison

Consolation Prize

            I shouted, I raved and ranted, but they did not listen. I could see the dangers as I had been there before. I had been in a similar situation and I had seen the devastation I can bring. They laughed at me mercilessly. The fools! Why could they not see that I was not jealous of their happiness? Why could they not understand that I had nothing to gain by stopping them? I could see the hell they were going to face soon. It is too late now. All I can do is cry with them.

I was passing by when I saw them huddled together. I knew they were up to no good. There was one of them looking out for the rest of them. He warned them. They looked at the ragged clothes I was wearing and turning back to what they were doing. They were spiking their cigarettes. I knew the pusher who was encouraging them. His own life was ruined and he had ruined many others. He needed to do this in order to feed his own addiction.

I pushed my way into the crowd and cried when I saw them ready to light up. I knocked the cigarette out of one of their hands. He was the youngest of the group; about thirteen years old I think. The pusher turned on me with a snarl and pushed me away. Then, they lit their cigarettes and started puffing. I saw their faces change. I knew they were not themselves anymore. I still spoke. I knew it was not too late then. By this time, they were too excited to stop. They pushed me aside roughly.

I told them my own tragedy. I told them I had experimented too. I told them about my long jail sentence and about the ruin I had fallen into. I told them it was not too late for them. They looked at me with a superior look, laughed at me and then turned away to continued what they were doing. I cried as I turned away. I knew there was nothing I could do.

It was a month later that I saw them again. They were huddled together under the shade of the coffee stall. They looked terrible now. They were unwashed, unshaven and stank. They were sharing a bottle of water. They looked at me with sad eyes. I wondered if they recognised me. I wondered if they remembered that I was the man who tried to warn them. They turned away. I looked at them. There was no more look of cockiness. Only quiet despair. They probably saw the danger then, but it was too late.

Too late for them. Within a year, some of them will be in prison; some will go through cold turkey; the lucky ones may even die. The worst of them will be like me one day; walking the earth aimlessly; awaiting death. It is too late for me and now for them. We are in this together. A path that is no turning back. I knew our lives were finished and I dropped my eyes and walked on.

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