If I could stop...
‘O’ Level student-inmate from institution TM1 Consolation Prize
If I could stop them in time, they would never have ended up like me. I shouted, I raved and I ranted, but they did not listen to me. I could see the dangers lying ahead as I had been there before. Over the years, my life has been on a downward spiral. I turned from a juvenile delinquent to a chronic addict, and eventually a hard core prisoner. I had been in a similar situation and I had seen the devastations it could bring. They laughed at me mercilessly. Those 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 was already too late. All I could do was pity them.
I was passing by one day when I saw them congregate in the corner of the staircase. There were four of them I knew instantly they were up to no good. There was one of them looking out for the rest. He warned them about my existence. They took a glance at me and turned back to what they were doing. They were smoking heroin. I knew the pusher who was encouraging them. His own life was messed up and he had ruined many others’ lives. He needed to do this in order to feed his own addiction. I jostled my way into the crowd and shrieked when I saw them ready to light up. I knocked the aluminum foil out of one of their hands. He was the youngest of the group, about 15 years old. The pusher pounced on me with a snarl and shoved me aside roughly. At that moment, they lit their lighter and began to ‘chase the dragon’ (a term used to describe smoking heroin). I saw their faces change immediately. I knew they were not themselves anymore. I tried to stop them again but they elbowed me away. It was too late, by then, they were too excited to stop.
I knew it would be futile telling them but I told them anyway. I told them my own history. I told them about my unpleasant experiences and the repercussions. I told them about my ‘long-term imprisonment’ sentence and the tragedy I had fallen into. I told them about the pain I had caused my family. I told them it was not too late for them. They glared at me with a superior look, mocked me and then turned back to continue what they were doing. I was shaken to the core but I knew there was nothing I could do. I cried as I walked away.
It was a month later that I saw them again. This time without the pusher. They huddled together on the stone bench under the housing block. They looked gaunt with hollowed cheeks. They were unwashed and unshaven. They looked at me with vacant, listless eyes. I wondered if they recognised me. I wondered if they remember that I was the man who tried to stop them. I looked at them intently. They turned their gaze away. There was no more look of arrogance and cockiness, only quiet despair. They had probably seen the danger then.
Within a year, some of them will be in prison. Some of them will go through ‘cold turkey’ at the drug rehabilitation centre. The unlucky ones may overdose while they are ‘high’. The worst of them will be like me one day, becoming a hard-core prisoner. It was too late for them but not for me. I dropped my eyes and said a silent prayer for them and thought back, “If I could stop…”