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In one minute, a lot of things can happen - by M.L.

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I Will...


'O' Level student-inmate from Changi Women's Prison

2nd Prize


One minute consists of sixty seconds. In one minute, a lot of things can happen. It is the time it takes for one to make a decision that might change their lives forever.


Disco lights were shining in all directions, the music was synchronized with beats of my palpitating hear and my body felt as light as a feather as the alcohol was rushing in my veins, it was the happiest I felt in months. I was at the most popular club in Singapore, called “Pandemonium” celebrating an old friend’s 21st birthday, her name was Cheryl. As we drank and partied into the night, Cheryl approached me and was slurring as she thanked me for coming. “This party is great! Where did you find so much money to pay for this? It must have costed you a bomb”.


I said to her I was expecting a reply from her but was taken aback when she pulled out a small packet containing fine white powder and winked at me, “if you ever need fast cash, you know who to look for” and with that, she stumbled towards the dance floor. Cheryl and I were as thick as thieves were but it was until she started getting involved in nightlife and parties that we started to slowly drift apart. Even as I stood in Pandemonium with my plain T-shirt and sweat-pants on, I was getting stared at by her friends with thinly veiled hostility. I knew I was not a party-type of girl and that I did not fit in with them because I was more of a typical girl-next -door, just scraping by to make ends meet.


“Ah ma, I’m here!” I exclaimed as I popped my head into my grandmother’s hospital ward. A smile stretched across her face as she pulled me in for an embrace. My grandmother was my only care-giver since I was 3, when my parents passed away in an uneventful aeroplane crash. She cooked for me, bathed me, bought me to school and took care of me. A year ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and when I was informed of that, my world felt like it shattered into a million pieces. I struggled with accepting the fact that I might lose the only family I had left, with juggling work and coming to visit her daily at the hospital and of course with the large sum of hospital bills.


After visiting my grandmother that day, I headed home only to find another stack of bills that are overdue. I sank down onto the floor and as hopelessness overwhelmed me, I broke down. I was only 21 years old and I should be spending my days studying and hanging out with friends but now, not only had I stopped school to work to support myself and to pay of bills. I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders as I struggled financially and was constantly fighting against time, yearning to spend more time with my grandmother. I looked at the pile of bills that lay before me and at the moment, I felt utterly useless. I knew that I was of no capability to fork out the money I needed to pay them off and so, at my wits end, I picked up my handphone and called Cheryl.


I started dealing with drugs alongside Cheryl and was trafficking them all around Singapore. At first, I started trafficking part-time but I started earning three times more than my monthly salary in a day. I decided to quit my job and focus on selling drugs. In one month, I was able to pay off all my debts and my grandmother’s hospital bills. Out of curiosity, I also tried some of the drugs I was selling and no sooner I also became an addict.


I spent my days transporting and consuming drugs in the morning to the afternoon and when evening nears, I would make my way down to the hospital to visit my grandmother. I upgraded her room to an air-conditioned private room, paid for the best treatments for her and bought her plenty of rejuvenating teas, however as the months go by, my grandmother became more frail and sick. All the treatments were failing and I felt crushed because even with so much money on my hand. I could not even do anything to save my grandmother and the thought of it killed me.                      

                                                                                    

One day after delivering ecstasy to a few regular customers of mine, I headed down to the hospital as usual but when I reached, my grandmother was already fast asleep. Slowly, I tip toed towards her and bent towards her face, wanting to peck her cheeks. When I realised that they were tear streaked and a sense of unease washed over me. It was then when I caught a glimpse of something white sitting on her bed side table. I walked towards it and picked the piece of paper up, it read: “Ah girl, Ah ma wants to thank you.


Thank you for working so hard to pay off the bills. You are still young and Ah ma biggest regret will be not being there for you as you grow older. I always tell the nurses about how smart and brilliant you are and that your work pays you very well. I am so proud of you, you are my smart granddaughter. Recently Ah ma realised that you have become very skinny and that you look very tired and it worries me. Please remember to take care of yourself as I will not be able to take care of you any longer. I am sorry. I love you. By the time I read finish her letter, I was crying uncontrollably. Not wanting my crying to wake her up. I walked out of her room and sat outside the door. I clutched my knees to my chest and sobbed. I cannot live without her. I need her. I don’t want her to leave me I thought to myself.


Suddenly, there was a light pat on my shoulder. I looked up and saw a group of 10 policemen standing infront of me. One of them stood forward and spoked “M.L, You are suspected for trafficking drugs and we have to take you back with us”. My heart was pounding rapidly against my chest and I panicked. Madness is an ostrich that sticks its head into the sand as a pack of hyenas close in on her, and at that moment, that was exactly how I felt. My hands were tightly fisted that my veins stood out like a stark topography as they handcrafted me. The same police officer said to me, this time in a more soothing tone; “would you like to say goodbye to your grandmother first?” I replied “No, she’s sleeping. Let her rest.” I turned my back against her hospital room and walked away with them.


I was being locked up in a single cell in prison. Day and night I would worry about my grandmother, if she is doing okay or about how she’s accepting the fact that I have been caught for trafficking drugs. I went crazy as I had no updates and news from her. One afternoon, a police officer came by my cell and told me to get ready as I was going out of prison for a visit. A sense of relief washed over me as I knew that I could finally see my grandmother.


The officer shackled me up and we rode the prison bus to our destination. Expecting to be welcomed by the familiar sight of the hospital, I was shocked when we arrived at a church. It was then that reality hit me and I knew why I was being sent there. I walked silently towards a small room and saw a coffin lying in the centre. I walked up to it and saw my grandmother’s face resting peacefully. I wanted to scream but I found my voice stuck at the back of my throat. I wanted to cry but no tears would come. Finally, I closed my eyes and played back the happy memories of me and my grandmother, before my closed lids. I placed my hand on her coffin and slowly opened my eyes finding my vision blurred. As tear slowly welled up in my eyes I looked down once more at my grandmother’s beautiful face and whispered “Ah ma, we will meet again.”

                                   

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