"Through Think and Thin"
By Kwong Chun Yu
Hurrying to the hospital, Joe blankly watches the drizzle by the taxi window. The pale yellow streetlamp turns the rain into tears in his eyes.
At a loss, he asks himself, “Why am I taking this ride and hurrying to the hospital?” All of a sudden, he loses his way to the future.
Let’s trace back half a year ago, when Joe was still proud and daring.
“Yes,” his assistant replies, fetching him the brush at once.
“Yes.” His assistant dares not utter much, as talking may interrupt the make-up artist. Making-up is an art about senses and concentration.
“It’s done,” make-up artist Joe says to the female artist. Thanking him politely she hurries to the stage.
“Alright, pack up now,” orders Joe. His assistant works swiftly, “Amazing, master Joe! You make that bad-tempered artist speak so respectfully to you!”
“Stop it. Be quick, pack now,” Joe cuts him short. Although the assistant addresses him as master Joe, he is just in his twenties right now. Joe started working as a make-up artist after graduating from high school. It only took him a few years to fit in with those professional ones to participate so actively in all kinds of events.
With his successful career, the young and daring Joe would like to take some risks. Then, he experiences his very first drugging with some bad friends.
Joe never believed drugs could ever take control of him. As long as he could stop, he won’t get addicted to it. However, his friends dare him again and again, especially the drug dealer who keeps prodding him into taking more doses. Refusing to surrender, Joe just takes it to state he has feared nothing. Face gained, but himself lost.
Drugging is merely one of the ridiculously dirty pastimes Joe and his bad friends have done. One-off happiness always overrides rational thinking. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Joe tries to justify his wildness – work stress is too harsh; nobody cares about him, he can probably self-control, etc. But all are merely excuses.
Any reason is just an excuse when someone refuses to care about one’s own body.
Every time after drugging with friends, Joe will be really cautious. Yet, the fish will soon be caught that nibbles at every bait. One day when he is blankly wandering around after drugging, he is stopped and checked by the police. A few grams of drugs are found on him.
When the police arrest him and lead him to the police office, he starts to wake up and thinks, “what on earth am I doing?”
He staggers his way to the police office, and is scheduled to appear in court the next day. Before standing trial he calls his mother, who knows nothing about what has happened. Such a loving mother - he is speechless to explain to her.
Having made a call to his mother, Joe cannot help but cry hearing her voice.
“What happened, Joe? Why are you crying, Joe?”
“Mom, mom,” Joe tries hard to hold back tears, “Sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“I’m standing trial soon. I took drugs and got arrested.”
Mother exclaims, and he thinks she is going to scold at him. But no, she doesn’t. Just silence. After a while, she asks for the case details and slowly assures him, “Don’t be afraid. Mommy’s here.”
Then, the big boy, who once believed he has had full control of everything, bursts into tears.
Since a long time ago, when he starts working and earns his living, he has been caring for his parents less, and constantly arguing with his father. His attitude towards his father is getting worse and worse.
Every time when his father is furious with him, he just slams the door shut and runs away. The thudding door is like his rude response to his father.
But it turns out what his father said is right: he is being too childish and impulsive. His father’s advice has already foretold his coming troubles.
It is too late to regret now. Joe is sent to the court and Lai Chi Kok Reception Center, where he spends his very first memorable night in detention.
Detained at Lai Chi Kok Reception Center for 14 days, Joe will stand trial again for the penalty.
On the first night at Joe’s home, his mother slowly locks the door and sets the door chain in place. His father, who is at sitting room with a pair of presbyopic glasses, curiously asks, “How can Joe get back when you’ve set the door chain?”
His mother stops right away. Sadness fills up her heart, she bursts into tears, “Joe is not coming back. He can’t come back.”
Father knows something has gone wrong. Approaching his wife, he warmly embraces her.
Although every one of the family members is separated tonight, they all feel their heart sinking together.
Joe has bumped into three people at Lai Chi Kok Reception Center. The first one is a drug addict who keeps twitching and moaning painfully throughout the night.
Looking at him, Joe seems to foresee his own future after ten years. If he continues drugging, someday he may end up like this poor man, drowning in the sea of drugs.
The second one is a man with a rough and violent look. Initially Joe dares not approach him during meals and work, fearing he may hurt him. One night, Joe tosses and turns on bed. That man notices and starts talking to him.
“I’m already too old to change,” the man says sincerely, “but you are still young. As long as you are willing to correct your wrongdoings, you may start over.”
Joe is shocked at this scenario: a man with an ‘evil’ look is sincerely advising him. Although it seems a bit weird to hear something like this from a man with such a look, the advice is very impressive to Joe.
“I got it. If I can get out this time, I will take good care of my family and myself.”
The third one is surprisingly the drug dealer who prods him into more drugging. He has been unlucky enough to be searched for drugs. As the amount is quite large, he may face a few years of imprisonment.
Though the dealer is worried about his penalty, he acts as before and tries to provoke Joe with words. Yet, Joe suddenly learns how to respond to such meaningless provocation. How could he give up his own future merely because of some unrelated people’s words?
To Joe, meeting these three people in the Center is his fate, so that he can reflect on himself.
After 14 days, Joe is sent to court. Knowing his family and friends are devoted to help him out, he has leant to cope with all difficulties calmly in these 14 days. He may be sentenced to prison, or Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre. Binding over is another possibility but the chance is slimmer.
Fortunately, Joe is bound over according to the court. He is free to leave the centre now. All he needs to do is to avoid committing the crime again.
“I do hope the convict will learn the lesson. Next time it won’t be such a lenient sentence,” the judge reminds Joe before closing the case.
Gratefully nodding his head, Joe is more than happy with this precious opportunity.
That night, Joe celebrates his freedom with his parents and a good friend at a Chinese restaurant.
Everyone tries to avoid any embarrassing topic and laughs happily. After all the laughter, Joe regrettfully apologises to his father,
Joe has already forgotten his last time addressing to his father. Mother once mentioned to him that his father has been very upset. During the period of Joe’s detention, the news was featuring Jacky Chan’s son Jaycee Chan’s drugging. Father’s colleagues at the newspaper office eagerly gossipped about this drugging young man, “Like father like son. I take no pity on him.”
Although the colleagues were talking about Jaycee Chan and Jacky Chan, Joe’s father feels embarrassed hearing their comments.
He never tells Joe about this experience, as he does not want to add any burden to him. Yet his mother chooses to tell Joe, making him even more regrettful.
“I’m so sorry, dad. I’ll be good. Be very good,” says Joe, choking in his tears. He knows he has brought too many troubles to the family.
“Alright, be a good boy from now on,” his father replies in a seemingly indifferent way. Actually, he loves this son more than anything else. It is his way of expressing love: silently keeping the words in his heart.
After that night, can everything restart?
To Joe, it is the start of his dark days.......................To be continued.
The full version is available in "Something Positive ─ 5 Love Stories of People Living with HIV" .