My friend jumped from the 15th floor last night. An hour ago, I stood there near the spot, looking up to his window.
Of course, it’s the 15th floor. How can I forget that all along? I’ve been there when I was 8-9 years old. We were buddies in the same school in the same neighborhood.
Our neighborhood isn’t the kindest there is. There are gangs, which often flourish in a low-income community. Where and who else can you hang out with after school, if not the gangs? He and I hang out with the same circle.
In standard 4, I got a lucky break and was put in the first class of the school. Life, companions, and interests in the first class are distinctly different from the second-last class (The only thing we almost always look forward to was to “settle” a dispute after school hours. Or role-playing WWF at the back when the teacher is not around)
We drifted apart. In the past 10 years, I slowly became the person most of you know today. He plunged deeper and deeper to the dark hole: gangs, illegal stuff, lokaps.
You know how our achievements isn’t entirely ours? My family always have my back, my friends and teachers are there for me, my cousins paid for my Form 5 tuition. They are good influence and provide the conducive environment for me to grow.
If we shouldn’t take entire credits for our success, we shouldn’t absorb all the blame for our failures. I’ve been asked a couple of times, and I’ve asked myself this too, “When and where did it go all wrong for this friend? Why did he choose this unforgivable, no future route?”
It’s not that people like him have much choices, anyway. It’s a problem in our society. Those who dropped out of the system are left to fend for themselves entirely. It was in the news recently that a group of JPA scholars are raising public donation to fund their million-ringgit overseas education. Do you realize this is a problem because you are privileged enough to have the problem?
People like my friend: flung school, only manages conversational-level Malay and very little English, his mom ran away with his sister, his parents divorced. It’s all a vicious cycle, one bad thing reinforced another and he plunged further. To a point he could not be reached.
It’s crazy. We were just kids back then. If I knew how it would turn out, what would I say to him when we were 9-years old? Maybe I will ask about his ambition, what does him want to do in life.
We met once last year. He asked me for money. When there’s a second time, I was afraid there will be a third, and create dependency. I became almost afraid of my friend, but I stood my ground. Why that last call has to be about me telling him I just started working and couldn’t continue to give him money? Why didn’t I invite him for coffee? Maybe it isn’t money that could have saved him.
What do I know. We were from the same school from the same neighborhood. Had some things in life got placed differently, I could’ve gone down that route too. It isn’t just about individual choices, but also the situation, environment, support & help from others, and lucky breaks that separate our fortune.
Take time to remember what others have done for and to us. Those who have done well in life do not make it on their own. Similarly, those who do not make it don’t fail on their own. The people and the environment in their life failed them, too.
We should all be kinder. God knows what the others are going through when they come to us for help.
Let’s just live fully and deeply while the brief candle lasted, okay?
By: Ooi Kok Hin