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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Illustrations for CNB (Central Narcotics Bureau, Singapore) - Essay 6

Title: My Faustian Pact

Wilson Wu Fan
Ai Tong School, 5A

“You’ve been tested positive…” Those words from the doctor weighed down like an anchor. My heart sank, body iced and mind blanked in an instant. Now that I recall, the first image to enter my mind after regaining a semblance of composure was a dying AIDS1 victim, surrounded by his family members, in an advertisement from United Colours of Benetton. I’m now a carrier of the HIV2 virus.

About a year ago, I still had a future. Leading to its destruction, ironically, was an opportunity that my friends and I thought was golden. “Boys, we’ve got a gig!” exclaimed Steve. He was the lead vocalist of The Cream, a nascent band that featured his younger brother, Jacob, as the percussionist; Johnny, our childhood friend, as the bass guitarist; and me, the lead guitarist. Lady Luck must be smiling down, all of us thought, when Steve broke the news that we had been selected to perform at the annual Rock Festival.

The event was an unexpected success. We were buoyed by the cheers and applause from the electrified crowd. What surprised us even more were the flattering comments from Matthew, an influential composer in the region. “It was a fantastic performance. I didn’t have the impression that you guys were a bunch of rookies,” he remarked. Before parting, we were invited to a party at his house. Steve eagerly agreed on our behalf. “We need connections,” he told us later.

Ai Tong School Wilson Wu Fan - illustration 1 colour

An unmistakable air of hedonism permeated the sprawling apartment. The owner had no lack of any material comfort that I could think of. Every piece of furniture, decoration and entertainment device was synonymous with luxury. It seemed that we had entered a different world. Except for us, the guests at Matthew’s party were all dressed in designer outfits. They were dancing to techno music while we stood at a corner sipping cocktails served by waiters who treated us condescendingly.

Jacob, feeling bored and uneasy, said, “There are only high society people here. This is not a place for us.” Just when we were deliberating whether to leave, the host came up to us. “Hey, are you guys comfortable?” Matthew asked. “Let me be a gracious host,” he continued without waiting for a reply. “You can ease yourselves into the party.” Matthew then took Steve’s hand, placed a packet of pink pills on his palm and closed the fingers to make a fist before letting go. I saw a smirk on the composer’s lips. His penetrating eyeballs gave each of us a glance. He walked away after pretending to pop something into his mouth. The gesture was easily understood.

Ai Tong School Wilson Wu Fan - illustration 2 colour

“We’re not going to touch that stuff!” Jacob protested as soon as the host was out of sight. I nodded in agreement. “Are you afraid of ending up like Kurt Cobain?” Steve snapped. “Don’t forget the premature deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison!” Jacob retorted, citing the names of iconic rock personalities who had their lives terminated by drugs. The two brothers were embroiled in a heated exchange of words until Johnny interrupted, “Jacob, I know that we should stay clean, but your brother is right. We need the performances, songs and tips that Matthew can offer to give us the success that our talents deserve.” There was no denying that Matthew could propel our musical ambition. Steve coaxed. Johnny cajoled. By rejecting the drugs, they believed we would not get another opportunity to seek the help of Matthew. In the end, we made a dual pact. We agreed to rid our lives of drugs once we achieved our objectives and to prevent each other from getting into a vicious cycle of addiction.

It turned out to be a Faustian pact. Our acceptance of drugs from Matthew brought us into his circle of influence. He used his clout to help the band gain publicity through various platforms, and much sooner than expected, a proposal was tabled for us to cut our very first album. In the meantime, we ventured deeper and deeper into the wasteland of drugs. The dark side of Matthew was soon revealed to us. Behind his façade as a respected composer, he was the leader of a drug syndicate. We were among his clientele. The few attempts made to wean ourselves from drugs were blocked by withdrawal symptoms that brought absolute misery. It was too difficult to exchange glamour and rewards for suffering. In the spiralling freefall, we graduated from “Ecstasy” pills to a smorgasbord of cocaine, heroin and marijuana. We also joined intravenous drug users at rave parties, injecting our bodies with illegal substances. Needles were shared freely in a fraternity of musicians.

A drug raid abruptly ended our life of decadence. Narcotics officers operating undercover arrested us in a discotheque. Memories of the incident are vague. I was high and dazed when the law caught up with me. It was in police custody that I realized the folly of my actions. However, I did not expect the consequences to be more severe than imprisonment and caning. Three days after a mandatory blood specimen test, I was told of my infection with the deadly HIV virus. It was tantamount to pronouncing the death sentence on me. The same fate fell on Steve. We must have been infected through needles used by other drug abusers.

Almost two months have since elapsed. During this period, I experienced the agony of freeing my body from narcotic dependence. Many times during the day, in a silent lucidity, I wished regretfully that time could be reversed. The nights were interspersed with intense moments of anguish. Thoughts of suicide crossed my mind. The haunting emotional guilt and pain are difficult to exorcise. Yet, I have derived from them the strength to live on. In the drug rehabilitation centre where I am now, many former addicts have shared their stories with me. All the accounts invariably end with a desire to make restitution to those who have been hurt. I cannot cause more sorrows to my parents. Rather than choosing a road to perdition, I have decided to complete my remaining journey with dignity. Obstacles will arise along the way, but I am prepared to face them. Indeed, the price for taking drugs is too high to pay and they must be shunned without hesitation.

1AIDS is the acronym for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
2HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus

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