This is a true story with some of the details changed/invented.
I first met F when she was a little girl in P5. She was my neighbour’s daughter, a cocky, wilful and mischievous child who was always making fun of the other kids at the playground. Her mother worked long hours as an assistant at a neighbourhood clinic and I have never seen her father. Whenever her mother saw her, she would nag or even scold her. Their relationship was never cordial.
F took the ITE – poly route at 19, she was still studying in poly. During her school holidays, she went to work at a hotel. The shallow aunties in the neighbourhood were full of praises for her, calling her a dek dee or good kid in Thai. Being the more observant one, I realised that her financial freedom had given her a new sense of confidence, spurring a new level of rebellion.
F bought fashionable new clothes for herself, dyed her hair and pierced her nose, ears and lips. She also started smoking at the void deck. Soon, she was joined by other young smokers. It’s not so much the smoking per se that I found objectionable, but the language the smoking gang used convinced me that F was very far from the path of becoming a dek dee.
F soon vanished from our radar. Rumour had it that she got herself pregnant. When I saw her recently, she was alone with a toddler and her awkward smile told me everything.
Then just weeks ago, I saw a teenage girl smoking at the void deck. I don’t know her parents, but she looked familiar and she was angry, huffing and puffing away. I could only make a guess as to why she was behaving this way. A few days later, she had a companion, a boy about her age and I could hear them speaking in Mandarin. She was complaining about her mother and he was lending a listening ear. Here we go again.
The last thing you want your teenage daughter to do is to smoke on the void deck. That’s where the horny guys looking for a quickie stalk their prey.
© Chan Joon Yee