The Power to Change
“The Power to Change” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Minhee Ho, Renaissance College, Hong Kong.
The Power to Change
It began with a wine bottle, in a room that reeked of cigar smoke, the stench of strong liquor, stale sweat, and the sounds of rowdy men and noisy women. I remember it. The silhouette of the glass, thin at the bottom and stout at the top….. I remember everything! The taste of the alcohol, sweet and fruity, with a touch of bitter…! It began okay: the thrill, the excitement. The swaying light of the candles, the sound of dancing feet on the wooden floor. It all seemed romantic, the beginning of the life of an adult.
Then it became sickening, overwhelming, cloying. The terrible smell of my vomit, and the disgusted looks of the barmen as they watched me keel over and retch. How my head ached, a terrible pain pulsing and flaring with each sip I took. How I was often sick in bed, so dizzy I couldn’t speak, so ill that I couldn’t think, except for the one thought that I’d rather die than continue through this pain.
But still, I couldn’t stop.
There was no control. They were endless refills, and I had nothing to say, the words stuck in my throat. My mind told me to stop, but my trembling fingers refused, and every single time, the glass was raised to my lips. The feeling got worse: horrid, terrifying.
I thought, who am I?
And what have I done?
It was my high school friends that asked me to do it. “Come on, just give it a try,” they said. “It helps.”
“No.” I remember saying. But when I refused, they turned aggressive. They bullied me, violently hitting and punching me. I tried to ignore it.
But it hurt. The feeling of their sharp knuckles being plunged into my ribs hurt. That’s why in the end, I said yes. I was too weak.
It was exciting - I enjoyed it, at first.
But it was too much. My grades dropped immediately, from automatic A’s to usual D’s and occasional F’s. I was sick every week, the alcohol too was overpowering my frail body. Suddenly, I got dizzy in Physical Education, couldn’t bring myself to finish my school lunch, couldn’t wake up in the morning, couldn’t focus in class, couldn’t do my homework… it was endless.
All I could do was drink. Drink, smoke, vape. I remember lying in bed one night, in a hotel. “Stop it. I don’t want it.” I mumbled, as one of my “friends” tried to spoon-feed some mysterious substance into my mouth. But they kept going. “It’ll help.” they said.
But it didn’t.
So I told my parents. They were shocked. I knew I had hurt them, disappointed them. It was painful to know what I had done to them.
They took me to a camp for addicts and druggies.
Gradually though, I improved. Slowly, over the years, I earned myself back. My vision was no longer blurry and my head no longer pulsed.
It was hard, but it was possible.
I won’t always be a criminal.
I won’t always be a druggie or an addict.
I believe in myself, even if other people don’t. I believe in growth, in faith, in the hope that one day, I’ll look back at this experience and ironically, feel grateful for it, knowing that it helped make me who I am today, that it, in a twisted way, it made me stronger.
We, as humans, should not judge others by their past crimes and sins, but as their potential to grow, to help them improve, to always be there for them, willing to guide them when they’re lost.
Because the power of change will always be possible.