Ng Yin-chow’s place is simple and compact. While Yin-chow has all the furniture he needs, the room is bare of any other personal items. He has lived here for seven years, but it seems like he could leave at any time.
Such simplicity probably comes from habit. Before Yin-chow moved into this place, he stayed in Castle Peak Hospital and intermittently in a halfway house for former mental patients. The year his mother died, he moved into this public housing flat in Hoi Lai Estate. The only decoration in the flat is a large black-and-white portrait of his mother, on the wall beside his bed. His mother was the person he respected and loved most.
Yin-chow is the eldest son. He has two sisters and a brother. But resentment is all he feels for two of his siblings. He was forced to drop out of school in Primary 2 to earn a living for the family by selling snacks in the streets. Every day, when Yin-chow returned home from work, his father would hit him with a bamboo stick.
Later, he found a job, but all the money he earned was spent on tuition fees for his siblings. However, when he was struggling to cope in later years, none of his siblings lent him a hand. “They didn't even inform me when they got married or when they had children,” Yin-chow says, sighing. “Forget it. They consider you family only when they can get a benefit from you. It’s OK. I don’t care.”
After moving into Hoi Lai Estate, Yin-chow has been relying on his monthly social welfare benefits to get by. In fact, his biggest wish is to get a job. However, as he has to take a day off to receive his injections every month, there would be no way to hide his sickness. That has frustrated him.
“A lot of people discriminate against people with mental illness,” Yin-chow says. He has repeatedly urged his doctor to let him take oral medication instead of having to return for regular injections. “He said, ‘You are already in your 60s, why bother getting a job?’” Yin-chow says. All he can do is accept that, he says reluctantly.
Every morning, Yin-chow sleeps until he wakes up naturally. Then he goes for a walk in the park or hangs out in the streets alone. He has become accustomed to living alone. He says he is not afraid of death or boredom. He occasionally dreams about his mother walking in the park with him.
“Your mum took very good care of you, right?” I ask. He folds his arms and sways slightly. His gaze seems to lose focus. After a long while, he replies softly, “Umm.”