公屋新天地        宋文民

七年前,初見宋文民,他獨自窩居在僅四十方呎充滿汗膄味的深水埗板間房,一年有大半時間,都坐在電視機前,右手離不開一支香煙,張口說話總離不開兩個字:「唔知」。

七年後,再見文民,他變了 – 肥了、健談了、笑多了。一切,源於他2010年有了一間公屋。有了自己的天地就正到痺:「依家唔使再同人爭廁所,正。」

文民仍愛看電視,「但我睇少咗啦,依家啲劇集都唔好睇,無創意,來來去去都係三幅被。」電視看少了,最愛的煙,文民也食少了。「我早排十二指腸發炎、之前又胃穿窿做過手術,大病先知道,再食落去真係無命。」而他的胃病,不單因為他日食一餐捱出來,最致命是他曾兩次吞逾一百粒安眠藥自殺。2013年8月,文民突然病發,一口氣吞下二百四十粒安眠藥,垂危時打電話給教會傳道人。醒來發現自己在明愛醫院,然後,他想到睡在自己的公屋,原來舒服過瞓醫院百倍。「有時,我仍會想到死,但比起以前,已無諗得咁多。」

老了七年,43歲的文民,生活節奏沒大改變。七年間,香港通脹翻了幾翻,文民的綜援金有四千多元,「我滿足啦,因為有間公屋。」

「我有個識咗十幾年的朋友,他是孤兒正輪候公屋,係我以前住板間房識的。佢依家有時會嚟我屋企屈蛇住,又帶隻兩歲狗仔Bobby嚟陪我。」文民話自己唔係基佬,但因為生命中出現了這個朋友,他才感覺到自己有的是個家。

「唔單止有個friend,我出入見到樓下看更,佢哋不時都會問吓我:『小心身體呀,唔好亂食嘢呀。』大廈互助委員會主席,當正我係契仔成日叫我飲茶吹水。」

每當靜下來,文民會想起以前住板間房認識的兩個人 - 一個廿八歲病死、另一個四十多歲的跳樓死。他,曾幾何時都想過死,但幾經辛苦,今天才有了個家。他,開始不甘心。


A home of his own     Sung Man-man

When I first met Sung Man-man seven years ago, he was living alone in Sham Shui Po, in a 40 sq ft wood-partitioned cubicle reeking of sweat. Every day he sat there watching television, his eyes glued to the screen, and almost always had a cigarette in his right hand. When spoken to, he liked to say, “Dunno”.

When we met again seven years later, Man-man has changed. He has gained some weight, and has become more talkative and cheerful – thanks to a better living environment. Since 2010, he has been living in a public housing unit. Finally having a home of his own feels great, he says. “Now I don’t have to fight for use of the toilet – it’s fantastic.”

He still watches television, though he’s spending less time on it. “The drama shows are not as entertaining now. There’s no creativity, always the same old story.” Not only is he watching less TV, he’s also smoking less. “Not too long ago I had gastroenteritis, and before that I had surgery for gastric ulcer. I was quite sick. It made me realise I really would die if I kept smoking like this.”

Seven years ago, Man-man told me he ate a meal a day to save money. The lack of a proper diet isn't the only reason for his stomach troubles. In the past he suffered bouts of depression that led him to attempt suicide. Twice he tried to kill himself by taking more than 100 sleeping pills, and twice he survived. As it turned out, he did have a relapse. One day in August last year, he felt so down that he swallowed 240 sleeping pills. As he was losing consciousness, he made a phone call to a pastor he knew. When he woke up, he found himself in Caritas Medical Centre. Then, he thought about sleeping in his own flat, which was actually a hundred times more comfortable than sleeping in a hospital. “I still think about suicide sometimes, but much less frequently than in the past,” he says.

In the seven years between our meetings, Man-man – who is now 43 – has made little change to his pace of life. In these seven years, food and other necessities have become more expensive. Man-man collects a social welfare of over HK$4,000. “It’s enough,” he says. “At least I have a flat.”

With the flat, he has some space of his own. “I have a friend of over 10 years who has no family and is queuing for a public flat. We met when I was living in the subdivided flat. He sleeps over at my flat sometimes, along with his two-year-old dog Bobby. They keep me company.” “I’m not gay, OK; we’re just friends.” Thanks to this friend, his flat feels more like a home, he says.

“Now even the security guards downstairs ask after me, and remind me to take care of myself and eat well. The chairman of the residential committee here also treats me like a godson, often inviting me for tea and chat.”

In his quieter moments, Man-man would sometimes remember two people he knew from his cubicle days. One died of an illness at 28, and the other, in his 40s, jumped to his death. Man-man, too, had wanted to die. But after all that he has been through, he has managed to make something of a home for himself. Perhaps, life isn't so bad.

(Excerpts from the book Life and Times)

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© 2017 Dustin Shum via Visura