A Fictional Home
I fear death, so I have to live on
Written by CHIU HIO TONG / Translation by Grace / Photo by LEI Jih-sheng
Sister Ho once fainted because of high blood pressure at work. She could no longer take physically demanding job. Her income dwindled and couldn’t afford the rent. She left almost all her belongings in her old flat. She put two pieces of clothing and some daily necessities in a big bag. In the wee hours, she came to a McDonald’s on her own and picked a corner to sleep. The next day, she returned to work as usual.
Her colleagues and friends have no idea that she’s a street sleeper. After work, she dines with her friends. They would ask her if she would go home after dinner. She would always tell them that it’s still early and she would like to have a walk. After saying goodbye to her friends, she would take a walk or sits at a park. Between 11pm and 12am, she goes to a McDonald’s to sleep.
She has been homeless for two years and left her family for nearly a decade. She spends every moment on her own. When she’s sick, she goes to the hospital alone; she leaves the hospital by herself. Whenever she’s hungry or tired, she will be at a McDonald’s by herself. Sometimes she wonders how far she has fallen. “I really don’t know.” She wants to die. She doesn’t understand why she has to live. She is prepared to jump a building, burn charcoal or take a large amount of sleeping pills. But she is afraid, worrying about the sufferings if she doesn’t succeed. After all, she fears death – and the only way is to live on.
One night about half a year ago, some social workers gave out brochures and gloves to “McRefugees”. They said they could help them. She got a flyer and called the number. The social workers helped her get a partitioned room. Even though it is a tiny, smelly room with countless bed bugs, there is a roof over her head. With a bed, she can sleep peacefully.
She could barely make a living out of the few thousand dollars she earned every month. Sometimes she has the money for dinner. During times when she can’t afford dinner, she would go back to her room and sleep earlier. Her room is tiny but it’s almost empty. She only has a bed and a few pieces of clothing. All the electrical appliances, including a fan and a rice cooker, have been given by social workers. Before and after work, she sits in the room and sometimes she falls asleep. She doesn’t have any entertainment. When she first moved in, she bought cleaning detergent and spent a lot of time on cleaning. Her room is spotless now.
A decade ago, she argued with her husband all the time and didn’t really get along with her children. After divorce, she left her family and never looked for her children. Even if she wants to look for them, she doesn’t have their numbers.
Do you miss your children? “It will be a lie if I say no. But they have grown up and become independent.” You don’t want them to know that you slept on the street? “Of course not.”
There’s no one for her to talk to because she doesn’t have families or friends. Sister Ho says she always feels lonely.
Are you afraid of loneliness? “Yes, I do, but I have to live.” What is your greatest fear? “I am worried that I will die alone and no one else knows.”