Reality check

Wednesday 10 November, 2010:

Leroi brings a message from Tau this morning. He wants to come help me pack up my room – can I pick him up when school finishes? So, after school I take Leroi home, and collect Tau. As we go down the drive, Sheree waves at me from out on the steps. She’s pretty drunk, and I see Leroi kind of flinch.

We spend two hours shifting my stuff, just talking about everything that’s going on. It’s a reality check – and the reality ain’t pretty. There aren’t many illusions on either side. Actually, I don’t think there are any, which just makes it all the harder to bear. I feel a kind of agony, as if my heart’s being ripped into little feathers. And often I think I’m not capable of offering a single piece of advice or a useful word.

There are moments when ‘my’ Tau is still there in all his lovable glory. There truly are. And I love him no less, anyway, the rest of the time. But my heart’s so sore that this all can’t quite be processed yet. My mind can’t settle on top of such extreme pain.

Every time I’ve tried to write I’ve given up in tears. I actually find myself gasping for breath like a dog panting. Tears collect and then kind of upend themselves and are thrown down like buckets of dirty water down a hill.

I feel totally grief-stricken, in a way, even though Tau’s alive and well and kickin’ it in Municipal.


Thursday 11 November:

The only thing I can do is be brave today, though I feel like I’m going to topple. I promise to stay brave the whole time, just because Tau’s brave – and inwardly I bow towards this person who I do really love and applaud, even with everything I’ll say next.

Take a deep breath and write what I can bear to write about – just as it comes to mind.


Tau looks older and heavier. His leg’s sore and he’s hobbling a bit – he’s been in a fight and tells me his thigh is bruised. But he still carries all my boxes upstairs, making trip after trip. In between, we just talk.

And he’s warier and more guarded than I’ve ever seen him – I think maybe he’s even wary of me, to start with. He’s also more openly gang affiliated than before. He has his blue rag on, and – now that he’s started making money – some fancy shades. He looks harder, too. I’m not saying he couldn’t look hard before, but now it’s right up front. I never really see, except in little moments, that same old soft and mellow look in Tau’s eye. There are just a couple of times.

I don’t love Tau any the less for the fact that he’s changed – I knew the day would come, and it would happen. I accepted it would cause me pain, but to be honest, it hurts very bad and I do flinch from it before I walk towards it.


He’s very frank about his dealing, after first saying to me, “Don’t tell anyone about this, Miss.”

“Tau, I won’t,” I say. “Who would I tell?”

“Don’t tell even my friends,” he says.

“I talked to Noa yesterday – I didn’t tell him,” I say. “I didn’t say a word.”

“Ok,” he nods, and then I ask him, “So, how’s this all happening then? I mean – how does it work?”

“Well,” he tells me, “I’m buying my ounces for –” (and he names a price which I can’t recall). “And then I’m dealing – I’ve got people dealing for me,” he adds, with a little pride.

“Have you, Tau?” I asked.

“Yup,” he says.

“And are you selling down Municipal?”

“Yeah, I do deals at home too, but it’s not fast enough.”

“But, aren’t there people already selling round there – won’t you be taking their business? They might wanna -”

“Stand me over?”

I nod, saying, “Cos, I just get worried about you Tau. I’m not judging you – not at all. But I don’t want anything bad to happen.”

“I’m careful, Miss,” says Tau. “And people look out for me, cos of my dad. All the gang members know my dad and they watch my back. I can sell there – the other dealers are ok with it.”

“Well, I dunno,” I say. “I hope you’re right. But what if someone snitches then? What if you got arrested – aren’t there all those security people round the mall?”

“Nah, they’re algood,” says Tau.

I mutter, “I just hope you’re right.”


Tau looks around him and out the window. “School, aye,” he says, nostalgically, shaking his head at himself a little bit. “I used to come here in the weekend… just lie on the field out there. Kick back, do some tagging.”

“Yeah, school aye…” I echo. “Tau?” I ask. “Do you feel like it would be real hard for you to come back to school now?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said slowly. “I want to sometimes, but…”

“I know,” I say. I see that little soft look steal back for just a second into Tau’s eyes, as he remembers. I say, “The thing is, you don’t really think like a kid anymore, do you Tau. I think that’s why it would be hard.”

“You’re right,” says Tau. “I haven’t thought like kids think for ages and ages.” He pauses and then says, “Do you know, Miss, I haven’t thought that way for a long time. But I couldn’t do anything about it before – I wasn’t allowed to.”

“And now no-one can tell you not to,” I say.

“No – even my dad’s dealing for me, now,” says Tau, calmly. “Sometimes my mum gets scared that someone will see, cos we leave stuff lying around on the table. But I don’t think the pigs will come – I don’t do deals outside or anything. I’m pretty careful, Miss.”

“Yeah, I know – I just hope you’re right,” I say.


We ponder things quietly for a little while. “But,” I ask, “Can you imagine how it would be, coming back here and having teachers tell you to do stuff. Go to class; sit down; be quiet; do your work… you’d probably smash someone.”

“That’s exactly what would happen,” agrees Tau. “I would.” He adds, “And I’d sell and sell… if I came back to school.” There’s a glint in his eye; as he dreams of the untapped possibilities.

“Oh Tau,” I say, “You would, too.”


He also tells me he goes angry and ‘psycho’ (as he puts it) when he can’t get stoned every few hours. He even asks if he can have some spots, right there in my room. We laugh, but he means it, and I know he does.

He wheedles, “Nah, nah, yeah Miss, go on.”

“I can’t, Tau. I’ll get fired if I go doing stuff like that at school. Then I’ll have to come work for you.”

“Yeah, Miss,” says Tau. “You can be my grower.” And we crack up laughing.


But it does upset me – Tau can’t remember things like he used to. He starts to tell me something, then suddenly looks all confused and says, “Oh, Miss… what? Did I just start to say something?” And Tau always used to have the best memory.

He asks me a couple more times, “Go on Miss, let me have some spots aye – it’ll be alright, no-one’s here.”

I just shake my head and say, “You know I can’t,” and he sighs, with endearing resignation.

We look at one another and he just chuckles.


I don’t feel like I have the moral high ground at all. Tau can do what I’m just scared to do.  He’s pretty strong, and I’m not strong.

I’m tired, and this tale is coming in bits and pieces, with tears in between, and I know I’m gonna even cry more before I can finish the story. I feel scared to be saying all this stuff.  But I can, and I do.


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