Wednesday 28 September, 2011:
I ring Tau, just like I said I would. I’m so consistent with Tau, come hell or high water – I always do what I’ve told him I’m going to do. I sometimes wonder at myself – this ability to show up, no matter how dumb or useless I sometimes feel. I just sigh… and do it anyway.
And Tau wants to talk, too – so I let him talk, and tell me all about his week, and about course, and about Math, and how the tutor wasn’t much help lately, moving ahead before he understood the work. “He’s a faggot,” complains Tau bitterly, “And he didn’t even give me any homework.”
“Never mind,” I say. “Let’s do some math on Friday – I remember the stuff you were doing – we’ll just do some more questions like that, ok?”
“Ok,” says Tau, trustingly.
“And we’ll have a talk, about how you can ask him to stop and explain things again, if you need to. Cos Tau, he probably doesn’t know he’s going too fast. I mean, if you aren’t saying…”
“But I can’t say – cos he just keeps going, and I don’t know how to tell him.”
“Well, you will be able to, Tau – don’t worry, you can easily sort that out.”
“He’s a little faggot,” Tau grumbles, but I can see he’s mollified to some degree.
Friday 30 September:
I go pick up Tau this morning – just the usual Friday. I’m there a few minutes early, so I start walking down the drive, and I see Tau close the tilting door of the shed, and come down to meet me. He looks… a bit dishevelled, to be honest. He treads heavily towards me, and in his eyes is that weary, stoical look I’ve seen so many times before.
“Hey Tau,” I say, and then, “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m alright,” he says, and then, “Just a bit tired.”
I give his arm a little stroke, as we walk. “Yeah, you look a bit tired. Everything ok?”
Tau half-nods, half-shrugs, just walking beside me. He draws me further down the drive – steering me with an arm – then says, urgently, “Today’s not a good… not a very good day to come round here, Miss.”
“Ok,” I say, accepting this at once. “So – something’s going on? That’s what I thought, when I saw you.”
“Yeah, Miss – I was gonna tell you in the car. It’s not a good day to come over, my dad’s been on fries for the last two days, he’s just coming off it now.”
This explains a lot about Tau’s appearance today. “Oh,” I say, and then, “Man, I thought your dad was going through a good patch lately.”
“He was, but…” Tau says, resignedly.
“And – have the drug and alcohol people been round? I thought you said they were coming every day.”
“They have, but the last two times my dad just yelled out to them – Fuck off, unless you wanna get shot in the head.”
“And so – they did?”
“Mmm hmm,” nods Tau, wearily. “My dad should be alright by… um, about Sunday. Today will be like his worst day for mood swings, then over the weekend he’ll get a bit better.”
“Is this his worst day, coming off it?”
“Yup,” says Tau. “It’s always like this.”
“So tonight’s like the danger time?”
“It is,” Tau nods. He leans against the car, patient and tired. “Lucky I’ve got the shed,” he says. “If I go in the house tonight I’ll just get stressed, and then I’ll probably lose it. So I better just stay in the shed.”
I try to be as matter of fact as I can be, saying, “Well at least you know what to do, and that’s good, Tau.” I unlock the door, and he smiles, getting in and sitting back – just resting.
“K then, Tau – shall we go?” I ask. “Do you still feel like going?”
And like always, with Tau… bits and pieces just come out when he’s ready.
“Miss,” he says, as we drive to the TI. “When my dad’s coming off fries, he talks about killing himself.”
“Does he? That must make everyone feel really stressed, Tau,” I said, acknowledging it, while trying to sound calm.
“It does, Miss… and he cuts himself, he cuts and cuts at his wrists.” Tau turns his palms up and runs one finger across his own skin, saying, “There’s scars from where he’s done it.”
“I didn’t know that,” I say, and then, “So is that why the mental health people have been coming round a lot lately?”
“I think so,” Tau says.
“Has… he always been like this, or do you think it’s getting worse?” I ask.
“It’s always been like this, but it’s getting worse, too,” Tau replies. “He’s done it before, but now it’s more…”
“Yup. It used to be like he was alright for a while, in between – but it happened when I was younger, too.” Tau pauses, and then tells me, “When I was a little kid, my dad tried to hang himself in my room. I came in, and he was in my closet, and I saw him just hanging there –” Tau’s hands describe it, calmly and vividly outlining the shape.
“And… what did you do, Tau?” I ask him, very gently.
“I called to my mum, and she ran in – and we pulled him down.”
“Tau,” I say, imagining the scene, and the fear. “How old were you, when that happened?”
“I was 9,” he tells me.
“That must have been terrible for you,” I say, and he nods. “It’s hard on my mum, too,” he adds, and I know he means now, as well as then.
“Course it is,” I murmur.
“Cos my mum’s like… she’s the only one who can calm my dad down. But then she gets stressed out, and she does stupid stuff and makes it worse.”
“Getting drunk, getting all mouthy… fucking my dad off.”
“I guess,” I say. “You know, getting drunk is like her way of coping, huh.”
“Yup, getting drunk is her way of coping,” agrees Tau.
“And I guess it’s understandable… just like getting stoned is your way of coping.”
Tau chuckles, saying, “I got drunk on Wednesday though, Miss.”
“Did you? Where was that?”
“After course, well, after lunch – with the boys. We gapped it, and went to the park and got drunk.”
“Which boys – the boys from course?”
“Yup. we took the cars, went to the liquor store, went to the park and sat there drinking.”
“Did you drive?”
There is a little silence, which means yes.
By now, we’ve arrived at the TI, and are just sitting there in the carpark, in the sun. It’s quiet, and Tau’s elbow rests softly on mine. I said, “Aye Tau, you shouldn’t be driving.”
“I know, Miss.”
“And what will happen… if the cops pull you over again?”
Tau shrugs. He just says, looking down, “I don’t care if the cops pull me over.”
“Yes you do care,” I tell him, tenderly and with conviction. “You do care if the cops pull you over.”
“Yes you bloody do, you idiot!” I say, just to make him laugh, because he knows both that I mean it; and that I understand.
And so we just go into McDonald’s and sit down, and I go get us a feed. When I come back with it, he just says, “Shot Miss,” and eats everything up, and pads off to refill his drink several times – and I realize that Tau is real hungry and thirsty, today. It kind of breaks my heart to think of it. Tau just waiting – down in the shed – for Scott to come off the fries. Because he’s as damn patient as he can be, when he has to be. I look at him just sitting there close, weary and unshaven, and at least fed now. It doesn’t matter – Tau always looks beautiful to me. That’s the honest truth. I always look at him and see his strong, brave, and exceptional character, and it’s always like that. Always.
The other thing is we start filling out the Independent Circumstances forms. I need to talk to the Youth Law people, before we do the part about addresses and stuff. But we do all the parts we can do, right now. Tau has to write a statement about why he needs to live apart from his parental home, and it’s difficult to put into words, of course. Just objectifying it like that seems to make it stand out; make it loom in front of us.
“Can you write it?” pleads Tau.
“No Tau, it has to come from you. There’s a whole page that I have to write, as well – but this part has to be what you think.”
“Can you help me, though?”
“Course I can,” I tell him. And together we discuss it, until Tau comes up with a statement which he writes down. “Fuck, that’s the most writing I’ve done for ages,” he says, when it’s finished.
“Well, I guess it’s good practice then!” I say, and he grins.
We’re not sure how to answer the part which asks him to: ‘Describe how you have been supporting yourself.’
‘By selling… illegal… drugs…” I pretend to write, and we both fall about laughing.
“I think you should just leave that section for now. I’ll ask Youth Law, cos there’s no point in being honest now, is there,” I say. We sit there and joke about it – which sometimes is all you can do.
Tau fills up his drink again, and clears our table, and gives me a hug before going to his tutoring appointment. And I go back to school.