Friday 7 October, 2011:
Things keep moving right along; it amazes me how the detail accumulates, just little by little. I look back and see all these things have happened, and keep happening. Sometimes I think: oh, well maybe nothing more can happen… and then it does, and there’s always so much to be told.
I’m at Fitzroy St by 11 today, as planned. Tau comes down the drive with that swagger which tells me straight away he’s on a bit of a roll. He growls at the dog and she runs away, and as he struts towards me he grins and holds out something, saying, “Miss… I think I gotta bank account already.” He gives me the little book in his hand, which is about 2 x 4”. On the front is a picture of a panda, and the words: ‘JUNIOR SUPER SAVER’. Tau looks at me with some pride, and waits in certain expectation of my approval, which does indeed come swiftly.
“Oh, Tau – hey, cool,” I say, examining the pass book. It hasn’t been used since 2008, when the last $20 was withdrawn, leaving $1.69. I flick through to the start, to see when it was opened. “When did you get this? – 2000,” I say. “How old were you then?”
“Um,” Tau says. “Dunno. I was…”
“Six!” I say, working it out, and we look at one another kind of indulgently. “Ohh…” I say, imagining the 6 year old Tau getting his bank account, probably at school.
Tau grins at me.
“Where did you find this?”
“My mum just gave it to me – she kept it. When I told her we were going to the bank, she just came and gave it to me. I didn’t even remember I had one of these.”
“Well, that makes it easy now,” I tell him, and he looks pleased to see that I’m pleased about it. “It means they’ll just have to update your details – and then they’ll give you a current account, with an eftpos card.”
So off we go to the bank.
Driving towards Municipal with Tau, I think I’m taking a short cut, so I turn down a street; Tau says nothing. I drive a little bit along, and say, “Can we get there this way?”
“No,” says Tau, peacefully. “This is a dead-end street.”
I pull over. “Then why didn’t you tell me?” I say, and we both snort with laughter. “You know my sense of direction’s not good.”
“I thought we were going somewhere,” he says, just matter-of-fact and quite unperturbed by my poor navigational skills.
“Yeah, where would we be going?” I ask – it’s a rhetorical question, and Tau smirks at my expression. “Down a side street to have a sesh?” I finish, and he cracks up laughing.
Then, “How’ve you been, Tau?” I ask.
“I’ve been… ok,” he says. “But my dad’s a fuckin’ faggot.”
Physically, Tau looks fine – better than last week. He’s shaved, and no longer seems listless, but has a jaunty air. This, however, is coupled with a hard glint in his eye, which I’ve seen before and which signals incaution. I can see he’s in the mood for trouble.
“What’s he been on this week?” I ask.
“Drinking, all week,” Tau replies, with some scorn. “Fuckin mood swings; one minute he’s alright, then he’s not, fuckin cunt… and my mum’s drinking too.”
“Oh?” I say, just matter of factly. “That’s no good.” And then I wonder, “Hey Tau, does your dad have an actual diagnosis? I mean, have the mental health people called it anything… like bipolar?”
“I don’t think so,” Tau says, thinking about it. “I think it’s just all the drugs that have fucked his brain up, over the years – it’s like his brain just can’t work properly anymore.”
“Mmm… yeah, makes sense,” I say, and he sighs.
“See my hit there?” Tau says as we park, pointing to the white wall of a shop. “See how it’s been crossed, by C’za or some shit.”
“That’s Kepaoa,” I say.
“Yeah, thought so – see – he needs me to smack his head.”
“Nah, just leave all that, Tau,” I suggest, though it’s somewhat futile. “I know you don’t believe me, but actually, Kepaoa’s alright.”
“Nah Miss – he’s a cheeky cunt.”
“Do you know what?” I tell him. “If you two didn’t think you were beefin it, you’d probably get on quite well… you’re kind of alike.”
Tau laughs, but still says, “Cunt needs a hiding.”
“No he doesn’t,” I repeat crossly, as we get out of the car and walk through a small alley to the bank.
“Fuckin coconuts…” Tau comments idly, still thinking about Kepaoa, and we go companionably around the corner and into the ANZ, where Tau is asked to remove his cap. This does not please him, but he takes it off, choosing not to make a fuss seeing as I’m there. I regard him affectionately, saying, “Oh… Tau, this is like the first time in years that I’ve seen you without your hat on!” and he laughs. I don’t say this, but he looks younger without it – or maybe it’s just that it reminds me of when he was younger.
Afterwards we head off to the TI, with a bit more discussion about Kepaoa on the way:
“I think you should just leave it now,” I repeat, like a broken record.
“Nah Miss, I should shoot him in the head.”
“Yeah, great idea, you egg – no, you need to leave it.”
“No-oo, I wanna shoot him through the mouth, like when Leroi shot my dad,” insists Tau.
“You do not,” I say, and Tau chuckles. I add, “And why you can’t just drop it, I don’t know.”
“Cos… cos peaceing it is for little bitches,” Tau informs me.
“No it isn’t, no it isn’t!” I say in exasperation. “Bloody hell, Tau… and Leroi tells me you’ve been waving your gun round in the alleyway.”
“Only when I’m drunk…” Tau protests.
“Well that’s even worse!” I say. “That’s when you’re most likely to do something dumb.”
“True that,” he says, mulling this over. “I can’t even point it the right way sometimes, when I’m drunk.”
“Well there you go then,” I rest my case.
The conversation moves on, to the subject of alcohol.
“Alcohol and you aren’t a very good mix,” I say, worried.
“I know, Miss – I know,” Tau admits. “But, I only drink two days a week – my Fridays and Saturdays.”
“And what about Wednesday?” I say.
“But that was cos… it was our last day of course, before the holidays.”
“Yeah, but what about last Wednesday?” I remind him.
“Oh, but that was just a little bit,” he assures me.
“Well, I dunno,” I say, thinking about it. “Because honestly, Tau, you haven’t got a very good track record, with alcohol – and especially with both your parents being alcoholics.”
Tau just nods, cos he knows that this is a fair call.
“Do you ever think about it like that? You know, about your genetics, about…” I look at him. “I don’t mean you are an alcoholic, Tau. I mean, do you ever get worried about what’s gonna happen if you keep drinking?”
“Yeah, I do,” he replies honestly. “But I’ve thought about it… and I don’t think I’ll be an alcoholic.”
“And why’s that?” I enquire.
“Cos I don’t drink like my parents; I don’t have to drink every day – I only drink in the weekends.”
“Well yeah, that’s good,” I say. “But when you do drink… you always get really drunk, right?”
“Yup,” Tau says. “You’re right. I just drink till I fall over, or fall asleep. I don’t eat when I’m drinking; my parents are like that too. When they’re drinking, they won’t eat for ages – nothing.”
“Yeah, but that’s what I mean about your genetics. I’m just saying you should think about it, if that’s what your parents do…”
“Yeah, I know,” Tau says, in a thoughtful tone.
We’re at the TI by now, and I say, “Hey, let’s go get lunch.”
In McDonalds, we plug in the laptop and spend an hour at least, working on Tau’s construction write up. And all the while, we just talk about stuff. Tau says to me, “I wish you could get a job at the TI… you should, Miss.” And I can see he really means it, for I know Tau doesn’t feel safe with many adults, let alone teachers. Not that I’m anything like Tau’s ‘teacher’ these days – I don’t know what I am, exactly.
And sometimes I think, well – probably I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing; the things that a teacher, guidance counselor, youth worker or social worker might do. But I’m not any of those things, for Tau. And I think maybe Tau doesn’t want those things either; doesn’t want ‘professional care’. I don’t think that would cut it. I think the only thing that has any power here; that has any chance of going above and beyond (at times) the everyday shit and strife, is to really care. For it to really matter. And when I talk about that, I mean, of course – for my own life, as much as for Tau’s.