The first safe thing

Friday 6 April, 2012: (Good Friday):

First day of the holidays. I get up and make some toast and a cup of tea – then I go back to bed. Not really to sleep, just to rest.

I lie there, thinking about everything. How things seem to have settled again, and how we all try so hard. But a million things are still gonna happen, anyway. And I wish I could just ride this life, instead of letting myself be dragged along, over miles and miles and miles.


Saturday 7 April:

It’s late, and Tau’s gone out, but the light’s still on in the shed. So I go out to switch it off and there’s Shay, at the laptop. I look at her in surprise, saying, “Hey… I didn’t know you were here.”

“Hey, Miss,” says Shay, wanly. She looks up, and I saw she’s been crying; her hair is all straggly and tears have stuck a few strands to her face. “We had a little domestic,” she adds.

“Oh,” I say. “Shay – are you ok?”

“Mmm, I’m ok,” she murmurs. “But… I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“That’s alright,” I said. “I just don’t want to pretend that nothing’s wrong. But it doesn’t mean we need to talk, either.”

She nods, looking relieved. And I notice the shadow of a bruise under her right eye. Then we give one another a little hug, saying what we can’t say, just then.


Later I can’t sleep – probably Shay can’t either. But there’s nothing I can do, and eventually I just lay there and rest. Around 3 or 4 in the morning I think I hear Tau come back – at least, someone’s warming up leftovers in the kitchen. Well, I think, in a sanguine way. At least he’s not in the cells… and he had somewhere to come home to. And then I do go to sleep.


Sunday 8 April:

This morning, I’m up when Shay comes in through the French doors. “Hi Miss,” she say, brightly. Her eye is definitely bruised, in the light of day.

“Tau back?” I ask her, just checking.

She nods, again seeming very cheerful – and we start chatting about nothing much; just this and that.

A little while after that, I go past to take the washing off the line and see Tau curled up on the couch, in the sleepout. I just say, “Morning, Tau,” as I go by, and he calls out, “Morning, Miss.” There’s a ‘brave’ note in his voice, as if he’s making an effort not to be shy or shamed – because he knows I’ve seen Shay’s eye.


A little while later he comes in. I’m quite surprised by this, actually. He just sits down and starts telling me about the party he went to last night. That’s what they argued about: Shay didn’t want him to go, and he went anyway.

All the CP boys were there (“May as well have just gone for a drink at Noa’s,” says Tau, laughing) And there was trouble: Riley’s boyfriend tried to step everyone out, including Leroi. Then Tau wanted to fight him; so did Inia (who had a butcher’s knife with him, the egg – and a hammer).

“Geez!” I say. “I hope you told Inia to stop being a dick, and put it away – that’s the last thing he needs to do.”

“Well yeah, but Inia doesn’t listen to me,” says Tau, matter-of-factly. “I didn’t rark him up though, or anything – it was just Quest who did that, telling him he should fuck Riley’s boyfriend up, and…”

“Zion?” I say in disbelief. “Was he drunk or something – what an idiot!”

“Yeah, he was – he was being a crack-up cunt though,” says Tau. “And Inia was waving this big ass knife around, and…”

“And what? Did everyone just back off, after that?” I ask.

“Not really, it was only Noa; he talked to Inia, and said how Inia didn’t need more trouble, and how he should just stop now, and leave it, and think of the consequences and stuff.”

“Well thank God for that,” I say. “So – after that? There wasn’t any more trouble?”

“No, not really,” Tau concludes.


We still haven’t raised the subject of Shay, and I decide it’s probably not the time, especially with Tau being as forthcoming as he is. Even just being willing to talk today is a big deal, and I know it.

So we talk instead about Riley and Kepaoa, and I tell Tau that was the reason Riley had broken up with him – to go back to her boyfriend.

“Kepaoa should just fuck him up…” Tau begins.

“Yeah, well that’s what everyone was saying. But Kepaoa said no, because he respected Riley’s decision.”

“Faaar!” Tau says, in astonishment.

“Yeah, I know. Even though he wanted to, cos he doesn’t give a fuck about the guy – ”and Tau nods in agreement.

“But Kepaoa just left it, for Riley’s sake,” I explain. “You see, he didn’t really tell many people this, but… he really cared about Riley. And that was why.”

Tau just looks stunned. I laugh, saying, “Yeah, he told her he had her back, whatever she decided.


Later – they’re in the shed getting stoned now – Tau seems relaxed, and Shay looks just… elated with relief; almost grateful to her man. And I remember that feeling too. When the day all hinges on someone else’s behavior.

“We’re just having a lazy day,” Tau tells me, with a contented inhalation. Kneeling on the floor beside him, Shay giggles with the release of tension that this morning is bringing. She smiles radiantly at me.


I wonder if, upon reading this – it seems strange. That I trust them. And that I seem unworried. After what happened the night before.

Well, I’m not unworried. But I do trust them. I can’t do much – but I can do that. And yes, we all know things aren’t exactly alright. But that doesn’t mean things are all wrong, either.

Even Leroi says in some wonderment: “Miss, Tau hasn’t gapped from your place. And it’s been like ages – and he always gaps, from everywhere.”

“I know – it’s kind of amazing to me, too,” I say. “Well – he does gap, actually. But he keeps coming back.”

“I know!” Leroi says.


So here we are, five months later. It hasn’t been easy – but then, I never once thought it would be. And, you know, we try real hard, and that’s also something to note. I don’t know what I’m doing, exactly. Yet I feel that something’s given way, in me – and maybe also in Tau. Perhaps it’s just that we’ve let someone else see the things that shame us. And even Shay. Walking around with her bruised eye, knowing she doesn’t have to hide away. Not because I don’t care, but because I know the usual strategies mean nothing, compared to having somewhere to go. According to my take on it, right now having somewhere to go is the top need. That’s the first safe thing, it comes before the other safe things. I can’t make some grand stand (like La-Verne thinks I should) on the absolute terms of their relationship. It’s not that I want to be like Scott and Sheree, either: ‘Well… it’s their relationship’. But I also know that ‘being safe’ is not only about physical violence. And I think if I made it the primary issue, Tau would be too ashamed to stay – and then all semblance of safety would be gone.

I feel a kind of willingness, then; not to ‘tolerate’ it, which was the word La-Verne – somewhat unwisely – used with me one time (and never again, I might add). But to not make it the defining, deciding, stand-alone factor involved. And I’m aware that my ‘normality’ around it, or in relation to it (not tolerance – more like a refusal either to demonize it or deny it), is something that they kind of cling to. To know that I know; and still care; and won’t make Tau’s residency here contingent on it being ‘solved’.




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