Monday 30 April 2012:
This morning I’m going out to put my stuff in the car, and the shed door’s been left ajar as I go by. I actually see Tau look through the crack of the door at me, and then kind of skip to one side. I feel sure he wants me to come talk to him. So I just tap and say, “Tau?”
“Hey Miss…” Tau sighs, opening wide the door and looking at me with an expression of patient suffering.
He nods, but unhappily.
“Do you want a ride to course?” I ask. “Honest, I don’t mind, Tau. I’m not in a hurry.”
“No-oo, I’ll be ok,” he tells me, and he sits down and hunches his shoulders.
I perch on the arm of the sofa and say, “Tau – have you heard from Shay?”
He shakes his head very sorrowfully, telling me, “No. And I went round there last night, and I know she saw me, but she just went into another room – and then her neighbours came outside. And chased me away,” he concludes.
“Well, maybe she’s not ready to see you yet,” I suggest. “She might need some time, you know… and her parents might not want to see you just yet either.”
“But – she’s never done that before!” Tau says, and he sounds so bewildered. I know he knows it’s his own fault, but I also see he’s hurting – and he’s afraid, somehow. At finding himself alone.
“I know,” I say. “I know, but it’s ok, Tau. I’m sure she’ll talk to you when she’s ready.”
“Don’t give a fuck anyway…” he mutters.
“Yes you do,” I say, gently.
He sniffs, and bends his head. His hair springs up from under his cap, and I look tenderly at his large and stoically unhappy bearing.
“Fuck… I don’t care,” Tau tries again, and his head droops, and I just slip next to him and put my arm around him, and he leans into me, giving another sniff.
“It’s ok, Tau… do you want me to message her on facebook, and check she’s ok?”
He nods, saying, “Cos she won’t reply to me – I’ve tried to send her messages, I’ve –“
I tell him. “I’ll find out how she’s going, aye Tau?”
He nods again, and I just stroke his warm, broad back, and we sit like that for a while.
I say, “Man… must have been a pretty big argument you guys had on Friday, for things to be like this.”
“It was fucked up,” admits Tau. “Just over dumb shit, not even that bad, just… it all got fucked up.”
“Yeah, I know,” I say. “But Tau – give it time.”
“Yup,” he says, kind of calmer, at least for now. “Yupp…” And then, “Thanks, Miss.”
Eventually, I just have to go to school. And I hope Tau has a safe day, even if it won’t really be a happy one.
When I get to school, I message Shay.
We exchange messages on and off all day. She’s pitifully glad to hear Tau’s alright; she’s been worried. She keeps saying – thank you for looking after him. My heart goes out to her, but I try to keep it all matter-of-fact. I know she needs some time out, and not to hear about Tau being unhappy. I tell her he’s ok, and to not worry, and to look after herself.
Well – he was ok, this morning. But the day is long, you know.
And Tau’s not there when I get home. I see he’s made himself a feed though; done the dishes. Even just thinking about it now, I feel emotional – knowing he’s so proud and yet he can still do that; still look after himself a little bit.
Tuesday 1 May:
Tau mails and tells me it all ended up bad last night. He got drunk again and smashed up Shay’s mum & dad’s car. Then he went back to Kaiser St. Later, the police came to look for him. Scott and Sheree said he wasn’t there, and the cops went away again.
I have non-contacts this morning, so I text Kepaoa and tell him what’s happening, asking him not to mention it to anyone else.
Nah u nau me ms, nta word ae,’ he texts back, reassuringly. Man dy musta psd hm off?
Thursday 3 May:
I come home and Tau’s been round. He’s taken a shower, made something to eat, washed up everything in the kitchen – and left again. There’s a message on my phone though, to say he hasn’t been going to course. He says he can’t handle sitting in class at the moment and feels like fighting with everyone.
Friday 4 May:
After school, I go round to Kaiser St – Sheree has asked if I could come help sort out some letter Tau’s received about his student allowance.
He looks rough as: my heart almost breaks. And I can tell he isn’t in the mood for talking. But for some inexplicable reason, I can’t stop asking him dumb questions, like: “Have you seen Shay?”
Tau just sits on the edge of the couch, next to the door, and looks straight past me. I automatically turn to one side, kind of protecting myself – my body language is awkward; I feel all elbows – and I want to cry. Of course I know I can’t cry. But my heart is ripped up, seeing his closed, blank, shut-off face. And then I think to myself: Ok, ok – just be practical.
So I say, “Tau?”
“Give me that letter – I’ll take a look.”
He shrugs and hands it over.”
I read it: Tau needs to contact Studylink regarding some paperwork. When I broach this subject, he doesn’t hate the idea; I guess he needs to get paid, even if nothing else. So I dial, and of course, immediately get put on hold. I wait. Meanwhile, Tau unscrews the cap of the vodka bottle on the table, and takes a long swig.
My eyes flick up to his. I say, “That what you’re up to tonight?”
He laughs, just a flat ‘hah’. “Been doing that every night,” he says, and his eyes swivel away, and he gulps another mouthful down.
“Yup…” I just about whisper.
I sit on the steps, on hold, waiting for Studylink.
“Come in, Miss!” Sheree insists.
“I’m ok, it’s just… the reception’s a bit better out here,” (and actually, this is true, too).
But she makes room for me on the couch, then curls up beside me. Tau keeps drinking, and within ten minutes he’s on that tipsy buzz, and is chatting and laughing to everyone – but his eyes are still shiny and quiet, and I know he’s keeping everything inside.
Scott lays on the other couch, complaining. “How come I can’t have a drink, when Tau’s allowed a drink?”
“Did I buy you that bottle of alcohol – no!” Sheree scolds Scott.
I think of how Tau once told me he never drinks with his parents anymore; he hates the way they drink. I’m sure that’s changed in the last week, but… what can I say? Nothing to be said. Tau’s been on this week-long bender, and if Scott and Sheree haven’t joined in yet, they soon will. And ohhh, it’s hard to see Tau this way.
Anyway, I try. I talk to the guy at the call centre, and then to the supervisor (after I ask to be put through to someone in charge) – and eventually I get an assurance that they’ll look into it, and get back to me Monday.
I explain all this to Tau – and he nods. So it’s something; better than nothing.
And I feel… that same ache, and that same kind of yearning to just be there with them. Despite everything; despite the fact that Tau’s going down the path to rock-stony-bottom, and his genes say ‘alcoholism’, loud and clear. I think of Tau and Sheree and Scott… as three of the realest people I know. Because they don’t say things are ok when they’re not. And do I? Maybe… I’m not sure.
“Come to dinner, ok?” Sheree says “Roast on Sunday. Should get Tau to cook it!” She snorts, as does her son.
“Yeah, cool,” I say, meaning it – even though I doubt they’ll even remember the invite, come Sunday. “K then – thanks, Sheree.” I cast a glance at Tau’s now anaesthetized, but still unconsoled face. He smiles at me, semi-ok with the afternoon.
And I wish I could… and there would… I don’t know. I sometimes wish I could be headstrong and wild, and not care; not be shamed. Instead I feel like a fake, because I have to pretend to be ok. As if I know what to do, when I don’t.
Anyway, when I leave (to do my shopping; don’t even feel like it), Tau follows me out and we stand on the steps. I say, “Aw, Tau… I’m sorry.”
“It’s ok Miss, allgood,” Tau says.
“Nah, I know you didn’t really wanna talk, today. Sorry for that. I didn’t…” I break off, feeling like I’m gonna sniff and cry. But of course I just rally, and say, “I just… it’s just… cos I care about you.”
“I know,” Tau says, gently. He’s drunk now, or getting that way. In the hour that I’ve been there, he’s polished off almost the whole bottle – but then, Tau can absorb a mighty large quantity of alcohol with remarkable tolerance. Which is, in itself, a scary thought.
I say, “Tau, I’m just… a bit worried about you, that’s all.”
We look at one another, and I add, “Honestly Tau, anything you need, anything at all – just come and go whenever you like. My house is your house… you know that.” And I suddenly remember telling him kind of the same thing once, back when he was in year 10. Something like this: “My room is your room, Tau. We can share it.”
He nods. “I came round today,” he tells me quietly. “I made a feed – I had some chicken.”
“Good, Tau – that’s good,” I say.
And we reach out and hug one another.
When I leave, I only cry a little bit. Because I don’t want to let it swamp me. And I have to get to the supermarket.
Back home, I fix something to eat. I’m trying real hard to not let everything make me so sad. I just think – oh, I might be able to let it go. And I might… if I can remember that we try, and we’re still trying.
Around 10pm, there’s a text from Elroy:
Hae mis up3?
Nothng just watching TV
Miss ask cluzo f he wantz sum hot bottle.
He’s round at hs parents place. But he dnt need any more alks in my opinion!
Miss i robbd da factry heps 2 go arwnd aha algud mis
Yeh wel i stil thnk tau dnt need any, the way he’s going it wil just get him into trouble.. and as for you just be careful aye. And you need to drink some milo!!
Ahah k miss aha. Do u want a hot bottle?
Doesnt matter wat I wnt, I reply. And there’s some truth in that.
Ahah yea miss ur my idol miss. Ahah hnst.