Saturday 13 October, 2012:
I go round to Carthill, drop off a big bag of clothes at Kepaoa’s (and when I get back I find more stuff still here!) and talk to him and Elroy for a while. They seem calm enough. Kepaoa tells me he needs to ‘stay busy’, and so we toss round a few ideas. The gym (his trainer rang today). Finishing off his CV and applying for part time jobs. Even starting the counselling (he isn’t so keen on that one – but I think he knows it can’t hurt).
Elroy (skinny, shirtless, wearing his old school shorts like boxers under his pants) grins at me and picks buds off the little tree outside their house. “Got me some mean buds, Miss,” he remarks, holding them in the palm of his hand.
“Should start selling,” I say, and we crack up.
“Hey Kepaoa, there’s a tree there,” Elroy continues. “Try that one!” He grins again, and Kepaoa reaches out a hand and casually biffs him. Elroy jigs around, laughing at his own gallows humour.
They’re planning to go out tonight: “Mingle with the people,” as Elroy puts it.
I remind Kepaoa not to drink. He shrugs, saying, “Probably might…” but in a half-hearted way.
“No!” I chastise him. “Don’t let him, Elroy.”
“I won’t Miss, he can be the sober driver,” Elroy tells me. “You should come with us,” he suggests, and I snort.
But I’m a little worried about Kepaoa drinking, all the same. Still, he seems ok, and you can’t watch someone every moment. When I leave, I hug him tight, saying, “You know I’m there, anytime.”
I’m planning a quiet night at home. But Mia calls, and we arrange to go out for dinner. I don’t get back until 10:30. Everything is quite normal, until I pull into my driveway and see there are two cars parked, and the shed light is on. The ‘DSL’ number plate of Robbie’s Toyota might as well have been lit in fluoro, the way it appears to my eyes. I feel my leg actually start to shake (kind of like Kepaoa, at the airport). And I park the car, and go into the shed, tapping on the door as I push it open.
“Hey, Miss…” say a few voices. Sitting round on the couches are Tau, Leroi, Robbie, and Misha.
Tau and I just look at one another. “How you been, Miss?” he says.
“I’ve been ok Tau, how you been?” I reply.
“Yeah, been awgud…” he says. He tips the remains of a large bottle of something down his throat, then sits back, picks up an exercise book, and starts penning a ‘CLUZO on the cover.
There are bottles on the table, and the shed smells of weed, and is miraculously very tidy.
“Wow…” I remark. “You tidied up, Tau.”
He gives a little laugh. “Yeah, I did.”
“When did you guys get here?” I ask.
“Ages ago – a few hours ago,” he tells me. “Dad just got his ankle bracelet off… he’s been on fries for days though, and he was gonna smash Leroi, we had to take off.”
Algood, Tau,” I say. “Glad you came here.” And I go sit beside him on the couch, and the two of us just talk quietly. I can see he’s stressed, drunk, semi-impassive. But there’s a gentleness somewhere deep underneath that pulls my heart this way and that, because it brings back so many reminders of what we’ve been through together.
Then, “I saw Kepaoa the other day, at the station,” he says.
“Yeah, I know. He told me.”
“How’s he?” Tau asks.
“Alright… did you hear what happened?” I ask, wondering if he knows anything else.
“No,” says Tau, hearing a particular note in my voice and turning to me at once. “What happened?”
“Well…” I begin. “I know Kepaoa won’t mind if I tell you… but just keep it to yourself, k?”
He nods, and listens while I outline what has taken place.
“Fuuck…” Tau exhales. Even in his drunk, numbed, state – he can see it’s serious.
“Why, Miss?” he asks. “Why did he do it?” And we talk about it a bit. I feel ok telling Tau, I’m glad I’ve told him. And in my heart – no matter what happens or doesn’t happen – I know I can trust him.
But Tau doesn’t look good. I can honestly say that, and mean it, and still love him just as much as ever and no less. He looks… like someone who’s been drinking non-stop for weeks; months. How can I put it? He looks weary, and heavy, and kind of bloated, and his beautiful face is coarsened and puffy. I don’t mean any of this in a judgmental way. And honest truth, he’s no less beautiful in my eyes. Nothing could alter the way I see Tau, when I look at him. But I can see what Kepaoa meant now, when he said Tau had changed.
I want to put my arms right around him and hold on. But the others are all just sitting around, talking. So I just speak quietly to him, and I silently take in all these changes. We don’t mention Shae. Tau says though, without either irony or pleasure, “Things have been algood. Every day the boys come over and we just sit round and plan what we’re gonna do; see how much money we got. Been going beach nearly every day… getting bitches, getting horced, getting stoney.”
“Yeah, for now, maybe,” I tell him. “But you might want to do something else as well, one day.”
Tau just looks at me and nods without affect. He’s not dismissing what I’m saying, exactly, but I don’t think his brain is really responsive to processing anything.. Everything’s filtered through a film of alcohol.
Round midnight, they all go back to Fitzroy. And I go to sleep; there’s nothing else to do. But I wake up at 3am and think about Tau’s beautiful black eyes, and his very tired face.
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird