Monday 14 January, 2013:
Early this morning I pick Tau up from Fitzroy. He hasn’t showered, eaten, slept. He just paces around a little bit as he waits for one of the boys to come over; they’re going to court for Mischa’s hearing at 9:45 this morning.
The cops haven’t said yet what charges Mischa’s facing. But yesterday there were TV cameras outside his house most of the day, reporters trying to ask his family dumb questions, of the ‘How are you feeling?’ variety.
And things didn’t go that great round at Clancy last night, Tau tells me. He says the boys were ‘angry’, and according to his take on it, they were angry with him. He could see the way Noa looked at him, soon as he saw him. And Noa said something like: “Why didn’t you try to stop it?”
So Tau just got drunk – like real drunk – after that. Sat morosely on the porch, just tipping more alcohol down his throat. He didn’t want to go in; he thought Tahiwai would ‘blame’ him too, I don’t really know why.
I suddenly notice a mirror all in bits, glass shards on the ground – Tau must have smashed it. I walk over to it, saying just, “Hey, Tau, want me to clean this up?”
“Nah, s’alright Miss, I’ll do it,” Tau says.
“Oh, k then,” I say. “I just don’t want anyone to cut themselves, you know.”
“Yeah, I’ll do it,” he tells me again. He has that real shut-off look on his face, and doesn’t want to talk. I know it; I leave it and go inside.
It’s ok – there’s not much else I could have said. But when I come in, I feel helpless and I sit on my bed, feeling tears fall out of my eyes, and I sniff and cry for Tau, and also for myself, because I don’t know how to run things, control things.
I’m honestly not sure I’m even up to it, not any of it. But I also know I have to try, because this is right now, and I’m here, and I just have to do it, huh. Play this game, which I don’t fully understand. I have to do my best with it. There’s nothing else to be done.
After a couple of minutes, I stop crying, rub the tears from my eyes and just go make a cuppa tea. Someone’s car is backing down the drive: the boys are going to court.
I’ve already said to Tau, “Don’t take your gun with you.”
“I won’t, Miss,” he replies.
Tuesday 15 January:
Tau’s own hearing is Thursday – same day as Robbie’s funeral. Tau is very mournful about the situation. There’s no way he can miss the funeral, but at the same time he knows that if he doesn’t turn up to court there’ll be another warrant out for his arrest. He just sighs, accepting this, but with some degree of inner panic, all the same.
So I see if I can find out what’s to be done. I direct my query straight to the source: the Ministry of Justice. They tell me Tau has to go to the district court in person, prior to the hearing, and file for an adjournment. Really there doesn’t seem much likelihood of this being granted, considering he’s already been arrested for missing one court appearance. But I don’t say that to Tau, I just say we can try, and if he wants to go to Carthill tomorrow and do the paperwork, I’ll take him.
But when night comes, I felt real low, for some reason. I just keep on thinking: I can’t do any of this, I don’t know how I’m gonna do it. I feel kind of bound by shame and bonded to shame. Inseparable from shame, in a way. I don’t know why it gets like this sometimes. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I just go to bed and fall asleep listening to one of Malcolm X’s speeches on Youtube.
Wednesday 16 January:
Tau amazes me by texting at 8am to say he’s ready to go up to court and do the papers, if I’m not busy. I jump out of bed, have a shower, and we’re up at Carthill District Court before 9. One of the boys, Raphael, comes with us. Tau is totally hungover, he looks rough as. My heart goes out to him, though inwardly I feel that his chances of success will now be even less than they already were.
I go up to the counter with Tau and we speak to the duty registrar. She passes us the paperwork and a pen, telling us we can apply for an adjournment, but it will take some time to be considered, and the court will contact us later. Meanwhile she asks Tau for his details, and looks up the charges, telling him he’s up on three separate counts: driving with excess breath alcohol while disqualified, possessing a knife in public, and failing to attend court. He has to state on the form how he intends to plead for each charge.
We fill out the page she gives us, Tau writing laboriously, and in very large letters. I can see he’s stressing. I put my arm round him as he writes, and feel him lean towards me. “Good boy,” I tell him, and he sighs, persisting with the task.
As he’s finishing off, he notices something and chuckled, saying to me sotto voce, “Look Miss, Robbie’s tag.”
I glance to where Tau is indicating, and there on the wall of the office is a laminated information sheet of some kind, which also bears the name ‘CIFR’ in black vivid, together with ‘CP’.
We grin at one another; the coincidence seems a hopeful sign.
“So you’ve already missed one court hearing?” the registrar asks Tau as he writes, and he nods.
“And, what’s the reason why you can’t attend court tomorrow?”
“Gotta go to a funeral,” Tau says, slowly.
“Where’s the funeral?” she asks.
She kind of shrugs, just… comme ci comme ca. She seems nice enough, but I feel that she isn’t entirely sure that he’s not just making up an excuse.
I say to him, “Go sit down for a minute, k? I’ll talk to her and explain things a little bit more, is that ok with you?”
He nods, and just pads off to sit with Raphael.
So I speak to her, and I guess the way I try to approach the conversation is ‘woman to woman’. She’s about my age, and has been matter of fact with Tau, rather than anything else. So I tell her, “Taurangi has given me permission to explain things a bit more,” and she waits to see what I say.
“He’s worried about missing court tomorrow, so he asked me to come here with him, to help sort it out. I was his teacher – he used to go to Municipal College.”
She looks at me in a friendly way, so I go on, saying, “There really is a funeral tomorrow, I can vouch for that. And it’s important, it’s…” I think about how much to reveal, and decide that at least some degree of honesty is necessary. “You know the shooting that happened a few days ago, in Municipal?” I say, and she nods. “Well, the boy who passed away was a close friend of his, and Tau needs to be there – to say goodbye.” I stop short of saying Tau was there when the accident had happened.
“Oh,” the woman says, surprised. I see a bit of compassion in her eyes. She thinks about it for a moment, then says, “If you could put that in writing, I can attach it to his application. I’m not the person who makes the decision – but I’ll make sure they see it.
She gives me some paper, and I write a short statement, explaining my role, and outlining Tau’s situation. I sign at the bottom, and give it to her, and she staples it to Tau’s paperwork, then asks us if we can come back in an hour; she hopes to have it processed by then.
We come back and there’s a long queue at the desk, but the registrar calls me over to ask for my address, phone number, and photo ID – the office have requested this information. She tells me that once they’ve verified my details, it looks as if they might sign off Tau’s adjournment and give him a new hearing date.
And then Tau materialises at my elbow, looking somewhat agitated. “Miss,” he says, “I need to talk to you, outside.”