Friday 8 March, 2013:
I get up and go to school tired. I’m so frickin tired. Last night I couldn’t even think about sleeping. I stayed up till 3, and listened to music: the same songs, over and over. Just doing shit on the laptop… I don’t know.
First I pick up Tau for PD. Over at Fitzroy, I tell him and Sheree what happened last night (of course I leave out the information Slade disclosed).
Sheree just keeps hugging me and stroking me, saying, “Fuck, you should have sent her round here, I would have been like – fuuuck, who the fuck are you, bitch?”
“Yeah, I know,” I say, unable to keep a straight face. “That’s why I didn’t tell her where the boys lived – she wanted to know!”
“Fuckin did she just?” snorts Sheree.
“Well you can’t really blame her,” I say, with a sigh. “I mean, how it must’ve looked when she came in, huh.”
Sheree’s eyes shine with amusement, and then we both start laughing. “Oh… Miss,” she says fervently. “Yeah I know, I know… you can’t blame the poor bitch for thinking the worst.”
Slade makes it to school too – I’m kind of amazed Lois even lets him, today – and we talk about what happened. He tells me she usually acts first, asks questions later. Last night, he was thinking – I’m gonna have to hit aunty, I don’t want to hit her unless I have to. He was freaking out at the idea. But, “I wouldn’t have let her hit you, Miss,” he assures me. “I was just trying to make my brain go sober, as fast as I could.”
And when we go over things some more, we see that despite everything; despite the way it looked – the atmosphere didn’t match what Lois’s own eyes told her. And maybe that’s why she left it: as much as she wanted to believe the worst, she didn’t sense that kind of energy in the room. Somehow at the time, I felt protected by that too. Knowing that the energy was alright. So I wasn’t scared of her, even though maybe I should have been.
I think, just to myself, that obviously I can’t leave school right now, when Slade needs to know he’s not all alone. What he told me last night… man, I can’t forget it. I’ve never seen him like that before. Never seen him so distraught and scared.So I might as well try to handle this place as best I can.
You could say that it isn’t even about me. And that’s true. But I know he needs someone to ride on the flank, right now. And I don’t care what anyone thinks or doesn’t think. It’s the only reason I’m at school. You and me. Me and you. And by that, I mean all my compadres who’ve been there, over the years.
After school, I take Slade home and venture in with him to see Lois – but she’s not there. So I just ask him to let her know I came by.
Saturday 9 March:
Having one of those long (almost two hours) text conversates with Kepaoa, while making the butter chicken and rice. Oh, Kepaoa. He can go from kickback to hyped up in the space of one text, and then back again by the next. And I want to stay in beside him, want to see him calm and in control, want to help keep him steady – all that’s true. And I do my best. But I think, why it works… I mean, why I maybe can help him a little bit, is because in my secret heart, I get it; I get all of it. And maybe that’s what I’m meant to do. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what it entails. To be the way I am.
I think people have it all wrong, talking about how you should be ‘objective’. I couldn’t be objective if I tried. The only thing that’s ever worked for me at all, is to draw in close and keep beside people. And so I kind of see why I have to be careful, with drugs and alcohol. Because there are times I have to just pitch myself down as far as I can go. But I know, at the end of the day, I have to ride back up again. I have to go down and come back. I can’t just go down.
It’s taken me my whole life so far to realize this. And now I’m starting to understand the ‘why’ of it, too.
That thing, you know. “That thing” – I used to search for it, high and low. But for the first time, I think I’m actually doing it. And because of this, it’s like any addictive tendencies have… not ‘gone’, exactly. But I can sit at one remove from them. Now I understand where they’re meant to articulate with the world. Like cogs that push up on one another; wheels that turn wheels. I get it now. And so I feel kind of… safe. Despite kickin it with some of the most bugged out gentlemen I’ve ever met.
Monday 11 March:
We go back to get a box of paint today. Me, Slade, Tau… and this time Zion comes as well.
It’s really good to see Zion. There’s a long story there, about school and its mendacious ways. Not that I’m surprised by any of it. He tells me he’s been taking antibiotics, and his feet are slowly getting better. And as for school, pfft! But more about that later.
I’m happy Tau wants to come along, too. I haven’t been sure he would. It always touches my heart so much that despite everything, he still likes and welcomes these little things: jaunts in the car, canvases to paint.
Slade and Zion are glad to see one another. They sit in the back and draw on Slade’s school books, resuming that old familiarity within minutes. Tau and I talk in the front; Tau directing me through intersections and round corners – he knows my foibles so well.
The trip there isn’t stressful at all. It’s on the way back that I start to feel a bit fussed about things. Kepaoa texts, wanting to know if he can get a ride to training. I tell him we’re in the city and could be a while getting back – it’s right in the middle of rush hour by now. But he says that’s all good; he’ll wait for me. He doesn’t exactly say so, but I pick up that his day hasn’t turned out too great.
The motorway is packed, so we drive across town. Slade and Zion are pretty much oblivious to the traffic; they’re just enjoying their afternoon out. Tau is more sensitive to it, partly because he can see that it’s starting to frustrate me. He maintains a weather eye on me, and on the road ahead. Kepaoa keeps on texting me, and I keep replying (while driving – and to be honest without a qualm).
It’s after 6 now, and I ask Slade if his aunty would be alright with us picking up Kepaoa before dropping him home. He replies, rather airily, that he’s got it all sorted. I half believe him, but it’s getting late, so I feel duty bound to check in all the same. But Slade is grumpy at my continuing to mention it in front of the boys. I can see this, and yet I know I have to press on with it.
By now we’ve diverted through Peak Rd (this is Tau’s good idea: “Might as well get off here..” he says with subtle good timing, as I near the intersection).
“Here, take my phone and ring her,” I say to Slade, trying to pass it over.
“No Miss, it’s algood – I told you,” grumbles Slade.
“Nah, nah… we could still be ages, getting to Carthill, and then we have to go all the way back to the gym.”
“It’s algood,” he insists.
“Oh, just ring her, would you,” I mutter at him.
“Bloody hell, then text her, hurry up!” I growl, and he takes the phone, with a lot of moaning and groaning. As he texts, I add, “And don’t pretend to be me, either.”
“I’m not,” Slade retorts, and the triple stressors of arguing with him, trying to negotiate the rush hour traffic on Peak Rd, and worrying about Kepaoa, increase that slightly chaotic feeling in my brain. When Slade gives me the phone back, I suspiciously check the outbox (making him crosser), and at the same time, both Kepaoa and Lois text me. I read Lois’s text, which says something like: “That’s a bit late, and I haven’t sorted it out with her yet, so you should have cleared it with me before now.” I exclaim an irritated “See!” to Slade, reading it out to him whilst also trying to compose a reply to Kepaoa. My mind is going round in circles, and I take my eyes off the road, without even meaning to. Then I hear Tau say urgently, “Miss, stop!” and I brake hard, the tyres squeal – and I stop just millimetres short of whacking into the car ahead of me.
“Faar, careful Miss,” says Zion, spluttering with laughter. He isn’t perturbed at all, which is kind of a good thing. Tau also just shakes his head at me, chuckling. I’m the cross one, and mutter again at Slade, “See what happens… when you give me unnecessary stress.” He goes quiet, and I can tell he is ruminating on things.
We pick up Kepaoa – who also seems to be ruminating on things, although he doesn’t say what they are. He shakes everyone’s hand, then sits quietly all the way to training, where we drop him off. His quiet and humble manner seems to subdue my other passengers, too. No-one even really protests when I say that we can’t paint tonight; at least not until I’ve seen Lois – and maybe not at all.
When we reach Slade’s place, I leave Zion and Tau in the car, and accompany him indoors (not really against his will, though he is still grumpy with me).
I’m definitely apprehensive though, that’s for sure. And when Lois comes into the lounge, and sits down beside me on the couch, the first thing she says is, “I’m still not sure how I feel about you.”
“Fair enough,” I tell her – in fact her honesty makes me feel a bit calmer. She looks me in the face, searchingly, and I return her gaze.
Slade stays in the kitchen to begin with, while Lois and I talk.
She begins pretty frankly: “I’m not sure why I didn’t just hit you first, and ask questions later – that’s my usual style.”
“I’m not sure why you didn’t, either,” I say, and I get that calm feeling again. I just think – oh well, we’ll either sort it out or we won’t.
For some reason, my comment seems to meet with Lois’s approval, maybe because I’m not trying to redirect the conversation. She even half-smiles at me. So I just say, “I’ve thought about that, too – I’ve thought about it a lot. And the only thing I can think of is that what you saw when you came in – cos I can see what it must have looked like – didn’t match the feeling in the room.” I see Lois nod her head, and so I continue, “Maybe you stopped because you could feel that the… the vibe was alright, despite what you were thinking at the time.”
Lois nods again, and says, “You’re right. It was like something just stopped me from smacking you. To be honest, I was surprised at myself for holding back.”
“I was surprised, too,” I tell her, and then, again, “I can see how it must have looked.”
Then we talk about the events of Thursday night. At some point, Slade comes in from the kitchen, and sits quietly listening. And by the end of our conversation, Lois says, with great generosity, “I’m glad you came to see me – that you had the guts to come round and talk face to face. Slade told me you came over on Friday as well.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t just leave it how it was,” I say. “That’s not my way.”
“It’s not my way either,” says Lois. “And now that I’ve met you, and we’ve talked about it – I’m ok. I’m happy for Slade to go painting again. I’m satisfied with what we’ve said.”
“See – I told you, aunty,” says Slade. “I told you you would be.”