Friday 19 July, 2013:
Slade comes over for a bit – he’s going down the line tomorrow. Says he’s been feening for a paint, but hasn’t wanted to interrupt my holidays. Ha, if he only knew. Been the stressiest frickin holidays I’ve ever had, pretty much.
Later, when Lois stops by to collect him, Slade lingers for a second, almost as if he is going to reach out and hug me. Then he just says, with feeling, “Miss, take care. I’ll see you soon.”
“You take care too,” I tell him. “You be good, down the line.”
I have a glass of wine, fry up some eggs and meat patties and make a sandwich. Tau comes in a couple of times, he doesn’t say much. I feel like he’s carrying a lot of stuff in his mind, and so am I.
I always used to feel strong, with Tau. Sometimes, nowadays, I feel ashamed of being weak. I don’t know how to do this stuff, and I often think how everyone can see that. I feel like I’m so visible. Whatever I do, people can see it.
Around midnight I wake up and someone’s knocking, I can hear them trying different doors… then the sleepout door (softly), and then there’s a little tap-tap on my window.
I go and open up the door, and Elroy is standing there.
I’m relieved and pissed off all at once, to see Elroy. My first thought is – oh man, it’s so good to see him. My second thought is – I’m just gonna be hustled.
My expression must be uncertain. Because Elroy says, hesitantly, “Miss? Can I come in… can I use the phone?”
“I guess so,” I say. I feel awkward, even. Like – here’s another person to see me at my weakest moments. I think I say, pretty much straight away, “I can’t drop you off, Elroy.” I add, “I’ve hardly got any gas right now.” Which is indeed true.
“It’s ok Miss, I’m not asking you to drop me off, I’ll ring… someone,” says Elroy. I’m sure he would have asked me to drop him off, if I’d looked more willing. But I feel kind of heartbroken… I don’t know. It’s like there’s all this stuff that I can’t say. I want to cry, because I’ve missed him and Kepaoa so much, and at the same time I feel laid low by everything.
He comes in and rings Paki. I hear him say, “Can you pick me up, I’m at Miss’s?” And then I hear Paki ask, “Why can’t Miss drop you off?”
“She’s busy,” he says.
Paki must have asked him what I’m doing, because he goes on, “Uh, busy… sleeping.”
I feel a surge of irritation at this. Am I your brother’s taxi? I think to myself. You come get him.
Elroy hangs up the phone and tells me, “He’s out with his girlfriend – they’ll pick me up on their way back.”
“Where are they?” I ask.
“In the city, I think.”
So we just wait. I tuck up on the couch with a rug, and Elroy starts talking. Tells me he was arrested the day I dropped him off at Clancy. He got drunk and stole a car from right outside a dairy – a man had left the keys in the ignition when he went in. Elroy drove off and the cops chased him. “High speed chase…” he informs me, casually. “I crashed in Carthill and ran off, but they caught me and locked me up. I’ve been inside ever since then.”
“You’re a egg,” I tell him. “Honestly, Elroy, you are.”
“Yeah, I know Miss,” he replies.
“So when did you get out?” I ask
“Um… about a week ago. I’ve been on 24/7 at home. Actually I was better off inside. I knew I’d breach bail if they let me out. But my lawyer was this young… lady, and she wanted me to get bail.”
“Oh fuck,” I mutter. “Fuckin useless lawyers.”
Then, “So – was jail ok?”
“Yeah, nah… it was algood, but I kept having scraps. There’s too many people to have scraps with in there. I was in the Youth Unit, but then they put me on Management – where all the naughty ones go, the ones who keep causing trouble.”
“Geez!” I scold Elroy. “Man, you’re not helping yourself you know! You can’t keep on doing this all the damn time. Do you wanna end up like Tau’s dad? He’s in jail now and no-one will bail him – no-one wants him at theirs, cos he starts trouble wherever he goes. Do you want to be like that – where even your own family won’t have you?”
“No,” says Elroy, meekly.
There is a pause, and I feel my eyes swim with tears, for no reason and for lots of reasons.
“And I didn’t mean to breach my bail tonight, Miss. I was ok, I cooked dinner for my mum and dad, but then I got drunk, you know how I like to take off when I’m drinking, and…”
“Roam around,” I finish for him.
“Yeah, roam around.”
“And what the fuck did you think would happen?” I say.
“I didn’t think about it…”
“Well, maybe you should have.”
“I know,” he says. “I’ll just get locked up again now. I shouldn’t go home – I’ll go to Eddie’s and turn myself in on Monday.”
“Go to Eddie’s?” I say in surprise. “Why would you go there?”
“Cos his dad’ll be algood with me. He’ll let me drink.”
“Well he’s a stupid old fool then,” I say, exasperated. “Honestly, he needs his head read. And who’s gonna take you all the way out there, to…”
“To Range Rd,” says Elroy. “I’ll ask Paki to take me.”
“Geez…” I say again. “That’s a long way. Your poor brother, you know what – you should just go home and harden up, and let the cops come and lock you up.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Elroy sighs. “I’ll just go home.”
I look at him and sigh too. Half of me wants to hug the idiot, the other half wants to just growl and growl, and keep on growling. It isn’t really fair, either. He’s kind of getting the fallout from me being upset with Kepaoa, and from what’s happening with Tau and Leroi, and I know it.
So I just say, “Elroy?”
“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “It’s good to see you. It’s just that… it’s been kind of a hard day. I’d drive you home, but I haven’t got gas, and I’m tired, and I just wish… that things were different. I don’t like seeing you get into trouble all the time, and, I don’t know… it’s like everything’s changed. I reckon I’ve gotta start looking out for myself a bit more.”
“Yeah, heaps of things have changed,” Elroy agrees, rather reflectively. “I went round to Cluzo’s and I saw that there was a new door, and the house had been painted, and there were different people there. And then I went to Kost’s, and he said Cluzo and Leroi were living here…”
“Yeah, that’s what I mean, well that’s part of it,” I say. “They’ve got nowhere to go, and they’re here, and I just have to harden up myself, or else all those other boys are just gonna hustle me. I mean the ones that think they can roll up and do whatever, you know how it is.”
A thought crosses my mind, and I sigh again. “And so is that why you came round – to see Cluzo?”
“Um… yes and no. I wanted to see you, and Cluzo,” says Elroy. “I thought I could have a drink with Cluzo, and -”
“See!” I say, even more exasperated. “What makes people think I want drink ups here, huh? This is half the frickin problem. Boys thinking that I’m gonna be all good with them just cruising up.” I add, “It’s not just you, Elroy. I even had to tell Noa and Kost and them off, for the same thing. I don’t want everyone drinking over here. And if bloody Scott wasn’t inside, then I wouldn’t be having to deal with this shit all the time… that’s what I mean! You don’t want to end up like him, giving everyone stress cos they’ve got to sort shit out for you.”
We look at one another, and Elroy says, “Yeah, I know… I’m sorry Miss. I just wasn’t really thinking.”
“I know – and it is good to see you, even though I’m pissed off,” I concede, and he grins.
“Can I use your laptop, check facebook?” he asks, and I go get it for him.
After a bit, I say, quietly (because he hasn’t mentioned Kepaoa at all), “So, did Teri go back to Oz?”
“Teri?” says Elroy. “I don’t know. I’ve been inside since that day you dropped me off. Kepaoa’s down the line. He’s been down there for a whole month, I haven’t even spoken to him. I don’t know what’s happening with Teri.” He pauses and says, “I don’t like Teri.”
“I don’t like her either,” I say.
“And my family don’t like her, Miss,” Elroy adds.
“I don’t trust her,” I say. “She messed with his head when she came back.”
“She thinks she’s a big shot,” Elroy says. “She thinks she’s hot shit, aye Miss.”
“Yeah, I reckon…”
Then I say, wanting to cry, “I got upset with your brother and yelled at him, and afterwards he just chopped me, straight up. I tried to get in touch, but he won’t talk to me. He never replied to any of my texts, so I just had to leave it. But… I miss him,” I finish. “I do, really. Is he ok?”
“He’s ok,” Elroy says. “He’s working down there – he’s doing good.”
“Aw, that’s good,” I say, softly.
“I haven’t seen him in ages,” Elroy says again. “I miss him too.”
“Did he get his knee sorted out?”
“I don’t know,” Elroy says. “I don’t think he did.”
“Oh well,” I sigh. “I dunno, Elroy. I still really care about him, and I care about you, too.”
“I know, Miss,” Elroy replies. “I’m sorry for giving you trouble.”
“You’re not,” I tell him. “I’m just… it’s just been a hard time, lately. For lots of reasons. It’s not your fault.” I can’t help adding, “Though I do wish you’d start acting like a sensible person,” and we both crack up laughing.
It isn’t until almost 2am that Paki arrives and toots the horn from out on the road. Elroy says goodbye and goes out, then I hear him running back inside and he appears in front of me again. “Miss?”
I get up.
“Can I have… a hug, Miss?” says Elroy.
I put my arms around him and we just stand there and hug.
“Take care,” I tell him. “Please Elroy, just look after yourself… just try to.”
“I will Miss,” he says, no doubt meaning it in that moment at least.
“And, good luck with the rest of the weekend, and the cops and everything.”
“Yeah, I’ll just go home, Miss,” he assures me. “I’ll take what comes.”
“Good boy,” I say. “I do really care about you, Elroy. You and Kepaoa. I really do.”
“Thanks, Miss,” he says, and hugs me tight again, and lopes off into the night.
Then I go back to bed. I dream about Zion. Dream that I bundle him up in my arms and carry him, as if he’s a young, sleeping child. We go to Denny’s and get a feed: eggs and mushrooms and hash browns and bacon and chili beans.
Don’t ask me why I should dream that, I don’t know what anything means.