Tuesday 24 September, 2013:
I arrive at school just before 8:30, and miss the staff briefing to show ‘Exhibit A’ to Slade. He confirms that it is, without doubt, a “baggie”, and though he lets out a couple of ‘ohhwell’s, he is very kind and patient.
“It’ll get sorted, Miss,” he tells me, his tone soothing my ruffled energies. “It’ll all get sorted, don’t worry Miss.”
We decide that my modus operandi should be to speak to Tau, on his own, as soon as possible after school. I’m to approach the matter calmly, and not accuse him of anything. “He’ll tell you, Miss,” Slade assures me. “If you just have a quiet talk, he’ll tell you what’s going on.”
“I’m not judging anyone for using – the boys included,” I say, and Slade nods, saying, “I know.”
“But if that’s a choice they make, doesn’t mean I have to have it at my place either.”
“Fair enough,” he says. “My aunty’s the same.”
“I’m not saying I like it, if Tau’s using,” I go on. “But at the same time, I don’t think he’s a P head. I just wanna have a say about what goes on at mine.”
I drop Ezekiel off after school, it’s started to squall by now, and a cold and driving rain has set in. As we walk to the car, he lifts up his shoes to show me their soles. They’re worn right through, and saturated.
“Thanks for the lift, Miss,” he says, with genuine feeling. “My feet are pretty wet, aye.” He laughs, but shivers in his school shirt (no jumper, no jacket).
“Sure are,” I say, just lightly.
When I get home, it’s close to 4. I feel discomforted, at the thought of bringing things up out of the blue, with Tau. But I know I have to do it. So I go out to the shed, chat to him and Raphael for a moment first (about a couple of inconsequential matters), and then say, “Hey, Tau… can I talk to you for a sec?”
“Yup Miss,” says Tau, looking at me curiously as he picks up on my tone. “Ok.” And he gets up and comes into the house with me.
Once inside, I murmur, “Just… hold on a minute, Tau.” He sits down, waiting with a slightly wary patience, and I flit into the bedroom and pull the tiny ziplock bag out of my handbag, where it’s been all day. This, earlier, has made Slade grin. “Faar Miss, if anyone saw that, they’d probably think you were using!” he tells me, with great amusement. “It’s still got a few bits in it, too.” He peers at it, adding, “You should lick it,” and we dissolve into laughter.
I come back into the lounge, and begin, kind of ‘formally’ I guess:
“I don’t really know how to start,” I tell Tau. “But I’ve been thinking about it all night, so I better tell you what’s up. First of all, I want you to know I’m not upset with you, and I’m not assuming anything, but… I found this in the bathroom last night.” And I hold up the bag.
“Oh,” is all Tau says. He actually looks quite surprised by my revelation.
“So, I’m not gonna go off at you or anything Tau, promise. But I do need to know what’s going on, is that algood?”
He nods, saying slowly, “I… probably left it there, I think. When I had a shower.”
“That’s what I thought,” I say. “I didn’t know what to do, when I saw it, and I felt kind of upset. So I decided to just sleep on it, talk to you about it when I felt calmer.” I don’t mention Slade, knowing he’ll be the very soul of discretion.
There’s a little pause, and Tau just looks at me steadily. He says, “I don’t really use that stuff at all, Miss. Hardly ever. I haven’t, for ages…”
“Then… why was it there?” I ask, wonderingly.
His eyes meet mine, without any guile. “I had some with Michael,” he says. “He wanted to shout me. We didn’t do it here though, it was when we went out Saturday. The bag must have stayed in my pocket that whole time, and I just found it when I was getting changed yesterday. That’s the truth, Miss. I’d never use that stuff around here. I don’t even… I don’t even really use, honest truth. It was just that one time, with Michael. Apart from that, I don’t touch it, not for ages… not since way back last year, with Mischa.”
I nod, and he goes on. “I don’t even know how to drive it, honest, Miss. Other people have to drive it for me. I don’t wanna learn, either. Don’t wanna get addicted, straight up.”
“That’s good, Tau,” I say. “That’s a relief.”
“Honest to who, Miss,” he assures me. “I won’t bring anything like that here. I didn’t even know I still had the bag on me.”
“And none of the boys, aye Tau.”
“None of them, promise. I’ve never let anyone use crack round here.”
“I believe you,” I say, and we give each other a little nod, which means – I trust you, and – I understand.
“And Tau… please don’t hold anything here, for anyone, kay?” I say, just to clarify this point.
“No, I won’t,” he says. “The only thing I ever keep here is just a few foils for myself.”
“And I’m algood with that, Tau,” I say. “You know I trust you on that one.”
“Yup, sweetas, Miss.”
We look at one another, knowing that this whole potentially difficult conversation has been navigated with respect and care on both sides. I think we’re both relieved, at that.
I mail Slade, and this is what he says:
its allgoods miss sweetas, allways better days, solid you sorted it all out, allgoods miss anytime
Wednesday 25 September:
I’m sad from the moment I wake up this morning. I don’t really know why. Tears just fall out of my eyes, no real reason for them. I try (honestly!) to imagine my ‘happy place’. I don’t know… I keep getting this mental image of lions at rest in the long grass, near a quiet lake. And then I just feel tired of being sad, and I get up and take a shower.
Michael’s car is blocking the driveway again. I get a surge of impatience when I see it – I stamp my foot, in the shower. But the feeling gradually recedes. By the time I leave for work, round 7:45, I’m calm, and just knock on the door of the sleepout to wake Michael up.
Tau comes to open the door, bleary-eyed. He’s left the keys to the house in the front door all night, which is just one more thing to frustrate me, when I see them there. But again, I sigh, telling myself they don’t do these things to annoy.
He’s apologetic, and so is Michael. “I didn’t mean to stay the night – I just fell asleep,” Michael tells me. “I’m sorry, Miss.”
“It’s ok,” I say. “I just need you to move the car, that’s all.”
All the same, the day hasn’t started off so great.
And then, at work I feel ugly, straight up. Bad hair day, just for starters. Itchy eyes, blotchy skin. The feeling lasts the whole day, pretty much. Driving home (after dropping Ezekiel off in Bream), I look in the visor mirror a couple times, and sigh.
Thursday 26 September:
Today, right when I need it, a little bit of gratitude kicks in. As I head off to school, it kind of occurs to me. An oblique thought, just something like – I’m grateful to live in this house. And then, I’m grateful that I earn enough to pay the rent. After that, things seem pretty simple. I look around and think, maaan, what am I fussing about? I got food in the cupboards, and everything’s paid up: the rent, the bills, the car. And I don’t have to depend on anyone for that.
Can you believe it, when I get to school, I still feel happy. I walk along thinking – ohh, I’m glad I’ve got a job.
All day long, I just keep getting these little waves of the same sensation, which feel like bubbles fizzing. Even when I look in the mirror, I don’t feel ugly anymore.
I’m grateful for the tiniest things. Noodles at lunch. Being able to run up the stairs. Email notifications on my phone.
After school, I go upstairs to the Faculty meeting, and I still feel fuckin grateful. I’m there till 4, collating grades with Mandy, like it’s no thing. Everything feels sweet and in tune.
Drop Ezekiel off, and I head home. Have a little talk to Tau, in the sleepout. He’s been resting, and I feel real tender towards him. I just think – Tau, I’m so glad you’re here right now. I’m glad it’s safe, and you know you’ve got somewhere to go. Doesn’t even matter about whether I’m special or not. It honestly doesn’t.
Then I go to the gym. Same deal. I feel like – ohh, wow I’m here.
When I get back home I make sausages and eggs for us, and watch Shortland St, and jam the laptop.
Friday 27 September:
Last day of Term 3. And Kepaoa’s court case, down the line. I text him to say good luck, though I don’t expect to hear back (and don’t).
School. I decide not to show a movie to 9 Social after all. I was going to, but it’s actually not such a great idea, on the last day of term. Phones and food and iPods will come out, feet will go up on the table – everyone thinking they’re the big boss. So, nope. We go to the library to do something on the computers instead.
At break, I go upstairs to make a coffee, and when I come back, Slade has popped out to have a cig, and Ezekiel’s sitting calmly on my laptop (on Facebook). I biff him off straight away, and banish him to a netbook at the far table.
Later on, Slade and I talk about it.
“I wondered if I should leave him on his own, lil shit…” says Slade.
“Nah you’re algood, he just needed to be told,” I say. “He’s alright.”
“Mmm, suppose so.”
We tsk a little bit at the absent Ezekiel. Probably wisely, he stays away for second break, though he comes back after school, and waits through the Faculty meeting (I take my laptop with me, this time).
When I get home, that holiday feeling kind of kicks in… almost. I still feel a kind of suffering patience, which I don’t want to feel anymore. I want to be over it; the craving to be special. I used to think I was over it. But really, I don’t know.
Some nights, if Tau doesn’t come inside, not even once, I imagine all sorts of things. Sometimes I imagine that he hates me. Sometimes I imagine that he resents me. Sometimes I think he feels sorry for me. And sometimes, I think (and this is more like the truth), that he doesn’t think about it one way or another.
One thing I’m pretty sure of, is that I’m not special anymore.
I’m going to be honest, it does sting. It really does. But it’s too easy to kind of nurse pain. Sometimes when you feel it real bad, you almost want to hold onto it. I don’t know why that’s so. Maybe because it lets you have a memory of happier times, which croons to you. Remembering when you were special to someone, letting your mind run over those feelings again and again, like you can experience them one more time. The pain is almost like a stroke; a touch… a hug. It’s bewildering, how it doesn’t help, but you want to feel it anyway.
But no matter how hard you focus on trying to re-experience that original impetus, in a sense it’s spent. Memories don’t produce better days, at least not on their own. They need to be put to the service of something new.
And (thanks, Slade) always better days.