Back-up

Wednesday 26 March, 2014:

Michael and I do the online app for his youth payment, it doesn’t take long.

I drop him off in Carthill again. On the way he asks if he can loan twenty dollars, so I stop at the ATM in Municipal.

I just keep thinking about his mum, and how it’s been for Michael lately. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel for the guy. I’m not caught up in it – but I’m not heartless either.

 

Friday 28 March:

Chloe covers my classes until interval – because I’m prioritizing Tau this morning.

When he hops in the car, he tells me he couldn’t get to sleep until 5 am. He didn’t have smokes or a sesh, and so he just paced up and down the hall all night. “Leroi called out to me a few times – are you alright bro?” he says. Then he sighs: “Anything’s better than just lying there.”

So the first thing we do is get out the emergency cig. My two puffs, and the rest is Tau’s. He looks so relieved. “Fuuck… lucky,” he says, after a few deep breaths. “I needed that.” And I see him get a bit calmer right on the spot.

“I’ll get you a sesh too,” I tell him, not fussing about it at all. “After the doctor’s though, k?”

“Aww… I won’t say no,” Tau replies. “Thanks for that, Miss.”

“Algood,” I say.

 

Then we go to the medical centre. I stay out in the waiting room, while Tau mutters a last: “I hate doctors…” over his shoulder at me when his name gets called.

“I know,” I tell him. “But you’re gonna be fine. Just remember I’m out here if you need anything.”

I cross my fingers that he’ll be ok though. We’ve already gone over the paperwork in the car; Tau memorizes the unfamiliar words with care. He needs a medical certificate, and two pages of his Winz form filled out and signed. And he’s going to ask for sleeping pills, too – this is my idea, after Tau tells me how he spends every night miserably tired and awake.

A few minutes later, the medical and admin staff have their morning karakia, handing out folders and directing everyone in the waiting room to #19, which is ‘He Honore he Kororia’. They sing this hymn before praying for the health of everyone who comes in today. It touches my heart very much.

 

After a while, Tau comes striding out with his head up: definitely a good sign.

“Oh – how did it go?” I ask him.

“Algood,” Tau tells me at once. He grins, with a bit of pride. “Maan, I’ve never done anything like that before!” he says, shaking his head in surprise at himself.

“I know…” I coo. “You did it!”

He hands me the papers: “What do I do with these?”

“Umm…”, I take a look. There’s a medical certificate, plus a prescription and a receipt. “Ohh, Tau, you’ve got everything sorted,” I say, with great pride. “You just have to take this to the pharmacy, and…”

“The pharmacy,” Tau repeats, sounding it out. “What’s that again, Miss?” he asks, with no self-consciousness at all.

“Where you pick up the stuff from – the sleeping pills and that.”

I love the way Tau isn’t shy to ask me things like this. It’s like there’s a big depth of trust between us that never goes away, no matter what ever’s happened.

 

While we’re waiting for the pills, we head over to the ATM machine. I take 60 dollars out and give it to him, saying, “You go pick up your bits and pieces, I’ll go get the pills – and I’ll meet you back at the car.”

“Ok, Miss, are you sure?” checks Tau, referring to the money, but also taking it quite simply and unprotestingly.

“Yup,” I tell him. “You just get what you need.”

 

We meet back at the car, me with the pills and Tau with his sesh and his cigs.

“What pills did I get, Miss?” he asks me mildly. “Fuck, I’m happy I got sleeping pills.” He looks tired as.

“Me too,” I say, patting his very weary shoulder. “I’m so glad you’re going to get some sleep, Tau.”

Of course we can’t see anyone at Winz today, but we get two appointments booked. The first one is Monday afternoon, which poses no problem. The second is Thursday morning, 8:30. Once again, I’m bound to be late to school, but Tau’s need is greater right now, I decide.

 

Last stop is the bank – Tau needs a two-week bank statement to bring with him on Monday, stamped and all the rest of it. But he doesn’t have his card with him (neither of us knew he was going to need it), and the lady on the counter wants photo ID…

“He doesn’t have photo ID,” I tell her sweetly.

“Well he must have photo ID with him, if he doesn’t have his card,” she replies. She’s obviously not a very flexible person, and I see Tau’s face kind of set, and he starts to ‘hover’ at my side, which is a well-known warning sign (to me – not to her of course).

“He has his birth certificate,” I say, and Tau passes it over impassively.

“No… he needs photo ID,” she reiterates. “Birth certificate is for children… he must have photo ID. He can get the 18+ card, he just needs to apply at the Post Shop.”

“Well that takes a few weeks,” I say, remaining very polite. “And it costs money – so he can’t apply for one till after he gets paid.” I add: “We need the statement for Winz.”

“Then give me your customer number,” she says to Tau, dubiously. This is the number on his ATM card – and of course he doesn’t know it – who does? But as luck would have it, I have the dang number written down on a little piece of paper in my wallet, and I bring it forth triumphantly.

Tau almost manages a smile, but only because I’ve produced the goods. I can see he wants to punch the wall and walk out, and so I just keep up the patter (good trick that I’ve learned after many excursions with Tau and Kepaoa). I blather on pleasantly, giving her no chance to demur or change her mind –  all the while keeping a weather eye on Tau.

I’ve already got my back-up strategy in mind (this always helps me maintain an air of calm and certainty). Plan B is to go see one of the personal bankers, who I met while doing my own paperwork one time.

But it never comes to that. The woman decides to give Tau the statement after all, despite him not being able to answer most of the security questions (‘When did you open your account?’ and the like. And again – who would know that kind of thing?)

I thank her (accepting the situation for what it’s worth) and Tau turns on his heel and marches out. When we hit the shops, he breathes a long, irritable sigh – not quite relief yet, and says: “Fuuuck, Miss, I wanted to punch that bitch.”

“I know you did,” I say, unable not to laugh. “You handled it real good, Tau.”

“I almost yelled at her,” he mutters. “Fuck, what a bitch.”

“Yeah, she was useless,” I agree. “But you’ll always get a few people like that, and the thing is, if they’ve got something you want – you just have to handle them.” I think about this, and say, “I learned that the hard way,” and he grins at me.

But it’s true. I think of Winz, and the TI, and Municipal College – and my run-ins with Karys and the Board. Ohh, I’ve learned a lot about this kind of  thing.

 

Anyway, Tau gets to go back home now. He looks so glad to have it sorted for the day. We talk all the way to Rutherford Ave, about this and that – he tells me more about the counselling, and how Sheree’s social worker’s been helping him too.

We pull up in the driveway, and Tau throws his arms around me saying, “Thanks heaps for all that Miss.”

“It’s a pleasure,” I tell him, meaning it. “You just stay safe, look after yourself, and have a good weekend. And if there’s anything you need, just get in touch.”

“I will,” he says

Then I go back to sch, and apologize to Chloe for the delay… and next week I’m going to have to cover my classes again, but I’ll figure it out.

 

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