Friday 11 April, 2014:
This morning I get a headache thinking about everything: money on my mind, and Tau’s documents to drop off at Winz before I hit school for the day… and I heard him wheezing and spitting his way through the night again. The residue of those cigs and buckies must be accumulating in his lungs, he admits he coughs up all this green shit.
I also have to keep spelling out the rules concerning visitors while I’m at work. By visitors, I mean that loose grouping of hangers-on who follow wherever they sense opportunities to be had. Stolen goods and crack pipes in the shed, and cars turning up all hours – I can’t just take a laissez-faire approach anymore. There’s a small list of people who are allowed on the premises: Raphael, Inia and Noa, Kost and Zion – and that’s all, apart from family members. I said this to the boys already, day they arrived here. But I’ll have to say it again.
Oh, I don’t want to get that certain look in my eye or be hounded by my own fearful thoughts. Nope, I need to make my decisions and handle my business. Because I know I’m doing the right thing. I just need to do it better, this time round – for myself as much as anyone else.
Later, I sit at my desk while 11 Social work on the research for their assessments. It’s completely quiet in here. But I’m really, really tired and I know I’m stressing out. Things just seem so complicated.
The most pressing issue is money. I figure if I’m not going to touch my (still paltry) savings, then I have to find a way to make the money come out right. Of course everything’s been more expensive lately. The doctors, and the prescriptions, and extra gas… and just food and stuff.
After work I persuade Tau to get his cough checked out. Sometimes it totally amazes me, the way he suddenly, quietly, acquiesces to things he’s previously insisted he could never do.
We’re at the medical centre for nearly two hours. They don’t even charge us, this time. Afterwards, Leroi says, “That doctor really cares. I can tell.”
But the whole place is like that too. The receptionist, who is just a a young woman, speaks to me with a frank and gentle curiosity that touches my heart. She says she can see that the boys trust me; she asks if I’m family.
I tell her no, but, “I may as well be, I guess,” I say, thinking about it.
“I understand,” she replies at once. “I grew up like that, we always had kids staying with us.”
It’s after 6 by the time we finish up, so I pick up Maccas for the boys while we wait at the pharmacy. Tau needs four different things: sleeping pills, and a couple of tablets for his chest (prednisone and antibiotics, I think), and something else, too. I assure him he’ll feel better once his meds kicks in.
I don’t want to waste money on getting takeout for myself tonight. But the boys need something, honest to who. They’re tired, hungry, patient… and broke. Tau’s money all budgeted for K2 and cigs; Leroi not paid yet (and not until next week at the earliest)
On the way home, they talk a bit about their dad, and how he hated going to the doctors too – and we start to laugh, thinking about it. It’s nice how they mention him in that reminiscing way now, sometimes.
Then I go to the gym, God knows how I find enough energy for it tonight. I do though, and come back and fix some leftover sausages, make a cuppa tea.
Tau and Leroi come in and out to get drinks, and I think how they feel safe here. It’s going to blow hot and cold, I know – and I still have to patrol the boundaries. But underlying that, I just see this tired, relieved look in their eyes. No reason to smash up the place, no scary vibes, none of those bad memories. Just a bit of space and a bit of rest, which is I guess the thing they need most, in some ways.
Tomorrow I’ll buy a couple things and make chicken curry the way Kuli makes it – with garlic and ginger, carrots and potatoes. Maybe some coriander too.
Saturday 12 April:
I don’t get coriander, I just make the chicken curry with carrots and potatoes, plus a lot of onion, ginger and garlic. And tomatoes – I remember that you can add crushed tomatoes.
Anyway, it turns out real good, just like Kuli’s, and the boys like it too – which makes me happy.
But there’s still a moment when I get a bit freaked out, over the money situation. Because Tau asks me if Leroi can borrow forty dollars until he gets paid.
Now Leroi’s pretty useless with money, let’s be honest. And so it throws me. Not least because I’d be touching my savings, to give it to him. So I hesitate, then I tell him, “Um… the thing is, Tau – I get paid fortnightly, and I’d be taking it out of my savings.”
“Algood if not, Miss,” Tau says, in a gently resigned way.
But I get a pit of anxiety in my chest, in that same old place.
“It’s not that I don’t want to,” I go on. “But I have a budget for everyday stuff, too – I got the money there, but it’s in my savings. And I try not to take it out, even for myself.” Then I added, “Not unless it’s really important, I mean. And… well, Leroi’s spent a bit of money on stupid shit, before.”
“Yeah, he has,” agrees Tau. “But this is for K2. We’re out – and I’ve run out of money. It was me who said Leroi should get it sometimes, so I can save some of my money.”
“Yeah, I get you,” I say, and I feel better for knowing Tau is being honest with me. “I know you guys need it and all, it’s just that… it’s a pretty expensive habit.”
“Hard,” Tau says, and I can tell he’s alright with me talking about it this way. So I continue, “Tau, if you don’t mind me asking. How much do you reckon it costs you, per day? I’m not trying be judgmental or anything – I just don’t have a clue.”
“About sixty bucks a day,” he tells me.
“Sixty!” I can’t help saying. “Fuuck, Tau – that’s a lot of money.”
“I know,” he nods.
“Is it really sixty?” I murmur, rhetorically. And then, “It’s ok Tau, I know you guys need it and all. I’ll give you the money, it’s alright.”
“Thanks, Miss,” he says.
So I go take out the money, and off we go to the shop to get the K2. On the way back, I just say, “Tau, you know I really care about you, right. But… this is something that I wouldn’t do for most people. I just want you to know that.”
He nods, and I think he understands the way I mean it.
“It’s alright, and I’m not judging,” I say. “When Leroi starts getting paid though, just make sure he saves some for the other stuff you two need, make sure you both do, huh.”
“I want to cut back on our K2,” Tau says, quietly. “I just… it’s hard, that’s all.”
“Yeah, I know,” I say. “It’s not easy, and like I said – I’m not judging. I know you’re doing what you got to do, right now.”
It’s true – and then, it’s also true that 400-plus a week is a lot of money to be spending on synthetic cannabis. But I guess some contradictions you just have to live with.