Rogue energies

Friday 26 September, 2014:

Kendrick Lamar through the speakers, news on TV, books and lappy out on the kitchen table. I like mornings; going to work and shit.

Get home again to find three DVDs and a note on the table: ‘Miss will you be able to drop these dvd’s off before you go gym plez. MISS wel B N CLANCY THANKS MISS 🙂 an miss we can’t find the pad locks’.

I carry out this request, then hit the gym. Come back and warm up some leftover chicken curry and rice, which has evidently been mined for its chicken, and is now almost vegetarian.

 

Around 10, Tau texts to see if I can pick them up, they’ll start walking along Carthill Rd. I go collect them and we head back via the shops at Municipal, where Tau does a long and complicated tally of his finances before ordering chicken and chips. They want to buy me takeout as well, and though I keep on explaining I’ve already eaten, this only serves to mystify them (despite the lateness of the hour) and intensify their efforts at persuading me otherwise.

I can’t help but laugh a little bit, despite my worry at their overall state. Both of them are so drunk that it isn’t really funny at all, stumbling around and “m’bro’ing” everyone out on the street.

 

Back in the car, I’m barely able to engage in the general conversation. I’m just trying to stay one step ahead (thinking of the potential for things go awry) – and I feel slightly resentful, too. Not at coming out to pick them up, but at having to absorb all these rogue energies. I can’t tell them they’re being dicks, even in jest. Tau and Leroi wouldn’t cope with that right now. It would just get them all upset, which is not the way to roll with drunk people.

So I put up with them going on fulsomely about everyone and everything, all the way home. I’m quiet and, I guess, reserved – which only makes them more garrulous in their approach; trying to make me happy, I think.

 

The minute we get home, Tau realizes he forgot to pick up a foil (which he already paid Kost for) and so out we go to Clancy again – Leroi stays back to make a start on the takeaways. And as soon as Tau’s on his own with me, everything just comes tumbling out. Because he’s so drunk, there is almost no caution in his approach. I can see (and he even says at one point) that he trusts me enough to talk about certain things. So I can’t keep running that ‘polite’ strategy anymore, holding the vibe at arm’s length.

“Well, it’s good you want to tell me, Tau,” I say.” But I’d listen anytime. You don’t have to get drunk first.”

“It’s hard to talk about it,” Tau says. “I don’t like saying things to people.” He thinks about this and reconsiders his words. “Except you, Miss,” he clarifies.

 

So… all the way to Clancy and back again, Tau talks. First, about the way he wrestles with his conscience. It makes me think of that ‘two wolves’ story, maybe one day I’ll show it to him.

Next he tells me he had another bad day at course today. He and Leroi left early and went home, because Tau was getting aggro with everyone all day long.

“It’s ok, Tau,” I tell him. “If that’s how you were feeling, then you did the right thing going home early.”

And he looks momentarily soothed by this.

 

Then he confesses he almost hit Maxwell – it was at their last counselling session, when Max mentioned Sheree.

“I know my mum’s doing dumb stuff,” Tau says in frustration. “I know she’s doing the wrong things – no-one has to tell me that, I can see it for myself. I

I nod and he goes on: “I wanted to just hook him. But I didn’t – cos we’re getting paid more to go to counselling.”

“That’s not the only reason,” I suggest.

“Yeah, I know,” Tau agrees reluctantly. He shakes his head, saying, “Max’s taught me heaps. And… I like him. I couldn’t hit him – but I did want to.”

“It’s not unexpected though, Tau,” I say. “Counselling can bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings. Honestly, Max wouldn’t have been surprised if you felt upset. I’m sure he expected it, and knew what to do.

“I think he felt… scared, for a second,” Tau says. He sounds guilty at the thought. “I think that’s why we finished the session early. He just went all quiet, and then he said, ‘Ok, let’s wind this up.’”

“Yup,” I say, getting it. “That makes sense. But, the thing is, Tau – you didn’t hit him. You did the right thing, and you got through it. I’m glad you’ve told me.”

Tau manages a smile, and I think I understand now why Max seemed more reticent than normal last Sunday, when I went to get those forms signed. He was almost… a touch abrupt when talking about Tau.

 

By the time we get back, Tau has a slightly jolty expression of relief, to have gotten at least some of these worries off his chest. I think he’s about to say more, too – but for the fact that Leroi arrives straight out of the sleepout, to celebrate the arrival of the foil.

“You both need a sesh,” I sigh. “Go on then, and I’ll go make a cuppa tea.”

They laugh, tickled by this. “Cuppa tea…” echoes Leroi. “Should have a sesh too, Miss.”

“Hell no,” I tell them. “Someone has to stay straight, round here.”

“Haard.”

 

I come back out with my tea, and we talk, Tau circles back and forth, sometimes bestowing a hug upon me as he completes each tour of the sleepout. “I don’t know how to explain it Miss… I just don’t know how to explain it,” he repeats.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“When I see my family, and they say, oh we’re here for you, your family’s here for you, I feel like telling them – that’s nothing compared to this.” He looks at me and shook his head. “I can’t explain it Miss, I don’t know how to say it. But I just don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have anywhere to go; if I didn’t have you, didn’t have… this.” He holds one arm up to demonstrate, then embraces me, saying, “I love you like family, Miss.”

“Me too, Tau,” I tell him. “I’m here for you through thick and thin.”

“If I was rich…” Tau begins again, dreamily. “If I won Lotto, I’d give you a million dollars Miss, straight up.”

Personal

Wednesday 16 July, 2014:

Well, I’m employed (pending the standard reference checks). The interview at the agency goes fine – the manager makes me a cup of tea and we just chat.

And the idea of relief teaching, or for a while anyway, doesn’t irk me the way a permanent position would. I’m selling my skills only – like a mercenary – and not my values.

 

This evening Tau and Leroi are drinking. Admittedly it’s just an eight pack of Cody’s, and Tau wants to discuss it with me first – which I appreciate. But still, the potential for disturbance exists; no point in denying it. I guess I’m trying to ‘minimize harm’, as Vailea Poe once put it, by agreeing they can have a drink in the sleepout. Because the alternative (which is also discussed, and rejected) is to drink round at their uncle’s, with Sheree. Tau and Leroi don’t like that idea any more than I do.

But when Tau says they ‘promise’ to be good, I just sigh to myself.

“You can’t really promise that, Tau.” I say. “No-one can. Oh, I know you mean it, and I’m happy we’re even talking about it at all. But…” and then, I actually do sigh, and so does Tau. “It’s just that with alcohol there aren’t any guarantees,” I finish.

The agreement is that it’s just the two of them – definitely not Sheree, and no-one else either.  That’s the least-risk scenario I can think of. I just hope they don’t finish up their four cans and want more. Oh, that’s a possibility, I know it. They can promise whatever they want, but they can’t control it past a certain point.

I’m trying pretty damn hard here, and sometimes I think I’m doing shit all wrong – but at the same time it’s not simple. It never seems to get any simpler; maybe it never will.

 

Tau and Leroi do keep to their word, tonight. They have their four cans each (it takes them a whole three hours), and then want to go get DVD’s. On the way to Video Ezy, Tau tells me that they’ve already turned down an invite to drink round at Clancy.

“We just told the boys we wanted to stay here tonight,” Tau informs me, without dismay.

“But was it hard to say no?” I ask.

“Not really,” Tau says. “I just tell myself, parties and shit’ll still be there. They’re not going anywhere.”

“Wow,” I say. “Tau – listen to you.”

“Hah, I know,” he admits. “It actually feels pretty good to think like this. I’ve never done it before, ever.” He mulls it over some more and concludes, “Yeah, I like having strategies, nowadays.”

 

Tau also tells me he’s been having ‘good dreams’ about his dad, “Where we’re all running around and happy and stuff,” he says. Not like the nightmares he used to have a few months back.

“I’m sure your dad’s watching over you,” I say, and Tau smiles. “Bet he’s sorted his shit out, up there.”

“Hard,” says Tau, in a contemplative way.

 

Something occurs to me, and “Tau?” I say, merely touching on the idea. “Have you ever talked to Maxwell about… have you ever told him about Robbie?”

“Nope,” Tau replies with a little sigh. “I never have. But I think about him a lot, think about that cunt at least once every day. And every time I do, wherever I am… I just do a quick Cipher tag, just with my finger.”

“True,” I say, quietly affirming him. “But you know, Tau, it might be a good idea to mention it to Max one day – it just might help to talk about all that stuff, sometime.”

“Haard,” says Tau again, and I can tell he isn’t ruling out the idea.

 

Friday 18 July

There’s a barbecue at Aunty Yvette’s, and I’ve just dropped the boys off there (straight from counselling – which bodes well, I’m hoping).

But of course they’re going to be drinking again. Even though Tau assures me it won’t be a late night.

“Just pace yourselves,” I tell them, as they hop out of the car, each with their box.

“We will,” says Tau, very sincerely.

 

I go home and sit, just think-think-thinking. I look at some job ads, and think some more, and get that shackled feeling I always get on reading them – even those that sound as if they should be right on target. Like the one that just came through my inbox, for a ‘Personal Advisor’ at a not-for-profit youth organization:

Based in our Waitakere office, your key competencies will include:

  • experience in working with young people
  • A sound knowledge of community resources and how to access information and resources relating to education, employment, housing and health services
  • Experience working with a range of cultures
  • Experience developing and facilitating the achievement of goals for young people with complex behavioral and support needs
  • Previous high level conflict resolution experience
  • Ability to critically analyse and problem solve
  • Ability to build strong relationships with peers and stakeholders
  • Hold a full and clean drivers licence

Apart from the fact that it’s way out west – it should be the perfect job for me. I mean, I have every single one of those key competencies, don’t I?

 

Well yes, but here’s the problem:

First, I’m not comfortable making an explicit or even tacit commitment to institutional values. Even when they come cloaked in words like Aroha and Whanaungatanga – the education system being a case in point.

Second, I’m not very good at working with people generically (a ‘caseload’ – or even a tutor group, for that matter), or categorically (‘youth who are at risk of poor outcomes’).

Third, I’m trying to decrease the amount of formal and predefined structure in my day, not increase it. I want structure, for sure. But I want the pattern to come from me: I want to be autonomous.

It interests me, this realization gradually dawning in my mind – that I don’t even want any of the jobs I’ve been applying for. And I keep coming back to the same question: Why do I apply for them at all? Is it because I think I’m not entitled to have the relationships I want? Should I accept a substitute version, filtered through some institution?

 

I consider what I did “today.” Though it could be any day, really.

Today, I did a whole lot of things that could be translated into those key competencies. I ‘worked with young people’ and ‘accessed information and resources relating to education, employment, housing and health services.’ I ‘worked with a a range of cultures’ and ‘developed and facilitated the achievement of goals for young people with complex behavioral and support needs.’ I showed ‘the ability to critically analyse and problem solve.’  I ‘built strong relationships with peers and stakeholders’.  I even held my ‘full and clean drivers licence’.

But none of it was a key competency at all. None of it was as part of a contract to any institution whatsoever. All of it was personal; the only thing that mattered was that it was a sincere and personal commitment to a few people I love and care for.

 

Saturday 19 July:

Tau rings. They’re still at Aunty Yvette’s, and he sounds alright; it seems like they’re ok. But I can’t help but wonder if there’s an additional day of celebrating going on for Scott’s birthday. Well, nothing I can do about it if there is.

Around 8:30pm, a car pulls up, and the boys get out and wave a bleary goodbye to someone. Turns out I was right – they’ve been drinking all day. I feel… uncomfortable, I guess. Things seem more like the way they used to be, which is something I never, ever want to see repeated.

Leroi comes straight in and says that Tau is going to throw up; he needs a bowl.  In Leroi’s opinion it isn’t so much from the drinking as from the big sesh they had on top of it.

I look around and find a suitable bowl. “I’ll wash it after,” Leroi tells me, which kind of makes me laugh – but only kind of. Because I don’t really feel like talking. Leroi’s still a bit drunk; he asks how my day’s been going at least three times. I reply politely and automatically. Meanwhile my mind’s going down an old track of stressing about money, while feeling resentful that they can drink for two days straight like it’s no big deal.

 

All night I watch dumb stuff on TV (truly, stuff I never watch; mostly interchangeable crime dramas), and just try to tune out. I doze awkwardly on the couch until I get cold. Then I just get up and go to bed – which is at least more comfortable.

But comfortable is not the right word to describe this feeling in my heart. It’s like how I ‘always’ feel anyway, but writ large. Scale factor 2 (at least).

Tick and frickin tock. Money, school, trying to write, trying to support the boys, not having a blueprint for how to do things without getting hustled. Oh, I wish I knew how to get calm and stay calm about it.

Really, it’s my mind which is difficult to harness. ‘Those of us with minds that are strong and wild’… where did I read that, long ago? I remember thinking of Tau – and then of myself too.

It’s not a bad thing, to have a mind that’s like that. But sometimes it’s like trying to catch a runaway horse.

 

Sunday 20 July

Pump class calms me down a bit – and I chuck extra weights on the bar for squats and biceps. Actually I work really hard for the whole entire time.

Afterwards I go take some cash out and get a pie at Municipal. There’s a guy sitting on the footpath asking for spare change, and I say to him, “Sorry, not today,” as I go past.

“Have a nice day anyway,” he says.

“Thanks,” I reply.

Then, “Have you been doing some fitness this morning?” he enquires, conversationally.

“Yup,” I say, pausing for a moment.

“Thought so, I can tell you been doing fitness.” He adds, “You look healthy.”

For some reason it touches my heart a little bit, and on the way back from the bakery I give him five bucks out of my wallet. Hey, I think – I can still do what I want with my money. The thought gives me a quick moment of something like joy

Right then I see a little kid tug on her mum’s arm and point to the same guy. The mum pulls her daughter away into a shop, saying as she does so, “He looks like a strong young man, he could be out working…”

Whatever, I guess so. And yet it’s hardly ever that simple either.

Normal

Tuesday 1 July, 2014:

I leave fifty dollars on the table when I go to work, with a note, so Tau knows to get a taxi to the doctor’s, and to use the rest to pay for the bill and the meds. It’s cold and pouring with rain, but I’m still hoping he’ll go get checked out.

Later he texts me to say he went. It turns out he hasn’t broken his wrist. But it’s badly sprained, and he needs antibiotics for the gouges on his legs.

 

“Told the doctor I fell down the stairs,” Tau says, implacably.

“Did he believe you?”

“Don’t think so…” and we start to laugh.

 

Thursday 3 July:

This morning Tau finds his beni has been chopped by half. And I say, just to myself: Oh, what the fuck do I know about anything? What am I going to do about anything?

I ring Sarsha at Work and Income. Her calm voice just scratches at my thin veneer of equilibrium even more, and I feel myself start to sniff, and my eyes drip with tears which I brush away. There seems so little point in trying to explain. Our call finishes on a semi-positive note; she suggests I bring Tau into the office this afternoon – I say I’ll try, after counselling.

I go out to convey the news to Tau. “Yup, algood,” he says in a resigned and weary tone.

But algood it is not. I feel so tired, and so little regarded in any of the morning’s events, that a big wave of unfairness starts to topple down upon me. My eyes swim again, and I mutter to the boys, “Ok then.”

There’s silence. And so I start over again, as a few tears splash down. “I’m trying really hard here,” I say. Then I swallow, and add, “I know it’s hard for you, I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s not easy for me either. I’m doing what I can to help – and I think you should appreciate it a little more.”  Then I shut the door and leave.

 

Inside, I expect that soon I’ll hear footsteps on the drive: Tau and Leroi taking off. Either that, or the sleepout being firmly bolted from the inside.

But the boys astound me by neither fleeing nor battening down the hatches. Instead, they materialize at the French doors, looking at me with concern and sympathy.

“We’re really sorry, Miss,” Tau begins.

“We didn’t mean to stress you out,” says Leroi.

“We appreciate everything you do to help us,” Tau goes on. He looks not the least bit likely to run away, and his eyes convey patience and truthfulness. Leroi nods, saying, “You’re the only person who does help, straight up Miss.”

“You’ve done more than our own family,” Tau says.

“And it means a lot to us,” adds Leroi. “This is the place where we feel most relaxed, and safe.”

“Hard, it’s the only place we feel relaxed,” Tau tells me. He adds simply, “It’s the only place we got.”

It makes me sniff back tears all over again.

 

Later on, Tau and I sit in the car and share a ciggie (my two puffs) after his counselling session. We’re waiting for Leroi – it’s his very first time seeing Maxwell today.

“Sometimes I just want to give up, Miss,” Tau murmurs. “It’s so hard… sometimes it feels like it’s too hard. Max acts like it’s easy or something.”

I put my arm around him, and we just sit a while. “Don’t give up, Tau,” I tell him. “It’s going to work out, it is.”

 

Friday 11 July:

Sarsha has given Tau some paperwork to complete, in order to get his benefit reinstated. There’s one document Max needs to sign as well – it’s for the disability allowance. I phone him, and he says he’s between clients from 1:30 till 2; he’ll see me then.

When I get there, we sit down at a table in his waiting room, and to my surprise the first thing he wants to talk about is his meeting with Leroi yesterday. He explains that while he can’t breach confidentiality – Leroi has given him permission to disclose certain things to me.

Turns out Leroi is very depressed. “He broke down and cried,” Max says. “He told me that all he’s ever wanted is a normal family who do normal things, like… just come home and watch TV together.”

It affects me so much, to think of how modest Leroi’s wishes are, and how little they’ve been fulfilled over the years.

 

I tell Max what I know of the boys’ family life, round at Fitzroy. “Leroi got a lot of hidings,” I say. “Tau used to come to school and tell me about it. Oh, he got hidings too, but he’d take off and run away. Leroi wouldn’t, or couldn’t.”

“So Leroi just stayed and took the bash?”

“Yes, Tau was better at removing himself from the situation, though of course that caused other problems for him…”  I thought of the fourteen  year old Tau, sleeping in the park with P addicts, and the seventeen year old Tau, starving and robbing strangers on the street, his appendix already painful and festering.  And I didn’t say any of this stuff, and I thought – I want to tell it, sometime. I just don’t know how yet.

 

Then Max asks how Tau and Leroi are coping at my place. I tell him they’re doing ok – though I hardly know what else to say about it. I don’t know how to explain things, without sounding like I’m some professional support person. So I go on: “I’m sure it’s hard for them, doing things differently from the way they’ve always known. But it’s quite amazing that they’re willing to stay somewhere else at all, to give it a try. I think it’s surprised everyone in their family.”

“You’re an amazing woman,” says Max, and I let these words touch my heart a little bit, and then at the same time I think – well obviously I’m not. But that feels ok too, I don’t think badly of myself for it. Because it isn’t easy to do any of this stuff, and I know I try.

 

Later, it all keeps going round and round in my head. From time to time I think of Kepaoa, too. Huh? I think. You forgot about me? It seems almost incomprehensible, for a moment. And then I just shrug and accept it one more time.

Further than school can go

Friday 9 May, 2014:

This morning, Tau tells me – with some pride – that they only had three cans each. Once they started drinking, they didn’t feel like it, so they just went to sleep. He adds that today they’re doing ok, even with the thought of no K2.

But when I get home after work, Sheree’s there. And Sheree’s the one who’s really suffering the worst effects of this involuntary substance withdrawal. She’s been crying all night and all day, according to Tau.

 

“I think I need some happy pills,” she says, trying to joke about it. We’re sitting out on the deck, in the sun. “Last night was so stressful, a couple of times I started feeling like I might hurt myself.”

“I told mum she should go doctor,” Tau puts in. “We were gonna go earlier, but then it didn’t happen.”

“That’s a good idea though – you didn’t want to go?” I ask Sheree, but gently.

“I chickened out,” she tells me, with a grimace. “Didn’t know what to say there. And I didn’t have any money, so I was too shy.”

“We walked all the way there,” says Leroi. “And then we just came back here.”

“I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded about the money,” I say. “They’re pretty good round there. I think they would just let you pay later.”

Tau nods, saying, “Haard,” and then, “You should have gone, mum.”

“You still could,” I suggest. “We could go round there now, want to go?”

Sheree considers this, before shaking her head, saying, “I want to… I think I need to. But I’m shy of talking to them about this stuff.”

“They’re alright though, aye Tau,” I say, and he agrees straight away: “Yeah, they’re algood there.”

“See…” I coax Sheree. “Even Tau doesn’t mind going to the doctor nowadays.”

This actually makes her laugh.

“I’ll come in with you,” offers Tau. “If you go, I’ll take you in.”

“Oh!” says everyone, in surprise. I think it’s Leroi who adds, quietly, “Faar, look at you, Tau.”

Tau grins.

“I can’t believe it’s Tau, sometimes, talking like that,” Sheree says. And with that, she agrees to go.

 

There’s a 45 minute wait at the doctor’s, and the last thing I want is to interfere, especially with Tau’s excellent support of his mum. So I say, “Ok guys, I’ll come back later. Just text me when you’re done.”

“Ok,” Sheree says.

But as I leave, Tau follows me out, and says, hesitantly, “Do you gotta do something, Miss?”

“Um…” I decide to be honest. “Well, I can just go look around Municipal for a bit. I don’t want to bum your mum out, Tau. It’s hard enough for her to come here, she doesn’t need me getting in the way.”

“No,” Tau says. “I think mum feels better with you staying. I think she likes knowing you’re out here.”

“Oh,” I reply, and then, “But what about you, Tau? I don’t want to take over when you got it all under control.”

“No, Miss,” he says. “I want you to stay too… I mean if you don’t gotta do something else.”

“All sweet,” I say, and then, “You’re doing so awesome today Tau, everyone’s really proud of you.”

“Thanks, Miss,” says Tau, accepting this compliment very graciously.

“So… how does it feel, to be straight and sober for a whole day?” I ask, then.

“It feels… pretty good, actually!” says Tau, which stupefies the both of us into silence for a moment, then we just burst out laughing.

“But seriously, Tau,” I tell him. “Can you hear yourself?”

“I know,” he says, with a bit of amazement at his own behavior. He adds, “It’s all thanks to Maxwell – he’s got heaps of good tips.”

“He’s been awesome,” I agree. “And so have you.”

 

When Tau and Sheree come out of the consulting room, “Our whole family’s going to see the counsellor in two weeks,” announces Tau. “And the doctor said it was good to see me looking better… and he gave mum sleeping pills, and some other pills.”

“My happy pills!” says Sheree triumphantly. She hands the prescription over at the pharmacy counter, and gives me a pleased, kind of beady-eyed look, which for some reason makes me giggle. And then we just put our arms round one another and hug, standing there for a moment.

 

Later, I remember what Tau said about Maxwell. There’s a little part of me that just whispers, inwardly, “Oh, what about me.”  Honestly, I’m not proud of it. But I want to tell the truth right now: part of me’s envious. Envious of people who can do more, just… help more. Maxwell gives Tau his attention for one hour a week, at a cost of $150 (to someone: the government, I guess, or Vailea’s agency) – and I reckon that alone helps more than anything I do. I can put in all the hours god sends, and really, what do I do? I don’t know the answer to that – and so today I feel a little bit jealous, of Maxwell, and Vailea; the people who ‘know what’ and ‘know how’. They’re like the impact players on a sports team; the ones who get on the field and change things up straight away.

 

Saturday 10 May:

This evening Mia picks me up, we’re going to the movies. When she arrives, I’m in the sleepout with the boys, and so I ask them if they want to come out and meet her.

Tau just shakes his head slowly, saying first, uncertainly, “Oh nah,” and then, with a very sorrowful and bashful look in his eye, “I can’t, Miss… too shy.” He kind of breathes out the last word, and I see he’s tremendously anxious at the thought.

Leroi gives me the same quietly petrified look. He shakes his head too, and his eyes roll a bit.

“Sorry, Miss,” Tau says imploringly. “We just…”

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” I tell them at once. “I don’t expect…” And before I even finish my sentence, they look at me with great relief, and I go on, “It’s ok, you guys. I’m not going to make you do anything you can’t do.

“Thanks, Miss,” Tau murmurs. I can see he knows I mean it. Meanwhile, Leroi has pulled the blanket over his head with fright. I feel this big huge compassion in my heart for Leroi. I haven’t seen him like this for a long time. “I’m shy…” I hear him kind of whimper, under the purple blanket.

“Don’t worry, it’s sweet as,” I soothe. “It’s ok, Leroi.”

 

So I go out to Mia, and just say quietly, “I said to come out, but they’re too shy to meet you.”

Mia looks towards the closed door of the sleepout, a bit wonderingly.

“They’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” I tell her quietly.

“What kind of stuff?” she asks..

“Um, their dad,” I begin. He committed suicide, a couple of months ago. And since then, they’ve had some… issues.” I add, frankly, “Actually there were already some issues before that, but now there’s even more.”

She nods.

“Anyway,” I finish. “They’re just really shy, with people they don’t know. It’d be cool if they came out to meet you – but they aren’t ready for that yet, I guess.”

“That’s ok,” she says.

I feel my energy settle, because everyone has been honest. I’m relieved too – relieved that I’m not just a spinny bitch, and that there really are reasons why I’ve been reluctant to have my friends and family round, and that I’ve read it right, in a way. Not that things can’t change. But it’s got to be a slow, very gradual process.

I’ve beat myself up over this for literally years, ever since Tau came to stay the first time. Telling myself how I should just sort shit out and stuff. But it’s taken me this long to see that the complications are genuine, and not just all in my head. It’s like a lightbulb switches on, when I see Leroi pull the blanket over his head.

 

And suddenly it seems my life is getting more integrated, in a way. What I mean by that is I’m working out how to combine things, or at least start to. But being ‘a teacher’ is way over there, out on a limb. It can’t be combined with anything that’s meaningful to me (except, currently, earning money).

I’ve learned a lot, not from teaching exactly, but from figuring out how to operate within it; do something of my own, despite all the constraints. Everything I’ve needed has been in some way scratched (painfully, at times) out of it, like a means of inscribing my own movement in the world, leaving signs there for those who can read them. I think of how Tau trudged to school and waited for me in the car park – he’d already been taken off the roll. I remember how he was limping. His heavy, patient eyes, as he told me, “I’ve got nowhere to go.” And I think I knew then that whatever I could create, out of whatever I could lay my hands to, I’d share it.

All of that; everything I’ve done and tried to do, it’s taken me further than school can go. I’ll never do graff at MC again, I know it. I don’t think I’ll ever have real allies there again, either. Everything’s shifted outwards, and moved on, and it’s taking me in a whole new direction too – I just haven’t figured out exactly what it is.

 

My ship

Saturday 3 May, 2014:

Early morning and the fridge is bare, apart from margarine and one almost empty bottle of tomato sauce. I go grocery shopping and spend $122. This is more than I’ve spent in so long that I can’t remember!

Around 11 I take Tau (accompanied by Leroi once again) to counselling. Just as an aside, it amuses me how gangsta Leroi looks nowadays. He’s got this ‘particular’ beanie, which when he wears it, seems to transform him into the biggest hoodlum on the block. And I’m talking Municipal – so I can only imagine how he appears to the citizens of Remuera (where Maxwell has his practice).

I glance at him in the rear view mirror, and can’t help laughing as Leroi smiles at me and says, “I’m gonna read some more of those stories in the waiting room today.”

 

On the way back, Tau’s just tumbling out with all the things he’s learnt. He produces a little card that Maxwell’s written on the back of. It says:

I feel..

when..

I would prefer..

“It’s this way I’m learning to stop myself getting angry so fast,” Tau tells me. “Max just started showing me how to do it today, and he said that’s enough for now, he’s gonna let me think about it some more, and then next time he’ll tell me more.”

 

And he explains how it works. When you feel yourself getting angry with someone, instead of pointing the finger at them, you stop and tell them: I feel… (however it is you’re feeling) when… (whatever’s happened to make you feel that way). And then you say: I would prefer… (letting them know what you want to happen instead).

There’s a way you remember it, too. Tau shows me, saying, “Look Miss, when you point at someone…” He points towards the windscreen, demonstrating: “See how you point one finger at someone, and three fingers are pointed back at you?”

“Yup,” I say, waiting for the next bit.

“Well those three fingers are ‘I feel, when, I would prefer.’ That’s how you remember it. And then you try saying it.” He adds, “It took me a while to get what he meant, and then I was like – oh, fuck, I could do that.”

“Whoa – that’s so awesome, Tau,” I tell him. “Max is really onto it, aye.”

“Haard,” Tau says. “I wish my whole family could go see him. Especially my mum – I reckon it would really help her to do some of this stuff.”

“Maybe she could come along one time,” I suggest. “She might be a bit shy to meet Maxwell at first, but she’d probably be alright going with you.”

“That’s what I think, too,” says Tau. “If she saw me talking and stuff, she’d start to feel alright about talking to him as well.”

“Imagine if your whole family started using that ‘I feel… when… I would prefer’ thing,” I muse.

“Maan, that’d be buzzy,” Tau says. “Instead of just shouting and yelling and going off at one another.”

“Oh, and you could try using it on that guy at High Times,” I say, making them snort with laughter. Because Tau got ripped off to the tune of ten bucks, last week. He bought a twenty bag and the guy gave him a ten bag. They’ve already had an altercation over it, the next time he went back in store.

 

We’re driving along and Tau says, in what is a very relaxed and contented way, “Miss – do you think we could stop at Seventh Heaven on the way home?”

“Course we can,” I tell him fondly. I know he didn’t have a sesh before going to Max’s; the three of us had talked about it, and I’d reminded him not to go stoned. I add, “It’s right next to the café – I can get my coffee at the same time!” and they both grin at me.

And that’s what we do. I get my coffee, Tau gets the K2, and Leroi sits in the car with his beanie on, looking like he’s eyeing up the world, but actually just having a little rest.

And I think, kind of idly, that all this stuff is just one example of how not everything I do can be framed by a job or an institution. ‘That thing’; it’s not a career move. It’s at the heart of who I am.

 

So it’s a little depressing to remind myself school starts again on Monday. I’m trying to be patient – but I want things fast, too. I know it’s almost time for me to part ways with MC.     There’s no reason to stay there. No allies left – they already shipped out. So what have I been sticking around for? Perhaps it was to find something of that same impetus in myself. And I think, maybe I found it… or nearly.

Because in the last two weeks I’ve realized all these things:

  • Personal power comes from self-reliance and boundaries
  • There’s also a mental and moral courage that comes from being kind
  • For me, the collective is the way the music gets made
  • All the same, either my needs are important or no-one’s needs are important
  • It’s alright to make sense of two contradictory ideas
  • One part always embraces the other part.

So subsuming myself to that simple teacher persona just doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I don’t bring ‘nothing’ to the equation – I bring my own thing. And that’s my ship, I guess. The one that’s going to get me from A to B.

Feel and do

Saturday 26 April, 2014:

I take Tau to his counselling appointment with Max Rosdolsky. Leroi comes along for the ride, just to see what it’s all about; he tells me he’s going to sit in the waiting room.

While they’re in there, I go for a walk. The surroundings look weirdly familiar in some way. The air seems to hold a gently disturbing feel to it, almost as if I’ve time-travelled back to my childhood – as I walk past the independent bookseller; the boutique dress store; the deli.

A whole multitude of ‘white people’ are promenading up and down the leafy suburban street, and I remember Kepaoa… and then push the whole thing away, abruptly. Instead, I concentrate on the store fronts. I feel my energy drain away, and I bumble along automatically. But I have no thought at all to even go into any of those places.

 

After a while I go back to the car. I see the boys strolling back too, and: “That was quick!” I tell them. It’s only been 45 minutes.

“Oh, but Miss, Max wants to meet you, that’s why we came out – to get you,” says Tau, with the greatest of ease.

I’m surprised by this, but try taking it in the spirit intended by Tau, and hop out. Though idly and inwardly, I wonder if Max wants to suss me out; check if I’m dodgy or something. This passing thought doesn’t really disturb me too much. Well, fair enough, I think to myself.

So we go along the street again and up some stairs to the consulting rooms. Maxwell immediately shakes my hand, telling me it’s good to meet me. Then he ushers Tau and me into the office – Leroi waits outside.

 

As far as I can make out, Maxwell genuinely wants to share what Tau has been working on, with a view to having even more people on the same page with it. He goes over a schema which has been drawn on a mini white board. Four saucer shaped tiers with ‘think’ at the top, then ‘do’ underneath that, then ‘feel’ and ‘body’. Key words have been written on the diagram (‘K2’  currently featuring in the mediation between ‘feel’ and ‘do’), with arrows showing how everything connects.

It makes a lot of sense, when I think about it. Your physical body, supporting your feelings and moods, which influence the actions you take, which can change your thoughts and beliefs. And then the reverse: your core beliefs about yourself in the world, influencing the actions you take, which have the potential to shift your feelings and moods, which you can stabilise by looking after your physical well-being.

Tau and I both mention the ‘feel/do’ thing. Because how Tau’s feeling at any given time always makes such a big difference to his actions. Max says something interesting in response: “Moods change all the time – that’s normal. They’re like clouds in the sky; they shift constantly. Letting your moods dictate your actions is like letting the clouds tell you what to do.”

The thought makes Tau laugh and nod. And Max goes on to talk about how he can use all his support people, and strategies, and the other levels of the whole process: to keep on ‘doing’ – and to achieve his goals.

It’s actually pretty helpful, and Tau feels comfortable – I can see that. Afterwards, he’s happy and talkative in the car; even Leroi comments on this, saying, “Far, Tau’s always in a good mood after counselling.” He adds wistfully, “I wish I could go.”

“Maybe you can,” I say. “We could find out.”

 

Sunday 27 April:

I wake up with certain thoughts still kind of troubling my mind. Thoughts about myself, first of all. I don’t feel so jumpy (that fish on the hook, twisting futilely), but I do feel like I’m still kind of thrashing about – maybe in a little puddle of water (but in water all the same, which has got to be a improvement).

The heart of the thing for me, right now, is my own beliefs about myself (thanks, Maxwell). Because my words and actions rest on them – and at the moment it isn’t much of a rest. You know, I can state things calmly; clarify the boundaries. But my beliefs are putting out a different vibe which is… what? Appeasement? Fear of abandonment? I don’t know

I too, get mixed up about the links between ‘feel’ and ‘do’. Right now, I want to feel I’m strong, and convey that to the world. But my actions give my real feelings away. Not the actions themselves… but the timbre of them.

 

By the time I go to the gym, Tau and Leroi are also heading off on their morning constitutional – to Ellis (it opens at 8, they’re not even going to be the first of the day’s customers).

When I come back though, there’s a motorbike parked in the carport, just parked up in my spot like it’s no thing.

I drive in and park in front of the sleepout, and soon as my car pulls up, Tau and Leroi come out with someone. It’s a guy I think I’ve seen before, but I’m not sure exactly who he is. It occurs to me though, that he might be family – so I just look at him, and he says, “Hey,”

“Hey,” I reply.

And then he leaves, and for some reason, Tau and Leroi drift to the front gate and just stand there, kind of waiting for me, looking kind of guilty – knowing I’m going to say something, I guess.

 

I go over to them, and, “Who’s that guy?” I ask.

“Inherit,” Tau replies.

I sigh, can’t help it. Then “Inherit?” I repeat, incredulously. “What’s he doing here?”

“He just came to drop us off…  something.”

“Huh?” I say. “But what did he come round here for?”

“Just to drop it off.”

“Well, I don’t care,” I tell them. “You should have met him somewhere else.”

They look down at the ground, and from side to side, saying nothing.

I continue, “I couldn’t remember who he was – I knew I’d seen him before, but I didn’t want to say anything in case he was one of your relations. I wish I had, but..” I break off, feeling my voice half stopped-up and lacking in power. Then I try again, something like this: “I remember who Inherit is now, and I don’t trust him –  I’ve never heard anything good about him.” I add, truthfully: “Kepaoa always said he was dodgy.”

More nods from Tau and Leroi, though they still haven’t replied. And I keep talking – feeling like I’m just trying to cover up the fact that I have no real authority for any of this. I keep on thinking: Who am I? To be saying… to be expecting?

Even writing it down now, my breath feels constricted, and I’m holding my eyes tight still. I hate this feeling so much.

 

Anyway, I just go over it all one more time; reminding them of the protocol for visitors. I tell them they have to be tough enough to say no to the others; they can use me as an excuse, I don’t mind. And even if I’m not home, it doesn’t make any difference – the exact same rules apply.

“I do trust you,” I tell them. “But that means you. – it doesn’t mean just anyone.” They still haven’t said anything, but I get a few more nods in response.

 

Around half an hour later, the shed is still open: a good sign – they haven’t battened down the hatches. So I knock on the door and go in.

They’re having a bucky (of course), and look at me quite placidly. I sit myself down, and say, “I just want to check things are alright between us.”

“They are, Miss,” says Tau, faithfully, and Leroi nods.

“I trust you,” I tell them again, looking from one to the other. “That’s why I’m happy to go out and leave you guys here – cos I trust you. Both of you.”

“Thanks for that, Miss,” Tau says.

“Algood,” I say. “And there aren’t many people I’d trust that way – just a few.”

They nod.

“And yes,” I tell them. “You could just have the boys over while I’m away, and say – sweet as, Miss will never find out. And maybe I wouldn’t and maybe I would… but that’s not even the main thing. The main thing is that you know it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Because you know I trust you.”

“Yup,” they say, and Tau even chuckles.

“Oh,” I continue. “I know it might seem hard, at first. But there are other places to go if you want to kick it with the boys. They’ve all got houses too – there’s nothing to stop you going to see them. They don’t have to come here. And that’s just the way it’s got to be, from now on.”

I know Tau and Leroi understand that. I know they respect what I have to say. But will they be strong enough to follow through, when someone turns up with a box? I honestly don’t know if they have the discipline of mind, just yet.

Put on earth

Monday 31 March, 2014:

Uppermost thought: sometimes I think I identify with Tau too much for my own quietude. I can’t help but resonate with whatever it is he’s resonating with, like a silver fork hitting a crystal glass in that exact spot that makes the air chime and echo.

But what’s peace of mind – compared to stuff you gotta do, huh?  I think of a time, a place, and sometimes I honestly do think there’s things I’ve been put on earth for, so I must do them faithfully.

 

Another busy day, in the sequence of busy days. It’s like I’m still rushing, rushing… and everything starts to feel like a long story, which is just jigging around in my head, ready for the telling.

We spend a great amount of time sitting at Winz: hot, tired, and very patient. After close to an hour, Tau’s picked up by a case worker, who eventually issues him with a payment card for shopping, to tide things over before Thursday.

I have non-contacts tomorrow morning, for which plans have already been formulated. A little excursion to the doctor’s, for more sleeping pills, an amended med certificate (at the case worker’s suggestion, re back pay), and another form, which then has to be signed by Max Rosdolsky – and hopefully all this will be procured in time for the next Winz appointment on Thursday.

 

Tuesday 1 April:

I’m really proud of Tau, who after just one visit is taking Leroi under his wing at the doctors. And I see how it soothes Leroi – to see that Tau is calm. They both get the desired medical certificates, and forms signed… and there’s a prescription for sleeping pills as well.

“I remembered everything,” Tau says, with just a touch of softness in his voice. “I explained all of it.”

“Oh Tau, you’re getting so good at this sort of thing,” I exult. “Remember when you used to say you didn’t know how to say stuff.”

“Yeah, I know,” he agrees. “And look at me now!”

We grin at one another, and, “It’s helping Leroi too, to see the way you’re handling this,” I continue.

“It is,” Leroi says, freely. “It makes me feel better, going with him.”

“Good,” I reply, feeling very close to them.

 

I pay for their doctor’s bill, and the prescription as well. I don’t mind, there’s no other way it’s going to get paid up. And Tau doesn’t even look shy about it, this time. He just gives me a sudden big hug.

On the way home, he says to me, very thoughtfully, “Miss…”

“Mm?”

“If I just try to keep on doing good things, then maybe… one day everything might work out alright.” He pauses. “I want that to happen, I’m trying real hard,” he finishes quietly.

“Oh my gosh Tau, I know you are,” I tell him. “I see it all the time – and I’m really, really proud of you.”

“Thanks, Miss,” he says.

“And you just keep going, everything’s gonna turn out alright,” I murmur.

 

Wednesday 2 April:

Tau’s still doing ok. Went to counselling today, stoned. Got told off by Maxwell, not for being stoned… but for coming along stoned. Which is a good distinction, I think.

It all started because Tau had to get a ride with this other guy today. Vailea (who’s out of town) texted him and said that a friend of his would pick him up instead. But Tau wasn’t keen on that idea. So he told Vailea he was going to give counselling a miss this time… but Vailea said no, he’d already paid for it (which turned out to be a lie; this strategic move made Tau laugh afterwards).

And that’s why Tau got stoned, to ease the awkwardness of having to meet someone new and drive to counselling with him. When I realize this without him needing to spell it out, he chuckles, seeing light dawn on my face.

“But it’s good Tau,” I hasten to add. “At least you went. The old Tau would have just taken off.”

“Yup,” he agrees, at the same time as I mutter, “For parts unknown…” which makes us both crack up laughing.

The other guy turned out to be alright (of course). Afterwards, he took Tau to look at some motorbike places and then to Macca’s. So it ended up to be quite a happy day, after all.

 

Later I think about Kepaoa. Couple things just flick up in my facebook news feed. And I’m like: uh huh, to myself.

It would be out of the blue now, if Kepaoa got in touch. To be honest, I’m not expecting to hear from him anymore. And do I care? Yes… and no.

I’ve gotten over it, I had to. But do I care, I mean care about Kepaoa? Of course I do. It was alright, hanging out with that hustler. I think I understood, maybe better than he realized, what to expect – and what not to expect.

But it also touched my heart very much that Kepaoa regarded my life as… as ‘normal’, I guess. He genuinely liked being here – even disregarding the obvious perks of rides, food, Sky, and a cozy place to sleep. Suddenly, and almost bringing tears to my eyes for an instant, I remember what it felt like when Kepaoa used to come over; how I never had to act like ‘anyone’, around him.

And I also remember that he didn’t leave me, those times I cried. He stayed – and maybe you can’t ask for much more than that: for someone to stay with you, in a time and place.

 

Thursday 3 April:

Tau’s next Winz appointment goes well. He’s getting $300 back pay (tomorrow), then he gets paid on the regular from next week.

“Ohh, Miss, cracked it!” Tau says with relief, as the case worker goes off to photocopy some documents. His eyes start to get that soothed look, which makes me so glad. “I could even start saving, haven’t done that for a long time,” he surmises.

Leroi’s appointment is next week, we booked it today. I’ll have to sort out cover, but I’ll think of something.

 

Saturday 5 April:

I wake up pretty early this morning. So I just stay in bed for a while, feeling that contented feeling kick in… Saturday morning, and all day to do whatever the hell I want.

Tau calls me around lunchtime, asking if he can borrow 30 bucks, and I say sure, no worries.

I take it round there, and we go up to Municipal to get a sesh from another store called Seventh Heaven (currently undercutting High Times’ prices). It’s no use me saying I don’t like that synthetic shit; Tau needs it at the moment, and that’s the way it is for now. Least it’s legal, I guess.

The whole time, I don’t ask – but of course I want to ask: what happened to that back pay from yesterday?  I don’t want Tau to think I’m being judgmental about the money – and anyway that isn’t really it; more that I’m worried about him.

I guess, and hope, that he’s been paying off loans, or the rent; helping Sheree out. But I don’t know for sure, and he doesn’t tell me. He’s tired, and quiet – so I just leave it for now. I only try not to fret.

 

Sunday 6 April:

Hi miss u wouldnt have a 60 dollar loan till tomorro on u miss?

 I’m just wondering how to reply when a few minutes later, there comes another text.

Hi miss its tau did yu get my txt?

Ok I’ll come over with it soon.

 

Stop at the ATM on my way to Rutherford, and Tau hops in the car. We’re ‘obviously’ going back Municipal ways – I don’t even have to ask.

On the way, we talk – and this time, I say gently, “Tau, I know you haven’t been paid for ages. I mean, it’s good you got back pay Friday and all… but I guess you’ve had a lot of things to sort out, huh.”

“Yes, Miss,” Tau replies, sighing. “It was mum, mostly… she kept moaning about shit, and hustling me for money, and it got used up almost straight away.”

“Algood,” I say, and then, “Don’t even worry about it, I know – you have to do what you have to do.”

“Fuuck…” sighs Tau again. “My head’s real sore, Miss. I’ve got a big headache – and I haven’t had anything to eat today, either.” He’s hardly complaining, to be honest. Just stating facts.

“You want to stop in at mine and get some Panadol on the way back?” I ask him. “I got some.”

“Yes please, Miss,” he says at once.

 

On the way back to Rutherford Ave, I remember I have twenty dollars in my wallet. I was going to use it for groceries, but Tau’s need is more immediate, and: I can find that money again, I decide.

So as we drive along, I take out the two ten dollar bills, and just put them into Tau’s (remarkably unprotesting) hand, saying, “Hey Tau, take this and get some food, k?”

Are you sure…” Tau murmurs, in relief.

“Yes,” I assure him. “You gotta eat… but just don’t buy cigs,” I add, as a caution, and he starts to laugh.

And all the way home, I just think how much I want to see him happy and safe – and how every day I think about it with hope.