Light

Friday 7 March, 2014:

I’m fine all day until Chloe’s baby shower, which seems to drain the resilience out of me. Not that I say so, or act so. I mix and mingle with everyone, eating a duckling-yellow sugar cupcake (Chloe doesn’t know if she’s having a boy or a girl). I participate in all the games, which include singing lullabies, naming baby items and guessing on the staff baby photos. I do this because I like Chloe, and because I don’t want to be rude.

But I’m pretending the whole time. The event reminds me uncomfortably of all the managed ‘fun’ that I hate about school. So I go home feeling very subdued

 

Saturday 8 March:

I drive to the beach, take off my shoes and walk along the sand, finishing right up at the other end of the strand, where I sit on some rocks for a while, just breathing in the air and taking a couple pictures on my phone. You know… it isn’t much; it’s nice all the same.

 

Sunday 9 March:

Wake to a very loud knocking on the door. It’s 6 am but still dark, and I stumble to open up, rubbing my eyes, before stopping to ask, “Who is it?”

“Tau.”

The front door jams again, so I go round the side to the French doors, and let him in.

 

We hug, and I notice straight away that he’s fully sober (which to be honest I wasn’t expecting, considering the earliness of the hour).

“You okay?” I ask.

“Just been let out of the cells,” he tells me.

Now the sobriety makes more sense. “Tau?” I say, just giving his shoulder a little squeeze. “What were you doing in there?”

“Honestly, Miss, I can’t remember,” Tau tells me. “I’ve been thinking about it all the way here. Fuck, I’ve got no idea what they took me in for. I can’t remember anything.”

“Ok,” I say, without the least judgement to make about this. “Well, at least they let you out, huh.”

“Sorry for for waking you up, Miss,” Tau goes on. “But do you think you could… give me a lift home, please?”

“All sweet,” I say. “Just hold on a second, I’ll go get my shoes.”

 

“So what can you remember?” I enquire as we drive.

“Last night was alright… we were just drinking with the boys, round at mine. Kost and them, and Raphael, too.”

“Oh,” I say. “And is that where the cops picked you up?”

“I think so,” Tau says, and I can see he is trying hard to remember. “I think the neighbours came over, and…” He ruminates on this for a bit and adds, “I think they came with weapons and shit.”

“Fuck!” I exclaim. “You got beef with the neighbours now?”

“I… dunno.”

“Maybe they wanted you to turn down the noise,” I suggest mildly – and the thought of it makes us both snort with laughter.

“Fuck, Miss, I think there was some trouble though.”

And then the cops turned up?”

Think so,” he surmises.

 

“Oh well, at least you’re out now, Tau,” I say again. Which indeed is true. A thought occurs to me, and I ask, “But you don’t have to go court or anything, do you?”

“No – but Leroi’s still in the cells. He’s got to go court on Monday, there was a warrant out for him. When I got let out, he was calling out, ‘Bro, are you leaving me?’” Tau laughs at this, managing to convey that Leroi was ok, and irritable rather than upset.

“Why did they have a warrant out for Leroi?” I ask.

“Not doing his PD hours,” Tau tells me.

“Oh well, at least it isn’t major,” I say, taking this as a slight positive. “And yours was just… to sober up, right?”

“Yup, just a detox.”

“Well, that’s good,” I say.

 

“And did the cops ever catch up with you?” I wonder, after the time I’d seen them on the day of Scott’s funeral.

“Yeah, they did,” Tau says. “They tried to give me four hundred spot, the sneaky bastards.”

“Is that what they were after?” I say, as the situation begins to make sense.

“Yeah Miss, they asked me if I wanted the money, at first I was like – oh, yup, and then I thought about it and asked them, “So… what happens if I take the four hundred dollars?”

“Ohhh,” I say, getting it. “And, if you did…”

“Yeah, if I did, that meant I was saying it was mine, and…”

“And then you can be charged with dealing,”

“Yup,” says Tau. “So I told them, “You can keep the money.” He adds, “Bummer,” and I start to laugh. “Geez, they can be tricky like that,” I say, thinking about their strategies almost admiringly. I knew there’d be more to it than the cops had suggested to me at the time.

 

By the time we get to Rutherford Ave, Tau has started to recollect and process a little more of the night’s events.

“I think, I’m not sure… I think I might have smashed up the house,” he reflects, as I pull into the drive. He looks at the windows (which seem to be intact) and remarks, “Ohhh, hotty.”

“Why?”

“I remember the neighbours did come over… and I was trying to pick up chairs and smash them over their heads and shit. I don’t think anyone could control me…” he says, rather sorrowfully. “So I think it might be my fault that the cops came, and that we got taken to the cells.”

“Well, never mind that, at least everyone’s alright,” I say with some actual cheer, knowing it could have ended up a lot worse. I stop the car, and we just look at one another. “I’m glad you’re alright, but just take it easy, ok?” I conclude.

“I’ll try,” he says.

And I can sense we’re both trying to just keep things light.

 

Later, Mia and I wind up at the park, where we get ice-cream and sit on the grass under the shade of a huge tree. Mia tells me all about her dates (there are many) – I must say it makes me even less inclined towards online dating than I was before. It’s kind of fascinating listening to those stories, though.

Afterwards I come home and cook up a big as stir fry.

 

 

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Symmetry

Monday 21 January, 2013:

Lots going on, as usual. For one thing, the police ring, they want me to come in tomorrow. So they can get a ‘bigger picture’, confirm details of the boys’ movements leading up to the incident – that sort of thing.

I find this vaguely alarming. Not in any specifiable way, but just because I’m unfamiliar with the obligations and rights I have, and uncomfortable about potential conflicts of interest, or breaches of trust and confidentiality. I’ve already taken advice from Kuli (ha! he just tells me to harden up, pretty much) and Lena Tamaleiagi, who replies thus:

You don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to.  Don’t speculate if you don’t know something as being factually correct.

Just tell the truth and if you think they are on a fishing expedition ie asking you unrelated questions just say – how does that relate to what you are questioning me about?

You’ll be ok.

Cheers
Lena

That makes me feel a bit better about it… but still, I’m kind of wary, and I don’t really trust cops, in general. It’s kind of the way I don’t trust teachers in general, either.

 

I take Tau to WINZ for his pre-work seminar. What a load of bullshit – still, it has to be done. He comes out again pretty fast, telling me he’s allowed to go now, and (for once) I actually believe him and don’t question it – probably because my mind is distracted by the police thing.

Later on, he tells me sorrowfully, “Miss, I was meant to stay and see the people straight after, but I wanted to gap.”

“What?” I said, incredulously. “And I believed you?”

“I know; I’m sorry, Miss,” he said. “Can we go back tomorrow?”

“Yeah, good on you Tau, at least you told me the truth, eventually,” I say, unable not to laugh at him.

 

Tuesday 22 January:

At the cop station from 3 until 7:30pm. My head’s kind of swimming now: half with ‘detail’ and half with a buzzy feeling that’s somewhere between alarm and autopilot. So I’m just gonna sit with it, for the time being.

I guess I better hope I know what I’m doing, at some level anyway. Man, if I don’t… then it’s too late to hit the eject button. I’m playing this game whether I like it or not.

 

My four and a half hour interview with Detective Constable Sandra Martens is unsettling, to say the very, very least.

Basically, it goes like this. She says she needs me to confirm some times and dates the boys have given in their statements, in relation to the events of Saturday and Sunday. But of course there’s more to it than that. Right from the start, she asks a lot of questions about my relationship with Tau, to – as she puts it: “help build up the bigger picture”. I’m quizzed about everything from how I got to know him, to how he came to be staying with me, to my relationship with his family. And then I have to go through each boy in turn: Leroi, Mischa, Robbie. How well did I know them, how had I come to know them? And she wants to talk about Sunday as well, and the days leading up to, and then after, the funeral.

There’s a lot more besides – all sorts of details which are making my mind ache with tiredness, and to wonder if I’ve said it right; said the right thing: for Tau, for myself, for everyone.

 

At the end, we go over the statement (ten pages worth) which she’s typed up and taken to the detective sergeant in charge. He has a few more questions to add, so she asks me those, and inserts the information in at the relevant places. At the same time, I do edits, which she also types in. The whole thing is run past the boss again, and is then edited again (by me) and typed up again (by her), then printed – and I sign it. She takes it away and comes back. By then it’s 6:45pm.

She puts the statement to one side, and says, “Now we’ve done that – I need to ask you about something else.”

I can honestly say I ‘don’t know’ what’s coming – I should do, of course, but I’ve somehow blocked it from my mind, the whole time. I guess it’s some kind of instinct to protect myself.

And then she says, “What do you know about a search warrant executed at your property on the 16th of August?”

 

Well – of course. How could that not be on the agenda? Two and two make four, and all the rest of it. The moment she says it, I’m not surprised. It’s just that I haven’t considered it, until that very second.

So I tell her I’d been away at the time (true) and hadn’t got back until ten days after the search. I thought there’d been a burglary (also true), until I found the search warrant itself. Tau wasn’t staying there at the time, and had also thought it was a burglary (true again), as the search warrant was just amongst a pile of papers on the table. I tell her I’d gone straight round to Fitzroy St and talked to them about the armed robbery and the items mentioned in the warrant. And that Tau, and his parents, had been mystified by the notion of a link to this event – and had assured me that Tau had no connection to it. And I believed that. Because everything I knew about Tau indicated to me he was telling the truth here.

And that part’s all true, 100% true.

 

Then I say that as there was never any follow up visit from the police, and nothing appeared to have been taken, and I’d never seen any sign myself of the items mentioned in the warrant – I just assumed it was a case of mistaken identity, and had been cleared up by other means.

She asks me if that was why I hadn’t contacted the police myself, and wants to know if there were contact details on the warrant. I say there probably were, but that I had assumed it was all cleared up. No-one had followed up while I was out of town, and ten days had gone past already.

Sandra confirms that nothing had been taken pursuant to the armed robbery. However something else was taken: 400 dollars in cash, 18 tinnies, and a tick book. She asks me if I know what a tick book is, and I say I don’t. I figure technically this is true – though of course I could easily guess.

We then talk about the possibilities regarding the ownership of the confiscated property. Sandra says that in her opinion it either belongs to Tau, or he knows whose it is. She wants me to talk to him about it, and I say I will.

The whole time, I find it easy to look shocked – I am shocked. Not at the disclosure itself, but more at the fact that it’s on the table now, so to speak. Just like that. After more than five months, in which time I’ve almost forgotten about it myself.

 

When I get home I talk to Tau, letting him know the police will probably question him about it sometime too – well, that’s my take on things, even though Sandra hasn’t said as much. He says he’ll tell them he was holding it for someone. I can see he’s listening to me on a whole different level tonight: thinking like a man, calmly assessing the situation as it unfolds, and weighing up his possible decisions and their consequences.

I feel I could burst with emotion, if I wanted to. I can’t though. I just have to be smart now, and develop some composure and self-reliance.

In my mind is this funny feeling of… ‘symmetry’, I guess. Like something about this makes sense, and I need it – even though I don’t like it. It feels like medicine, or kind of. To stop me from being afraid. Maaan, I need strong medicine, huh? I don’t know why I can’t just do things the normal way. I remember my mum said that to me, one time. She said something like, “I don’t know why you need to do things the hard way.”

Right now, I wish for easy days. But also, I do get that feeling of symmetry… like this matches that; and like matches like; and I guess I need to be here, and to have no fear.

 

Happier days

Thursday 6 December, 2012:

After school, I go over to Fitzroy. Tau is in the shed with Misha, Robbie, and another guy  I don’t know. A single lightbulb stands in a broken lamp, casting its dim glow over the surroundings. Tau sits next to it, near the open door, his watchful and scrutinizing air reminding me of nothing so much as a fortune teller signalling his availability to those who might be looking for guidance. Well, looking for tinnies, anyway.

“Hey, Miss,” he says, just sitting there. He doesn’t seem drunk, I’m happy to note.

“Oh, hey Tau.” Then, “Sheree home?” I ask.

He nods. But he warns me, “Mum’s drunk though.”

“Uh-huh,” I nod. “It’s ok if I go up though? She asked me to come over.”

“Yeah, it’s awguds.”

 

I go up the stairs. There’s music playing, and Sheree is sitting at the table with a couple of friends, who she introduces. “Kia ora,” they say, and I sit down with them.

Turns out Sheree has received some paperwork she wants me to look at. She’s really drunk, and kind of bobs over us, saying, “My life’s falling apart… I don’t know what’s gonna happen.” She murmurs, almost to no-one in particular. “I don’t know if I can be there for anybody, I don’t know if I’ll be available when anyone needs me…” She looks gripped with urgency, and kind of glares at us, her eyes a little wild and rolling.

Scott calls to her from down the hallway, and she drifts away, distracted. I start on the forms, and, “Do you want a coffee, Miss?” Sheree sings out to me, as she comes back in.

“I’m ok, thanks…”

“Do you want a bourbon?” she continues, merrily. “Have a bourbon!”

I crack up laughing. “Nah, better not. If I start drinking bourbon, I’ll probably be here all weekend!”

Sheree looks at me and grins.

“Fuck, I’m scared to drink with you,” I tell her. “You’ll drink me under the table!”

The other women laugh.

 

When I leave, I say goodbye to Tau and the boys. They’re eating a parcel of chips now, and offer me some. I pick at a couple, just stand there chatting. For some reason I get that hopeful feeling… it’s still there.

 

Saturday 8 December:

I look out the window this morning, and see the shed door is ajar. I don’t go out straight away. Maybe Tau just needs a quiet place to be. So I leave him to it.

Later on, when I go put out the washing, the door opens and stays open. This signals, I think, that he’s now ‘available’. So I say, going past, “Tau?”

“Hey, Miss… in here.”

I go in, he’s just sitting on one of the couches, drawing. He looks big, quiet, patient, and impassive.

“You algood, Tau?” I ask him, sitting across from him on the other couch.

“Uh, yeah,” he replies, with a shrug.

“So, what you up to today?” I try.

“Nothing, just…” He shrugs again, and keeps drawing – but as he draws, he talks.

 

“Miss… you know that other day, the day you came?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, after you left, some Black Powers turned up, stepped us out. It was just after you left.”

“Aye? What did they want?” I ask.

“Want us to pay rent… for selling in Municipal. That’s their hood, they do all the selling round these ways. They wanted to take our car.”

“For rent?”

“Yeah, instead of rent… and they had guns,” says Tau. “They just came into the shed and sat down with their guns. One of them kept showing his gun to Leroi, to scare him.”

“And what did you say?”

“Said nah,” Tau tells me. “I ain’t paying rent to them. They don’t know I sell anyway – they think it’s my dad. And he’s not even dealing right now.”

“So it’s just you – but you didn’t tell them that, aye.”

“Fuck, no way,” Tau says. “They don’t know shit, if they think my dad’s dealing – someone’s been talking shit to them anyway.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I murmur. “And your dad wasn’t home, aye.”

“Naah… I told him when he got back. But after the Blacks left, I rang my cousin. He came over with his guns, and sat with us.”

 

So that seems to be alright, for the time being. Apparently, Tau’s cousin is going to put the word out anyway. He’s got contacts in the Blacks – he sells for them somewhere else – and intends to use the usual channels of communication to let them know that Fitzroy Rd is thus technically under the Black Power, anyway.

But to be honest, that’s the least of it – the least Tau wants to talk about. We talk about heaps of stuff. He tells me what happened on Thursday, after I left. Sheree and Scott were out on the road, making a big commotion. She got mouthy and Scott started beating her up, right there on the street, until one of the neighbours called the cops and they turned up. Sheree got even lippier to the cops, and they told her she had a choice – either she could be locked up in the cells, or she could go stay with someone. So she ended up being taken to a relative’s place, and was back home in Fitzroy St last night.

“She never told the cops though, about my dad beating her up,” Tau says, matter of factly.

“Nah, well she wouldn’t,” I agree.

He nods, saying. “ I don’t think she’s been charged with anything, for that night.”

“What about her other court case – has she had that yet?”

“No… I think that’s next week,” Tau says, thinking about it. “I dunno though, cos my mum’s being a bitch at the moment.”

“Well, she’s probably worried about all of it,” I suggest.

“Probably.”

 

And then there’s a lot more. It’s making me tired, physically tired, to write this down – but I want to, and I kind of have to. It’s actually putting me to sleep, which I think is a reaction in my mind and body, an attempt not to think about it.

Some time during the conversation, I cross over to sit beside Tau, on the couch. He keeps on drawing, and keeps on talking, and I sit real close to him, just every now and then stroking his arm, or back. Writing this down right now, I feel my body kind of quiver with tears, because what I’m writing about hurts me.

Tau is very quiet and almost ‘relaxes’, as he speaks. But it’s plain weariness and resignation as well. The air smells of weed, which is comforting to both of us, I think. He tells me he’s just surviving, just getting by. He wakes up every day feeling angry, and drinks to make the anger go away. Whatever he can afford, as much as he can afford.

“Tau,” I say gently. “What you’re telling me, I understand, but… that’s a lot of alcohol, that’s addiction.”

“It is,” says Tau, nodding. “I drink more than my parents, now.”

I rub his arm, just letting my hand rest there, and he sits and breathes quietly. He tells me, “And I’m smoking heaps more weed than I used to – way more.”

“How much?”

“As much as I can, whenever I can – I’m stoned almost the whole time, I reckon. Spend heaps of money on drugs, alkies… I’ve gone useless at saving, these days.”

I just nod, and stroke his back, and he continues:

 

“And I’m doing heaps of drugs… other drugs, too.”

“What kind of drugs?” I asked, fearing the answer.

“Ecstasy… and fries.”

“Aye Tau?” I say, keeping my voice real calm, and trying not to seem upset. “Are you into fries much?”

“Much as I can,” he tells me. “Me and Misha, we score whenever we got the money.”

“How much does it cost?” I asked.

“A hundred,” he told me. “From my cousin.”

“And… what kind of buzz is it?”

“It’s algood,” he said. “It just makes you high as, and hyped. It makes you algood for the whole night.”

“And… um, what do you do, when you’re fried? Do you go anywhere – or just kick it at home?”

“Mostly just stay in the shed and talk. It makes you wanna talk heaps.”

“Ohyup,” I said. “You and Misha?”

“Yeah, mostly just me and Misha – and then sometimes we do weights as well.”

I start to laugh, can’t help it, at the thought of Tau pumping iron in that state.

Tau chuckles too, and I give his shoulder another little stroke, saying, “I know… but Tau, I’m worried about you too, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” he admits. “And Miss, sometimes I do different drugs all at the same time.”

“What? Like weed and ecstasy and P all together?”

“And alcohol,” he says, with a little sigh.

“Oh…” is all I can think of to say at that point, and he turn his paper over and draws some more, while we sit close and quiet for a bit.

 

“Tau?” I begin again. “Remember when you had like… some course days, and some drinking days? In your week, I mean.”

He nods.

“That was better than this, huh? I mean… better for you.”

“It was, Miss,” he says. “But… I don’t have anything else to do now, apart from drink and take drugs. Spend all my money on that shit.”
“Is there anything that helps; makes you wanna cut back?” I ask him.
“Nah,” he says simply. “I don’t think so. I don’t care.”

“You do care,” I say, and he laughs, just a little bit. “But I know what you mean though,” I continue. “Just… happier days is what you need to get to, aye.”

“Haard,” nods Tau. He concentrates on his drawing, and sits there, quite secure in having told me all of this. He shows no sign of wanting to bolt. And so we just keep chatting about this and that; a lot of other stuff. Until Scott texts, to say they’re waiting for him. They need to get going somewhere.

“K then, I’d better go. See ya, Miss,” says Tau.

“Yup, see you soon.”

 

If there was something I could do, I’d do it. I don’t know if there is. I can help with the obvious stuff… WINZ forms and course applications (Tau says he wants to go back to the TI next year, but I know, realistically – it’s easier said than done). But with other things, I don’t really know what to do. I guess it’s something, it isn’t quite nothing, for Tau to know he can come over if he needs to. But it doesn’t do much, and that’s the truth. It doesn’t stack up against the drugs, and the alkies and all the earns he’s on, for his cousin. And his cousin wants him to patch up, too.

Now I’ve written it down, I feel ok… kind of. I feel like I’m chronicling something I don’t actually wish to observe, let alone talk about. When I think of Tau, and when I see him like this, it hurts my heart, bigtime.

But when I think about it, of course I’d rather see it than not see it. So I can handle it, and any thing I can do, I’ll gladly do it. But I just wish for… for ‘happier days’, like I said. Because this is some hard things to be going through, for my Tau.

 

 

A good tenant

Tuesday 4 December, 2012:

Property inspection day, and I’ve pulled the weeds out of the garden specially. The house is nice and tidy, and I go off to work feeling quite happy about it.

Before lunchtime, I get a text from Tau: ‘Hi miss’ wats ur internet password again’

I text him the password, then (almost as an afterthought), add that the property manager’s coming over today – just because Tau kind of startles easy. Tau (and Shae) have seen him a few times before though, it isn’t a big deal.

Just before I go teach 9 Social, I see a missed call on my phone, so I ring the number and it turns out to be Grayson, the property manager. “Oh hi,” I say – in fact I’m only half listening, as I stand by the window in the office, packing up to head over to class. I vaguely hear him say, “Something happened while I was at the property…” and, “Mm, ok…” I reply, easily. For some reason I’m still not putting two and two together, my mind’s still idly going along.

Then: a big jolt out of my untroubled state, as he tells me: “There were drugs being prepared for sale, in the shed…”

“Oh!” is all I can say – at the same time I register there’s about five teachers in the office.

“I spoke to Taurangi,” he continues (he mentions him by name), and told him I wanted to talk to him about it, but they took off – there were three of them – in a silver car.

 

“Oh my gosh,” is my initial and rather lame response. I’m not at all sure what’s going to happen next. At the same time, I just get this calm feeling (which truly doesn’t surprise me), and at the same time, I think how Kuli would be so mad about it, if he knew.

And meanwhile, Grayson’s talking to me, telling me exactly what he saw in the shed (a whole heap of foils in a bag; the boys rolling up) and what happened next. He actually sounds quite… quite reasonable, and not at all accusatory towards me. This actually does surprise me. He says, “I know you keep a good house.”

“Yes,” I say. “Yes, I do.”

“I don’t want to take it further – but I need you to talk to him.”

“Of course,” I say, and honestly, I’m not even really allowing myself to experience even relief, it’s like I can’t let any strong emotion interrupt the calm feeling. I want to say more to him as well, but I can’t; not there in the Faculty office. So I just say, “I’d really like to talk to you about all this, but I’m at work – do you think I could ring you back later this afternoon?”

“Yes, sure,” he says. “No problem.” He honestly does sound very matter of fact. I guess it’s Municipal, after all.

But when I think about it, I realize that it could all rebound on me, if he didn’t want to be reasonable. My home, even my job at risk.

 

I tell La-Verne, but it seems like she couldn’t give two hoots. I’m sure that isn’t entirely true – she’s probably just occupied with other things. Still, it pisses me off a little bit, because she flew into a panic just recently over some incident where her daughter was found to have had one puff of a joint (well, woop de doo). I think that when it comes down to it, a lot of teachers – middle-class liberal, ‘progressive’ types – don’t really give a shit about the real version of what they spout on about. La-Verne quoting the statistics, and talking about social policies for the most ‘at risk’ groups, and all the rest of it. Policy and planning for some spurious notion of community is more important to her than what happens to individuals in everyday life. I know that sounds a bit harsh. But that’s how I’m going to call it. Especially after today, and the dismissive comment that, “Your property manager’s bound to  have seen worse, in this area.” Well yes he has, I’m sure – and I’d thought that myself – but it wasn’t an assumption that I’d put money on, in the sense that I knew Tau could be in shitloads of trouble anyway. And so could I. And so I think..  lucky for us that it did get sorted, and I’m damn grateful. So she can go home to her lifestyle property and cook her rustic paella with chorizo, or whatever the fuck it is tonight.

 

Anyway, I ring Grayson back after school, and we talk about it some more. He’s really good about the whole thing, just says that if I talk to Tau, he’ll be happy to leave it at that. He adds that I’m a good tenant, and we can sort it out without anyone else being involved. He also informs me that Tau was “polite and cooperative,” before taking off (“obviously scared,” he says – and this I don’t doubt).

I assure him I’ll talk to Tau, and we finish very amicably.

After that, I allow myself to kind of tremble, just for a very brief moment – thinking of how it could have turned out so different. If he’d called the cops… or if he’d been confrontational with Tau, or if Tau had been rattled and got aggressive instead of worried…

And then I just sigh and collect my things, and go home.

 

I don’t ring Tau yet. I really want to, but I decide it would be better to wait a bit, to see whether he intends to say anything about it, or whether he hopes to just stay away and try to avoid the whole complicated issue. I don’t want to pre-empt his decision – or not straight away.

I’m actually pleased then, when I get a text from him shortly after I arrive home: ‘Hi miss, sorry bwt tday, hav u herd wat happend yt?’

Yes, I tell him. I add that he should be more careful, and that I’d tried to tell him the property manager was coming today. But oh well.

Im realy sorry bwt that miss wont happen again, an i cn cme ovr an see u nw?

 

He does, a few minutes later. To be honest, he looks extremely contrite, and is very relieved that things can be cleared up without undue drama. Tells me he got a big shock, when it happened: “I was shit scared, Miss. I just saw him stand there and look at us, right in the door at us, and I thought to myself: Ohhh what the fuuuuck…”

“And then what did you do?” I ask.

“I went straight out and talked to him. I said, boss, I’m really sorry, and I promise it’ll never happen again. And he said he had to tell you, and then… I took off.”

I can see Tau has genuinely been worried. So I just say, gently, “It’s ok, Tau, he said you were polite to him. You even gave him your real name.”

“I did, Miss,” he says. “I just took off cos I was scared he might call the cops on his phone.”

“Yeah, course,” I say, then: “Did you tell Sheree?”

He nods. “I went straight home and told her – she was angry as with me.”

Tau also tells me they weren’t actually doing the foils at mine. They had some tinnies in a bag; it was true. But they were just about to smoke some, that was all. They were rolling up a ‘big ass joint,’ using lots of zigzags stuck together. It almost makes me laugh, to think of it.

 

 

Grown

Monday 29 October, 2012:

I can’t sleep. Lying there, I hold my own hand, stroke my own palm. It feels like someone else’s, trustingly. Then I cry my eyes out. Just cry, cry.

Fall asleep, wake up to the alarm on my phone, just tired as fuck.

 

School’s alright though. Break time: Carlos, Slade, Zion… and then about half of  9 Social. The way they just bumble in. And my boys don’t mind (they just look slightly bemused by the influx of people.)

Slade is wired to the days. He comes in before school, I find him in my room when I get back from the bathroom. First thing he says to me: “I had a out of it night…”

“Why was it out of it?” I asked.

“I got really out of it.”

“Aye?” I said. “On what?”

“That legal high stuff,” he tells me. “Fuck; outa it buzz, I was playing up.”

“Doing what?”

“Stepping everyone out and… just being a dick, that’s what they told me. Tryna smash all the bros. All I remember is Carlos holding onto me, telling me it was alright.”

“Fuck, Slade,” I say, alarmed. “Be careful. Synthetics can be real dodgy, that’s what I heard. I’d rather you were on the natural stuff.”

“Ohwell… it’s a out of it buzz,” he says, with a little laugh.

“Nah, you don’t even remember it, it was probably a stink buzz.”

“Dunno…” he shrugs.

 

The rest of the morning he’s all jittery and hyped, looking for a lighter, dashing back and forth for half ciggies. In, out, and round about. Eats one of Zion’s sandwiches in a couple of squashed up bites; almost the first time I’ve see Slade eat actual ‘food’ at school (apart from lollies and stuff). Prances around, coughing and grinning. I don’t think he’s really wound down off his ‘legal high’, and I tell him this.

“Probably right, Miss,” he says, shaking his head.

So after school, I let Zion and Slade come over to paint. I see Slade slowly come down to earth, as they finish a very ‘busy’ LIFT  board. Maybe too busy. Slade puts eyes in everywhere: eyeballs, teardrop eyes, eye of Horus, an Illuminati style eye in a pyramid. “That was a algood painting jam,” he says afterwards, with weary satisfaction. His nervy edge seems to have almost dissipated, and his arms kind of drift up and down slightly. The movement reminds me of a baby’s involuntary ‘wave’, and my heart goes out to him.

Once I’ve dropped him off, it’s just me and Zion in the car. Zion says, in the nicest and most loyal way: “Miss, I think we might have put too much on the board… I didn’t wanna say that to Slade.”

 

As I drive home, I think, idly, how most of the people I’m close to are people I have to draw a certain ‘line’ with. It’s not school’s line, that’s for sure. I’m a thousand miles away from there now. There’s still a line, though. It’s not a demarcation line, we’re not in different worlds. But the compatibility, resonance thing is just one part of it. Like seeks like… but I got the years on them. Even Kepaoa, who’s almost 20 now. I have to be the protective one, the practical one; the one who thinks like an adult.

So, when Slade and Zion are painting today. Slade says, just very frankly and openly, “Miss, why can’t I have a sesh round here?”

“Because I got to draw a line somewhere,” I tell him, honestly.

“But Taurangi…” he begins. He knows that Tau stayed here for a while, and that he’s a dealer.

“Yeah, that’s different.”

“How come it’s different?” he asks, accepting this and yet curious.

“Cos technically, you guys are still my students. Bottom line. Tau’s left school, it’s different. And not just that…” I continue, thinking about this before I go on.

Slade waits.

“Tau… needs it,” I explain. “It wouldn’t be fair to say he couldn’t have a sesh, when he lived here. He needed like… about six a day, sometimes.” I hear myself sounding so patient and sensible that it actually cracks me up, and I snort at myself. Slade laughs too, saying, “True though, some people need it just to get through the day, aye.”

“Sure do,” I murmur. “And Tau’s one of them.”

“K Miss,” says Slade. “That’s awguds then. I can have a ciggie here though, can’t I?”

“Course you can have a ciggie,” I say, and he lights up immediately.

 

Nah, nah… I can’t have them doing drugs at my place, though I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. I have to hold all the things in my head, weigh up all the various factors that determine and over-determine a situation. The law, for one thing. The job I have, and get paid for. The trust parents have, that their kids are safe and looked after. Maan, even Sheree and Scott always knew Tau was gonna be safe and looked after, round here. Though of course, that means different things to different people. And then, my own need to have a set of ethics that actually means something, and that I can justify. One that takes into account the differences between people: between Tau and Slade, Slade and Zion, Zion and Kepaoa… just to name a few.

Sometimes it pains me, that at the end of the day, I do have these ethics. I have to stand at a little distance to my emotions. I know it, and I’m ok with it. But often times it makes me feel wistful, as well. Cos I need both. I need to feed my emotions, same time as my rationality. And right now, I’m tired of thinking. Tired of it. I love these lil gangstas, but I also wanna have friends, you know… other grownups.

Guess Tau’s always gonna be different, in a way. And yet, even with Tau I could still stand aside, when I had to. Still be the protective one, the fully grown one. Ha, funny that I put it that way. But that’s exactly how it feels. I feel like Tau and me are two peas in a pod, sometimes. I’ve said it before: if we were the same age, there’d be nothing to stop the chaos.

The things we predict

Sunday 26 August, 2012:

Writing straight to e-copy now, after recent events. No more pieces of paper being toted around in my bag. Ooh, the things we predict, huh. It was nearly two years ago, I said I was only going to keep a week’s worth of hard copy – and now any of that’s for emergencies only.

This morning I still feel set adrift a little, like I’ve been just summarily disconnected from some big source of power or energy – and I know I’ve got to find it from somewhere else. I keep getting this mental picture of sunlight dancing and dissolving in and out, in and out; now you see an image and now you don’t. And I don’t wanna lose… I don’t want to fade out and be without love or power or intensity. I want life so much, and I don’t know how to make that image stay. I wish I knew how to hold it; keep awake at the switch.

I try colouring my hair with a new product (henna based), and end up in abject misery as the green paste drips and oozes down my face from under several layers of cling film plus the shower cap (all as per the instructions on the box). My face; my T shirt; the carpet – I don’t think I can bear the further two hours which are suggested for this torture.

Honestly, I feel so disgusting with this goo all over my head and the little globs that kept on falling onto my face and ears and neck. I actually want to cry. I hate seeing myself at my worst – I feel like it’s irreversible, for some reason. All I see is my flaws, when I’m stripped back to bare skin and all the rudimentary tricks of beauty are gone.

And I’m grieving, I know it. I think that I’ve straight failed to be of any use to Tau, when I see him this way. I I can’t stand it at times; I honestly think I can’t bear it. And I have to bear it, because there’s no point in telling anyone else. How can I explain it? I can’t explain it – so I just have to go on, even when it seems like there’s nowhere to go.

Anyway, I jump in the shower and rinse it all out again, the colour seems to have taken – my hair looks alright.

 

Monday 27 August, 2012:

First day back at work, and my room is like a tip, after relievers for a week and a half. It takes me a whole hour to clean up, and my classes all get a growling.

I talk to La-Verne about the police search. The only other people I tell are Zion and Slade. Like always, I just trust who I trust.

After school, I start to tidy up the shed a bit. There’s broken glass all over the floor in there. And I know – Tau could do it himself. But he won’t; state he’s in at present. He can’t think further ahead than drinking and dealing just now. Scott and Sheree tell me they’re keeping nothing at theirs, for the moment. Must be all round at the safe houses. But they won’t stop dealing – how can they? It’s all Scott’s done for years and years (even if badly); all Tau’s ever known. Tau mentions something about selling from the neighbour’s house, too.

Sheree says Tau’s buying nothing except alcohol for himself and the boys. Honestly, that isn’t like Tau either. He doesn’t spend money on anyone, unless it’s Christmas!

All this makes me miserable, kind of grief stricken. The only thing that soothes me today is painting at break times. Just being with people who I can be normal with. I think about the boys, and how they come everyday to talk, and paint, and just hang out. Sometimes we don’t even paint first break; just pull up chairs and sit around and talk. They like being there, and I like them being there… and I think: What do they see? What on earth do they see, that makes them want to come back every single day? When I don’t feel like there’s anything to recommend me; anything I can do, say, or give as my contribution to this world.

And – love’s so embodied, as far as I’m concerned. Love has to be warm and alive and physical, and have breath and life to it. I can’t love abstractly, I can’t love ‘the environment’, or ‘spirit’, or ‘peace’. Cos, you know… what I love is to sit around and talk shit, just hang out with these gangstas and know that their warm-alive presence is right beside me.

I remember those days with Tau, and now it hurts my heart to see him destroy himself, even if I can understand it.

 

Tuesday 28 August:

Things are so relentless, and I just try get along with it. I wake up at 5, I’m eating breakfast by 6… by 9:30 I’m starving, and go get a pork bun up at Municipal.

After school I take a blocked can back to the store for a replacement. When I come home, I clean up more broken glass in the shed. The middle panel on the inside of the door has been smashed. Either the cops were looking for something under the door frame, or they broke it while trying to open up the shed – I don’t know. But it makes me cry to see everything gone over and turned upside down, and glass smashed on the mat. All Tau’s things dumped in messy heaps on the couch and the floor. I sweep up the glass, and vacuum the mat. I don’t wanna go through Tau’s stuff, so I just take things off the floor, and pick up Tau and Shay’s clothes and just lay them on the bed, gently. I feel so sad. Shay’s little shoes, and earrings that have been trampled down on the ground. Tau’s pens and markers tipped out everywhere. It looks so bleak, especially because I understand that Tau really can’t take care of himself, or anyone else, at the moment. He would have seen it and hated it and still had to walk away. Whereas before, he would have set to work at once, cleaning and sweeping and tidying up before I got home. Like he did when the next door neighbour’s kids broke a window with their ball.

And I miss Tau, I really do. I don’t just mean ‘miss’ – like you miss a person when you don’t see them for a while. That goes without saying. I mean I miss all the little things, the signals that told me Tau felt safe, or as safe as he could feel. I miss those things so much that it actually hurts. And yet I have to just get along with the frickin’ day; go to school and talk, and do stuff, and act like a teacher. And it’s all a big act – except for when the boys come in at break to paint, and I don’t have to pretend anymore. I can be real, for just this little part of the whole stoopid school day.

No more Urban Art – there’s to be no optional classes anymore; not for anyone – Karys has cancelled the whole shebang. She’s going to hold year level assemblies and announce some other initiative. Meanwhile, we (myself and a few painters) are gonna try fly under the radar tomorrow and hold a ‘special assembly’ of our own in the ROR. To paint, that is. Will we get away with it? Perhaps… if Karys hasn’t organised staff into particular roles yet.

Once again, I bawl my eyes out when I go to bed. It often hits me worst when there’s nothing but the calm night, and the dark room, and my quiet bed – and nothing to do but cry then sleep.

 

Redeployment

Saturday 2 June, 2012:

This morning, Tau arrives on Leroi’s bike. Says he was over the Shore last night; went in someone’s car. “But everyone was drunk as,” he says. “So I drove all the way back.”

You drove?” I say. “Man, Tau – but you were drunk too, right?”

“Yeah, but I was all good,” Tau informs me casually. “All the boys said I was driving good, I asked them and they said…”

“But everyone was drunk, so how would they know?”

“Nah Miss, I was allgood, I was fine. I was driving slow,” he insists.

“Well, it still makes me feel worried, Tau.”

“I’m ok – I can drive good when I’m drunk.”

“That’s what you think,” I sigh, somewhat unwisely persisting with this line of argument. Tau, after all, has had only a few hours’ sleep, is hungover, and is not particularly open to discussion.

 

The conversation continues in the shed, as I try to make the increasingly grouchy Tau see reason. He also informs me that he’s going to Mischa’s party after all. Up until now (and considering recent disputes), he hasn’t been planning to go  But the residue of a long night of alcohol is back in his system again, and he’s all bravado.

“Nah Miss, I’m not dumb – I’ll be fine.”

“I know you’re not dumb,” I say patiently. “But you said yourself – you don’t wanna get drunk and do something you might regret.”

“Nah, I’m allgood when I’m drunk,” repeats Tau, with scant basis for this opinion. “It’s just Mischa’s dad – and I’ll only step to him if he steps to me first.”

“Ohhyup” I mutter. “Yeah, you’re all good when you’re drunk – yeah right.”

“I am,” Tau says, unconvincingly and grumpily. “You ask my mum and dad – I’m all good when I’m drinking.”

‘I don’t have to ask them – I’ve seen it for myself,” I retort, rather significantly.

Tau puts his head down firmly, and focuses on the laptop. Smashed doors and raised fists and glittering eyes lie quietly in the air between us. It’s obvious he doesn’t want to talk anymore, so I back off tactically, and go do something else.

 

Later on, the shed door’s still open (which is a promising sign), but Tau’s body language remains closed and huffily offended. In a way, I want to go tell him: Tau, I’m sorry. Not sorry for being worried, of course. Just sorry for reminding him of things… and for wanting to be right.

But the time for that is still some way ahead. With the alcohol back in its accustomed bodily channels again – and no sleep – Tau sits large and implacable on the couch, and gives me the courtesy of a short acknowledgement.

 

Tuesday 5 June:

Teacher only day. I don’t like it any better than normal, but I handle it better than normal. Why? Because I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Of course, it’s a given – that I don’t like teacher only day. And I feel like I’m onto something, saying that. I’m not mired, or not as mired, in the elements of the dislike. Instead, I want to get out of this game, which I’ve pretty well exhausted. Done it; lived it; given it something, and taken something from it. And now I want more. I want to say more. I want to open up a little corner of this space and lift the lid as high as I can. So that it’s open to see inside.

 

Tau tells me he can’t sell from Kaiser St anymore, now that Scott’s back in business (sold the van to buy three ounces). So he’s been doing a bit of retail outside the mall again – he stands by the ATM and asks people, “Looking for anything…” while they’re getting their cash out. Telling me this, he demonstrates the tone he uses (kind of casual largesse) – which makes me laugh. I can just imagine the scenario.

And he’s clearly ‘forgiven’ me over the conversation on Saturday: the hard conversation he didn’t want to have. It always touches my heart to have Tau’s trust – that even when things don’t go to his liking, he doesn’t need to cut and run. I know it’s real hard for him to stay put, when he feels under duress.

 

Friday 8 June:

Tau’s ‘weekend’ starts early. Last night he goes out drinking with Kost, and a boy called Robbie (who I vaguely remember from his MC days). They drive to some new subdivision on the heights,  whereupon they set up to drink in a half-built house, while taking in the view. Stoned and drunk, they watch as Robbie goes to move his car off the road. Tau says, idly, “That grass looks slippery,” – just before the car slithers down a hill and crashes into a fence (luckily this also prevents it from dropping over a bank). Robbie tries in vain to start the car and get it back up the hill, while neighbours appear in force, restraining him and calling the cops. Kost and Tau look on from their vantage point in the building site, but, “I just boosted it,” Tau tells me. He scrambles across the back of gardens, then dashes into the streets and away, as the bystanders shout after him, “You won’t get far!”

Tau clutches his bottle (of course) and runs – “Cos I’d only just opened it,” he explains. “I wasn’t gonna leave it behind.” Stopping every now and then to take a brief and reviving sip, he makes it safely home. By which time the other two are at the police station in Municipal, where they’re questioned, charged, and released – eventually to rendezvous with Tau, around 3am.

He looks a bit shaken, to be honest, as he recounts this saga.

Right then, I’m just so glad that nothing has happened to him. “Now can you see why I don’t like it when you drive drunk, Tau?” I ask, but very gently.

“Yes,” replies Tau, simply. He adds, “Miss, if I’d been the one moving the car, I probably would have been going faster. I think I would have gone right through the fence.”

“Oh Tau, I’m so glad it’s made you think, you know,” I say, hoping fervently that the ‘thinking’ part of the equation will kick in more often during such eventful nights.

I give his shoulder a little pat; he’s had only a couple hours sleep, and is coughing. Oh, who knows – maybe he’ll get tired and sleep.

 

Sunday 10 June:

Thinking about school: the crucible of both my rebellion and my rebirth, I guess you could say. The struggle to survive, in that brutal place, and then – like a kind of magic – to find a meaning and a solidarity right inside it. To learn how to partake of freedom, there in the middle of all constraints. And these things are part of me now. But at the same time, the setting is shifting outwards. I’m not sure I can stay there much longer.

I don’t know exactly what that means, or will mean. Or quite where I should place myself. I think I really don’t know much. But then, there’s nothing much left I want from school, except to say that I was there, and that this is how it was. I don’t know how, but  I have to bear witness to it somehow. The feeling grips me so hard that sometimes it feels like it’s carrying me, and I just have to hold on. Will I learn how to control it, or even to direct it?

For now, I’m going to try and remind myself every day – there’s things I can do more of, do better. I just need to find out what they are, and where.

I feel kind of relieved, to write that down, and so to begin (in some sense) the actual process of… not withdrawal, yet but redeployment.