Friday 14 March, 2014:

10 Social are so funny today. For some reason they roll in expecting a DVD, and when I tell them they’re not getting one, their faces fall, then they scowl.

“Why not?” demands Lauralee.

“Because I didn’t have a movie planned today – I’ll save that for after the assessment,” I tell her.

“That’s not fair – if I’d known we were doing work I would have wagged!” she says indignantly.

“Yeah!” they explode.

“Oh well,” is all I say. I don’t justify it any further, or reason with them, or growl either.

For some reason this response seems to calm everyone down, and they start their task with improved goodwill. It’s a research thing on the laptops, and is useful preparation for their assessment – if only they knew it (they do, technically – as I told them so, though this probably went in one ear and out the other).

After a while they begin to quite enjoy themselves, having forgiven me for making them do work. It makes me laugh how they can all switch from ‘Oh no!” to “This is algood,” in the space of ten minutes.


On the way home, I get a text from Tau, asking if I can take him to Municipal. So I go straight to pick him up – I don’t doubt that he needs a sesh, and I’m not wrong, either. But there’s something else, too. The minute he gets in the car, I can see Tau wants to tell me something.

We’re turning into Municipal Rd, and he says, “You know all that counselling shit, Miss…”

“Yeah,” I say.

“Well my mum’s social worker came round today, and he took me to see this other man – a counsellor.”

“Oh… and how was that, Tau?” I ask, hearing him sound just a little bit proud of himself, and feeling my heart lift.

“It was… good,” Tau says, surprising both himself and me.

He laughs, and “Whoa!” I say, “Tau – was it algood?”

“Yeah, it was,” he tells me. “The man said he knows what’s… what’s wrong with me, I mean what’s making me feel like this.”

“And did he say what it is?”

“Yup – Miss, he says it’s this thing that soldiers get… when they go to war, and they come back, but they can’t stop thinking about all the things that they’ve seen, and it makes them go angry and stuff.”

“Oh my gosh…” I say softly. “That’s right, Tau. I’ve heard of that.”

Tau says, “I never thought anyone would ever be able to understand those thoughts that are in my head. But it was like… all the stuff I’ve been thinking, he knew about it.”

“Wow,” I say. “Tau – that’s a huge thing.”

He just nods.

“Oh, Tau,” I say. “I’m so proud of you for going, you know that?”

He looks happy and nods again. “I didn’t want to,” he goes on. “That social worker wanted me to go yesterday, but I said no.”

“And then you thought about it for a while?” I asked.

“Yeah, and then I said I’d go.”

“Fuckin hell…” I say, with quiet amazement. “And are you gonna go again?”

“Yes Miss,” he tells me. “It costs money to go see him, but the social work place paid for me.”


We just talk for a bit, heading towards High Times, and Tau says that the counsellor told him he shouldn’t try to quit the K2 just yet, not go cold turkey – because right now that might not help.

“That’s exactly what I think,” I say. “That guy sounds onto it, he sounds… realistic.”

It touches my heart so much that Tau wants to share this stuff with me. And I feel very privileged to be trusted by this exceptional, brave, and beautiful person.

When I drop him off, Tau says, “Thanks heaps for all that, Miss.”

“Anytime,” I say, then I look at him and declare once more, “Maan, proud of you!” and he gives me a big hug.


Saturday 15 March:

This morning I hear from Tau again, asking if his mum can borrow twenty bucks until her payday, which is Tuesday.

I tell him that I’ll be over soon. I’m really not sure if it’s Sheree who wants the money, or if Tau needs a sesh and is embarrassed to ask for more cash.

When I get to Rutherford Ave, it’s pouring with rain so I drive right down the driveway. Sheree must see my car, for she opens up the front door, and we look at one another a little bit awkwardly, as I make my way to the porch where she stands. I enact a bit of displacement behaviour and fiddle with the laces of my wet sneakers, while Sheree says, “Oh, no need to take your shoes off.”

Tau comes through from the lounge. He’s doing that pacing thing which I’ve seen so many times before when he’s under stress. I can’t work out if it’s one thing or another – is it my arrival that has unsettled him; maybe Sheree doesn’t know about the money after all. Or is he just stressing about other stuff?

So I just say, “Hey Tau, you ok?”

“Yup Miss,” he says, but he paces off up the hallway, his arms straight down at his sides, fists balled up.


Then it’s just me and Sheree, in the kitchen.

“Can I make you a coffee?” she asks.

“No thanks, I’m alright… I won’t stay long,” I say, wishing I didn’t feel awkward, and knowing she probably feels just the same. “How you been, Sheree?” I ask.

“I’ve been alright,” she tells me.

We can hear Tau striding around, and I draw closer to her and say, “Is Tau alright – is it me that’s upset him?”

“No, no…” she hastens to tell me. “He’s just strung out cos he needs a sesh, that’s all.”

“So it’s not a problem, me coming in like this?” I go on, uncertainly.

“No, you don’t even need to ask!” she exclaims.

“Oh… ok,” I murmur, and I see her face kind of soften.


I still need to check with Tau about the money though, I’m not at all sure just who I should give it to. “Is it ok if I go see him for a moment?” I ask.

“Sure,” she tells me.

I walk down the hall to where Tau is standing, and approach him saying, “Tau?”

“Yes Miss,” he replies, in a voice that tells me he’s trying very hard to stay calm.

“Um… so is the money for a sesh? Or does your mum need it?” I ask.

“It’s for me,” Tau says. “But I just didn’t wanna keep hassling you for stuff – and so mum said she could pay you back on her payday.”

“Oh,” I say, this making perfect sense now. “So she knows I’m bringing it over,”

“Yup,” he says at once, looking actually relieved that I know it’s for him.

“Oh,” I say again. “Well that’s ok. You didn’t have to worry about asking me, anyway. If you need a sesh you need a sesh.”

“Thanks, Miss,” breathes Tau. “I’m really sorry for being a pain.”

“You’re never a pain,” I tell him. “I never think that, Tau.”

He nods, and manages to ask me, “Then, could you take me to Municipal please – and bring me back?”

“Course I can,” I tell him.


Sheree, having heard most of this conversation from the kitchen, says simply, “Thank you,” as I come out with Tau.

We look at one another. The awkward atmosphere has pretty much gone, now, and I say, “I’ve been thinking about you a lot, Sheree. I wanted to come over… I just wasn’t sure if it was too soon.”

“Oh my gosh!” scolds Sheree. “You need a big smack…” and we fling our arms round one another, while Tau looks on with a mild patience that makes me want to cry.

“Ok, let’s go take you to High Times,” I look at him and say pragmatically – and Sheree and I both giggle at his expression, which is very placid now.

“Sorry,” Sheree says, apologizing for her son, now that she can sense it’s safer to do so. “He’s just too dependent on it, I don’t know…”

“Yeah, but if that’s the way it’s got to be right now, that’s ok,” I tell her. “I’m really proud of everything that he’s doing.”

“Me too,” Sheree says – and the object of our affection manages to grin, shyly.


Then Tau and I go to Municipal.

“I really am trying, Miss,” Tau says, as we drive. “But I hate seeing my family scared of me. When I start walking up and down like that, they all just go into their rooms and stay there.”

“At first I thought you were bummed out about me coming inside,” I tell him.

“Hell no,” he says with feeling. “You can come inside whenever you want.”

“Aww, thanks for that, Tau,” I tell him. “And honestly – you’ve taken the first steps, seeing that counsellor. It’s gonna take time, that’s all. You don’t have to do everything all at once, and everyone can see how hard you’re trying. So you just keep on going, ok?”



A good man

Wednesday 12 March, 2014:

Tired all day, and I don’t bring enough to eat. I spend the whole time feeling grouchy and wishing I had more food, and just getting tireder and tireder. Eat my yoghurt, and my sandwich… I don’t even think of supplementing this at the café. It doesn’t even cross my mind one time, so accustomed have I become to packing my lunch, now days.

After school, I make myself do one set of report comments for the year 10s, and then drag myself to the gym. Ohh, I don’t want to go. But I tell myself firmly: if you go tired, then you just go tired.


Afterwards when I get my bag out of the locker, there are four texts from Tau. Just: ‘Miss, r u bizzy?’

And then, after a pause: ‘Miss?”



So I text him back, saying I’m free now.

Within a few minutes, he replies, telling me he’s confused and angry. Doesn’t know who else to tell or talk to. He’s at the park right now, because he’s scared if he goes home he might smash up the house.

I don’t know what to do. I just drive round to the park to get him.


Tau emerges from a patch of trees and pads over, looking strung out. I get a huge wash of actual relief that I’ve collected him. He gets in the car, saying he doesn’t want to stress me out, he’s sorry… and then I just put my arm around his shoulders and feel him relax a tiny, tiny bit. Just, I think, to know that someone would come for him.

I go buy him a sesh. That’s the only thing that’s going to calm him down, and he knows it; so do I.

Then we just sit in the car and talk for a while.


Tau’s grieving so bad. He doesn’t explain it exactly that way, but he says, “There’s stuff just going round and round in my head, and I can’t stop it, and I can’t calm down. Sometimes I just want to smash up everything. There’s holes in the walls, and everyone’s angry with me. My mum says she’s scared… scared of the stuff I do, sometimes.”

He tells me all this with a gentle patient misery, and I look at his dark eyes and say, “It’s ok, Tau. That’s grief, making you feel that way.”

He nods, and I say, “You’re gonna get through, Tau. You’re strong. You’ll get through this.”

“I want to, Miss…” Tau murmurs.

“You’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever met,” I say, truthfully. “Maybe the strongest.”

“I seen stronger,” Tau says, but I can tell he’s glad.

“Well – I don’t know about that, but you’re strong too,” I say. “You are.” I look at him and say, “Far, almost 20 aye. A grown man… almost.”

“Not much of a man,” Tau says

“Nah,“ I tell him. “Nah, you’re a good man, Tau.”

And he smiles, just a little bit.


He tells me he blacked out after the funeral. He and Leroi wanted to run away before the service. They went and bought a box and started drinking. But then they came back to carry Scott’s coffin out of the house.

“That’s good though,” I say. “You did your duty, Tau,”

He nods, saying, “It was hard…”

“Course it was,” I affirm, and I put my arm around him, not for the first or last time today.


I don’t really push him to talk about  the thoughts going around in his head. “Is it mostly… stuff about your dad?” I venture.

“Yup,” he nods. “Heaps of stuff, sometimes it’s stuff that happened a long time ago.”

“I’m not surprised,” I say. “ Tau, you’ve lived with this your whole life, the same old cycle going around and around, and now all of a sudden it’s stopped, and at the same time you can’t… fix things anymore. That would make you real sad.”

“That’s true, Miss,” Tau says. “Before, it was always like there was this little, tiny chance he might change.”

“I know,” I say, real gentle.


And he tells me his dad’s family – his uncle and cousins – told him he could come over and see them if he needed time out.

“I tried that a couple times,” he says. “But it gets awkward… cos I didn’t grow up with that side of the family. They’re nice and everything – I just don’t know what to say. So I just sit there and say nothing, and it goes real quiet and I get more and more uncomfortable. I’m sure they think I’m weird.”

“I bet they don’t,” I say, truthfully. “I reckon they know what you’re going through.”

“Maybe… but I don’t like going around there, I hate talking, especially when I don’t know people,” Tau says, with a big sigh.

“Well that’s ok,” I tell him. “And if I’m talking too much, you just let me know, alright? I don’t care if we just sit here for a bit.”

“Nah, you’re algood Miss,” Tau says. And he just keeps talking anyway.


He tells me weed doesn’t cut it anymore, it doesn’t calm him down enough. That really bothers me, but I don’t say so… or not directly. He knows what I think about K2, which he says is the only thing that can get him to sleep. He has to have it all day long, pretty much. If he runs out, he can’t cope.

So that’s what we get – K2 from Municipal. I don’t ‘want’ to, but at the same time, I know Tau’s telling me the truth: right now he can’t cope without it. And when he gets back in the car he’s shaking and I ask him, “You okay Tau?”

“He breathes in and out a few times and calms down, knowing it’s there.


I just want to help him and I don’t know how. I love Tau like I raised him, and like I said he’s almost a grown man now, and he’s strong –  but this is some shit to get through. So I just tell him how great he’s doing, and how I know that he’s had to carry stuff for everyone his whole life.

“Sometimes I try to talk about that, with my family,” he says. “But then Leroi just gets upset and says no-one knows how hard it’s been for him.”

“Yeah,” I nod. “But maybe you can talk about it with someone else? When you’re ready, of course. But I think it would help, Tau. Because your whole life, you’ve taken it on, and I think it might be time to let some of it out, you know.”

“I want to,” Tau says, thinking about it. “I hate talking about stuff. But I don’t want to just think about it and think about it until I go crazy.


Tau says he hates it at home. He itemizes a kind of list for me, not really complaining about any of it:

  • ‘Everything’s broken’ (no thanks to Tau himself, as well he realizes).
  • Stuff keeps going around and around in his head there.
  • The others try to make him talk when he doesn’t want to talk
  • They’re always telling him he’s the man of the family now


I say he can come round any time, get some time out.

“I’ve thought about coming round, I’ve thought about it heaps, he says. “But I didn’t wanna stress you out.”

“You don’t stress me out, Tau,” I tell him. “You never do.”

He nods, just sitting there in the car, quite calm for a while. I’m so grateful to be able to give him the least bit of space to relax, and it soothes my heart right down to see that tense look gradually leave his eyes. And there we stay for an hour or more.


We share a ciggie, round about then. Tau lights up, and I have my two puffs, making him laugh.

When I drop him off home he seems pretty calm, even if only for the time being.

“Remember, if you need help, you only have to text me,” I remind him. “Even if I was at work. I’d come as soon as I could.”

In reply, he reaches over and hugs me real tight, before hopping out of the car and going inside (‘inside’ being down the road a hundred metres or so – it’s dark, and I’ve overshot the house; no surprises there.)



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?”


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.”


“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.



In heaven and earth

Saturday 1 March, 2014:

I’m calmer than I imagined, after last night. When Lorna tells me about Tau ‘going berserk’, as she puts it, I feel scared for him. But at the same time, it’s what I expected – and when I realize that, I’m ok. I guess I have to be.

And there’s still no point in me yanking on that particular line, and getting myself all spooked. Tau’s got to deal with things his own way. So I just have to let it go, as much as I can. Because there are energies in heaven and earth that are way more powerful than mine, and I have to trust that Tau gets some of that help.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it. Just that I can’t let it be a destructive thought, because I want to stay as steady as I can. It isn’t going to help me or anyone else if I’m jumping around like a fish on a hook.


Sunday 2 March:

I don’t really mind doing the cleaning. I just put some music on, and take my time. All the while I’m thinking about… stuff. Stuff about stuff.

I think about Sheree, and I wonder how she’s doing. I half want to text her and ask. But it’s too soon, you know

Then I think about that time she switched up my furniture. I wonder if I was ‘cold’ that day – or maybe just straight cold. I longed to be warm and I wasn’t sure how. But all things considered, it was a tough situation; it wasn’t just that one day. So I think to myself, well, I wasn’t just cold – I tried real hard. It makes me kind of sad now, to think how I tried and tried and tried.  I don’t think many people would have even given it a try. Maybe I didn’t do so good with it. But it’s not like there was an ‘example’ I could use.

When I ask myself: Am I cold? – I also remember how it was with Kepaoa. And then I know for sure, I’m not cold. I tried hard, with a lot of things.

And I’m still trying, guess so.


Later I have some time free, so I go do some more decluttering, sorting out a couple of boxes in the wardrobe. One of them contains photos, these spin me into a bit of a crisis. When I look at these photos, most of which date back at least ten years, I wonder at how I looked so solemn all the time, if not actually unhappy. And there’s not even one photo in which I don’t see a kind of panic in my eyes, like a wild creature that’s been tethered. My expression trying to approximate the regular, but you can see that my eyes are just hovering.

When I see myself that way, I feel kind of aghast.  I chuck a lot of those photos out today. And I’m glad.

I didn’t know then I was meant to be strong and wild. I didn’t know that I’d have to go way down in the valley with the troops; that it would call to me until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I didn’t know I had any skills. Ha, that reminds me of Sheree. She would use that word, ‘skills’. She used to say to me, “You’ve got so many skills.”

No, Sheree. You’ve got survivalist skills. To be honest, I think we both do.

And I mean, I’ve thought about this enough times that I also realize there must be a reason for how it was, and how it is now. A time a place.


Tuesday 4 March:

The year 10’s are so sweet today.

Miria says, “Miss, do you got a ruler?”

And I say, “Yup, sure thing,” and find one on my desk and give it to her.

“Do you ‘have’ a ruler…” quotes Lauralee, looking from Miria to me and back again.

“Huh?” I say, because of her tone, more than anything else.

She laughs, saying, “That’s what teachers always say – ‘Don’t say ‘got’, it’s do you have a ruler?’”

“Oh…” I say, getting it. “Do they?”

“Yes,” she tells me.

“Do they, really?” I ask again, with great interest. “It must be those English teachers.”

“No – it’s all of them. Teachers always do,” Lauralee explains, and then thinks about it and adds, “Ohh – not you though, Miss.”

“Oh god, no way,” I confirm, aghast at the thought, and giving a little ‘pfffft’ towards those absent teachers.


Wednesday 5 March:

Still got stuff on my mind.

The front door, for one thing. I better email the property manager tomorrow, because it jammed shut this morning, and when I got home I couldn’t unlock it. Lucky I had the key to the French doors, and got in that way.

At first I think the door sticking is something to do with the break in, a few weeks ago. But after a while, I realize it’s more likely to be related to the time Tau kicked it in, to get to Shae (two years ago… and oh, how much has happened since then.)


And this morning’s ‘Staff professional development’ for another. It’s actually better than usual – one of the Youth Court Judges comes in to talk about young offenders. But it clutches at my heart too much. Everything he says is true, in a way. But listening to him talk about that small percentage of hard core repeat offenders and their characteristics; well it beings to mind the sorrows of people I know and love, and my heart squeezes and contracts with a kind of grief – for myself as much as anyone else.

I warm to the Judge. He strides two ‘worlds’ – which of course, aren’t separate worlds at all, though many people believe they are. And he shows compassion,  much more so than the assembled teachers, who are horrified in that patronizing, ‘caring’ and well-to-do kind of way. Some offer up comments about ‘crap parents’ and ‘neglect’, and ask him why social services don’t remove more children from their families.

I say something, at one point. But I feel all choked up and try to keep myself in check.


Thursday 6 March:

Overall, school and me… it’s a funny kind of thing, trying to stay positive. I’m doing ok with it, but every now and then I’m driving there in the morning, and I remember how it was, just a year ago. How oftentimes I’d eat my breakfast while Kepaoa slumbered on the couch, arms flung back and legs kicked out. Sometimes I’d just give him a little pat on the shoulder on my way out, and he’d wake up for a moment and yawn and grin. And when I got to school, Slade would come straight in and we’d just sit down for a while before the bell rang, talking about any old shit.

I miss those days, hard. And yet I’m trying very hard, too. I’m not even letting myself think, ‘For why? For what?’ There’s got to be a reason, and that’s what I tell myself. For all of this – there’s got to be a reason.

And you never quite know when, or why something’s going to be important. You just have to hope and believe it might be. It’s enough to go on with. I think about that word, dharma. Guess maybe it’s my dharma to do certain things, and perform certain tasks – or even duties – faithfully, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t regret a single one of those things, I just wish I could do them better, especially for my Tau. But maybe I’ve done something. And maybe I’ll do something. All I know is I can’t be sad, and I can’t give up.



All the fear that has ever been in your heart

Thursday 17 January, 2013:

Tau texts me this morning, tells me the boys are coming to pick him up, they’re going to go round to Robbie’s already. It’s only about 8 o’clock.

I ask him if he’s had a good sleep, he replies that he got drunk first… so he had a good sleep.


Just before midnight, I head to the airport to pick up Kepaoa. Not that I’m even holding my breath on this. I just think to myself – well, if he’s there, he’s there. And then it turns out he’s the very first person to clear Customs and make it through the arrivals gate. He embraces me and hoots with laughter at my faux “surprised” look, saying he knew if he didn’t make it this time, he’d be stuck in Australia.

It soothes my heart, you know, to talk to Kepaoa. To acknowledge that it’s been hard lately. I think it’s the same for him, too. He starts to calm down: about Teri and the baby; about things in general.

“Does it feel weird to be back?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “It feels like I’ve never been away.”


When we get home, Tau’s here, real horced. He stumbles about as he talks to us – I think Kepaoa is even a little bit shocked to see him this way, though of course he knows about Robbie and what’s happened. The two of them greet one another in a very friendly manner, clasping hands and slapping shoulders. Kepaoa is bringing in his bags, so I leave him to do that, and go talk to Tau in the sleepout.

He’s just walked over from Carthill, via Fitzroy St, where he “played up”, he tells me. Stepped out everyone, stood them over and took their buds – even Leroi. Then he took off, and made his way round here.

“I was angry,” is all he can say, to explain it. “I don’t know why I got like that.”

“I know, Tau,” I tell him. “Everyone understands, don’t worry. Sometimes when people feel real, real sad – they get angry like that.”

He nods, just breathing quietly. He seems calm now. He’s made a feed at my place (just before we got home) and is about to light up the bucky. He tells me, “I’m sorry I stepped out Leroi.”

“He’ll be alright,” I reassure him.


The three of us sit out in the shed for a while, just talking. Tau bends over the bucky from time to time. When he offers it to Kepaoa though, he just shakes his head, saying, “Algood ge.”

“Miss?” says Tau, proffering it to me. I just laugh.

“Faar, I’m blazed,” says Tau, sitting back wearily in his chair. He does look extremely stoned.


Friday 18 January:

This morning Tau says, “Kepaoa’s algood Miss, he was humble as.” I think he’d been expecting to see some impassive, staunch persona – and Kepaoa can certainly be that way. But last night there was a kind of compassion about him that touched my heart very much. Maybe he saw that Tau was hurting, deep inside. And it wasn’t so long ago that Kepaoa was hurting like that too.

First day after the funeral – it’s a hard time. And Tau finds it so hard to deal with the way he’s feeling; I don’t even know if he can articulate it to himself. He’s so damn ‘elemental’ sometimes, is Tau. Every emotion’s like a flash flood, or a tornado, or a spike of radiant sunshine. Especially when it’s heightened by alcohol.

Speaking of which, Leroi’s over – the two of them have obviously made up – and Tau’s purchased an 18 pack of Cody’s. They’re just drowning everything out with alcohol. They won’t even think about the stuff that hurts them; they can’t. And I’m going out with Mandy; we planned it the other day. Should I leave the boys? I don’t know. Objectively I look at it, and I think – honestly, am I crazy?

I just have this feeling in my heart that I’ve got to trust Tau, from somewhere down in the depths. I have to trust him to look after things up here. I know that sounds crazy, possibly. But I don’t think anyone’s ever trusted Tau before, in his whole life – and I think I have to.

So I just put my arms around Tau and Leroi’s blued up shoulders (they’re still wearing their clothes from yesterday) and say, “Guys, I’m trusting you to look after things. I want you to have a quiet night, and take it easy, k?”

Tau nods, and his body relaxes under my arm. “Yup, Miss,” he says. “We will.”

“Yup, Miss,” Leroi says, and I get the weirdest feeling of safety, God knows why. I can’t see what the hell I’m doing, some days. I just know I have to give Tau what I need from him, which is trust. I just have to. It’s the only thing that just… might… work.

And God, don’t forget for even one second.


Saturday 19 January:

Actually last night is pretty nice – unpretentious, busy. We get Mojitos, and bar snacks: fish goujons, beer battered fries. Just sit there and talk.

When I get home, things are all good. Tau comes in and out, he looks quite sober(ish) and in full control of the house and its environs. There’s only Leroi there with him, and they’ve been quiet, no dramas.

But I wake up early this morning and my stomach lurches with that same feeling. I want to cry, because I don’t know how to make it go away. And the more I think about it, the worse it feels. I’m so tired of being afraid, especially a week out from school. I’m tired of waking up with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, that seems like habit. I’m tired of seeing my eyes like two beseeching, imploring bunny eyes; I feel like a quivering wretch, timid and ready to dart and hide.

I don’t even know why it’s like this. Not really, or not… essentially. Because it isn’t my essence, but it’s like I said – a habit that’s formed. And breaking this habit seems like the hardest thing in the whole, entire world to me.

Sometimes I feel like freedom’s just one, tiny click away. And other times I think shame will never let me go.

Ohh, I can tell you how I need to throw it off, just shrug it right off and stand up, without the tether of shame. And if I could, then what would be possible?


“I pray that God will bless you in everything that you do. I pray that you will grow intellectually, so that you can understand the problems of the world and where you fit into, in that world picture. And I pray that all the fear that has ever been in your heart will be taken out…” – Malcolm X

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.


Reality check

Wednesday 10 November, 2010:

Leroi brings a message from Tau this morning. He wants to come help me pack up my room – can I pick him up when school finishes? So, after school I take Leroi home, and collect Tau. As we go down the drive, Sheree waves at me from out on the steps. She’s pretty drunk, and I see Leroi kind of flinch.

We spend two hours shifting my stuff, just talking about everything that’s going on. It’s a reality check – and the reality ain’t pretty. There aren’t many illusions on either side. Actually, I don’t think there are any, which just makes it all the harder to bear. I feel a kind of agony, as if my heart’s being ripped into little feathers. And often I think I’m not capable of offering a single piece of advice or a useful word.

There are moments when ‘my’ Tau is still there in all his lovable glory. There truly are. And I love him no less, anyway, the rest of the time. But my heart’s so sore that this all can’t quite be processed yet. My mind can’t settle on top of such extreme pain.

Every time I’ve tried to write I’ve given up in tears. I actually find myself gasping for breath like a dog panting. Tears collect and then kind of upend themselves and are thrown down like buckets of dirty water down a hill.

I feel totally grief-stricken, in a way, even though Tau’s alive and well and kickin’ it in Municipal.


Thursday 11 November:

The only thing I can do is be brave today, though I feel like I’m going to topple. I promise to stay brave the whole time, just because Tau’s brave – and inwardly I bow towards this person who I do really love and applaud, even with everything I’ll say next.

Take a deep breath and write what I can bear to write about – just as it comes to mind.


Tau looks older and heavier. His leg’s sore and he’s hobbling a bit – he’s been in a fight and tells me his thigh is bruised. But he still carries all my boxes upstairs, making trip after trip. In between, we just talk.

And he’s warier and more guarded than I’ve ever seen him – I think maybe he’s even wary of me, to start with. He’s also more openly gang affiliated than before. He has his blue rag on, and – now that he’s started making money – some fancy shades. He looks harder, too. I’m not saying he couldn’t look hard before, but now it’s right up front. I never really see, except in little moments, that same old soft and mellow look in Tau’s eye. There are just a couple of times.

I don’t love Tau any the less for the fact that he’s changed – I knew the day would come, and it would happen. I accepted it would cause me pain, but to be honest, it hurts very bad and I do flinch from it before I walk towards it.


He’s very frank about his dealing, after first saying to me, “Don’t tell anyone about this, Miss.”

“Tau, I won’t,” I say. “Who would I tell?”

“Don’t tell even my friends,” he says.

“I talked to Noa yesterday – I didn’t tell him,” I say. “I didn’t say a word.”

“Ok,” he nods, and then I ask him, “So, how’s this all happening then? I mean – how does it work?”

“Well,” he tells me, “I’m buying my ounces for –” (and he names a price which I can’t recall). “And then I’m dealing – I’ve got people dealing for me,” he adds, with a little pride.

“Have you, Tau?” I asked.

“Yup,” he says.

“And are you selling down Municipal?”

“Yeah, I do deals at home too, but it’s not fast enough.”

“But, aren’t there people already selling round there – won’t you be taking their business? They might wanna -”

“Stand me over?”

I nod, saying, “Cos, I just get worried about you Tau. I’m not judging you – not at all. But I don’t want anything bad to happen.”

“I’m careful, Miss,” says Tau. “And people look out for me, cos of my dad. All the gang members know my dad and they watch my back. I can sell there – the other dealers are ok with it.”

“Well, I dunno,” I say. “I hope you’re right. But what if someone snitches then? What if you got arrested – aren’t there all those security people round the mall?”

“Nah, they’re algood,” says Tau.

I mutter, “I just hope you’re right.”


Tau looks around him and out the window. “School, aye,” he says, nostalgically, shaking his head at himself a little bit. “I used to come here in the weekend… just lie on the field out there. Kick back, do some tagging.”

“Yeah, school aye…” I echo. “Tau?” I ask. “Do you feel like it would be real hard for you to come back to school now?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said slowly. “I want to sometimes, but…”

“I know,” I say. I see that little soft look steal back for just a second into Tau’s eyes, as he remembers. I say, “The thing is, you don’t really think like a kid anymore, do you Tau. I think that’s why it would be hard.”

“You’re right,” says Tau. “I haven’t thought like kids think for ages and ages.” He pauses and then says, “Do you know, Miss, I haven’t thought that way for a long time. But I couldn’t do anything about it before – I wasn’t allowed to.”

“And now no-one can tell you not to,” I say.

“No – even my dad’s dealing for me, now,” says Tau, calmly. “Sometimes my mum gets scared that someone will see, cos we leave stuff lying around on the table. But I don’t think the pigs will come – I don’t do deals outside or anything. I’m pretty careful, Miss.”

“Yeah, I know – I just hope you’re right,” I say.


We ponder things quietly for a little while. “But,” I ask, “Can you imagine how it would be, coming back here and having teachers tell you to do stuff. Go to class; sit down; be quiet; do your work… you’d probably smash someone.”

“That’s exactly what would happen,” agrees Tau. “I would.” He adds, “And I’d sell and sell… if I came back to school.” There’s a glint in his eye; as he dreams of the untapped possibilities.

“Oh Tau,” I say, “You would, too.”


He also tells me he goes angry and ‘psycho’ (as he puts it) when he can’t get stoned every few hours. He even asks if he can have some spots, right there in my room. We laugh, but he means it, and I know he does.

He wheedles, “Nah, nah, yeah Miss, go on.”

“I can’t, Tau. I’ll get fired if I go doing stuff like that at school. Then I’ll have to come work for you.”

“Yeah, Miss,” says Tau. “You can be my grower.” And we crack up laughing.


But it does upset me – Tau can’t remember things like he used to. He starts to tell me something, then suddenly looks all confused and says, “Oh, Miss… what? Did I just start to say something?” And Tau always used to have the best memory.

He asks me a couple more times, “Go on Miss, let me have some spots aye – it’ll be alright, no-one’s here.”

I just shake my head and say, “You know I can’t,” and he sighs, with endearing resignation.

We look at one another and he just chuckles.


I don’t feel like I have the moral high ground at all. Tau can do what I’m just scared to do.  He’s pretty strong, and I’m not strong.

I’m tired, and this tale is coming in bits and pieces, with tears in between, and I know I’m gonna even cry more before I can finish the story. I feel scared to be saying all this stuff.  But I can, and I do.