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?”