Strategies

Thursday 4 September 2014:

Tau and Leroi have ‘a few’ cans tonight – this turns out to be more like two boxes. I’m alright with it, or kind of. It’s the end of another successful ‘week’ of study (course runs Mon-Thurs and Tues-Fri on alternate weeks). Not just that, but it seems wiser to drink here, rather than round at their uncle’s (the alternative strategy).

It’s just that… 24 cans is a lot, actually. Or maybe it’s only 18, but that’s a lot too. It doesn’t seem like a lot to them – which in some ways is the thing that bothers me.

Still, they do ask me. I give the decision some thought, and it seems like the safest way to play it. I try to be as pragmatic and reasonable as I can, considering that: a) I love them and am proud of them, b) I want to try minimize risk, and c) I know there’s always a risk.

Everything goes ok though. I make dinner and leave it on the counter when I go to bed.

 

Friday 5 September:

When we get home from Municipal (DVDs, fish and chips, and the drugs run), Sheree’s sitting in the sleepout, and looking quite comfortable there too. A couple of things immediately occur to me. First, that she hasn’t even bothered to let me know (she texted me not five minutes earlier to ask where the boys were, but didn’t say she was here.) So the tacit assumption troubles me: that it’s Tau’s place and she can come and go as she likes.

Second, the boys have left the sleepout unlocked again – I’ve mentioned this to them a few times, but it keeps happening. I don’t like leaving the place unsecured, anyone could stroll in. I don’t just mean Sheree – I mean anyone, with who knows what intention.

I tell Sheree I’ll drop her off “soon as she’s ready”, though the temporal implications of this statement don’t sink in as quickly as I hope.

 

Ha, and then all that’s nothing, compared to what comes later.

Round 1 am, I hear someone crying and knocking on the door of the sleepout. First I think it’s Leroi, and that he and Tau must have had an argument. It’s raining and I tuck a rug around my shoulders and go out.

Sheree is in the sleepout, weeping and wailing. She’s huddled on the weights bench, while Tau sits impassive on the bed and Leroi lays on the couch, still snoring. Turns out her family has given her a hiding, and a ‘taxi man’ has seen her wandering in the park and dropped her off here (at her own request).

She crouches and cries, “I miss Scott… I miss him so much!” There’s nothing really to be done, so I just sit next to her while she sobs. Tau looks super-stressed, which is the way I feel inside too. Leroi just slumbers on (or pretends to), either of which is probably a good thing.

Sheree has that drunk, little-girl voice as she asks, “Please Miss… can I stay here for the night, I’ll be gone in the morning?”

“Yup, ok…” I murmur, knowing this is the only kind thing I can say, but feeling a great surge of resentment that Sheree is both dumping her problems on Tau’s already overburdened shoulders, and using my place as a convenient bolt-hole.

I leave the shed and fall asleep quickly, probably out of desperation to have my mind rid of problems for a while.

 

Saturday 6 September

In the morning, Sheree comes in to use the bathroom. She’s limping, can hardly walk – and is obviously embarrassed about last night. In some ways I feel for her. But still using that same girly voice, she calls me Miss again. I feel like saying – fuck, I’m not your Miss, you’re a grown woman. Instead, I just offer to make her a coffee, but she beats a hobbled retreat back to the sleepout.

An hour later, a car arrives, and Sheree emerges again, leaning on Tau’s shoulder and hopping on one leg. She gets in. I hear her call out, “Love you…” to the boys.

 

Tau comes straight in to inform me she’s going down the line. He looks relieved, to be honest.

“That’s a good idea,” I say. “Go down for a few days, sort stuff out.”

“Mum says she wants to stay there,” he tells me. “Get us a house.”

Whatever, I think to myself. She can just keep drinking and see how far she gets.

Actually, it distresses me to feel like this towards Sheree. But I’ve gone far past the point of pretending we can be friends. Too much has happened, and when it comes down to it: family’s family. I’m just her Plan B – and probably Leroi’s too, for that matter, and maybe even Tau’s. And yet I allow it to happen. I hold that line for Tau, if only they knew it. And perhaps they do, who knows?

 

Like me (though of course I don’t say as much), Tau surmises that Sheree will be back at her brother’s before too long. “It’s the only house where she can drink,” he says, counting off reasons. “And down the line she’s got nowhere to score. Plus she said uncle’s is the only place she feels comfortable.”

“Yeah, well she wasn’t very comfortable last night,” I say, trying not to sound too sarcastic.

“Hard,” Tau replies, and then, “But I still reckon she’ll go back there.”

“What about moving down the line?” I ask.

“She says she wants to,” says Tau. “But I don’t think my mum could get a house anywhere. She doesn’t know how to do any of that stuff. So she’ll just go back to Uncle’s.”

“And then the same thing’s going to keep happening, probably,” I say, and Tau nods, without rancour.

“Anyway me and Leroi don’t want to go down the line.” He looks horrified at the thought, adding, “And we’re doing good on our course, we’d hate to give that up.”

 

Sunday 7 September:

I hardly know where to start. The boys head off to Clancy, and things intensify even further once they return home. Of course, alcohol is again the prime mover.

Tau gets back first – this is around 2 am. He arrives without any signs of distress whatsoever. His footfall is light and untroubled, and he lets himself in to make a feed. His state registers as ‘normal’ on my radar; in fact I don’t even get out of bed – there’s no need.  Idly, I wonder if Leroi has stayed over at Clancy. Then I fall back to sleep.

 

An hour or so later, I wake again, hearing Leroi come back and go into the sleepout  And that, I assume, is the end of their night.

A couple of minutes later, I hear voices start up. At first I think it’s another one of their famous rap battles. But then there’s a scuffle and a shouts; a door bangs, and I hear someone crying.

When I go out, I see a figure by the car, and “Who’s outside,” I call.

“Me, Leroi,” comes the reply. “Tau’s locked me out of the shed, I don’t know why he’s angry!” At the end of this sentence Leroi’s voice rises in a wail.

“Okay, okay Leroi,” I tell him. “I’ll go see what’s happening in there.” And I tap on the door, saying, “Tau, it’s me – let me in.”

The door opens and admits me, and I lock it behind me, automatically.

 

Inside the shed a few things have been knocked to the ground (a plate, cups, some DVDs), and Tau stands amongst them, his breath heaving out and his jaw clenched and twitching. “I just wanted to kick back!” he bursts out. “I just wanted to watch a DVD and go to sleep. And then Leroi came back and tried to step me out.”

“What’s it over?” I ask him, and I put one arm across his shoulders. “What happened?”

“I don’t even know,” Tau tells me. He’s struggling to restrain himself, I can see that. “I just wanna hook the cunt…”

“No you don’t; no you don’t,” I say, trying to keep my voice calm.

“I wanna smash that cunt, then gap.”

“Nah Tau, you don’t want to do that,” I say, my hands still firmly against his back. “I’ll take him inside, you guys need some time out.”

“I’m fuckin sick of him,” Tau rails. “Fuckit, I feel like gapping.”

“I know,” I acknowledge. “But if you go out on the road like this, anything could happen.”

Tau nods, and I chance my arm a bit more, using one of La-Verne’s favourite words: “Is that a good strategy, Tau? What do you think will happen if you use that strategy?”

“Smash something up,” mumbles Tau. At least he’s listening to me.

“Yup… and probably get locked up for the weekend,” I sigh. “Come on Tau, you’re too smart for that now.” And I carry on coaxing him, gently: “You’re strong, Tau. I know you can stay calm.”

“Wanna gap…” Tau’s face crumples and he breathes out a few sobs. “Miss, I just wanna smash him and gap, I don’t want to be around him.” I can see what a mighty effort he’s making to do what I’m requesting of him.

“I know,” I try to soothe him. “I’ll keep Leroi away from you, and you can just stay in here, okay? He can sleep on the couch, let you guys get some time out.”

Tau nods, half unwillingly, but nods all the same.

“I’ll go out and talk to him,” I say “But I want you to promise to stay here, ok? Can you do that, Tau?”

He nods again, and I can see the intention is there at least. So I have to risk it. “Good boy,” I tell him. “Thank you Tau, I really appreciate it that you’re listening to what I’m saying.

When I leave, I tell him, “Lock the door behind me,” and he does.

 

Outside, Leroi is pacing and now I see that he’s shirtless, too. He looks all puffed up, and reminds me suddenly of Scott.

“Fuck that faggot,” he says, when he sees Tau close the door. “Fuck him… Fuck that lil cunt.”

“Nah Leroi, come inside,” I say, as a first attempt.

“No Miss, I’ll hook that fuckin cunt, he’s all shit,” Leroi replies. He’s still pretty drunk, and is striding around as he talks.

“You guys need some time out,” I tell him. “Let’s go inside – it’s cold out here.” (which it most certainly is)

But Leroi keeps on walking back and forth, around the car and towards the shed door. “Come out, fag,” he calls. “Fuckin little fag, no nuts, soft nuts.. too chicken to come out.”

“Stop it Leroi,” I say quietly.

“Why won’t he come out then – cos he’s too fuckin scared,” Leroi asks, rhetorically. “This is what he always does when I want to fight at parties: ‘Come on Leroi, let’s go’,” he quotes, in a withering tone. “Drops his fuckin nuts, wants to go home.” He casts a look of scorn towards the windows, adding loudly, “Everyone knows it – your dad, everyone. He used to tell you, ay Tau, ya soft nuts.”

From inside the shed I hear a growl of seething rage, which is also the sound of Tau keeping his promise, and so I place my back to the door, saying firmly, “No, Leroi, leave it. I’ve asked Tau, and that’s why he’s leaving it.”

And thus, to give you the essence of it, begins the pattern of the next few hours.

Freedom

In captivity, in the shed, Pierre had learned, not with his mind, but with his whole being, his life, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of natural human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity; but now, in these last three weeks of the march, he had learned a new and more comforting truth – he had learned that there is nothing frightening in the world. He had learned that, as there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, so there is no situation in which he can be perfectly unhappy and unfree. He had learned that there is a limit to suffering and a limit to freedom, and that those limits are very close; that the man who suffers because one leaf is askew in his bed of roses, suffers as much as he now suffered falling asleep on the bare, damp ground, one side getting cold as the other warmed up; that when he used to put on his tight ballroom shoes, he suffered just as much as now, when he walked quite barefoot (his shoes had long since worn out) and his feet were covered with sores. (Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace)

Saturday 14 June, 2014:

I wake up and feel tentatively ok, and then that big scared ache in my chest just expands all over again. I don’t know how to describe it, really. It just sits there, like a patch of cold air caught in some hollow where there’s no sunlight.

And all day I have moments of relative calm, long stretches of just feeling out of sync, and then every now and then I get this raging fury – over the smallest things. The stupid music at the gym. A waste of time visit to the shops on the way home. A twig tweaking at my hair (yes, that alone produces outrage in my heart). And then the dishwasher (which we never ever use, the detergent being way too expensive) switches itself on and won’t switch off, even if I leave the drawers open. I want to smash the fucking dishwasher with an axe. I try ringing the property manager; of course there’s no answer on a Saturday. So I just have to leave it.

I control myself by going as flat as flat can be. I can feel the soles of my feet, flat on the earth. My eyes narrow. I want to be empty of visible emotion. I don’t want anyone to read me. I just think: Fuck you, and it pretty much applies to everybody. Fuck you, and fuck this.

 

Kuli phones, he’s offended on my behalf that I wasn’t invited to the family group conference. In particular, he’s annoyed with Vailea. “Write a letter!” Kuli scoffs. “What does he think you are – his bloody secretary?” I just bite the bullet and listen to him. He isn’t happy with Tau and Leroi either. “Look,” he insists. “Those two should have stood up and said you need to be at the meeting. You’re the one who looks after them every day, not the social worker and the counsellor.”

And Kuli’s right. He’s right, and it’s hard to listen to, especially when he’s so blunt.

“I feel like I’m just a roof,” I say to him at one point.

“You are,” he tells me.

In a funny way, it’s better for him to be blunt like this. It’s out in the open, and my mind’s no longer wheeling over it, like a hawk focused on a scurrying mouse.

 

As he talks, I think about last night again, and my heart still aches so helplessly, to be unremarkable. Neither fish nor fowl: not a proper support where it counts, and not a part of the family either. I do the mundane things on a daily basis, and no-one ever mentions it. I make rent and bills, and get the shopping, and fix dinner. I drop the boys off, and pick them up, and keep all that routine everyday stuff going, in the hope that they’ll feel secure enough to try out some of the new things they’re learning.

Just a roof. I don’t have Max’s big important stuff to do. And I can’t afford to deliver any extra little luxuries either – though if Vailea so much as shouts the boys a munch, or gets a top up for Tau’s phone, he’s lauded and praised all over again. As for the counselling, which is ‘costing him a fortune’. Well, he’s paid that money I suppose. Nice of him. Though I wonder, in passing, if Maxwell might have a sliding scale of fees. Does Vailea even pay $150 a time for Tau? I don’t know for sure – and actually I don’t really care.

The point is, I guess, that I could put them all straight about how I’m feeling. But no – that’s not the whole story either. I don’t even know what the whole story is. What I do know is that I made a promise to Tau, long ago – and my promises I’ll keep. You can bet your last dollar on that one, serious. It makes me feel a tiny, tiny bit better to write it down and to know I mean it. I always meant it. Cast iron guaranteed for a kazillion years – more, if that’s what it takes.

 

And I realize, despite all received wisdom, that sometimes someone else’s needs can be more important than your own. Not because they ‘are’ more important, but because there’s more to a situation than can be easily seen or apprehended. And even though I don’t fully understand it: I have to play my part. It’s not a glamorous one either. I just pick my way along miles of stones, one foot in front of the other. Down to the river, down to the valley – and back up again. Carrying whatever it is we need. Back and forth, back and forth. Loading up and loading off.

Sometimes it feels like I’m just a pack pony; a pit pony. But in the odd moment of insight, I know I’m also a carrier and a keeper. I keep the route open, and carry the supplies, and many stories besides. At times I even revel in it.

Today though, I’m tired. I don’t want to keep things so long they disintegrate – ‘Open my safe and find only ashes’. I wonder if maybe I could somehow make things safe to tell. I wish I could find a way of grounding those big energies that doesn’t only involve letting them run through me like a current. I need to find another conduit; a way to communicate some of this. Because I guess this is my story too, just as much as anyone else’s.

 

It’s kind of a mystery to me, why it’s like this. But perhaps there’s no point in analysis. Sometimes things just are mysterious, having almost a secret component to them. I really believe that’s true.

I find this so interesting at one level, and at the same time, I don’t have equanimity about it yet. But I accept it. And that gives me a certain kind of freedom, which I’m only just beginning to understand.

My part of the thing

Saturday 20 July, 2013:

It’s a bright blue winter sky day, even though it doesn’t warm up for a while. And while my mind’s still on the same track: It’s too hard, it’s too hard for me – I’m already starting to push the thought away and tell myself: No, it’s not. It’s not.

And so I take some comfort in that, even if it’s imaginary. Go get my coffee. Just try to smile at the guy when he asks me if I’m having a good day. I say yes, and that it’s a beautiful day out. I try so hard to believe it.

But when I get home and see Tau’s closed off face (“I think Tau really wants his dad to be out of jail,” Leroi tells me), I get another wave of feeling like I’m not good enough. I feel like I can’t expect anything from anyone.

I promised Tau, and that promise stands. But I’m not going to be bowed down before him. I can’t do that.

 

The day winds up happily enough. Tau, Leroi and Raphael are drinking cans of V, which cost them two dollars a pop from the dairy (the store owners must be happy, seeing as there are at least ten cans sitting on the table already).

“It helps us cut back on the drinking,” explains Tau.

“Cos we’re trying to not drink as much,” Leroi adds.

“Good for you!” I exclaim.

“We’ve actually cut back heaps,” Tau says. “And we’ve told the boys that you won’t let them drink here.”

Have you?”

“Yup,” says Tau, triumphantly. “Cos we’re just gonna be undercover, if we want to have a few lazy cans. We can save heaps of money that way, and the boys won’t come round.”

“We like it when they don’t come round as much,” Leroi tells me.

“Ohhh…” is all I say. I’m as surprised as anything.

 

So they play PlayStation and sip their non-alcoholic beverages, and it’s kind of surreal, to see them quite happy without alcohol. Tau has a few inhalations from the bucky from time to time, but that’s the very least of my worries, of course – weed being the least problematic substance for Tau to consume.

I know it’s not suddenly gonna be magically ‘easy’ or anything. But it’s a start.

 

Sunday 26 July:

I barely see Tau and Leroi today. Admittedly, they sleep for the whole morning (this happens when you stay up all night every night, hmm.) But what I’m saying is they don’t even put their heads out to say a single word, all day long. Just stay out in the shed, having sesh after sesh (I’m just surmising here), and Tau communicates via the occasional text.  Only a couple boys roll up later on. Raphael stands and talks to me in a friendly way – meanwhile the shed door is open and Tau doesn’t even acknowledge my presence outside, not even with a hello.  And suddenly I felt heartsick and wrenchingly ashamed.

Oh, I know, they’ve got their issues, that’s for sure. It’s not like I don’t know that. But all the same, it feels like no-one gives a fuck about me from one day to another.

 

I make dinner, no-one eats it. I go tell them it’s ready, and then this morning it’s still there on the counter. I tell myself, oh – it’s nothing, they’re just kids. They just take their path of least resistance and least trauma. But in my heart I think: What? You won’t even deign to have a bowl of food now. Just eat chips and drink V out in the shed, and ignore the fact that someone gives a damn about you.

And this also plays into all my most shaming feelings, from as long ago as I can ever remember. In some ways, I do still expect to be found wanting, and eventually to be despised. Part of me believes I’m not good enough for anyone to love me back. Believes I’m meek, solemn, plain and blank.

So yup, if you wanted to break some old fears, this would be the very time and place to do it, I guess. But I’m ashamed, to be seen and then ignored.

 

Wednesday 24 July:

I go to the gym, and when I come back, Tau is inside on the laptop. Almost soon as he sees me he just stands up and slips out to the shed again. I feel like I barely exist, except as an obstacle.

I take care of a few things, walking around like it’s all ok. But when I get in the shower, I hold my face to the wall and sob, quietly.

Part of me trembles, when it’s like this. I don’t want to slip round like a ghost in my own home. I don’t want my ears to prick up, and my eyes to slide sideways. I think, oh how, how did it get like this? How can it be? And why is Tau even here? Is it just because he thinks I’m soft, and weak, and meek, and blank. And will let him just sit in the shed like a king in his own domain. Refusing any of the poor things I can offer.

I don’t know. My heart clenches and twists, remembering when Tau used to come to me, every day, to sit one inch behind me and breathe quietly, as if he was breathing me in. My own cub, he was then. He was just a young boy of 14, 15…

 

And I promised him – I’ll never forget. Never. I don’t care what anyone else might think. I’m harder than anyone knows, or expects. No-one else knows me like that. But I know I’ll never forget.

Ohhh, how I miss Kepaoa the beautiful, Kepaoa the gracious. Kepaoa, who was always here of his own free choosing. I miss the easy way we could just eat, and talk, and watch TV. Stretched out on the two couches, talking far into the night, until Kepaoa’s eyes would just all of a sudden flutter and close, and I’d lay the blanket on him gently, and go to bed.

 

Friday 26 July:

Elroy’s out on bail again – are they craaazy? He’s never a safe bet on 24/7, no matter how much I want to believe he knows the score.

 

I think about Tau a lot this morning, and I have some kind of epiphany, honestly there’s this one moment when I just… understand it a bit more. No wonder it’s uncomfortable right now. No wonder we don’t know how to get our bearings on the situation. Because it’s never been quite like this before. When suddenly his parents and home have ‘vanished’, and there’s this unsettling space that no-one’s quite sure how to fill. And then, how I am with Leroi is different to how I am with Tau, which makes the whole underlying dynamic different. Tau’s trying to be the ‘adult’ for Leroi, and so am I.

But I’m not the mother here – and I don’t want to start acting like that, even if I’m worried about them both. I have my own role, and it’s not a parental one, and it’s certainly not an institutional one, either. I guess I’m still figuring it out… what it means to be me, here, right now. What does it mean, what’s it ever meant? And how can I do this without submission? Cos honestly, I have to be free right now. I love Tau so much, and at the same time, I need to do my part of the thing. Whatever the fuck that is.

 

 

Hand and foot

Monday 15 July, 2013:

First proper day of the holidays. It makes me feel so on edge, to see a few boys just strolling up the drive and going into the sleepout. They’re not doing anything wrong, just kicking it with Tau and Leroi. But I feel exposed, in a way. Feel like I’m on my own and the world can see it.

Kind of… kind of that.

 

Later on, Scott’s lawyer rings. He’s given her permission to disclose certain information to me, which is good of him. She tells me it’s likely he’ll be inside for a while, at least six weeks and probably even longer. He’s up on three charges: one minor assault charge (regarding an incident which occurred in the cells, he’s pleading guilty to that). And two other charges, to which he’s pleading not guilty. Both for assault on Sheree.

None of Scott’s family or friends have been willing to provide a bail address. The only way he could get bail now, the lawyer explains, is if he is placed into a bridging programme, the Salvation Army for example. This could take a while, as spaces are at a premium. And if he’s still inside when his case is heard, it’s possible that he could be directed into rehab when released. She says he’s ‘taking this advice on board’, which could mean a lot of things, I guess.

 

I go out to the sleepout and give the boys a run-down of our conversation. Leroi seems ok, Tau goes very quiet and hardly acknowledges me, except by very slight nods of his head. He’s stoned, but I can also see the news is affecting him. I don’t want to push it, so I just run through the basics and go back inside, where I make myself some noodles, noting that Tau and Leroi haven’t had a feed, and the only thing missing from the pantry is a bag of Doritos. I kind of sigh – but I don’t even try cook dinner. I’m just too tired – and they’re big boys. I know it’s tough, some days. I know it must be hard for them, with both Scott and Sheree suddenly absent, and no house anymore. And yeah, life at Fitzroy St was never easy either, but I guess it was home.

 

And this is the real situation – it looks like we might be in it for the long haul, and I’m not putting myself underneath anyone anymore. I said it already, and now I mean it even more than I did before. I know I have to look after myself. Behave as a free person, not someone who’s bound and tied to serve the young kings, hand and foot. Oh all my imagery, and yup, I know – but it makes sense to me.

  

Wednesday 17 July:

Tau stays in the sleepout most of the day, appears a few times (inscrutably) and goes back out again. Not that I mind, exactly, but I’m just saying the communication’s pretty minimal, even for Tau.

And then, round 5, he tells me that Sheree is ‘coming over soon’. I wish – I don’t say so – that she would check with me first, see if it’s a good time to call round. And I feel like my life’s being taken over by other people’s problems; a whole lot of problems that I didn’t cause, and yet the people involved act almost as if I’m not even here.

I feel sorry for Sheree, and I know it’s hard. But if she’d thought about it before, then maybe this all wouldn’t be happening. And it’s hard for me too, and I don’t think I can be conveniently soothing or supportive just because anyone wants me to. I feel like others expect things, want things, won’t give things away. Keep their secrets and keep their autonomy.

 

God alone knows how I’m going to actually teach school in under two weeks. It’s like all that stuff’s emptied out of my head, it can’t possibly fit in. It’s the very least of my priorities, and yet it’s going to be so immediate when the the 29th rolls around.

I look at a sample copy of a textbook for 13 History – something about the Cold War and contested viewpoints. I can’t even take the words in. Everything just swims like ants in a puddle. I can’t imagine being able to read it, let alone teach anyone about it. Immediate things are pressing in on me non-stop, and all this fakey teachery stuff just fades to the furthest corners of my tired mind.

 

Sheree arrives. She hesitantly asks if she can stay over just one night, to be with the boys before she goes back down the line.

We make chow mein, crushing garlic and ginger and chopping up vegies – and just talk about everything. The house is all warm and cosy, and suddenly it feels like a safe place to be, and I see how everyone’s trying really, really hard.

Including me.

I eat a bowl of chow mein with mashed potatoes, and then Sheree and I have a ciggie, on the deck. Wrapped up in a blanket, we talk with our arms round one another.

In a way, I can’t quite believe that all this is happening. No more Fitzroy Rd…  and everyone here tonight. It’s the weirdest thing to think about. To wonder what the fuck I was tapping into, when I lay awake, two and a half years ago, just before I moved here. Lay awake with my curtains open, feeling like there were two points connecting on the map, and that I was sending some kind of signal into the night sky.

I’ve always have to be careful with what I wish for. Because I guess I’ve always known that sometimes you can go through the door in the wall, whether it’s in or out (and maybe it’s both). But I remember wishing, right then: Please let it be now. Please don’t let it be too late.

And please God don’t forget about us. Please don’t forget about any of us.

 

Thursday 18 July:

In the morning light, it’s kind of yes, kind of no. I can’t help feeling like the spare part at my own house. They’re all out in the sleepout, saying goodbye – and I’m just doing my thing. If I’m really, really honest (and I’m trying to be now), I half-wish I could just say to Tau and Leroi that this is way too hard for me and they should probably go stay down the line as well. But only half-wish. Because I promised Tau a long time ago. It makes me want to cry, to think about it. I meant it, and my promises I’ll keep.

Only… that was back in a time when Tau thought I was special too. When he looked at me with loving eyes. And I’m not special at all. I know it – but all the same, my promises I’ll keep.

 

A hiding to nothing

Friday 7 June, 2013:

Not a good day so far. It starts off ok, ish. I go up to Municipal to get coffee, and when I get home, Tau and Raphael are there. We have a talk, out in the shed. Which is frickin messy.

So I say to Tau, “Bit messy out here.”

He just shrugs.

“You should do some spring cleaning,” I suggest, just lightly. “You and Raphael.”

“I’ll do it when I feel like doing it,” Tau tells me.

“Ohh well,” I say, feeling my eyes narrow a fraction. “It’s not as simple as that.”

No reply from Tau, who picks up a pencil and turns his attention to a pad of paper lying on the table.

“Because,” I continued. “I do have some say around here, you know.” I think I’m still smarting from recent events, to be honest.

And Tau just sits there, saying nothing and drawing. Raphael isn’t perturbed, and carries on talking to me, but it’s Tau I want to talk to.

 

After a minute, I just say, “Tau?”

“Yup,” he says, not looking up. Then, “I don’t really feel like talking,” he mumbles.

“Yeah, well I do…” I reply, just sort of pushing it.

Tau gets to his feet. “Is that us, Raphael,” he says, and walks off; Raphael follows. As they head down the drive, I hear Tau start to yell something, I don’t know what. It isn’t really directed at me, it’s just Tau handling the situation in his usual way. Getting upset, walking away, shouting his frustration out. But I just feel over it. Over everything. Totally over being treated this way by anyone. Tau, Kepaoa – anyone who thinks I don’t have feelings, that’s how it seems to me, right then.

 

I text Tau a couple of times. Saying exactly that. Telling him I got feelings too, and he’s not the only one having a hard time.

Then I text Kepaoa. God knows why I text him again. I just say something along the same lines.

And then I just sit there, wishing I had a ciggie to smoke. They make me feel sick but my body’s kind of craving them too.

After a while, I drive round to Fitzroy to leave Tau’s shed key with Sheree. Tau and Raphael having headed in the opposite direction.

 

Sheree is pleased to see me. She makes me a coffee, rolls me a cigarette (I smoke half, it gives me a head rush and then a sick woozy feeling, so that I can hardly sip my coffee anymore). We sit out on the steps and talk. I tell her about Kepaoa (turns out Tau told her what happened already, he’s been ‘worrying’ about me).

And Scott’s been nutting off, she says. Been bashing his head on things, over and over again. He tried hanging himself, on the chains on the swing. Sheree tells me all this in a whisper – Scott is asleep just across from the porch door. She looks freaked out, and I feel my heart clench. No wonder Tau can’t handle any conflict at mine. I do understand, but I still think: well, me too. I can’t handle anything, I wish and I wish and I wish and I wish – I just wiiiiiiishhhhhh. I don’t know quite what I wish for. I wish Kepaoa was around. I almost wish I’d let Teri stay, just so he was here too. But I don’t actually wish that. I just wish everything could be the way it was before, when just having him around made me feel warm, and stable, and kind of half in control of my shit. Because I don’t feel in control right now, that’s for sure.

 

Kepaoa never replies to my text (needless to say). I haven’t heard from him since Tuesday, the day all that shit went down. So I just gotta cut my losses and be realistic now – get some self-reliance back into the equation. And I’m not sorry I mentioned it to Tau about cleaning up in the shed, it looks pretty yuck out there.

Though how I’m planning to become more emotionally self-reliant I don’t know, instead of depending on a couple of gangstas who quite honestly don’t think about me much at all, and assume I’m fine and can cope with anything they put out there.

Yup, I feel precarious, but I haven’t quite given up on holding it together. And I think I need just to (in the very first place) get back some counterbalance.

 

Thank god for the gym, huh. I don’t feel like going. But I get there, hop on the treadmill to warm up, and I felt like the last bit of residual smoke is just processing its way up and out of my lungs… and then I’m glad to be there.

When I’m there, I can’t help thinking about Kepaoa again. The usual drop offs and pick ups. Him going training, me to the gym. Yup, I miss all of that. Miss singing in the car with him. Miss the way that he always grabs a hug, even if I’m just dropping him off at the side of Carthill Rd, in the rain. It’s like withdrawal symptoms, worse than the ciggies by far.

And while I’m thinking all this, I feel my eyes burst up with tears that don’t spill. I just toss my head and say to myself – ok then, see if I care! No more hustles. And I feel a little bit better that way, just working up a sweat and feeling my hair flip against my eyes; my cheek.

 

Saturday 8 June:

Wake up feeling… ok. Not great, but ok. Which is better than a lot of other things.

I think about the last few days, and how hard things have been. That feeling of being cut off, just lopped to the ground, and left like a stalk with the sap bleeding and running. And I just lie there, almost in relief that it’s happened.

It hurts, I won’t deny it. To be chopped that way, so unceremoniously. But on the plus side, it’s forced me to attend to the damage urgently, the way a plant creates scar tissue on the cut surface. Yeah, it feels raw, just a patch-up. But at least I know I got an instinct for self-preservation.

I got gas in the car too, for once. I was probably using more gas on Kepaoa than anything else, last few weeks. Seriously. All those Carthill trips. It’s like a thirty minute (at least) round trip to Montgomery Rd and back. Sometimes twice a day. And I won’t lie, I got something from it too. I felt free, and untrammeled, and happy as a bird flitting to and fro.

I miss Kepaoa so much it hurts. But I’m counting myself lucky, all the same. To realize (not quite too late) that I was on a hiding to nothing.

Literally, the phrase can be described as to bet on a contest whose outcome is at worst a beating, or at best nothing. A heavily favored team in a sporting contest earns no credit for victory, but is shamed by defeat; this team is said to be on a hiding to nothing.

Exactly, Wikipedia.

 

And as for Tau, yesterday. I really love Tau, and yet it doesn’t hurt, or not as much. I think again that I’ve let that feeling go, of wanting to be special, and beloved. But I won’t lie, I’m still mega worried about him. Almost 19, he’s heavily dependent on alcohol just to get through a ordinary day now. And what’s gonna happen with that? I don’t know, but I know one thing: I can’t turn away. I just had to ease my mind, that’s all.

One more thing. I was just thinking about it this morning, and I did something uncharacteristic, when Tau was walking away from me and down the driveway (uncharacteristic, that is, in terms of how I normally deal with Tau’s outbursts). I actually got cross with him. Said, to his retreating back, something like, “Ok whatever, you can walk away, Tau, but you’re gonna have to deal with stuff sometime you know.” Which was, I believe, when he started shouting. Like I said, not really directed at me. Just the usual lines: “Yeaaah, CP gang mo’fucker.” That kinda thing.

Tau’s got more and more stopped up, over the years. Honest to who he has. He’s not the same kid who quietly breathed out his sorrows in the Room of Requirement. Or just… he isn’t a kid anymore either, I guess. He’s been through some shit, that’s for sure. And I’m not special, that’s for sure. But I’m  there for Tau. Always have been, always will be. One of those promises you keep.

What’s gonna happen? God, what? And please don’t forget about us. Please don’t forget about us. Don’t forget, don’t forget.

 

 

Promises to keep

Tuesday 17 August, 2010:

As soon as Leroi gets to school, he finds me to tell me, “Tau got kicked out of his course, cos he’s 16.”

I suspect at once that this is just Tau’s spin on the situation.

Then Leroi continues, “And Saturday night wasn’t good.  A lot of people turned up and everyone got in fights. Our windows got smashed – the house got trashed.” He adds, “Tau had gone to sleep by then.”

“Did he start too early?” I ask

“Yes, he started drinking at 1 o’clock,” he tells me.

“And was Scott there?”

“Yes – but he couldn’t make those people leave,” Leroi says. “He tried to.”

“Are the windows and stuff fixed now?”

“No,” Leroi says calmly. “No-one… cares anymore.”

I nod.

“And Tau said to tell you – he can’t text you cos his phone got stolen while he was asleep. But he said that he’ll see you soon.”

“It’s alright,” I say, “Tell him there’s no hurry.”

 

Then, “Miss,” says Leroi. “Tau beat up Shae.” He looks at me to see my reaction, and satisfied by some calmness in my eyes, continues. “He went next door, and these girls were there, they were about 18 -”  He pauses and says, “And you know, dressed really skanky.”

I just listen, and Leroi goes on: “And Shae went over and said – what are you doing – and Taurangi told her to get out. And then they argued and he beat her up.” He said, “I saw him shin her, and he punched her, and she’s got bruises all over. And he spat on her.”

I try to think of Leroi telling me so faithfully, so as not to be shocked or upset – but I feel such a big, hot pain in my heart all the same.

“Marie’s really angry,” says Leroi.

“Who’s Marie?”

“Shae’s mum.”

“Oh…” I say.

There’s a little pause, and then “Miss – do you think Taurangi is bad, now?” asks Leroi.

“No,” I say. “Of course I don’t think Taurangi is bad. He’s done something wrong, but he isn’t a bad person – he’s a very good person.  I know that Leroi. I’m just really sorry it’s happened. Then I murmur, “He told me he didn’t touch Shae – hadn’t touched her once.”

“I don’t think he had either, Miss,” says Leroi. “Sometimes they had arguments – but he didn’t hit her.”

And we talk about it, and I can see that Leroi is just wanting to tell someone, and he has such a quiet, composed expression in his eyes that I can hardly stand it.

 

I try to lighten things a little: “Tell Tau we’ll find him a better course, ok?” and Leroi laughs, saying, “Scott says he should get a job, but I don’t think anyone will hire him,”

We roll our eyes, at Tau’s chances of finding employment.

Later on I ring the Back to Basics course. They say Tau wasn’t kicked out. He wanted to leave – and he left. They said they aren’t going to follow it up – because he isn’t funded anymore, and it’s his choice not to come back.

 

And all afternoon I think about Tau hitting Shae. I don’t know if there’s a single useful thing I can do – but all the same, there’s a strange, strange symmetry. I know that this is ‘a time a place’, and I have to hold on.

Because I promised I would, and there’s some promises you have to keep.