Real time

Friday 28 November:

The boys are over at their uncle’s, drinking. After a few hours I get a text from Tau, and I go pick them up. There’s a slightly odd vibe on the way home; nothing I can really put my finger on, so I just put it down to the alcohol.

Ten minutes later, I hear raised voices. I chuck on my shoes, grab my phone (with both sangfroid and prescience) and go out there.

Tau and Leroi are about to fight. I remonstrate with them, get in between them (several times), while they wrestle, and things are rocked and tipped about the shed. Tau’s eyes are bulging and shiny white; Leroi takes his shirt off and smiles with rage.

Finally I have us all sitting down. I know it’s only a lull in the proceedings, but that’s as much as I can ask for. I ring Nana Pam.


Fifteen minutes later, as the atmosphere lurches and threatens to tip back to crisis point, I’m very grateful when I hear Pam’s car in the drive. She comes in and I briefly explain things (in a surprisingly calm way), before she tells Leroi to come with her. There is a short altercation over buds and I instruct Tau to split the foils, which he does, throwing Leroi’s portion on the floor and saying, “He can stick this up his ass.”

As soon as they’ve gone, Tau begins to cry. He cries until there are foaming drops of spittle at the corners of his mouth, and a ribbon of snot bobbing from his nose. His shirt is all ripped from the fighting, and he crouches next to me – and I hold onto him.

“Don’t gap, Tau,” I say tenderly.

“I won’t – it’s alright Miss, I don’t wanna gap anymore,” he sobs. “This is the only place where I feel comfortable. I just don’t want to be around him.”

“I know, Tau… I know, it’s ok,” I tell him.

After a while he has a quick cone. I smoke almost a whole ciggie and don’t even feel sick; this connotes stress city, for me.


At 2:30 I go to bed. Four hours later the alarm wakes me up, and I get ready for my day at work: one day shy of a whole calendar month since the last time. After last night I don’t want to go. But I keep telling myself – this is breaking the drought.

Before I leave, I ring Pam and ask her to keep Leroi with her for the day. She says she’ll do her best – but by midday Tau texts to tell me Leroi’s walked back on his own, and they’re “algood now”; this of course does not reassure me greatly.


At the close of the school day I take my time sheet up to the office, then go home. The shed’s dark and the door is ajar so I push it open, knocking a little first. Tau’s lying on the bed, Leroi’s asleep – or maybe pretending to sleep – on the couch.

Tau sits up as soon as he sees me. He’s wrapped in a white duvet with a frill, and looks almost comically sweet. It reminds me for some reason of a book I had when I was a little kid – a bear who wore a party dress for some special occasion.

“Oh my gosh, Tau,” I say, touching the frill for an instant. “You look like you’ve got your prettiest outfit on,” and he can’t help but laugh.


We talk in low voices. I’m worried and relieved and tired all at the same time, and I can hardly keep my emotions in check. Besides, I’m almost sure Leroi’s only feigning sleep, and the thought that he’s overhearing everything frustrates me so much that I nearly cry.

I go back inside, where I can’t settle, flitting about in the cold breeze that’s coming in through the french doors. I don’t even have the will to shut the door, and after a while I just give up and let a few tears spill from my eyes.

By now it’s getting dark, and, “Oh, who cares,” I conclude, with a degree of insouciance that has kicked in right when I need it. I go out again and find Leroi has ‘woken up’. So Tau and I go do the drug shop run (which God knows how we can afford, but today they really do need it), and pick up fish and chips from Municipal.


Saturday 29 November:

Pam rings and we have a talk – during which she tells me that Sheree might not take up her spot in rehab after all, as she “doesn’t like the boys living in the shed”. I’m so enraged by this that I just about can’t speak for a moment. Sheree! She’s already the biggest victim out… and now she’s looking for an excuse to get herself off the hook from rehab before she even gets there.

Anyway, Pam gets an earful about it. I’m actually shaking, and my mouth quivers as I reply. Not that it’s Pam’s fault – I can see that I’m kind of shooting the messenger here. But I still do a big rant about how Sheree doesn’t do jack shit for anyone and if she has a problem with where the boys are she should put her money where her mouth is and sort out her own shit. And (seeing as I’m on a roll now) I add that Tau and Leroi aren’t ‘living in the shed’; they have the entire house at their disposal. I come to a halt with one last flourish, saying that a lot of their shyness and their limited social skills are down to Sheree’s atrocious parenting.

And Pam just keeps saying, “I hear you,” and really being nice about it, the poor lady. She says she understands exactly how I felt, she has to put up with the same crap from people who do nothing and then run their mouths about everything, and, “Oh, what’s going to happen to that fuckin family?” she laments. “Excuse my language, but I sometimes think they’re all fucked, every fuckin one of them!”

“Can I get an Amen!” I exclaim, and then we both burst out laughing.


After all that, I do something dumb. Even though Pam has asked me not to mention this to the boys, I don’t have a show of containing my feelings about the matter. I go out to the sleepout, and everything comes tumbling out.

Poor Tau doesn’t know how to respond; his face crumples up with the effort of having to take this on board half-asleep. He starts by surmising that Nana Pam is probably just talking shit, to which I reply that no, she heard it from Sheree herself.

Then Tau says (making a mighty effort to stay calm, I might add) that it must have came out wrong because his mum’s worried about going to rehab. I reply that Sheree isn’t the only one who’s allowed to have worries, and I’m sick of having to hear about it all the time. I have feelings just like anyone else, and if she wants to talk about me and my place like that, she should come say it to my face, not behind my back.

At that point, a kind of impasse is reached. I turn on my heel and walk out; Tau slams the door after me, I hear him yell out once: “Fuck!” and then there’s silence.

Oh well, I think. I can’t be super-human. And what of it?


Then the door of the shed just swings gently open again. I’m not sure what this signifies, but I read it as a sign of stalemate rather than open hostilities. So I quietly go back in.

Tau’s busy firing up the bucky. That’s an advance in itself, if you ask me – the old Tau would have already been a mile down the road by now. And I sit on the weights bench and tell him I’m sorry for putting all this on him; none of it is his fault.

Thus all is well again, up to a point – but all the same, if Sheree wants a get out of rehab card, it better not be me.


Sunday 30 November:

Tonight the boys are off to farewell Sheree. She’s decided to go to rehab tomorrow after all – at least I’ve heard nothing different – but either way she can’t be a priority of mine. I still feel sorry for her, but that’s almost neither here nor there by now. I’ve played it far too soft so far, worrying about her tender feelings way more than I ought to.

I need to harden up, I tell myself. I actually do need to raise my status, especially with Leroi here. He thinks it’s all ok, thinks it’s kickback. Tau once told me Scott was the only person that Leroi ever listened too.

Which brings me back, in a roundabout way, to Friday, when I had to stop the boys from fighting. There was one thing which really surprised me. Tau admitted, when we were on our own afterwards, that he’d been scared. I don’t mean scared of falling out with Leroi (though of course there’s that, too). He was actually afraid, thinking that Leroi was probably going to waste him. “But I knew I couldn’t let him see that,” he said. “So I just tried to act like I wasn’t scared.”

At first this gave me a shock – I just didn’t see it coming. Tau, who’s always been the dominant one, telling me he was afraid to fight Leroi. But then I actually got it, too. How sometimes you have to act like the world’s your oyster, and show no fear.

And in one way, this is exactly what I’m doing too.  It’s a contradiction I guess, that the higher the stakes, the more confident of victory you have to become – but maybe that’s the point. I don’t have the luxury of stopping to figure it out. I have to learn the game in real time – and not just learn the moves, either. Somehow I also have to learn to feel like I can’t lose


Friday 5 November:

Tau and Leroi head off with Nana Pam for some kind of reconciliatory weekend down the line. The boys tell me they’ve been so excited about this trip that they stayed awake half the night.

“I was over-thinking,” complains Tau, cracking me up.

“Hard, I was looking forward to it so much I couldn’t get to sleep,” Leroi says.

I tell Pam, and “I don’t know what they think we’re going to be doing!” she says, giving us both the giggles.


Sunday 7 November:

Tau shows me some pictures of the weekend on his phone, telling me that at the motel they got Nana Pammie to take them to the liquor store.

“And she didn’t mind?” I ask opening my eyes very wide at this.

“Um… we just said we wanted to go to the shop, and so she took us to the shops – but we went into the liquor store,” Tau confesses. “When she saw us come out with the cans she growled us – but not heaps.”

“Guess there was nothing she could do,” I said, unable not to laugh. It was like a foregone conclusion, probably to Pam as well.

Tau sneezes and sniffs, and goes on, “We were drinking in the rain… and that’s why we got sick, I think.”

“Why were you drinking in the rain?”

“Cos, there were heaps of people inside, all these people…” Tau begins, and then both of us snort with laughter.

“So how much did you drink?” I ask him.

“Um – we got two 12 packs. Bourbon.”

“And did you and Leroi drink it all?”

He nods.

I think to myself… twelve cans each, that’s still a lot of alcohol.


But later, when I’m lying in bed, I hear Tau come in and warm up another bowl of chicken curry. As much as I still get worried about him, I’m grateful he’s here. And just knowing that he’ll eat, and that he can talk about things, sometimes – and that he’s got somewhere to lay his head. It’s more than I can explain. But I just keep on trying to explain… and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to tell it.



Friday 29 March, 2013:

Nio texts me this morning:

Hi miss sorry fr wat happend yestrday wasnt meant todo tht in a serious way ws jusd jokjng aroun bt i just take it over board sometimes it went to far nd it wotn happn again sorry fr tht miss hope yur alrite idnt use yu ihave respect fr yu nd care fr yu miss cause yurve always been thea nd supports me frm th frst Day we met miss hope yur algds nw ws gna write yu lastnyte bt rhought ill let yu calm dwn. My spellng shit. Lol

Okay fresh start then, I reply, albeit minimalistically. Thus normalcy is resumed, to some extent at least. Naturally enough I feel wary… but nonetheless alright, with Nio, who I’ve always loved (and, if I’m honest, I’ve always known that he’s feckless and totally imprudent). And it’s good to know that he cared enough to get in touch and apologize.


Saturday 30 March:

Between 1:30 and 3:30 am, all I’m doing is fielding texts from the strung out, bugged out Kepaoa.

First one comes at 1:30am, I just get the usual: ‘Mis u up?’

I’ve only just gone to bed. So I text back, saying yes and asking what’s up.

He sounds a bit hyped (and trying not to be). The classic Kepaoa warning signs: asking me the same questions over and over, every text. Hows your day been ms? Watchu been up to? That kind of thing. And he doesn’t say he’s drinking. I just think… oh, maybe.

And at first, it’s like he’s trying to stay connected with someone, calm himself down. He sounds jittery, but not over the top with it. We talk about his knee; about Elroy – just this and that, that and this. Every 10 or 15 minutes I get another text, and I reply, faithfully. Just trying to keep that energy on the slow burn. I actually feel very connected to him. It even gets me a little scared, for a while. I feel like I’m pulling on some kind of leash, though really I don’t know who’s pulling who. Every time the phone goes off I feel my body buzz too. Like someone is ringing my bell, that’s for sure.


My attempt at containment works… for a while. Then Kepaoa starts amping up. Lots of capitals, and exclamation marks. FUCCKN KNEE!!!! NEED SOME SCRAPS!!!! Next thing he’s telling me that him and his mate are gonna have a few cans in the park, saoliiid.

And then, the texts start coming hard and fast and scrambled; probably from a combination of alcohol, and being ultra-hyped, and jabbing the touch screen:

Man knjke justh fxxuckn fuckd m of bihg tyu.m wans fhjight!!  (this is at 3:10pm)

Kepaoa, I write. Can u plez not? Plez be smart ay. U dnt need any more trouble

Justds fubjdcxn hatkdje myah


Gn goe gt my byk byk rond

This one I comprehend, so: Nah man just go sleep ae? I try. Good idea. Shud come for a cruise into city tmor kum get paint wf us

 Kepaoa makes one last attempt to keep hold of himself. Tym tmah ms?’ he writes. And then, in the same line: Men drkng nd bykng tripyeehjf

 maybe 11 or 11:30? Nah nah not drinkn bikng ay, just home bed,  I write.

But I don’t hear anything further. Eventually I fall asleep, clutching the pillow like a life raft.


I wake up feeling sick and feverish. Which doesn’t even surprise me, because the whole thing has been pretty weird. It feels like I took something down that connection, some kind of energy. You know how I was saying before, how I was trying to help keep Kepaoa’s energy on the slow burn. Well it burned me, literally. That’s what I think. I don’t know if it helped him or not, but I felt like I was grounding some of it.. And I know that sounds a bit la-la, probably. But that’s how it felt.

When I think of it that way, it makes a kind of sense. I wish… I wish I could share these thoughts with someone who would be able to make more sense of what I’m saying. I wish I knew someone who would look at my words and see… meaning, I guess. See the big picture. Because I don’t know what it is – I wish I did.


By afternoon, I still haven’t heard anything. To be honest, I’m worried – the vibe was weird as.

I see Elroy’s managed to find his way onto chat though, even though phones are definitely contraband at rehab:

honestly!? u on fb, u and your criminal mastermind brain

That’s how th souf side rollz

algd, i actually miss you, ya gangstah, what’s it like there? alright?

Yea mis it’s kik bk n hea everyone’s alg ae bt KPL fuk them hahahah

(I’m not sure who KPL are, but someone will surely tell me!)

algd then, take care ay.


Sunday 31 March:

Get a text round midday:

Ae ms what you doing? Got bailed out tday.

A few facts are then established: ms cops took me in haha they rekon I was playing up big time hahaha ohwell was drunk so ye lol make the most of it haha. Yeah but i slept for ages hadr mean hangover nd didn’t tell my name haha alguds police babysitters hahaha’

I forward him a couple of the texts he sent me last night, to which he replies Was that me?? Faar must been wasted as hahahaha lol crackup

It hadn’t been quite so funny to me at the time, and this I let him know.

Sorry ms didnt mean to worry you just needed take the stress away that’s all sorry ms


And so we just text a bit, back and forth.

‘Seen cluzo today?’

!!!! Man dnt u read my txs. Jus told u I havnt seen him an he nt replying hs txs eithr. U sure u alryt?

Brains cells sorry ms my bad! Hahah he probly drinking? Rekon ms? He probly left him phone home? Wat yu doing tday ms?

Just sum sleep, I reply.

‘Thought you was gone be in town tday,’  he persists.

Sigh.. I alredy explaind ths. Cant get hold of tau. Honest i rekn u delete txs befor u even readn them!

Nah I just fink ima bit handi ms? Any plans for tnyt?

Handi alright. And na to tired for that. parents woried bwt wea u were to?

Yeap but they jst thought do my usuals ha not come home ay. Handi yiip lol hahah lol cracking up ms handi yeah blame ma mama fi daat hahah


Later on he describes his night in the lockup: Yeaaa hah it was alguds had blanket felt like i was at home hahahah slept fo ages lol

Yeah, no doubt. The idiot. I’m glad he has a big church day today, Easter Sunday.