Friday 9 May, 2014:
This morning, Tau tells me – with some pride – that they only had three cans each. Once they started drinking, they didn’t feel like it, so they just went to sleep. He adds that today they’re doing ok, even with the thought of no K2.
But when I get home after work, Sheree’s there. And Sheree’s the one who’s really suffering the worst effects of this involuntary substance withdrawal. She’s been crying all night and all day, according to Tau.
“I think I need some happy pills,” she says, trying to joke about it. We’re sitting out on the deck, in the sun. “Last night was so stressful, a couple of times I started feeling like I might hurt myself.”
“I told mum she should go doctor,” Tau puts in. “We were gonna go earlier, but then it didn’t happen.”
“That’s a good idea though – you didn’t want to go?” I ask Sheree, but gently.
“I chickened out,” she tells me, with a grimace. “Didn’t know what to say there. And I didn’t have any money, so I was too shy.”
“We walked all the way there,” says Leroi. “And then we just came back here.”
“I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded about the money,” I say. “They’re pretty good round there. I think they would just let you pay later.”
Tau nods, saying, “Haard,” and then, “You should have gone, mum.”
“You still could,” I suggest. “We could go round there now, want to go?”
Sheree considers this, before shaking her head, saying, “I want to… I think I need to. But I’m shy of talking to them about this stuff.”
“They’re alright though, aye Tau,” I say, and he agrees straight away: “Yeah, they’re algood there.”
“See…” I coax Sheree. “Even Tau doesn’t mind going to the doctor nowadays.”
This actually makes her laugh.
“I’ll come in with you,” offers Tau. “If you go, I’ll take you in.”
“Oh!” says everyone, in surprise. I think it’s Leroi who adds, quietly, “Faar, look at you, Tau.”
“I can’t believe it’s Tau, sometimes, talking like that,” Sheree says. And with that, she agrees to go.
There’s a 45 minute wait at the doctor’s, and the last thing I want is to interfere, especially with Tau’s excellent support of his mum. So I say, “Ok guys, I’ll come back later. Just text me when you’re done.”
“Ok,” Sheree says.
But as I leave, Tau follows me out, and says, hesitantly, “Do you gotta do something, Miss?”
“Um…” I decide to be honest. “Well, I can just go look around Municipal for a bit. I don’t want to bum your mum out, Tau. It’s hard enough for her to come here, she doesn’t need me getting in the way.”
“No,” Tau says. “I think mum feels better with you staying. I think she likes knowing you’re out here.”
“Oh,” I reply, and then, “But what about you, Tau? I don’t want to take over when you got it all under control.”
“No, Miss,” he says. “I want you to stay too… I mean if you don’t gotta do something else.”
“All sweet,” I say, and then, “You’re doing so awesome today Tau, everyone’s really proud of you.”
“Thanks, Miss,” says Tau, accepting this compliment very graciously.
“So… how does it feel, to be straight and sober for a whole day?” I ask, then.
“It feels… pretty good, actually!” says Tau, which stupefies the both of us into silence for a moment, then we just burst out laughing.
“But seriously, Tau,” I tell him. “Can you hear yourself?”
“I know,” he says, with a bit of amazement at his own behavior. He adds, “It’s all thanks to Maxwell – he’s got heaps of good tips.”
“He’s been awesome,” I agree. “And so have you.”
When Tau and Sheree come out of the consulting room, “Our whole family’s going to see the counsellor in two weeks,” announces Tau. “And the doctor said it was good to see me looking better… and he gave mum sleeping pills, and some other pills.”
“My happy pills!” says Sheree triumphantly. She hands the prescription over at the pharmacy counter, and gives me a pleased, kind of beady-eyed look, which for some reason makes me giggle. And then we just put our arms round one another and hug, standing there for a moment.
Later, I remember what Tau said about Maxwell. There’s a little part of me that just whispers, inwardly, “Oh, what about me.” Honestly, I’m not proud of it. But I want to tell the truth right now: part of me’s envious. Envious of people who can do more, just… help more. Maxwell gives Tau his attention for one hour a week, at a cost of $150 (to someone: the government, I guess, or Vailea’s agency) – and I reckon that alone helps more than anything I do. I can put in all the hours god sends, and really, what do I do? I don’t know the answer to that – and so today I feel a little bit jealous, of Maxwell, and Vailea; the people who ‘know what’ and ‘know how’. They’re like the impact players on a sports team; the ones who get on the field and change things up straight away.
Saturday 10 May:
This evening Mia picks me up, we’re going to the movies. When she arrives, I’m in the sleepout with the boys, and so I ask them if they want to come out and meet her.
Tau just shakes his head slowly, saying first, uncertainly, “Oh nah,” and then, with a very sorrowful and bashful look in his eye, “I can’t, Miss… too shy.” He kind of breathes out the last word, and I see he’s tremendously anxious at the thought.
Leroi gives me the same quietly petrified look. He shakes his head too, and his eyes roll a bit.
“Sorry, Miss,” Tau says imploringly. “We just…”
“It’s ok, it’s ok,” I tell them at once. “I don’t expect…” And before I even finish my sentence, they look at me with great relief, and I go on, “It’s ok, you guys. I’m not going to make you do anything you can’t do.
“Thanks, Miss,” Tau murmurs. I can see he knows I mean it. Meanwhile, Leroi has pulled the blanket over his head with fright. I feel this big huge compassion in my heart for Leroi. I haven’t seen him like this for a long time. “I’m shy…” I hear him kind of whimper, under the purple blanket.
“Don’t worry, it’s sweet as,” I soothe. “It’s ok, Leroi.”
So I go out to Mia, and just say quietly, “I said to come out, but they’re too shy to meet you.”
Mia looks towards the closed door of the sleepout, a bit wonderingly.
“They’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” I tell her quietly.
“What kind of stuff?” she asks..
“Um, their dad,” I begin. He committed suicide, a couple of months ago. And since then, they’ve had some… issues.” I add, frankly, “Actually there were already some issues before that, but now there’s even more.”
“Anyway,” I finish. “They’re just really shy, with people they don’t know. It’d be cool if they came out to meet you – but they aren’t ready for that yet, I guess.”
“That’s ok,” she says.
I feel my energy settle, because everyone has been honest. I’m relieved too – relieved that I’m not just a spinny bitch, and that there really are reasons why I’ve been reluctant to have my friends and family round, and that I’ve read it right, in a way. Not that things can’t change. But it’s got to be a slow, very gradual process.
I’ve beat myself up over this for literally years, ever since Tau came to stay the first time. Telling myself how I should just sort shit out and stuff. But it’s taken me this long to see that the complications are genuine, and not just all in my head. It’s like a lightbulb switches on, when I see Leroi pull the blanket over his head.
And suddenly it seems my life is getting more integrated, in a way. What I mean by that is I’m working out how to combine things, or at least start to. But being ‘a teacher’ is way over there, out on a limb. It can’t be combined with anything that’s meaningful to me (except, currently, earning money).
I’ve learned a lot, not from teaching exactly, but from figuring out how to operate within it; do something of my own, despite all the constraints. Everything I’ve needed has been in some way scratched (painfully, at times) out of it, like a means of inscribing my own movement in the world, leaving signs there for those who can read them. I think of how Tau trudged to school and waited for me in the car park – he’d already been taken off the roll. I remember how he was limping. His heavy, patient eyes, as he told me, “I’ve got nowhere to go.” And I think I knew then that whatever I could create, out of whatever I could lay my hands to, I’d share it.
All of that; everything I’ve done and tried to do, it’s taken me further than school can go. I’ll never do graff at MC again, I know it. I don’t think I’ll ever have real allies there again, either. Everything’s shifted outwards, and moved on, and it’s taking me in a whole new direction too – I just haven’t figured out exactly what it is.