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.

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Feel and do

Saturday 26 April, 2014:

I take Tau to his counselling appointment with Max Rosdolsky. Leroi comes along for the ride, just to see what it’s all about; he tells me he’s going to sit in the waiting room.

While they’re in there, I go for a walk. The surroundings look weirdly familiar in some way. The air seems to hold a gently disturbing feel to it, almost as if I’ve time-travelled back to my childhood – as I walk past the independent bookseller; the boutique dress store; the deli.

A whole multitude of ‘white people’ are promenading up and down the leafy suburban street, and I remember Kepaoa… and then push the whole thing away, abruptly. Instead, I concentrate on the store fronts. I feel my energy drain away, and I bumble along automatically. But I have no thought at all to even go into any of those places.

 

After a while I go back to the car. I see the boys strolling back too, and: “That was quick!” I tell them. It’s only been 45 minutes.

“Oh, but Miss, Max wants to meet you, that’s why we came out – to get you,” says Tau, with the greatest of ease.

I’m surprised by this, but try taking it in the spirit intended by Tau, and hop out. Though idly and inwardly, I wonder if Max wants to suss me out; check if I’m dodgy or something. This passing thought doesn’t really disturb me too much. Well, fair enough, I think to myself.

So we go along the street again and up some stairs to the consulting rooms. Maxwell immediately shakes my hand, telling me it’s good to meet me. Then he ushers Tau and me into the office – Leroi waits outside.

 

As far as I can make out, Maxwell genuinely wants to share what Tau has been working on, with a view to having even more people on the same page with it. He goes over a schema which has been drawn on a mini white board. Four saucer shaped tiers with ‘think’ at the top, then ‘do’ underneath that, then ‘feel’ and ‘body’. Key words have been written on the diagram (‘K2’  currently featuring in the mediation between ‘feel’ and ‘do’), with arrows showing how everything connects.

It makes a lot of sense, when I think about it. Your physical body, supporting your feelings and moods, which influence the actions you take, which can change your thoughts and beliefs. And then the reverse: your core beliefs about yourself in the world, influencing the actions you take, which have the potential to shift your feelings and moods, which you can stabilise by looking after your physical well-being.

Tau and I both mention the ‘feel/do’ thing. Because how Tau’s feeling at any given time always makes such a big difference to his actions. Max says something interesting in response: “Moods change all the time – that’s normal. They’re like clouds in the sky; they shift constantly. Letting your moods dictate your actions is like letting the clouds tell you what to do.”

The thought makes Tau laugh and nod. And Max goes on to talk about how he can use all his support people, and strategies, and the other levels of the whole process: to keep on ‘doing’ – and to achieve his goals.

It’s actually pretty helpful, and Tau feels comfortable – I can see that. Afterwards, he’s happy and talkative in the car; even Leroi comments on this, saying, “Far, Tau’s always in a good mood after counselling.” He adds wistfully, “I wish I could go.”

“Maybe you can,” I say. “We could find out.”

 

Sunday 27 April:

I wake up with certain thoughts still kind of troubling my mind. Thoughts about myself, first of all. I don’t feel so jumpy (that fish on the hook, twisting futilely), but I do feel like I’m still kind of thrashing about – maybe in a little puddle of water (but in water all the same, which has got to be a improvement).

The heart of the thing for me, right now, is my own beliefs about myself (thanks, Maxwell). Because my words and actions rest on them – and at the moment it isn’t much of a rest. You know, I can state things calmly; clarify the boundaries. But my beliefs are putting out a different vibe which is… what? Appeasement? Fear of abandonment? I don’t know

I too, get mixed up about the links between ‘feel’ and ‘do’. Right now, I want to feel I’m strong, and convey that to the world. But my actions give my real feelings away. Not the actions themselves… but the timbre of them.

 

By the time I go to the gym, Tau and Leroi are also heading off on their morning constitutional – to Ellis (it opens at 8, they’re not even going to be the first of the day’s customers).

When I come back though, there’s a motorbike parked in the carport, just parked up in my spot like it’s no thing.

I drive in and park in front of the sleepout, and soon as my car pulls up, Tau and Leroi come out with someone. It’s a guy I think I’ve seen before, but I’m not sure exactly who he is. It occurs to me though, that he might be family – so I just look at him, and he says, “Hey,”

“Hey,” I reply.

And then he leaves, and for some reason, Tau and Leroi drift to the front gate and just stand there, kind of waiting for me, looking kind of guilty – knowing I’m going to say something, I guess.

 

I go over to them, and, “Who’s that guy?” I ask.

“Inherit,” Tau replies.

I sigh, can’t help it. Then “Inherit?” I repeat, incredulously. “What’s he doing here?”

“He just came to drop us off…  something.”

“Huh?” I say. “But what did he come round here for?”

“Just to drop it off.”

“Well, I don’t care,” I tell them. “You should have met him somewhere else.”

They look down at the ground, and from side to side, saying nothing.

I continue, “I couldn’t remember who he was – I knew I’d seen him before, but I didn’t want to say anything in case he was one of your relations. I wish I had, but..” I break off, feeling my voice half stopped-up and lacking in power. Then I try again, something like this: “I remember who Inherit is now, and I don’t trust him –  I’ve never heard anything good about him.” I add, truthfully: “Kepaoa always said he was dodgy.”

More nods from Tau and Leroi, though they still haven’t replied. And I keep talking – feeling like I’m just trying to cover up the fact that I have no real authority for any of this. I keep on thinking: Who am I? To be saying… to be expecting?

Even writing it down now, my breath feels constricted, and I’m holding my eyes tight still. I hate this feeling so much.

 

Anyway, I just go over it all one more time; reminding them of the protocol for visitors. I tell them they have to be tough enough to say no to the others; they can use me as an excuse, I don’t mind. And even if I’m not home, it doesn’t make any difference – the exact same rules apply.

“I do trust you,” I tell them. “But that means you. – it doesn’t mean just anyone.” They still haven’t said anything, but I get a few more nods in response.

 

Around half an hour later, the shed is still open: a good sign – they haven’t battened down the hatches. So I knock on the door and go in.

They’re having a bucky (of course), and look at me quite placidly. I sit myself down, and say, “I just want to check things are alright between us.”

“They are, Miss,” says Tau, faithfully, and Leroi nods.

“I trust you,” I tell them again, looking from one to the other. “That’s why I’m happy to go out and leave you guys here – cos I trust you. Both of you.”

“Thanks for that, Miss,” Tau says.

“Algood,” I say. “And there aren’t many people I’d trust that way – just a few.”

They nod.

“And yes,” I tell them. “You could just have the boys over while I’m away, and say – sweet as, Miss will never find out. And maybe I wouldn’t and maybe I would… but that’s not even the main thing. The main thing is that you know it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Because you know I trust you.”

“Yup,” they say, and Tau even chuckles.

“Oh,” I continue. “I know it might seem hard, at first. But there are other places to go if you want to kick it with the boys. They’ve all got houses too – there’s nothing to stop you going to see them. They don’t have to come here. And that’s just the way it’s got to be, from now on.”

I know Tau and Leroi understand that. I know they respect what I have to say. But will they be strong enough to follow through, when someone turns up with a box? I honestly don’t know if they have the discipline of mind, just yet.

This time round

Friday 11 April, 2014:

This morning I get a headache thinking about everything: money on my mind, and Tau’s documents to drop off at Winz before I hit school for the day… and I heard him wheezing and spitting his way through the night again. The residue of those cigs and buckies must be accumulating in his lungs, he admits he coughs up all this green shit.

I also have to keep spelling out the rules concerning visitors while I’m at work. By visitors, I mean that loose grouping of hangers-on who follow wherever they sense opportunities to be had. Stolen goods and crack pipes in the shed, and cars turning up all hours – I can’t just take a laissez-faire approach anymore. There’s a small list of people who are allowed on the premises: Raphael, Inia and Noa, Kost and Zion – and that’s all, apart from family members. I said this to the boys already, day they arrived here. But I’ll have to say it again.

Oh, I don’t want to get that certain look in my eye or be hounded by my own fearful thoughts. Nope, I need to make my decisions and handle my business. Because I know I’m doing the right thing. I just need to do it better, this time round – for myself as much as anyone else.

 

Later, I sit at my desk while 11 Social work on the research for their assessments. It’s completely quiet in here. But I’m really, really tired and I know I’m stressing out. Things just seem so complicated.

The most pressing issue is money. I figure if I’m not going to touch my (still paltry) savings, then I have to find a way to make the money come out right. Of course everything’s been more expensive lately. The doctors, and the prescriptions, and extra gas… and just food and stuff.

 

After work I persuade Tau to get his cough checked out. Sometimes it totally amazes me, the way he suddenly, quietly, acquiesces to things he’s previously insisted he could never do.

We’re at the medical centre for nearly two hours. They don’t even charge us, this time. Afterwards, Leroi says, “That doctor really cares. I can tell.”

But the whole place is like that too. The receptionist, who is just a a young woman, speaks to me with a frank and gentle curiosity that touches my heart. She says she can see that the boys trust me; she asks if I’m family.

I tell her no, but, “I may as well be, I guess,” I say, thinking about it.

“I understand,” she replies at once. “I grew up like that, we always had kids staying with us.”

 

It’s after 6 by the time we finish up, so I pick up Maccas for the boys while we wait at the pharmacy. Tau needs four different things: sleeping pills, and a couple of tablets for his chest (prednisone and antibiotics, I think), and something else, too. I assure him he’ll feel better once his meds kicks in.

I don’t want to waste money on getting takeout for myself tonight. But the boys need something, honest to who. They’re tired, hungry, patient… and broke. Tau’s money all budgeted for K2 and cigs; Leroi not paid yet (and not until next week at the earliest)

On the way home, they talk a bit about their dad, and how he hated going to the doctors too – and we start to laugh, thinking about it. It’s nice how they mention him in that reminiscing way now, sometimes.

 

Then I go to the gym, God knows how I find enough energy for it tonight. I do though, and come back and fix some leftover sausages, make a cuppa tea.

Tau and Leroi come in and out to get drinks, and I think how they feel safe here. It’s going to blow hot and cold, I know – and I still have to patrol the boundaries. But underlying that, I just see this tired, relieved look in their eyes. No reason to smash up the place, no scary vibes, none of those bad memories. Just a bit of space and a bit of rest, which is I guess the thing they need most, in some ways.

Tomorrow I’ll buy a couple things and make chicken curry the way Kuli makes it – with garlic and ginger, carrots and potatoes. Maybe some coriander too.

 

Saturday 12 April:

I don’t get coriander, I just make the chicken curry with carrots and potatoes, plus a lot of onion, ginger and garlic. And tomatoes – I remember that you can add crushed tomatoes.

Anyway, it turns out real good, just like Kuli’s, and the boys like it too – which makes me happy.

But there’s still a moment when I get a bit freaked out, over the money situation. Because Tau asks me if Leroi can borrow forty dollars until he gets paid.

Now Leroi’s pretty useless with money, let’s be honest. And so it throws me. Not least because I’d be touching my savings, to give it to him. So I hesitate, then I tell him, “Um… the thing is, Tau – I get paid fortnightly, and I’d be taking it out of my savings.”

“Algood if not, Miss,” Tau says, in a gently resigned way.

But I get a pit of anxiety in my chest, in that same old place.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” I go on. “But I have a budget for everyday stuff, too – I got the money there, but it’s in my savings. And I try not to take it out, even for myself.” Then I added, “Not unless it’s really important, I mean. And… well, Leroi’s spent a bit of money on stupid shit, before.”

“Yeah, he has,” agrees Tau. “But this is for K2. We’re out – and I’ve run out of money. It was me who said Leroi should get it sometimes, so I can save some of my money.”

“Yeah, I get you,” I say, and I feel better for knowing Tau is being honest with me. “I know you guys need it and all, it’s just that… it’s a pretty expensive habit.”

“Hard,” Tau says, and I can tell he’s alright with me talking about it this way. So I continue, “Tau, if you don’t mind me asking. How much do you reckon it costs you, per day? I’m not trying be judgmental or anything – I just don’t have a clue.”

“About sixty bucks a day,” he tells me.

“Sixty!” I can’t help saying. “Fuuck, Tau – that’s a lot of money.”

“I know,” he nods.

“Is it really sixty?”  I murmur, rhetorically. And then, “It’s ok Tau, I know you guys need it and all. I’ll give you the money, it’s alright.”

“Thanks, Miss,” he says.

 

So I go take out the money, and off we go to the shop to get the K2. On the way back, I just say, “Tau, you know I really care about you, right. But… this is something that I wouldn’t do for most people. I just want you to know that.”

He nods, and I think he understands the way I mean it.

“It’s alright, and I’m not judging,” I say. “When Leroi starts getting paid though, just make sure he saves some for the other stuff you two need, make sure you both do, huh.”

“I want to cut back on our K2,” Tau says, quietly. “I just… it’s hard, that’s all.”

“Yeah, I know,” I say. “It’s not easy, and like I said – I’m not judging. I know you’re doing what you got to do, right now.”

It’s true – and then, it’s also true that 400-plus a week is a lot of money to be spending on synthetic cannabis. But I guess some contradictions you just have to live with.

 

Back-up

Wednesday 26 March, 2014:

Michael and I do the online app for his youth payment, it doesn’t take long.

I drop him off in Carthill again. On the way he asks if he can loan twenty dollars, so I stop at the ATM in Municipal.

I just keep thinking about his mum, and how it’s been for Michael lately. You’d have to be made of stone not to feel for the guy. I’m not caught up in it – but I’m not heartless either.

 

Friday 28 March:

Chloe covers my classes until interval – because I’m prioritizing Tau this morning.

When he hops in the car, he tells me he couldn’t get to sleep until 5 am. He didn’t have smokes or a sesh, and so he just paced up and down the hall all night. “Leroi called out to me a few times – are you alright bro?” he says. Then he sighs: “Anything’s better than just lying there.”

So the first thing we do is get out the emergency cig. My two puffs, and the rest is Tau’s. He looks so relieved. “Fuuck… lucky,” he says, after a few deep breaths. “I needed that.” And I see him get a bit calmer right on the spot.

“I’ll get you a sesh too,” I tell him, not fussing about it at all. “After the doctor’s though, k?”

“Aww… I won’t say no,” Tau replies. “Thanks for that, Miss.”

“Algood,” I say.

 

Then we go to the medical centre. I stay out in the waiting room, while Tau mutters a last: “I hate doctors…” over his shoulder at me when his name gets called.

“I know,” I tell him. “But you’re gonna be fine. Just remember I’m out here if you need anything.”

I cross my fingers that he’ll be ok though. We’ve already gone over the paperwork in the car; Tau memorizes the unfamiliar words with care. He needs a medical certificate, and two pages of his Winz form filled out and signed. And he’s going to ask for sleeping pills, too – this is my idea, after Tau tells me how he spends every night miserably tired and awake.

A few minutes later, the medical and admin staff have their morning karakia, handing out folders and directing everyone in the waiting room to #19, which is ‘He Honore he Kororia’. They sing this hymn before praying for the health of everyone who comes in today. It touches my heart very much.

 

After a while, Tau comes striding out with his head up: definitely a good sign.

“Oh – how did it go?” I ask him.

“Algood,” Tau tells me at once. He grins, with a bit of pride. “Maan, I’ve never done anything like that before!” he says, shaking his head in surprise at himself.

“I know…” I coo. “You did it!”

He hands me the papers: “What do I do with these?”

“Umm…”, I take a look. There’s a medical certificate, plus a prescription and a receipt. “Ohh, Tau, you’ve got everything sorted,” I say, with great pride. “You just have to take this to the pharmacy, and…”

“The pharmacy,” Tau repeats, sounding it out. “What’s that again, Miss?” he asks, with no self-consciousness at all.

“Where you pick up the stuff from – the sleeping pills and that.”

I love the way Tau isn’t shy to ask me things like this. It’s like there’s a big depth of trust between us that never goes away, no matter what ever’s happened.

 

While we’re waiting for the pills, we head over to the ATM machine. I take 60 dollars out and give it to him, saying, “You go pick up your bits and pieces, I’ll go get the pills – and I’ll meet you back at the car.”

“Ok, Miss, are you sure?” checks Tau, referring to the money, but also taking it quite simply and unprotestingly.

“Yup,” I tell him. “You just get what you need.”

 

We meet back at the car, me with the pills and Tau with his sesh and his cigs.

“What pills did I get, Miss?” he asks me mildly. “Fuck, I’m happy I got sleeping pills.” He looks tired as.

“Me too,” I say, patting his very weary shoulder. “I’m so glad you’re going to get some sleep, Tau.”

Of course we can’t see anyone at Winz today, but we get two appointments booked. The first one is Monday afternoon, which poses no problem. The second is Thursday morning, 8:30. Once again, I’m bound to be late to school, but Tau’s need is greater right now, I decide.

 

Last stop is the bank – Tau needs a two-week bank statement to bring with him on Monday, stamped and all the rest of it. But he doesn’t have his card with him (neither of us knew he was going to need it), and the lady on the counter wants photo ID…

“He doesn’t have photo ID,” I tell her sweetly.

“Well he must have photo ID with him, if he doesn’t have his card,” she replies. She’s obviously not a very flexible person, and I see Tau’s face kind of set, and he starts to ‘hover’ at my side, which is a well-known warning sign (to me – not to her of course).

“He has his birth certificate,” I say, and Tau passes it over impassively.

“No… he needs photo ID,” she reiterates. “Birth certificate is for children… he must have photo ID. He can get the 18+ card, he just needs to apply at the Post Shop.”

“Well that takes a few weeks,” I say, remaining very polite. “And it costs money – so he can’t apply for one till after he gets paid.” I add: “We need the statement for Winz.”

“Then give me your customer number,” she says to Tau, dubiously. This is the number on his ATM card – and of course he doesn’t know it – who does? But as luck would have it, I have the dang number written down on a little piece of paper in my wallet, and I bring it forth triumphantly.

Tau almost manages a smile, but only because I’ve produced the goods. I can see he wants to punch the wall and walk out, and so I just keep up the patter (good trick that I’ve learned after many excursions with Tau and Kepaoa). I blather on pleasantly, giving her no chance to demur or change her mind –  all the while keeping a weather eye on Tau.

I’ve already got my back-up strategy in mind (this always helps me maintain an air of calm and certainty). Plan B is to go see one of the personal bankers, who I met while doing my own paperwork one time.

But it never comes to that. The woman decides to give Tau the statement after all, despite him not being able to answer most of the security questions (‘When did you open your account?’ and the like. And again – who would know that kind of thing?)

I thank her (accepting the situation for what it’s worth) and Tau turns on his heel and marches out. When we hit the shops, he breathes a long, irritable sigh – not quite relief yet, and says: “Fuuuck, Miss, I wanted to punch that bitch.”

“I know you did,” I say, unable not to laugh. “You handled it real good, Tau.”

“I almost yelled at her,” he mutters. “Fuck, what a bitch.”

“Yeah, she was useless,” I agree. “But you’ll always get a few people like that, and the thing is, if they’ve got something you want – you just have to handle them.” I think about this, and say, “I learned that the hard way,” and he grins at me.

But it’s true. I think of Winz, and the TI, and Municipal College – and my run-ins with Karys and the Board. Ohh, I’ve learned a lot about this kind of  thing.

 

Anyway, Tau gets to go back home now. He looks so glad to have it sorted for the day. We talk all the way to Rutherford Ave, about this and that – he tells me more about the counselling, and how Sheree’s social worker’s been helping him too.

We pull up in the driveway, and Tau throws his arms around me saying, “Thanks heaps for all that Miss.”

“It’s a pleasure,” I tell him, meaning it. “You just stay safe, look after yourself, and have a good weekend. And if there’s anything you need, just get in touch.”

“I will,” he says

Then I go back to sch, and apologize to Chloe for the delay… and next week I’m going to have to cover my classes again, but I’ll figure it out.

 

Mastery

Tuesday 25 March, 2014 (contd):

On the drive back out to Carthill, “I’m the black sheep of our family,” Michael tells me. “My older brother and sister finished uni and stuff. But I got into trouble, with gang people.”

This could well be true, I surmise.

And he goes on: “I ended up owing them a lot of money… so I gave them the car. To end it,” he concludes. “To just put a stop to it.”

“And did it? Put a stop to it?” I ask.

“Yeah, it did,” he tells me.

“Well that’s one thing, I guess…”

“Yeah, guess it is,” he agrees.

I consider that whoever Michael gave the car to might be racking up more fines. Ownership papers won’t have been changed. But I let this thought lie, for now. Because Michael keeps talking. He’s rambling a bit – but the whole story has a basic coherence to it, and so I listen.

 

Turns out that he’s had ‘a lot’ of money, ever since he was 16. He did a robbery, with one of his friends. “A really big one,” he says, quietly. “I got a lot of money from it, and it changed my life. I think that was when all the trouble really started.”

Something about Michael’s manner tells me that he’s not lying, at least not in the essence of things. I don’t know how ‘big’ this robbery was, exactly – and I’m sure he’s exaggerated the amount of cash involved. But I’ve always wondered how he was able to lend Tau so much money, and how he bought his car, and paid for those hotel rooms. The job at the store was a bagatelle really – one or two days a week, on call.

And I just keep on listening, while he explains that after he got all this cash, he started to find out who his real friends were. People kept on hitting him up for money, and then after a while it got even worse. He couldn’t trust anyone, even the people he thought were his best friends.

 

Michael suddenly says, “That’s what happened with me and Cluzo, Miss.”

“Oh,” I say, not commenting, just waiting for him to go on.

“I don’t know if I should tell you,” he says. “In case… it changes how you feel about Tau.”

“It’s ok,” I say. “It’s up to you what you tell me.” I add, truthfully, “I don’t think anything could change how I feel about Tau.”

Michael just nods, at this. And then he tells me Tau tried to ‘rob’ him, too.

“Rob you?” I say, just curious, not challenging his story.

“He did, Miss, he tried to steal from me.”

“But are you sure?” I ask.

“I’m sure,” Michael insists.

“Did he admit it?”

“He was part of it,” Michael says “He set it up. Even Sheree was involved.”

I just think – well, I don’t know.

“I really trusted them, Miss,” says Michael. “I did everything I could for that family.”

“I know you really cared about them,” I say.

And it could be true, I guess… it could be. When people get desperate, sometimes it happens.

 

I remember one time, it must have been back in 2009, back when I first got to really know Tau… I went into the sports office after school, to use the photocopier. Tau came with me, he was going to staple the sheets together for me once I’d copied them. I opened a drawer and there was the stapler, with a ziplock bag of money underneath it, which I guess was kids’ sports fees and stuff.

Tau saw it and drew his breath in, saying, “Miiisss, can I take that money?”

“No,” I told him. “You’ll get me in trouble.”

“Ok, Miss,” he said, but adding as an aside, “If you weren’t here, I’d just take it.”

“No doubt,” I said matter of factly, making him laugh. “But I trust you – so I’m sure you won’t, now.”

“Miss?” Tau said earnestly. “If you went out of the room, I wouldn’t even take it then.”

“I know,” I said. “Thanks for that, Tau.”

“Miss… you could leave a thousand dollars right out on your table in your room, and I’d never touch it,” he told me.

And I believed him, and I still do. I trust Tau completely – and I’m not saying anyone else should, you understand. It’s just that I do.

 

Michael also talks about his drug habit. At first it was just weed, he says. And he still needs a lot of weed, just to relax. He’s not a big K2 user: “Fucks you up,” he comments, and then in the next breath, “But I need to cut down on the crack.”

“How long you been into that for?” I ask.

“Been using crack since I was um, 15,” he tells me. “Not too much… to start with.”

“Well, yeah,” I say. “It’s not a thing to get into.”

“It’s not, Miss,” he acknowledges. “But lately…”

“More, lately?”

“Yeah,” he says. “Mainly since all this shit happened. My mum dying – and not knowing who to trust. It just helps settle me down, I guess.”

“Mm hmm…” I say. “But it’s not a very safe bet, Michael, don’t you think?”

He shrugs

“I mean, look how Tau’s dad ended up,” I pursue this line gently. “Dead at 40. I mean, that’s probably old to you, but…”

“Nah, that’s not old,” says Michael. “That’s far too young to go. My mum was only 45, Miss. My mum should have had heaps of time left. She was still young.”

 

There’s a pause, and then, “But I’m not like those people who are addicted to crack,” Michael assures me. “I don’t live like that.”

“Yeah, I know,” I say. “But Scott probably said that too, when he was young and strong.”

“I won’t end up like him,” Michael says. “Once I get everything sorted, it’ll be better.”

“That’s for sure, but…”

“But what, Miss?”

“But just be careful.”

And that’s where we leave it. But I know it’s easier said than done.

 

Oh, and there’s one more thing. Michael talks about that day the cops turned up at my place, to look for stolen goods. They were after some boys who had come over, apparently to slang a TV. I remember that day… Lorna rang me.

But anyway – they found heaps of other shit. According to Michael, there was a couple of ounces, and over a thousand bucks (I already knew about the money; it was Tau’s savings). But not just that: several guns, and a crack pipe.

And Leroi only got done with receiving stolen goods.

Tau and I had talked about it a bit, at the time. He said it was ‘lucky’ the cops were crooked, because no-one was being charged with dealing; they must have split the money and the weed. “Fuckin cops, aye Miss…” he mused.

“Fuckin cops, alright.”

 

But I never knew about the guns, and certainly not the crack pipe. Maybe it was Michael’s, for him to say that. But it still begs the whole question of whether crack was being smoked in the sleepout, and how regularly.

I’m not dumb, I’m sure it happened. But I guess I never thought it was on the regular. And now… I don’t know. It troubles me to even consider this possibility, it really does. There’s too many ins and outs to think about, just now. And I trust Tau – and I believe what he said back then: he was scared of crack, didn’t even know how to drive it.

But the boys – I hardly trust any one of them. I don’t even know that I ‘trust’ Michael, exactly. I don’t mistrust him either. I just… I don’t know. And Leroi – he was always so easily swayed by others. Never really looked out for me, and honestly, I know he would have considered his boys first, every time. It’s not to say he didn’t care – just that he was ‘young and dumb’, as Tau once put it.

 

The guns, too. I’d told Tau (after Robbie died) that I didn’t want any more guns lying around in the shed. Legal or not, I didn’t want them there. A bit like crack, in one sense: they just weren’t a safe bet.

So I don’t know, I don’t know… and right now I feel kind of tired, just thinking about all this.

But if (and it’s a big ‘if’) Tau ever needs that space, there’s no way there’s going to be boys setting up. After what we’ve all been through, I’ll be patrolling my borders so tight that I may as well be Checkpoint Charlie.

When I actually sit and think about it, it’s pretty lucky I haven’t been in any trouble with the law myself. Oh, I know I must have some kind of profile with the cops, especially with the general circumstances surrounding Robbie’s death. But there was also that time Tau was up on drugs charges… and later that same year was the search warrant… and then the stolen goods, last year (and that’s just scratching the surface, obviously), and the cops have been round various other times, just for the usual reasons.

And you know, I feel like I’ve been somehow protected through all of that, when there was so much potential for things to go awry. Maybe because my intentions have been good… hah, but they truly have. Knowledge of ‘illegal activities’ notwithstanding, my goal has always been to care for and provide a safe space for Tau, and anyone who has found some kind of shelter  in it – and I think again of Kepaoa.

But I’ve been looked after alright. I’m not sure how that works. But I’m sure I have.

 

Driving home… just turning into Municipal and going past the big McDonald’s on the corner, I get this one ‘clear’ moment. Who knows why, but I have this feeling of mastery. Or incipient mastery, I guess I have to go through this, until I know what I’m doing. It’s all going to teach me how to master my own job properly, and be legit with it. I’m not up to that level yet. But I will be.

Better days

Tuesday 24 September, 2013:

I arrive at school just before 8:30, and miss the staff briefing to show ‘Exhibit A’ to Slade. He confirms that it is, without doubt, a “baggie”, and though he lets out a couple of ‘ohhwell’s, he is very kind and patient.

“It’ll get sorted, Miss,” he tells me, his tone soothing my ruffled energies. “It’ll all get sorted, don’t worry Miss.”

We decide that my modus operandi should be to speak to Tau, on his own, as soon as possible after school. I’m to approach the matter calmly, and not accuse him of anything. “He’ll tell you, Miss,” Slade assures me. “If you just have a quiet talk, he’ll tell you what’s going on.”

“I’m not judging anyone for using – the boys included,” I say, and Slade nods, saying, “I know.”

“But if that’s a choice they make, doesn’t mean I have to have it at my place either.”

“Fair enough,” he says. “My aunty’s the same.”

“I’m not saying I like it, if Tau’s using,” I go on. “But at the same time, I don’t think he’s a P head. I just wanna have a say about what goes on at mine.”

 

I drop Ezekiel off after school, it’s started to squall by now, and a cold and driving rain has set in. As we walk to the car, he lifts up his shoes to show me their soles. They’re worn right through, and saturated.

“Thanks for the lift, Miss,” he says, with genuine feeling. “My feet are pretty wet, aye.” He laughs, but shivers in his school shirt (no jumper, no jacket).

“Sure are,” I say, just lightly.

 

When I get home, it’s close to 4. I feel discomforted, at the thought of bringing things up out of the blue, with Tau. But I know I have to do it. So I go out to the shed, chat to him and Raphael for a moment first (about a couple of inconsequential matters), and then say, “Hey, Tau… can I talk to you for a sec?”

“Yup Miss,” says Tau, looking at me curiously as he picks up on my tone. “Ok.” And he gets up and comes into the house with me.

Once inside, I murmur, “Just… hold on a minute, Tau.” He sits down, waiting with a slightly wary patience, and I flit into the bedroom and pull the tiny ziplock bag out of my handbag, where it’s been all day. This, earlier, has made Slade grin. “Faar Miss, if anyone saw that, they’d probably think you were using!” he tells me, with great amusement. “It’s still got a few bits in it, too.” He peers at it, adding, “You should lick it,” and we dissolve into laughter.

I come back into the lounge, and begin, kind of ‘formally’ I guess:

 

“I don’t really know how to start,” I tell Tau. “But I’ve been thinking about it all night, so I better tell you what’s up. First of all, I want you to know I’m not upset with you, and I’m not assuming anything, but… I found this in the bathroom last night.” And I hold up the bag.

“Oh,” is all Tau says. He actually looks quite surprised by my revelation.

“So, I’m not gonna go off at you or anything Tau, promise. But I do need to know what’s going on, is that algood?”

He nods, saying slowly, “I… probably left it there, I think. When I had a shower.”

“That’s what I thought,” I say. “I didn’t know what to do, when I saw it, and I felt kind of upset. So I decided to just sleep on it, talk to you about it when I felt calmer.” I don’t mention Slade, knowing he’ll be the very soul of discretion.

 

There’s a little pause, and Tau just looks at me steadily. He says, “I don’t really use that stuff at all, Miss. Hardly ever. I haven’t, for ages…”

“Then… why was it there?” I ask, wonderingly.

His eyes meet mine, without any guile. “I had some with Michael,” he says. “He wanted to shout me. We didn’t do it here though, it was when we went out Saturday. The bag must have stayed in my pocket that whole time, and I just found it when I was getting changed yesterday. That’s the truth, Miss. I’d never use that stuff around here. I don’t even… I don’t even really use, honest truth. It was just that one time, with Michael. Apart from that, I don’t touch it, not for ages…  not since way back last year, with Mischa.”

I nod, and he goes on. “I don’t even know how to drive it, honest, Miss. Other people have to drive it for me. I don’t wanna learn, either. Don’t wanna get addicted, straight up.”

“That’s good, Tau,” I say. “That’s a relief.”

“Honest to who, Miss,” he assures me. “I won’t bring anything like that here. I didn’t even know I still had the bag on me.”

“And none of the boys, aye Tau.”

“None of them, promise. I’ve never let anyone use crack round here.”

“I believe you,” I say, and we give each other a little nod, which means – I trust you, and – I understand.

 

“And Tau… please don’t hold anything here, for anyone, kay?” I say, just to clarify this point.

“No, I won’t,” he says. “The only thing I ever keep here is just a few foils for myself.”

“And I’m algood with that, Tau,” I say. “You know I trust you on that one.”

“Yup, sweetas, Miss.”

We look at one another, knowing that this whole potentially difficult conversation has been navigated with respect and care on both sides. I think we’re both relieved, at that.

 

I mail Slade, and this is what he says:

its allgoods miss sweetas, allways better days, solid you sorted it all out, allgoods miss anytime

 

Wednesday 25 September:

I’m sad from the moment I wake up this morning. I don’t really know why. Tears just fall out of my eyes, no real reason for them. I try (honestly!) to imagine my ‘happy place’. I don’t know… I keep getting this mental image of lions at rest in the long grass, near a quiet lake. And then I just feel tired of being sad, and I get up and take a shower.

Michael’s car is blocking the driveway again. I get a surge of impatience when I see it – I stamp my foot, in the shower. But the feeling gradually recedes. By the time I leave for work, round 7:45, I’m calm, and just knock on the door of the sleepout to wake Michael up.

Tau comes to open the door, bleary-eyed. He’s left the keys to the house in the front door all night, which is just one more thing to frustrate me, when I see them there. But again, I sigh, telling myself they don’t do these things to annoy.

He’s apologetic, and so is Michael. “I didn’t mean to stay the night – I just fell asleep,” Michael tells me. “I’m sorry, Miss.”

“It’s ok,” I say. “I just need you to move the car, that’s all.”

All the same, the day hasn’t started off so great.

 

And then, at work I feel ugly, straight up. Bad hair day, just for starters. Itchy eyes, blotchy skin. The feeling lasts the whole day, pretty much. Driving home (after dropping Ezekiel off in Bream), I look in the visor mirror a couple times, and sigh.

 

Thursday 26 September:

Today, right when I need it, a little bit of gratitude kicks in. As I head off to school, it kind of occurs to me. An oblique thought, just something like – I’m grateful to live in this house. And then, I’m grateful that I earn enough to pay the rent. After that, things seem pretty simple. I look around and think, maaan, what am I fussing about? I got food in the cupboards, and everything’s paid up: the rent, the bills, the car. And I don’t have to depend on anyone for that.

Can you believe it, when I get to school, I still feel happy. I walk along thinking – ohh, I’m glad I’ve got a job.

All day long, I just keep getting these little waves of the same sensation, which feel like bubbles fizzing. Even when I look in the mirror, I don’t feel ugly anymore.

I’m grateful for the tiniest things. Noodles at lunch. Being able to run up the stairs. Email notifications on my phone.

After school, I go upstairs to the Faculty meeting, and I still feel fuckin grateful. I’m there till 4, collating grades with Mandy, like it’s no thing. Everything feels sweet and in tune.

Drop Ezekiel off, and I head home. Have a little talk to Tau, in the sleepout. He’s been resting, and I feel real tender towards him. I just think – Tau, I’m so glad you’re here right now. I’m glad it’s safe, and you know you’ve got somewhere to go. Doesn’t even matter about whether I’m special or not. It honestly doesn’t.

Then I go to the gym. Same deal. I feel like – ohh, wow I’m here.

When I get back home I make sausages and eggs for us, and watch Shortland St, and jam the laptop.

 

Friday 27 September:

Last day of Term 3. And Kepaoa’s court case, down the line. I text him to say good luck, though I don’t expect to hear back (and don’t).

School. I decide not to show a movie to 9 Social after all. I was going to, but it’s actually not such a great idea, on the last day of term. Phones and food and iPods will come out, feet will go up on the table – everyone thinking they’re the big boss. So, nope. We go to the library to do something on the computers instead.

At break, I go upstairs to make a coffee, and when I come back, Slade has popped out to have a cig, and Ezekiel’s sitting calmly on my laptop (on Facebook). I biff him off straight away, and banish him to a netbook at the far table.

 

Later on, Slade and I talk about it.

“I wondered if I should leave him on his own, lil shit…” says Slade.

“Nah you’re algood, he just needed to be told,” I say. “He’s alright.”

“Mmm, suppose so.”

We tsk a little bit at the absent Ezekiel. Probably wisely, he stays away for second break, though he comes back after school, and waits through the Faculty meeting (I take my laptop with me, this time).

 

When I get home, that holiday feeling kind of kicks in… almost. I still feel a kind of suffering patience, which I don’t want to feel anymore. I want to be over it; the craving to be special. I used to think I was over it. But really, I don’t know.

Some nights, if Tau doesn’t come inside, not even once, I imagine all sorts of things. Sometimes I imagine that he hates me. Sometimes I imagine that he resents me. Sometimes I think he feels sorry for me. And sometimes, I think (and this is more like the truth), that he doesn’t think about it one way or another.

One thing I’m pretty sure of, is that I’m not special anymore.

I’m going to be honest, it does sting. It really does. But it’s too easy to kind of nurse pain. Sometimes when you feel it real bad, you almost want to hold onto it. I don’t know why that’s so. Maybe because it lets you have a memory of happier times, which croons to you. Remembering when you were special to someone, letting your mind run over those feelings again and again, like you can experience them one more time. The pain is almost like a stroke; a touch… a hug. It’s bewildering, how it doesn’t help, but you want to feel it anyway.

But no matter how hard you focus on trying to re-experience that original impetus, in a sense it’s spent. Memories don’t produce better days, at least not on their own. They need to be put to the service of something new.

And (thanks, Slade) always better days.

Control

Saturday 21 September, 2013:

When I get back from doing the shopping, Tau is in the sleepout and the front door to the house is shut. It was shut yesterday when I got home, too. I think he might have lost the key again. I got him a new one only last weekend.

I leave the door open for him, but the rain keeps blowing in on gusts of cold air – I close it again. If Tau’s lost the key he’ll have to come knock. He probably won’t want to tell me, if indeed he has mislaid it after just one week (despite my exhortations to keep it safe this time).

The sun’s going down, I make a bowl of noodles, with vegies and a fried egg, and chili sauce. Watch the news. Write some more.

 

Sunday 22 September:

 There’s a thunderstorm in the middle of the night; I wake up and feel immediately soothed by the wildly lashing wind and rain.

This morning, when I’m leaving for the gym, Tau literally springs forth from the shed, making me almost jump out of my skin. “Miss, can you leave the door open?” he asks me, with some relief at having apprehended me in time. “I… think I lost the key at my uncle’s.”

So I’ll have to get another one cut.

Tau hasn’t seen Sheree’s new place yet: Rutherford Rd. He tells me she can move in next Friday. ‘They’re moving in on Friday,’ is what he says. He doesn’t say ‘We’re moving in on Friday.’

 

Monday 23 September:

Slade gets to school early, he has cash (his mum came up yesterday) and he wants to shout me breakfast. He just says, “Um, Miss… can I get you a munch, Miss? We could go down to Municipal – can get you some breakfast.”

“Do you mean now?” I say, in surprise.

“Yes, I’ve got money.” He pats his pocket. “Straight up, Miss, I’ll buy you a munch, all good.”

“Well…” I think about it for a second. It’s not even 8:30 yet, and I’m all sorted for the day ahead. I grin at him, saying, “Aw, that’d be cool, Slade. We got time.”

“Sweet as,” says Slade. “And it’s my shout, Miss.”

So we hop in the car and go check out the bakeries. Slade asks what I want and then orders for me, which for some reason pleases me greatly – just the feeling that someone wants to take care of me a little bit. I can easily handle a second breakfast… and besides, there’s no way I’m going to turn down Slade’s offer. It touches my heart that he’d even think of it.

 

After we get back,  9 Social are miraculously well-behaved in the library. I get to do sweet fuck all, and drink coffee with the librarian.

At break, Ezekiel comes running in and pulls something from his bag: “Look Miss, I won a packet of biscuits!”

Turns out he’s got second prize in some Science quiz. So we eat Tim Tams with Slade, and I can see that Ezekiel is very happy to be reciprocating with something in the food line.

It’s a good day, it’s alright… until I come home and find an empty point bag in the bathroom. I get back from the gym, go take a shower. That’s when I see it, just sitting on the basin. I put it in my pocket, to show Slade and check I’m right. But I know I’m right.

 

It doesn’t have to mean Tau’s using meth, of course. But it could mean that. Or that he’s letting someone else use here. Or just that he’s selling. Or that someone is. Or all of the above – or something else.

So I feel pretty sick about it. Not that I thought it could never happen – I’m not that dumb. Just that… it freaks me out if Tau’s bringing that shit round here. I’m scared of it.

But I don’t go talk to him about this yet, even though it’s bothering me and needling me. I don’t want to assume the worst and start out by yelling at him right off the bat. And Michael and Raphael are here.

I go on Facebook and see Slade’s online – and I guess there’s no time like the present to ask. I mean, he knows way more about this stuff than I do. So I message him and wait to hear back.

 

The chat box bleeps up, and I’m conversating with Slade – it feels weird getting advice on meth via my inbox:

hey Slade can I ask you something off the record please? I mean don’t say anything to anyone, is that alright? I just want your advice on something. 

sup miss, yip allgooooods, yip sweetas you can ask anything

Ok just put yourself in my shoes, or imagine if it was Lois or someone, and tell me what you think. I just went into the bathroom and there was a empty spot bag in there, and it’s freaking me out. Do you think Tau’s using P here, or letting someone else do it? Or am I over reacting – do you think there’s some other explanation I haven’t thought of?  Before I go out there and go ballistic, I need some advice.

You should have a talk to him alone about it miss, but calm down first, wait till tomorrow. If they want to do it you have to tell him do it off the property, you cant pick up the smell so they could be smoking it out there but I dunno miss. Just set some rules, have a word with him, just dont go overboard with it miss, just have a quiet word with him tomorrow.

I know Tau was using sometimes with Mischa, it was a while back though, and it wasn’t here it was at Fitzroy.  He said he wasn’t using much. I told him not to ever bring it here, and he said no way, but now I don’t know. The other thing is you know how Tau’s been trying to get money for his mum’s bond, well he’s told me how he’s been taking more risks lately but not saying what. I was wondering about stuff like if he was selling.  My mind’s spinning out about it.

Miss I dont think he sells, I’m sure he uses though, just dont know how often, so you better have a talk miss, set your rules on it again and everything.

Oh man I hope not. I thought he wasn’t into it so much these days either, it was more after he split up with Shae last year. And I didn’t think he would do it here, when he knows how I feel.

sweetas miss its allgoods straightup, just wait till tomorrow before you go talk to him, I’ll help you sort out what to say, prolly dont even have anything to worry about,  we’ll get it sorted.

It’s a big relief, just to tell someone I trust. I feel a bit calmer afterwards, though I still have to shelve it for now – and that’s kind of hard to do. I know Tau’s used in the past. I’ve wondered, now and then, if he still does. But I didn’t think it would be here. And Tau doesn’t even let the boys come inside to use the bathroom, so I think it was probably him who left it there.

It freaks me out though. This is supposed to be a safe house. Tau always appreciated that, and I don’t even want to think about the possibility that things might have changed.

 

Afterwards, I can’t get to sleep. Every little noise, every footfall, has me on edge. A car pulls up and leaves a couple of times. Probably just Michael, I know… but I feel so vigilant.

Round 1 o’clock, there are footsteps on the gravel. A knock at the shed door, then a knock at the front door. I go open up, and a boy I don’t recognize is standing on the porch. Asking where Cluzo is.

“I don’t know,” I tell him crossly. “Isn’t he in the sleepout?”

“I just knocked, but I don’t think anyone’s there,” is the reply. “Whose car is that, Miss?” Cos there’s a car parked right  in the driveway, blocking the front gate.

“I dunno…” I say, with weariness and a passing interest that I also have to shelve (like so much else), just because it can’t take the uppermost spot in my mind right then).

 

“Um… cos I need to see Cluzo,” the boy continues on, hopefully.

“Well I’m not sure if he’s home,” I say. “And it’s the middle of the night, so I don’t know why you thought it was a good idea to come round.

“I was bored,” he says, simply, and quite as if it is a satisfactory explanation.

“Too bad,” I reply, without sympathy. “And that doesn’t mean you can just roll over here to see Tau. I’m tired of boys thinking they can come here anytime and do whatever.”

“Yes Miss,” he says. And then, ludicrously, “So… can I see Cluzo?”

“No you can’t,” I say. “If he’s here, that means he’s asleep. And if he’s not here, then I don’t know where he is.” I sigh, and add, “Why don’t you just let me drop you back home?” The fact that I couldn’t have got out past (Michael’s?) car is, at that moment, immaterial to me. I just want this over and done with, and for the visitor to be far away from here.

“No… no, Miss,” says the boy. Obviously the night is young, far as he’s concerned. “I don’t wanna go home.”

“Well… I’ve offered,” I say. “But you can’t stay here.”

“Yup Miss, sorry – I just wanted to come round and see Cluzo,” he says, one more time.

“Well, it wasn’t a good idea,” I conclude, very tired of this whole interchange.

 

The boy turns and walks off briskly and lightly down the drive. He seems quite equanimous about it, but I feel like everything is churning around inside of me. Just to be… I don’t know: ignored. To think that random kids feel they can just casually stroll up in the middle of the night and knock at ‘Cluzo’s’ door, without so much as a by your leave. To think that I have to control and control and control my shit, all the frickin time, and I still don’t know what the fuck’s going on, cars up and down, boys thinking this is all their God damn right or something.

And – my heart sinks again – the meth bag.

Oh man, right now I’m pissed off. I thought I had some border protocols established – but people just keep trying to breach them anyway. I’m not having it.

Ok then, there’s going to be a little tete-a-tete tomorrow, you can bet your bottom dollar on that.