Exchange

Wednesday 17th June, 2009:

Tired of being in this state of permanent high alert – living this way is just a drain on my energy, and I’ve barely got enough energy as it is. My bravado leaves me regularly; makes short appearances.

I’m half watching the news while I write, where many things are discussed out of all proportion to their significance. Overall, the tone is managerial. Right now there’s an item on breathing and de-stressing – how in these times of recession we need to focus and remain flexible as employees. Advice: to take deep breaths during times of stress at work; to take a break every 90 minutes and go up and down the stairs!

 

Friday 19th  June:

This morning I’m with my year 10’s, over at the library. I see Simeon taking one of the brand new Vivid markers out of my carry bag. He tries to hide it behind his back, and I say, “Put it back, Simeon.”

“Put what back?” he says innocently.

“The Vivid.”

“I don’t have any Vivid,” he insists.

I sigh, cos he’s so good natured, and yet racks stuff from everyone and all his teachers despair. “If you really want it that much you could have just asked me if you could have it.

Surprised, his hand whips out and puts the Vivid back into the bag. He looks at me curiously, like I’m gonna get mad now that I know he stole it.”

I say, ‘Thanks – good for you, Simeon.”

He smiles, delighted. He says, “Miss?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I have that Vivid?”

“Yep. There you go.” I give it back to him, and he looks amazed.

“What!” says Aperamo. “Are you giving it to him!”

“Yup,” I say, matter-of-factly.

I’ve got no reason, nothing to prove in doing this. It’s just that simple. No big lesson for anyone… just something nice for Simeon.

 

Aperamo: he’s the funny guy, the one who makes everyone laugh – and at first he tried to play me, but now we seem to understand one another quite well. At the start of the year he assumed the role of the eager student, then quickly he went to being the class clown, which he still is… but both personas have been very self-aware and it’s a bit of an act. I like him, cos he’s kind of worked me out, he notices things that most kids really don’t. I see his shrewd young eyes take it in and process it: Hmm… Miss thinks that for real, but she isn’t gonna come out and say it. We joke – but there’s also a little feeling of understanding now, with me and Aperamo. Today, asking me a question, he puts his hands on my shoulders, turns me gently to look through the window as he shows me what he’s asking me about.

 

During interval, a boy called Lanzo (new at school this term) comes up to stand with me for a while. I met him one time when I was relieving his class, and since then we’ve had many conversations. He’s a lovely and slightly aloof person, whose self-possession and independence touch my heart. Today he tells me he’s made some friends at last, but nowadays he’s just trying to keep outa trouble. And then he sings me a little song. He has a beautiful voice.

It’s funny how sometimes people just kind of ‘recognize’ one another. That’s how it seems with Lanzo. It’s a happy mystery to me that we talk and chat as if we’re old friends, several times a week.

 

After break there’s tutor assembly, with a guest speaker – a woman who runs a beach clean-up programme. To help with crowd control the teachers all fan out amongst the kids. I park myself right up by the door of the block, where a group of boys are bored and talking over the top of the guest speaker. As I arrive, one of the boys says, “Miss – can I take your tutor roll back to student reception?” without hope.

“Yes, thanks,” I say, surprising him. He takes it gratefully and goes off.

Later on when he comes back, I make room for him and he says, “Thanks, Miss – I just had to get out of here,” and I say, “It’s ok, I understand.” He smiles, surprised again, because we don’t know each other.

These small, almost imperceptibly small exchanges, they continually give me a little bit of something to go on: just a feeling that there’s an alliance, an underground…

 

And just that feeling of being ‘carried’ by others: I want it, I want it. Sometimes I get it when I’m going to work with Kuli, even if we’re tired or one of us is grumpy and doesn’t want to talk – I feel like it matters to be there, day in and day out.

I really need that, even when it’s irritating – that sounds strange, but it’s the way it is sometimes. Even if I don’t feel like it, even when I’m tired, or ashamed sometimes, or if I think I’m not interesting. It’s still the thing that’s worth something, the solidarity of not being in separate worlds – and writing this, I feel kind of luminous inside, like something has just clicked on, like I’ve just got a little bit more of a clue how to stand without falling.

For some reason, the person who returns to mind is the boy at assembly; I don’t even know his name – I’ve never met him before. That feeling of standing with someone, just for a second. And I don’t want to live life on my own, I don’t want to live a half-life. I want to stand with others.

What I’m writing in here, it’s like I’m groping towards something; something else I should be doing that I couldn’t do before, but maybe I can do now. But it all feels so slow, why can’t I just get it? But I will… so don’t withdraw the offer, okay?

 

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