Patience is a funny thing. It’s a quality best developed in conditions of adversity. I worked so hard all day, and was still never quite ready for the next. My mind couldn’t fathom how to get smart, how to beat something which felt so merciless, and at the same time seemed inchoate and ill-defined. But I was at least appreciative of the allies who kept me from giving up. And even though I could only offer them the most limited, constrained space or time, I patiently took all my opportunities to do just that.
Monday 3 August, 2009:
Argos absent all day today – Tau and I have a talk about stuff. They (Argos and Tau) have beef with one another at present (Argos alluded to this on Friday), over Argos thinking that Tau stole his iPod. Not exactly like that… Argos thinks Tau stood another boy over to get it, cos that’s what the boy says, when he can’t give it back to Argos. And Argos stole it in the first place (from who is unsure), says Tau. So it’s all very complicated. But texts are flying: they’re gonna fight, they’re supposed to fight… and then Argos isn’t at school.
All this must have happened on Wednesday or Thursday, I think, cos they were allgood on Tuesday. But I don’t know. And Tau just talks and talks to me. I hate to see him and Argos not friends any more, and I tell Tau that.
“He just won’t believe me, Miss,” says Tau.
“Can’t you sort it out?” I ask.
“I’m not sure,” he replies.
I’m a bit worried about Tau, when he tells me he’s gonna buy a gun. He says so without any air of bravado, just tells me that he nearly got slashed with a machete the other day, and he needs to look after himself.
I say, “Tau… man, I hope you’re bullshitting me.”
And he just says, “Nah, Miss, nah it’s true.” And I don’t know… but of all the boys I know, Tau is the one I quietly worry about and have done for ages. He’s so big, so quiet, so watchful… and that time I saw him with all that cash… and just the way he isn’t cocky, doesn’t shoot his mouth off in public. So it bothers me, it bothers me a lot.
But I joke: “Taurangi I don’t wanna see you on the news, ok?” I’m half trying to make light of it and pretend I’m kidding, but inside I don’t know, not for sure. I hope he’s just trying to impress me – though why he would want to I don’t know – maybe just cos he’s 14 and trying to be the man.
He walks along with me, and we hang out upstairs for a while, I’m kind of ‘escorting’ him to his next class. And then Nio comes up and we just stand around talking, the three of us.
Nio informs me he’s gonna come to my class today: “With Sir C – you know Sir C, aye Miss,” he drawls, in front of Tau, adding, “And Romer, and Hazard…” He looks at me, curious about something. “Do you know who ‘Axis’ is, aye Miss?” he says, and waits, not sure of my reply.
I say, “Yeah, that’s you.”
And he smiles like the sun came out, almost amazed at me. He says, “You do know… you do!” with delight, cos he’s never actually told me – but I just see what goes on.
Tau says, “And you know mine, aye Miss, don’t nark,“
I say, honestly, “Of course I won’t nark.”
And then we all reluctantly go to class.
Then 11 Social – no Dimario today, but Alexander and Jack are both there. Alexander makes the class laugh, because over the last term he’s grown very conversational with me, and his asides are so funny. I can’t help but love Alexander, who is one of the least ‘needy’ kids I know; when he banters with me it’s cos he wants to, he likes to; and that really tickles me – and the fact that sometimes I can’t shut him up! I could never have predicted, on the first day of class this year, that one day I’d be saying to Alexander, “Oh, let me get a word in!” when he keeps going with what he’s saying about things – and the whole entire class just laugh, laugh. And to see Alexander’s gentle, amused face with its frank expression of goodwill, just makes me want to be nice to the whole world.
I never would have seen it coming. I used to keep him going with ruses and by turning a blind eye to his bombing; now I can say, “Do your work!” and he says, “Ok Miss, I will.” He says “Miss-oi,” and “Miss-ow,” when I’m walking past, in his gentle way, as natural as he’d say it to get Jack’s attention, or Dimario’s. I like him exceedingly much – as much as I like Dimario, now. He has his own charm: his own, frank, gentle, funny charm.
And Jack, to whom I have to say, “Stop moaning!” – cos every two seconds it’s, “If I knew it was gonna be boring today, I would have wagged.”
I say, “Look, I told you at the start it was gonna be a bit boring today,” (cos I did!)
He replies, “Well you could’ve told me yesterday…” and everyone laughs and laughs.
It was stuff about the Federal and State government, and then exam revision for geography; and I’d warned them, “It’s not gonna be the most interesting class we’ve had this term – but after exam week it’s gonna be interesting again.”
He grizzles and grumbles, drawing his diagram, answering the questions, and every time his voice starts up again, everyone grins and I pretend to be irritated, but I’m laughing the whole time and Jack starts to laugh too, and it’s funny cos he’s still doing every single bit of work, out of the kindness of his heart, and cos usually he likes Social. When it’s time for the geo revision, Jack says loudly, “Oh no… what are we doing… ohhh… volcanoes… allgood!” all in the same breath, and the class rocks with laughter again.
I know that class is gonna last the distance. There’s a vibe in the air, that’s for sure, and it was there from the very start… but in every moment, I’ve given, or tried to give them something… especially my particular colleagues, but all the whole lot of them, every one.
At the end of class Nio runs in – he’s been in Math, but “I left, Miss!” he calls to me, jumping towards Alexander and whirling about. I say, faux-grumpily, but with affection underneath, “Nio, you’re disturbing my class,” and he smiles radiantly at me.
I sometimes wonder how I’ve been admitted to a little part of their ‘secret’ world, which is not the slightest bit random, though it appears that way to the casual eye. The signs are there, you just have to know how to look. Today, I think about my DVD and how I haven’t seen it for a while… and then I start to worry a little bit that Nio will let it go too far afield, and that it might pass into the hands of someone who doesn’t even know me, and therefore not care to give it back. And I remember a casual comment from Argos, “Miss – those KS boys won’t give it back, you’ll never see it again.”
So at the end of class I go to Alexander – cos if we’re talking KS boys, he is the one you should see. And I ask him, “Could you get it back?”
And he says, “Yep Miss… I could…” He adds, considering things, “I know who’s got it… but it means I’ll have to go all the way round to his house.”
I say, “So, will you?” and he says, “Yup.”
I appreciate the favour. Favors… and the doing of favors… I take kind of a chance, and I say to him, “Cos someone told me – those KS boys’ll never give it back –”
“Who? Who said that?’ he responds at once.
“Oh, just someone…” and he’s intrigued, to hear me drop the KS moniker in like that. And so he’s happy to do me a favour, because I know he’s in that crew, and because I know he’s the one to come to… without a word of that being made explicit.
I don’t know exactly when… or even if he’ll be able to do it, but I’m sure he’ll try, and I’m grateful. For the trust that works both ways, and the unspoken assurance that things are only mentioned to those who can be trusted. Subtlety; understatement; the patient feeling in my heart sometimes, with these boys who ride at one remove from school… yet the signs are all around, for those with an observer’s patience.
Today in the office, two junior boys go by, past the window, past the Venetian blinds, laughing and joking… back and forth… certainly truant from class somewhere.
One of the teachers says, “I’m sick of seeing those two go past. I think I’ll email the DPs.”
I say, “Hang on, I’ll go out and talk to them first.”
And sure enough – I speak to them and they turn themselves gently round and go straight away. One says to me, “Thanks for your… cooperation, Miss,” and I don’t even know them. I feel like the friend of the outlaws, and it’s obvious to them; the signs are there for those who can read them: those with patient hearts.