Rastafari is like… the turtle, with a shell all over him. You got to have Rasta protection. That mean if a man is trying to hurt you, in five minutes time he might drop asleep and in six minutes time you go out there and him gone. You go out on street with herb and meet police(man) and him a search. Another guy go out in the street and say ‘Alright, think about it first.’ You feel go out on street now. You go out and street cool. The police round the corner dere. Certain time, man just go out there and him get search right away and him say ‘Bloodclaat, how did this happen? It just time control and if him move a little bit earlier or a later him gonna miss it. That’s why Rasta is the only shield. It a time when brothers fight against brothers, sisters against sisters, mankind against mankind. All dem thing is a sign of the time. The only survival is Rasta. (Bob Marley)
I felt like it was all out of my hands. Like I couldn’t just move of my own accord, not really. But I had a sense that we were protected, that protection was gonna find us. Call it whatever you like – but I’d gotten to trust that feeling. And you got to believe in something to carry you through… and that’s the truth, far as I can work it out.
Friday 4 September, 2009:
Today I don’t mean to let Tau down, but I’m tired and not thinking.
At break time I see him roaming, uncharacteristically on his own. Then when the bell rings, he comes in and sits at my desk, looking unhappy.
“Tau? You’re not gonna go to class?”
“No Miss, I think Mr Roberts will come and look for me – I think I’m in trouble.”
“In trouble? Why?”
“Cos… I’ve been tagging.”
“Everywhere. All over the school,” he says, and I ask, “How come?”
“Cos I was angry.” he replies.
“Is that why you were on your own… cos you were angry?” I say.
“Angry with who, Tau?”
He shakes his head, mutters, “It’s a secret…”
“Ok,” I say, “But why is Mr Roberts looking for you – did he see you?”
“I think so,” says Tau. “I was tagging by the cafe, and he looked across and I think he saw me, and I ran away.”
“Ohh,” I lament, then, “You know Miss Kirk’s just looking for an excuse…”
He nods. “I know.”
“I was just trying to calm down. Remember, I told you, when I tag it calms me down.”
“Yes, I remember,” I say. But then I add, kind of stupidly, “Is this all true, Tau – or are you just bullshitting me?’
“It’s true, Miss,” he says. “Do you think it’s all lies?”
“No,” I say, ‘I don’t… it’s just that I don’t really know what’s going on.”
Tau looks at me, just stands up and slips out the door… and I feel like I’ve let him down. Because I wanted answers, and because things still don’t totally make sense.
Jack and Jamal come at lunchtime, saying:
“Miss? Are you…?”
I say, “Yeah, sure,” and Jamal says “Thanks Miss,” and they clear a space to dance.
I feel pleased because it’s so uncomplicated, so nice – and I smile at them.
But after school Tau steals back in, and we look at one another.
“Oh Tau,” I say, ‘It’s just that I worry about you – sometimes I think I worry far too much about you!” I add, “I saw your tags on the way up the stairs. The blue ones, right?”
“Did you tag Cluzo as well, or just SSC?’
“That’s ok then – good boy!” I say with relief, making us both laugh. Hitting Cluzo’s just asking for trouble, nowadays. I’m glad it was only SSC, which could have been any one of that crew. Then, “I think you’re probably in the clear – I hope so,” I tell him.
And he nods again.
I just reach out and pat his arm, to tell him: Tau, sorry I didn’t really listen before.
By 5:30 I’m at Macca’s again, inhaling coffee steam like the scent of restoration in my nostrils, allowing my mind to hover instead of twist and press. I feel calmed by the salt; the booth near the TV screen; the music clips; the filling of trays; the people coming in and out.
And it’s then I think, oh God, what the fuck am I doing? Couldn’t I have just been a regular teacher after all? Or been… I dunno, someone with a ‘hobby’. Or someone who does research, or donates money – or even says prayers!
But I need to see things directly, do things directly; to be with others directly and not stand apart.
It’s as if I don’t have the same set of words as most people to discuss it; in fact I don’t really understand the discussion anymore.
I think about Tau telling me – I tagged everywhere, I was trying to calm down.
There wasn’t a debate, or a discussion, or a perspective – it was just about how to get him back to safety from his little sortie; stop him getting hit by the big guns. And I was totally involved in it from this viewpoint, from this side of the line, where the conditions for action contain a whole other set of possibilities.