Monday 14 September, 2009:
I’m sitting in the office after tutor when a little knock comes on the window:
“Miss!” It’s Nio, absconding yet again. I go out to him and he says, “Can you help me, Miss?”
“Help you with what?’ I ask.
“With my assessment.”
“But what did your teacher say about it?”
“He doesn’t help me,” says Nio.
“Did you ask?”
“I did,” Nio replies. “But, he just told me to get information, and I didn’t know what to look for, and I don’t get what we have to do… so I came to find you.”
I say, “Ok, come in the office for a minute, I’ll show you, come on.”
And Nio follows me in, touching and prodding things on shelves as he goes by: books, tins of coffee, ink refills for the whiteboard markers – the spray can on La-Verne’s desk instantly catches his eye.
“Miss…” he breathes, “Whose is this?”
“Miss Poirier’s,” I tell him.
“Can I take it? Aye Miss?”
“No, Miss Poirier needs it.”
“Please, Miss?” Nio entreats, holding it lovingly.
“No – put it back,” and he does, turning his attention to the assessment booklet which I wave in front of him
“Look…” I say, sitting him down. “Pay attention.” He does, and I begin to go through it with him, page by page and step by step.
“Ohhh,” says Nio after a while, “I could do that.”
“I know you could,” I say, “Of course you could,” and he smiles at me radiantly, saying “So if I go back to my class, will you come in and have a look, and check – will you help me Miss?”
“Yup, if you want,” I tell him.
“Ok, then I’ll do it!’ he announces.
“Okay, off you go – go and get started.”
And when I come into his classroom about ten minutes later; ostensibly to talk to the teacher about something else, Nio beckons me over.
“Miss, look – I’ve done this, is this right?”
“I’ll print it out: Mister, I’m gonna go to the library to get my printing,” he calls, and leaps up, saying, “Miss, come – can I talk to you?”
I go out with him. He walks to the overbridge and stops there, basking in the sun.
“It’s a nice day, aye Miss? A nice day for wagging – Sir C and Hazard are both wagging today.” He grins, pleased with himself. “But I’m here…”
We stand in the sun for a bit longer; Nio turning and leaning against me with complete trust in my person. “Miss Kirk might kick me out of school,” he said. “She saw me on Friday, and she said she might kick me out… and if she does, Miss, I’m gonna hit all over this school, do a roll call… “
At that moment, the doors to the block open and two seniors come out: “Oh, there you are Miss, we need you, we need to get some information, about the -”
I say, “Alright, but hold up a minute, I’m just seeing Nio first.”
“Nio!’ they scoff. “Who cares?” and Nio bristles, saying, “Nah Miss, aye.”
“No, don’t say that – Nio’s very important!” I agree, and he looks at them, rejoicing and slipping around me: to and fro.
Nio has a magical effect on me, he’s like an instant shot of energy – going straight into my blood stream.
But Tau… away again today, and I worry a bit more. I fret about him a little, just quietly and when I have a moment to think.
I remember how Morris asks: “Do you think he’s a tagger?” And how I hear myself reply: “I’m not sure… probably,” which is non-committal, cos aren’t they all?
As if I don’t know, as if I haven’t already decided who to stand with a long, long time ago.