Heaped up, pressed down: Sometimes that’s the way things come. You just have to let it run.
Wednesday, 23 September, 2009:
First up this morning, there’s an email from Morris, saying that he’s considering moving Tau into my year 10 class, ‘pending his attitude and attendance over the next 3 days’.
So I tell Tau this, and he’s suitably impressed. “Then, I’ve got to find my PE class,” he says, “I don’t know where they are – I just got here and they’re not at the gym.”
I leave my year 13’s (temporarily) to escort Tau to the gym and check for myself. I feel bad, but not that bad – deciding Tau’s need is greater.
“Can’t I just stay in your class?” he says, on the way. “I’ll go to all my other classes – couldn’t I just miss one?”
“No you can’t – you’ve got to be good for three days,” I tell him.
“Three days! Three classes is hard enough!” he grumbles.
At interval I give Tau instructions to go to his tutor group.
“But I haven’t been there for ages,” he says.
“I know, but remember: three days, that’s all.”
“But I don’t want to…”
And after interval, Tau comes trustingly down the steps towards my room.
“No, Tau,” I tell him.
“Oh Miss, I just came by, I’m going now… I was on my way there,” he informs me, happily and completely untruthfully. He turns around and retraces his steps.
I call after him, “And then after that, you’re going to English.”
“I might…” he replies, over his shoulder.
“No, I want you to – alright?”
“Oh, alright,” he says, indulgently.
I’m on duty at lunch, and Tau comes over and stands with me for a while.
“Tau,” I tell him. “Math next.”
“Couldn’t I just…” he begins.
“No, ” I say firmly, and he grins.
I sigh. “Oh, it’s come to this has it? I’m gonna take you over there myself.”
He looks pleased – of all things. His boys are standing around and laughing, but he just waits patiently.
The bell rings.
“Ok Tau – off we go,” and he follows along beside me, ambling past people, looping back and forth to exchange words with friends and then quietly returning to my shoulder. And like that we walk up the stairs to his classroom, and in he goes.
Still just that same feeling, which grips my heart so powerfully. I just wanna protect Tau; wish I could make everything alright. I know I can’t, but oh, I wish I could.
Thursday, 24 September:
Just like yesterday, my heart gets very full up with Tau. He arrives to my room at 10:30, coming in and sitting patiently at an unoccupied desk, because my year 12’s are just finishing class. I let them out for interval (all but Nina, who waits back interestedly), and turn my attention to Tau. I’ve already checked the database and found he hasn’t been to Science.
So I ask, “How come you didn’t go to Science?”
“I just got here – I woke up late,” he says, and to be honest he looks as tired as fuck.
“Alright, but go to your next class, k.”
“I will Miss… I just want you to look after my cans, please.”
I don’t get it, until he unzips his jacket and pulls out two spray cans, which he hands to me with the utmost trust.
“Alright,” I say, and then, “I should sell them, get some money for lunch.”
Tau starts to laugh, which makes him cough. He’s wearing a black cap which bears the slogan SSC MUTHAR FUKAR. I say to him, “Miss Kirk would love to have that; better take it off,” and he does, and zips it inside his jacket, replacing the cans.
When he goes off, Nina looks very interested as I lock the cans in my desk.
“Miss…” she says. “Are those spray cans?’
“Yes,” I tell her frankly.
“Why are you putting them in there?”
“Cos I’m minding them for Tau.”
Nina just looks at me – and we both start laughing.
I tell her, “It’s ok. I won’t give them back till after school.”
Nina nods. “I know,” she says.
Tau returns at lunch. He takes my best and inkiest whiteboard marker, and hits every panel of the whiteboard – with CLUZO, SIR CLUZO, MR CLUZO, SS-FUCCIN-C; with crowns and haloes; with dots and decorative flourishes of his pen. He works his way methodically around the room, intent and quiet, then comes and talks to me.
“I’m tired,” he tells me, “I was drinking last night… that’s why I got to school late.” And up close his breath smells of it: that hung over, ketosis smell. “My dad shouted me a box,” he says, adding, “Cos he doesn’t like drinking on his own.” He sighs and says again, “I’m tired, and my head hurts.”
I say, “Just take it easy today then.”
Because there’s no way in the wide world that it’s gonna make sense to wring my hands over this. Tau already know it’s not ‘normal’, but he hasn’t got a solution – and neither have I. For now, I don’t know what to do except listen, look after his cans, let him have some time out; speak to him like he’s not dumb, or a little kid, or a victim.
After a while, I see Tau start to relax. He sits back in his chair, just breathing quietly. And he tells me more.
When the bell rings, he goes to his class, and my class come in.
The girls say: “It smells in here…”
“It smells like the worst toe jams!”
They spray their perfume around.
“Who’s that boy?” they ask. “The one who was here when we came in.”
“Ohhh…” they say. “We thought that was Tau.”
He’s naughty,” one adds.
“No he’s not,” I say, defending Tau immediately.
And by then everyone’s arrived and I have to start the lesson.