Road to Zion

We sparkin’ the ions, marching to Zion  (Damian Marley)  

 

Friday 25 September, 2009

Last day of term – and George’s last day at school. He arrives at my door first thing in the morning and spends all day in my room. It touches my heart very much to think he wants to. And in the end Marjorie just gives him permission.

I make the call not to go to whole school assembly in the gym last period, cos by then it’s George’s very last hour at school, and I have Tau in here too, with ‘issues’.  I just clear it all with management and get everything sorted… and so we wind up the day with just the three of us; Tau slowly thawing out after his bad experience.

He’s had not a very good day; all tired, hung over, drinking with his dad last night again… arriving late and meeting up with his boys. And, you know, it’s hard when you’re keeping up appearances, so he can’t ditch them, he ‘has to’ truant with them: Simeon, Leroi, Levi – that’s been the order of the day.

 

By second period, they’re roaming round in the block, so I bring them in and they sit on the floor with George; behind Nina, with their backs leaning against the window.

As they’re going out for lunch, I notice a few small SSC tags on the base of a chair near where they’ve been sitting.

Nina and I exchange glances.

I say to the departing Tau, “Know anything about this?”

“No Miss, I wouldn’t tag your room,” he replies innocently.

 

But Nina tells me, when we’re on our own, “Tau did one of those.”

Did he?”

“Yes – I saw him,” says Nina

So I go out, and take him to one side, and say, “Tau, did you do one of those tags?”

“I didn’t.”

“Well, that’s what Nina told me.’

“She’s lying…” he mutters.

“No she’s not. I trust Nina, and she’s looking out for me,” I reply.

“It wasn’t me,” he insists miserably, adding, “Snitching bitch – I hate that bitch!’ before walking away.

 

Then right before assembly (it’s just me and George by now), in comes Tau looking upset and aloof. He goes and sits on a desk near the window, staring ahead and saying nothing.

George is on the laptop, just mooching around contentedly, so I go sit by Tau but he doesn’t look at me.

“Not going to assembly?” I ask.

He shakes his head.

“Alright then, hold up.”

I pop out and find Morris, telling him, “I’ve got Tau and George in with me, Marjorie’s ok’d George – but I just wanted to let you know about Tau. There’s a couple of things to sort out… but I’ll try bring them over to assembly in a while.” (this of course is a complete fabrication, I have no intention of tryna get them there at all).

“No worries,” Morris says kindly.

 

I go back to my room:

“Tau?”

“Yeah?” he says, just hanging his head; not looking at me. Then he bursts out, “She’s lying, ask Leroi… I hate her!”

“No, Nina’s alright,” I say gently. “I know she’s just looking out for me – but anyway, Tau,” I say, “It’s not really the tag, I don’t even care about that. But just that you looked at me and told me straight you didn’t do it.”

He shrugs unhappily, staring ahead, and then mumbles, “I didn’t want to, it was just cos of the boys. They were trying to do a SSC tag on every leg of the chair, and then they couldn’t reach, and Leroi said, ‘here, you do that side’ – and he gave me the pen, so I had to, because…”

“I know,” I say, “It’s alright.”

“Miss,” he says, “I just…“ and he breaks off and hunches his shoulders. “It’s just… you have to rep SSC with the boys there. Leroi hard out reps for SSC. I didn’t want to, and then that bitch snitched on me… I don’t wanna come to school anymore!” he concludes, miserably.

“Yes you do…” I cajole.

“No-oo, I don’t.”

“Well, I want you to.”

He softens slightly, I can see it in his face.

 

I look over at George. He hasn’t taken any notice of the conversation, and says to Tau in a friendly way, “Wanna roll Tau, wanna turn?” He gestures to the laptop.

We relocate, and they touch the keys and I hear the start of ‘Road to Zion’’.

“Hey!” I say. “That’s my song.”

“Yeah Miss, I know – that’s why we’re putting it on.”

And Tau seems to just slowly, slowly unclench.

“Tau do you know its George’s last day today?”

“Is it?”

“Yeah,” sighs George

“Are you gonna miss us?” I ask. “Miss school, I mean.”

“Yeah, I am!” says George, in surprise.

And we take some pictures of ourselves on the webcam, to remember it by. Our last picture of the day is the three of us in front of Tau’s tag on the board.

 

At the end of the day, I have to say goodbye to George

“I’m gonna miss you,” I tell him.

“Me too, Miss, hard out.”

And we hug one another tight, and he goes off for his shift at Countdown.

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