So I try to condense something into these brief lines..

‘The details are in a sense both compressed and expanded, so although the examples are particular, their implications are broad’


Thursday 22 October, 2009:

Today Tau’s tired and quiet, and he comes in over and over again, letting out more bits and pieces each time. He ran away from home last night; his dad gave him a hiding and stood him over and took his money; he went and broke into an empty house and slept there, but first he hit on the fence opposite school. I go look, and there it is: a huge CLUZO.SSC.GANG.

I’m glad Inia’s there today. For Tau’s sake, but also for Inia – who willingly sheds his self-contained, invisible force field when he’s with Tau. Together, they’re a good combination. They arrive in my room at lunchtime, and I buy them a feed. I know Tau’s had nothing to eat. I get them both the same, sensing that way Tau won’t be too proud to accept it.

Because I know he’s hungry. Earlier he asks if he can have some candy for helping me take books upstairs – and Tau never asks. I give him some mini Mars bars, and without knowing the whole story yet, I can see he’s starving.

After lunch he says, “I don’t wanna go to class, can I stay with you?” I tell him yes – but I make sure to clear it with Morris first.

All afternoon I go sit by Tau whenever I’m able to, and he quietly tells me more and more of the story. I don’t say anything much, just let him kind of nestle in; I feel his arm resting against mine, his foot touching mine lightly. I think he wants to just sit and let the world stop for a little while, and have someone there beside him.


After school, “I’ll walk to my Nan’s,” he decides.

Tau’s Nan lives a long way off – but I don’t have my car, it’s Kuli’s week to drive.  I tell Tau, “Mr won’t mind, if you want to wait for us after the meeting.”

“No, Miss.” He shakes his head. “Too much hassle.”

“For who? Me?”

“Yes,” he says.

“No, it isn’t a hassle, of course it isn’t,” I say. “Oh Tau – you’re too independent.

“What does that mean?” he asks. “That word.”

“Independent? Well, it means you want to do everything on your own.“ I tell him.

“I can look after myself,” he says, with a touch of pride.

“I know that, Tau,” I said. “But sometimes it’s good to let someone else just do something for you too.”

“No it ain’t,” he said. “You shouldn’t rely on anybody.”

“Well… sometimes it’s good, too,“ I say. “And it doesn’t mean you can’t look after yourself –  it just means someone cares about you.”

He smiles, but still shakes his head. “Miss, I’d better go… but I’m coming to school tomorrow! I’ll see you tomorrow.”


Friday 23 October:

Although Tau has told me emphatically that he’s coming to school, I’m not at all surprised when he doesn’t show up. I just hope he’s alright, that’s all.

Meanwhile, I’m writing reports. I take special trouble over 11 Social – and in particular Dimario and Alexander.

I check out the other comments for these two, and see the same things repeated over and over: truancy; lack of motivation; reluctance to attempt work at all, let alone assessments. By contrast, my words are like live coals amid a fire that’s gone out. And as I write the reports (in four lines, that’s all the space we’re allowed), I think even though it’s nothing much – it’s freely given.

So I try to condense something into these brief lines, like an essence; a distillation of all the small, multitudinous moments I’ve spent in their company. How do you honor this, how can you?


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