Friday 27 November, 2009:
For the first time perhaps, I’m starting to take charge of what I’m doing here; trying to pull things together within certain parameters which are unavoidable, and at the same time hoping to create a situation which is more to our liking.
Sometimes I’m still afraid of speaking out. But it isn’t so bad… it isn’t as hard as I thought it might be.
Because finally we are confronting something real.
This morning I mail Morris and the DP’s about Tau – I’m pleased with the way it comes across. I take a lot of time composing the email, trying to sound less emotional than I inwardly feel, but at the same time advocating unequivocally on Tau’s behalf.
Morris sees me at interval and says, in passing, “I got your email, I thought it was very nicely put.”
After break, I have 10 Social, who are faithfully writing their assessments. Tau says he has a headache, but I won’t let him go get Paracetamol from the nurse.
“Don’t you trust me?” he growls.
“I trust you,” I tell him. “But if you go over there, you’ll roam around and take ages to come back.”
“I wooon’t… I’ll come straight back!”
“I don’t think so, Tau.”
“Then let me sit outside, just on the bench outside the door – cos I’m so, so hot.”
“I’ll sit with him, Miss,” says Levi, kindly.
“And I will,” adds Aperamo. “We’ll just keep going with our essays, and we’ll work quietly, and we won’t let Cluzo go anywhere.”
I sit out there too for a little while, talking to them about essay structure. Tau’s proud of his completed piece and lets the others use it as a kind of template.
“All that work!” he says, looking at it admiringly.
“You had help,” protests Aperamo.
“No, he did it himself,” I tell them.
“Yeah!” Tau says, “Miss just sat beside me – that was all.”
“That’s true,” Levi confirms. “I saw you working on your own, in the block.” He picks up the essay, reads the first sentence out aloud, then says fondly, “Oh fuck, good one nigga,” and Tau splutters with laughter.
So the morning slips by, seemingly with ease. But after lunch, I’m on a non-contact (in Kuli’s room) when Tau and Simeon come bursting in, running hard. Simeon’s barely worked up a sweat, but Tau’s panting loudly and desperately and it takes a few minutes for his breathing to ease. Finally, “I’m in trouble,” he tells me, still gasping.
“Mr Roberts – and Miss Tunbridge.”
“Why?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he says. “Something to do with Leroi. There was a fight at the park. I was gonna go down, and…”
“Hang on, hang on,” I say. “What’s happening?”
“Mr Roberts…” Tau begins again.
“He came to get me, to go over to the DP’s office. But when we got there I ran away – and they both shouted at me.”
“Why did you run away?” I ask. Then, “Were you at the park?”
“No, I didn’t go down to the park yet. I dunno why I ran away,” Tau says, bewildered at his own actions. “It’s just I wasn’t sure what to say. I wanted to find you, so you could help.”
“Okay Tau,” I soothe him. “We’ll sort it out, we will.” I turn to Simeon. “And were you just… helping too?”
“Yes,” he nods.
“Alright, just stay here for a sec, and I’ll think what the best thing to do is…”
Tau says, “Miss… I feel sick, I need some air. Can I go outside?”
“I’ll come with you, I tell him, and we go out to the bridge all together. Tau sits down and lets the air cool his face. “I’m hot… I’m hot,” he mutters, then flattens himself against the wall as he sees Morris and Marjorie come out of Admin and walk along, scanning the horizon.
“They’re looking for me!” Tau says, on the alert. “I think I’ll get stood down again.”
“No, I’m sure you won’t, Tau. But you will have to go over and sort this out, ok?”
“Yes – with me.”
“Will you stay with us?”
“Of course I’ll stay with you.”
Tau makes up his mind. “Ok then – I’ll do it.”
And we walk over; shoulder to shoulder. It reminds me of that other day, just a few months ago – though it seems a long time ago now. And I think again how brave Tau is, when he feels safe. I know school doesn’t hardly ever see this, but I do.
When we get there, there’s no-one in any of the Deputy Principal offices, and so we sit in the row of chairs outside, and wait… and wait.