I can’t stand alone

Thursday 6 May, 2010:

I ask Student Admin. to send out passes for Dimario, Jack, Inia and Noa, Aperamo, Riley and Shanice.  Everyone arrives promptly, and Morris sees us assembling in the block. “Good morning, I see you’ve got your crew with you,” he remarks, affably.

I laugh but Dimario mutters, “Just cos he hasn’t got a crew… yeah, where’s his crew?” and this makes me laugh even harder.


My room’s in use, so we carry chairs upstairs to one of the offices and sit in a circle, with many grins and shuffles of feet and furniture. The room is warm and quiet, sandwiched between two classrooms; and the lights are off, so that it feels like like a dim and cosy boardroom.

“Well,“ I begin, “This is the committee meeting…”

“The Graffiti committee,“ they say, looking extremely pleased.

“We should have a fridge here; have some beers,” says Noa, making us all laugh.


Dimario sits directly to my left, and is very keen and alert as we get started. I notice the way the others look to him and take their cue.

And without fuss, everything is gradually discussed and sorted. We reach agreement on personnel, cost, fund-raising, and the purchase of equipment. Shanice takes the minutes and hands them to me at the end.

Oh, and (need I even say) – Tau comes up in the general discussion. I don’t say anything much, but it breaks my heart to hear his friends just kind of casually dissing him. Not really, but just… saying stuff:

“He can’t bomb,” Aperamo says, grinning. “He can do all those little arrows and everything, but he’s no good when you put a can in his hand.”

“Yeah… nah,“ Inia agrees, and Dimario laughs; and I say, “Hey you guys, stop being sad.”

They all look at me good-naturedly – but inwardly my heart hurts. I want to say to them, “He never said a bad word about any of you,” but the words stick in my throat.

I feel stricken, looking at Inia and seeing him laugh, as if Tau’s a joke – or kind of. I won’t hear a word said against him, so they better not keep it going. And they don’t – not even Dimario (who isn’t Tau’s friend, but who knows me too well to spark it up right now). And I think to myself how it’s cool that everyone’s excited about it, and it’s all starting to happen – but it was Tau’s idea, and I want him to be there, so much.

And all the way home, I remember Tau limping… Tau’s eyes with no hope when he said, “I’ve got nowhere to go.“ And I can’t ditch him; not for anyone. I don’t know what’s happening, I haven’t seen him for a month – though that don’t mean anything in particular, in his complicated and sometimes isolated world. But I still feel so fiercely protective. I won’t forget; it’s a promise. I don’t know if it’ll ever matter, or ever be called on – but it’s my promise to Tau, now or any time at all.


Friday 7 May:

Thanks to Dimario’s intervention, one more name has been added to my list – and it really has to be the last one: 22.

Dimario raises the idea with me after lunch, and we talk for a bit as 9 Social arrive to class. The year 9 boys are most interested in the conversation, craning their necks to see what’s going on, and laughing at the snippets they can hear.

Dimario’s trying to convince me to take someone off the list and add David (Crow) instead.

“I can’t take anyone off the list,“ I tell him.

“You could, Miss – some of those kids are just toys,” he insists. “We were painting when they were just swinging in their dad’s ball sacks.”

This causes the year 9 boys to explode with mirth, and makes me laugh too.

And eventually I’m persuaded – not to take anyone off the list – but to add Crow’s name as well. Because I owe Dimario a favour; that’s for sure.


Friday 7 May:

I spend every minute of my non-contacts on wall business: writing up a letter for parents, delivering an information sheet to all the kids on the list (along with grant application forms, which I encourage them to fill out on the spot), and then doing more forms for our fundraiser – the sausage sizzle. It’s all a big palaver, but then, for me the wall is truly a labour of love. So I’m not ungrateful, despite knowing that I have to jump through the hoops to get what we want.


At lunch, Aperamo and Simeon come to see me. Aperamo tells me ruefully, “I’m in trouble – I’m gonna be stood down.”

“What for?”

“Swearing at my PE teacher.”

“Oh no – why, Aperamo?” I say, tenderly.  He’s sucking a lollypop, and his mouth is stained blue. “What did you say?” I ask him.

“Well, he told me to be quiet, and I kept talking, and he told me to be quiet again – and I said ‘Fuck you, bitch.’”

I shake my head in disbelief, but still tenderly.

“Sorry, Miss,” says Aperamo. “But he just pissed me off… and then I didn’t think.”

We look at one another, and I sigh, “Oh well Aperamo, nothing you can do now, except apologise to him.”

“I have to,” he agreed. “Miss Tunbridge said if I apologised, I’d only get a one day stand down. I’m supposed to apologise at lunchtime.”

“Well go on then – go down to the gym and apologise.”

He shook his head. “I’ll go later. I want to stay here.”


At the end of lunch, they’re still sitting there as my year 13’s arrive.

“Year 13’s!” Simeon says in awe. “Do you teach year 13’s?”


They watch territorially from my desk, not wanting to leave quite yet. My laptop’s locked, and Aperamo taps the keys idly.

“What’s your password, Miss?”

“Is it Cluzo?” Simeon says.

“No!” scoffs Aperamo. “Miss’s password ain’t Cluzo.”

“It could be,” says Simeon.

Aperamo types it in. “No, that’s not it… of course.”

I grin. “Ooh – it could be Sir Cluzo.“

They laugh and laugh. “Ohhh, we forgot the ‘Sir’! “

“Or King Cluzo,“ they suggest.

“Or ‘I love Taurangi’,” says Simeon, cheerily.

“No – well it isn’t any of those,“ I say.

“One day we’ll work it out,” they say, as they reluctantly get up to leave.


Aperamo says, as an afterthought, “Miss – what makes you like all the gangstas? I mean, what makes it easy for you to be friends with us?” He thinks about this, and adds, “Cos you are, aye.”

We look at one another, without any surprise. And I can’t stand alone.


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