Thursday 13 May, 2010:
The barbecue is a big success: my organisers give unstintingly of their time and energy all morning, and we raise almost 300 dollars.
Dimario tells me, in one of his surprising unguarded moments, “Miss – I just want to keep doing project stuff as much as I can.” He says this so simply and whole-heartedly that it touches my heart very much.
Afterwards, when everything’s been packed away, we get lunch at the cafeteria. I’ve been wondering if the kids would like to be left to themselves now, but Shanice says, “Miss – what are you gonna do?”
“Just do some work,” I tell her.
“Oh…” she says, and then, hesitantly gesturing to one of the tables, “Want some company first?”
“Sure,” I tell her, and she smiles at me radiantly, saying, “Yay – let’s all sit down and eat, then!”
Friday 14 May:
I have non-contacts this morning, and by 10 I’m sitting in the faculty office, with my coffee and a fried fish sandwich from the cafeteria. There’s a soft knock on the window behind me. I turn around and see a very dear and familiar face; dark eyes looking at me from under a grey beanie (‘black eyes’, the kids call his eyes). So I go unlock the door and we just stand there and regard one another for a moment.
I reach out and stroke his arm. “Tau,” I say, and then, “I’m so happy to see you.”
He just kind of moves in beside me, looking relieved to be greeted this way.
“How are you? “ I continue, and he says, “Not very good…”
“Just hang on then, aye Tau,“ I tell him, “Come on, we’ll go down to my room.”
Tau follows me down quietly. He does his usual circuit around the perimeter of the classroom, checking things out. Hits ‘CLUZO’ a couple of times on the board, then sits down and tells me, “My dad’s on fries – stupid cunt – and I can’t go home, he wants to give me a hiding.”
“How come?” I say.
“Cos I rang the cops on him, and now he wants to smash me.”
“What was he doing?” I ask, gently, knowing what the answer will be.
“Tryna kill my mum,” he tells me, “And the cops came and took me and my mum to another house.”
I nod, and he goes on: “Yeah and I’ve been drinking with my mum nearly every night. We go to the bar… the pub.”
“And do they just serve you?” I asked.
“Yup – they think I’m 18.“
“Maybe,“ I say, “Or else they just don’t bother to check.“ Cos Tau might be big, but he sure doesn’t look 18.
After a little while I say, “I think I’d better email Mr Roberts and say you’re here.”
“Alright Miss,“ Tau says, trustingly.
So I email Morris and cc it to Marjorie
“Can we go for a walk, Miss?” says Tau, after a while.
“Yup – where do you wanna go?”
“Anywhere,“ he shrugs, almost contentedly.
As we stroll, we go past a PE class outside, and Tau eyes up the seniors and swaggers along.
“Look – there’s Dimario,“ I say. And indeed Dimario is standing looking intently at us from a distance. I can almost feel his eyes narrow. But we just keep walking.
Tau continues to accompany me round the school at interval; there are signs and salutes and handshakes everywhere we go. He doesn’t leave my side and is very restrained, just muttering at one point, “There are all those guys that wanna jump me..”
“Oh, who cares about them,” I say, soothingly. “You’re with me, and no-one’s gonna do anything.”
But I know that things are about to get complicated. Cos next up, I have 12 History. “Here comes Dimario,” murmurs Tau, a few minutes before break finishes and I go out to the block to forestall him.
“Dimario -” I begin, “Did you see who I had with me before?”
“Yes I did,“ he says, shortly.
“Well he’s in my room, so just be nice, alright?”
Dimario looks at me as if to say – You are kidding.
“Nah, he’s here – and he needs to be here today, so just let it go, ok?”
Dimario gives me, with some effort, a look which signifies acceptance of this. He comes in, sits at a back table, and saying not a word to Tau, regards him somewhat disdainfully.
Aperamo comes in too, on his way to class, and joins Dimario for a few moments. They snigger to one another, looking at Tau. It isn’t a nice vybe, although they’re restrained enough.
I go over and say quietly to Aperamo, “What’s up with you – aren’t you even gonna say hello to Taurangi?”
“Oh, nah,“ he replies.
“That’s sad,“ I admonish him, “He’s not doing anything to you.”
“He’s too gangsta for me now,“ Aperamo says, mockingly, “With his grey beanie -” and he and Dimario fall about laughing.
“Oh shut up,“ I tell them, not unkindly – but inwardly I feel my heart squeeze again that Aperamo could be unkind.
Tau, who’s sitting at my laptop, hardly even seems to have noticed. He seems quite relaxed. I ask, casually, “Is everything ok with you and Aperamo?”
“Yeah,“ says Tau easily, “I just don’t think he’s seen me yet.“
“Oh,“ I reply. And I return to the back table: “You should go and talk to Tau,” I say. “He hasn’t got a beef with you.“
Aperamo has the grace to look embarrassed, and mumbles, “I just… nah, all good. I’ll, ah… see him after.” And then he leaves for his own class.
I still don’t get it though. And it pains my heart to see Aperamo ditch him like this.
When Shanice arrives, she confers with Dimario, then draws me over and asks me curiously, “Miss – why is Tau here?”
“He just… came to visit,” I reply, not really knowing what else to say. And I add, quietly, “There’s stuff going on, and he needs to be here today. So just be kind, okay?“
She nods, and goes back to her group. And there’s no trouble all class. Dimario does his work, with what I must say is admirable tolerance: no digs or snide comments at all, even as an aside to me. And Tau sits quietly and draws, and listens to music on my laptop, with the headphones.
But right at the very end of class, Shanice comes up to me as the others are leaving, and says earnestly, “Miss,“
“Miss, don’t favor Tau over Dimario.”
“Shanice, I don’t – honest I don’t – it’s just that Tau needs to stay here today.”
She nods, saying, “But Dimario keeps on asking – Why does Miss support Taurangi, why does she always favor him?” She starts to walk towards the door, and then turns back and adds, gently and sincerely, “Cos, Dimario, he really loves you, Miss… and I think it makes his heart sore.” And she rubs her own heart, then reaches out and strokes my shoulder.
“Has Dimario got beef with me, Miss?” asks Tau, later.
“Nah, not really – I don’t think he seriously has,“ I say. “He’s just a little bit… you know…”
And Tau nods. He just looks at me, so weary and trusting, having sat in my room all day: hung over, resting, patiently accepting of everything – hardly noticing Aperamo; or if he does, just letting it go.
And I think – man – I can’t ditch you, Tau. No matter how everybody else might feel about it, I just can’t do it.
Because the others – they’ve got things he doesn’t have. Taurangi is always… different. Always the one on the outerest loop, the one who ‘doesn’t care about his life’.
He’s just a kid… and yet, I remember a line from somewhere: The child knows he is not really a child. And that’s true, but in the eyes of the world, he is only a child, and so – anything I can do for Tau, I know I’ll do it.
And I’m not the least bit motivated by trying to do ‘good’; I’m motivated by solidarity. Somewhere along the way I linked arms with Tau, not as a teacher, or a support person, but as someone who wants to stand with him and not stand apart. That’s all it is – how simple, and how complicated too.