Saturday 15 May, 2010:
Last night I phone to ask if Dimario and Shanice can come along to buy the paint, and their parents say, upon hearing it’s a teacher: “Oh no, what have they done now?”
Dimario’s mum hangs up on me three times. Later I laugh and laugh when Dimario tells me, “She was sure it was someone snooping about my attendance. And the third time she told me who it was.”
This morning I pick up Shanice first, then Dimario. We’re driving along, and “Go faster, Miss,” says Dimario “You drive like a Nana.”
‘I suppose you want to drive, then.”
“Yup,” he says, grinning. “I could – if you let me.”
“Well I’m not gonna let you.”
“It’s lucky you’ve still got tyres, after being in Shanice’s neighborhood,” he finishes, and everyone cracks up.
It’s pouring with rain, and after a while we get stuck in traffic on the motorway.
“You change gears much too fast,“ Dimario chides me.
“Thank you Dimario,” I sigh, resigned to his ways.
When we get to the city, they’re shy, hanging back as we go into the store.
“Ask -” Shanice nudges Dimario. He has his hands in his pockets and looks up and down, feigning nonchalance. Shanice wears high heeled black boots and black tights; a cream and caramel print skirt; a black top. Dimario has a purple hat, a jacket over denim pants rolled to his knees; black socks pulled up over his calves, and black slippers with a white flash.
Shanice says, in her best voice, “Excuse me – do you have any Ironlaks in stock?”
“No – we don’t sell cans anymore.”
At our next stop, “Here it is…“ Dimario gestures, and we walk in.
This time, we’re ushered downstairs to where shelves of cans glow from behind glass. Dimario stands and looks at them with a covetous eye. But it’s Shanice and I who approach the counter, enquire about prices, and relay the answer to him.
“$85 a box -”
Dimario takes a step closer. “That’s a good price,” he says.
“So how many boxes will we need, do you think?” I ask him.
“Probably, uh three?” he says, hesitantly.
We take two boxes on the spot, and arrange to pick up the third later. I hand over 170 in cash, from the barbecue profits.
Dimario eyes the shelves, and after a bit of coaxing, he starts to select the colours, placing brackets of three cans into the box: bright purple, gold, darkest charcoal, baby blue… and so on, until all the spaces are filled. He looks at this prize with happiness.
We carry the boxes back to the car; Shanice picking her way along in her high heels. On the corner of Queen and Victoria St we pass by some buskers – two folky sounding chicks with guitars. Dimario rolls his eyes. “Man, I’d pay them to shut up –“ he says.
From the city, we drive to Bunning’s to get the other equipment. Dimario holds back modestly once more, and lets me do the initial talking. We want boards, and are shown through to the trades section out back, where we can see all the different types available.
Come on Dimario, have a look.”
He hops forward, hands in his pockets, and inspects the different timbers. “Too thin… too soft…” he says, passing comment as we go along. And then, “Oh – this is alright,” and he stands in front of a shelf, with his head cocked to one side.
I look at him, with fond regard for his beautiful ironic style.
“Is that board good – Dimario?” we ask.
He rubs it with a finger, nodding. “I think so…”
Up comes one of the staff, to see if we need help.
“We’re looking for ‘drawable’ board,” says Shanice, in her politest and most elegant tone.
“For what?” the guy asks, mystified.
“Yeah – what?” says Dimario, equally bewildered.
“I think she means ‘durable’ board – do you, Shanice?” I venture.
“No-oo –“ she says. “Drawable board – that you can draw on.”
Dimario and I can’t help but laugh, and she looks radiantly at us, saying, “Well – you know what I mean!”
“No,” says Dimario, “We don’t!” And as he begins to explain exactly what we’re looking for, I see him relax again and take decisive charge of the enquiry.
Dimario has to go over each point three or four times before we’re satisfied, and Shanice and I tease him a little bit for his impatient look.
“Don’t be cross, Dimario,” we coo.
He raises his eyebrows, giving us a sneer and looking down his nose.
He sighs, as we walk to the counter.
“Look – he’s getting tired,“ I say. “Poor Dimario, and we keep teasing him…“
Shanice giggles, and Dimario grins at me.
“But honestly, Dimario,” I say. “I’m being serious now – I couldn’t do any of this without you.” I look at Shanice too, adding, “And you Shanice – you guys have never let me down, and I really appreciate it.”
“Oh Miss, I’ve had a good day,” she says. And she throws her arms round my neck and kisses me.
Later, I say to Dimario, “And thank you for being so mature about Tau being in class with us yesterday.”
Dimario actually smiles at me in surprise. “Man… when Tau walked past with you, when I was in my PE class,” he says, “All the boys were like – look! There’s Cluzo! And I just stood up and looked over, and I saw him…”
“I know – we saw you looking,“ I say. Then I add, “You know, Tau wasn’t there to make trouble. He just had some stuff going on at home, and he needed to be somewhere else. It was real important to me to let him stay.”
Dimario just nods, considerately. And I’m aware that as ironic and aloof as Dimario can be, he’s also let me see a side of him that most teachers don’t see. And I don’t want him to think I take that lightly, as if it’s not a gift.
6pm, I get a text from Tau, off some random number:
Haye itz tau did uz get tha canz mis
I text back and say that we did go get some, and I’ve held the rest at the store till Wednesday – so that he can come with me.
But I don’t even know if he got the text.