Monday 24 May, 2010:
There’s a lot of interest being paid – since last week – to my little clique of renegades, who are now basking in this temporary attention. And everywhere I go at school, kids call out:
“That’s some mean shit.”
“Did you really do that for project?”
“How did you pick the people?”
“Can I do it next time?”
Noa, Aperamo, Inia and Levi sit up by the boards and protect them from anyone with too ‘avid’ an interest.
“If anyone touches these boards, I’ll touch them,” says Noa.
Tau texts me, and I ring him straight back on the school phone. It turns out that Truancy Services have been to his house: “And they said I can do a course, but I have to go for an meeting tomorrow and bring my parents. I said yes – but I know they won’t come.”
I say, “Tau, do you want me to go with you? I can, if you want me to.”
“Miss – that’d be good,” he says.
Tuesday 25 May
Tau texts me at 8:30 to tell me that he doesn’t want to go to the meeting; he wants to go back to school(!) and can I come inside when I get to his place, cos his dad wants to talk to me.
So I go in, and meet Scott at last. Tau is sitting at the kitchen table, drawing and looking mournful. I give his shoulder a pat, saying “Hey Tau,”
“Miss… I don’t want to go on that course,” he mutters.
“It’s ok, all we’re doing is having a look, that’s all we’re doing today,” I reply, soothingly.
He nods, as his dad comes through into the room and greets me. Scott, who appears to be sober, is not as large as I’d imagined. We exchange a kiss on the cheek – and then the three of us sit down at the table and talk.
Tau’s slightly happier once I assure him that he won’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to. “But, I wanna go back to school,” he says, with a pleading look in his eye.
I’m not sure what’s brought this on all of a sudden (or so it seems). “How come, Tau?” I ask gently. “I thought you weren’t really into going back to school.”
He shrugs, looking at the table and pushing his paper up and down. “Dunno… I just think I could learn better at school… I wanna try.”
“Do you?” I say. “Well, I’d love you to come back to school – you know I would,” and he smiles. “But,” I continue, honestly, “Maybe you’ll learn better on the course. Because -” I remind him, “When you were at school, you didn’t like it much.”
“Yeah Miss, but I’d try harder this time,” says Tau.
“I’m sure you would,” I say. “And if it was up to me – I’d have you with me for every class, Tau. But you know I’m not allowed to do that – as much as I’d want to.”
He nods, and I say to Scott, “If Tau really wants to come back to school, I’ll do everything I can to help sort it out for him. But shall we go to this meeting anyway, aye Tau? Just to have a look?”
And he stands up and comes with me, trustingly.
We get in the car and he gives a heavy sigh. “I don’t think I’ll like it… the course.”
“Well if you don’t, you don’t,” I say, matter of factly. “But at least we’ll know a bit more about it.”
At Truancy Services, they explain about the programme (it’s called ‘Back to Basics’), and we fill out some paperwork. The woman says she can take him to spend a day there and see if he likes it; she’ll make a time for next week. Tau nods his assent, but he doesn’t relax the whole time we’re there.
When we get back in the car, “Well… that was alright,” I say.
“Mmm,” Tau agrees, half-heartedly, and mumbles something about going home.
“Ok, we’re going back home now, and we’ll talk to your dad and -”
“No, I said I don’t wanna go home,” Tau tells me.
“Oh,“ I say, “What do you wanna do?”
He shrugs. “Dunno,” and then, “It doesn’t matter…”
“Yes it does… Tau, what do you feel like doing?”
“What are you doing?” says Tau, tentatively.
“Well, I’m gonna go talk to your dad, like we said we would – and then go back to school.”
“Can I come with you?” he asks.
“Of course you can, if you want to.”
Tau finally relaxes, and I see him stretch out. I laugh, saying “Are you sure? It won’t be exciting. My class have to write their test.”
“Allgood Miss, I’ll just come with you – I can just sit with you.”
Scott thanks me, saying awkwardly, “Things haven’t been easy for Tau. There’s been… a lot of problems, with his home life.”
“I know,” I say, softly. “I know there’s problems, but you’ve raised a very good boy.”
There is a feeling of openness in the room, as we look at Tau’s lovely and modest face.
In the car, Tau says, “My dad was nice to you.”
“He was,” I agree.
“But he’s like that just to certain people – the rest of the time he’s not,” Tau says. “He gave my mum a hiding last night, beat her up right out on the road.”
“I thought you said he was ok at the moment – taking his medication.”
“It hasn’t arrived yet,” says Tau. “He’s drinking. Did you see his glass?”
“I didn’t notice,” I reply, truthfully.
At school, “Miss,” Tau says to me again. “I don’t wanna go to that course and spend a day there.”
“Tau,” I tell him, “I promise, if you don’t like it, you won’t have to do the course. We could find something else. And no matter what happens – I won’t just leave you there and forget about you.“
He nods, and I go on, “I’m not gonna ditch you Tau, you can believe me, ok? It’d be just the same – only better.
And all afternoon he stays very quiet and close to me, just bent over my desk drawing, or on the laptop – while 12 History write their test. Every time I go near him, I’m struck by his air of complete trust in my person. As I lean over him and reach around him to get papers or open cupboards, he moves not a millimetre – his large and quiet shoulders remaining firmly in place as I work my way around them, feeling that he wants to know he can rest against me without any remark or surprise. Every now and then I give them a little touch or press on the way past, to tell him without words that I’m on his side. He gets that quiet and mellow look in his eyes, and his breathing becomes regular and slow.
12 History are calm as well. Dimario sits up front by Tau, saying quietly at the start, “Miss – shall I just sit here?”
“Yes, that would be good.”
“Shall I sit up here by someone I don’t like?” he goes on, casting an eye at Tau’s untroubled frame.
“Yes – you can just sit there and not worry about it,” I say, looking tenderly at both of them. And he does.
At the end of the day, as Tau is sorting out the test papers for me, I say to him, “Well – it was a bit boring having to sit through the assessment.”
“No,” he says at once. “It wasn’t,” And he looks at me with such an expression of placid and undisguised contentment that we both burst out laughing.