Tuesday 7 September, 2010:
Today some of the senior girls are pissing me off. It’s just the way they come in – straight away it’s phones out, food out, tables all pushed together: ‘loudmouth bitches’ as Tau would say.
Oh, and I hate school and all this pressure, pressure. How can I just let go and kind of fly?
All I want is to know how to not care what happens when you let go. Not care about being the same as before.
When I drive down Municipal, after being at school till 5:30, I see a figure turn down the corner into Fitzroy St. He wears a black hoodie and is travelling fast, with a swagger to his step that looks just like Tau’s. I can only see him from the back – he’s already heading down Fitzroy as I go by. But I just clutch some feeling of utter inevitability to myself, and keep driving home.
Wednesday 8 September:
Riley says to me, “Miss, is Cluzo still on that course down by the mall?”
“No,” I say. “No – he’s not.”
“Did he get kicked out?” she asks.
“Well -” I say. “Not really, it was kind of stupid – they said they’d let him stay there for longer, but then they didn’t; they just told him to go when he was 16 – and that was it.”
Riley looks at me in sympathy, and I say, “I told him – who cares, we’ll find a better course.”
“Miss,” says Riley. “You should be Taurangi’s mum – no, I mean it – you really should be.” She looks at me so nice and friendly. “Have you met his parents – you have, aye.”
“Yes,” I say. “I have.”
Riley says, in the kindest possible way, in a tone that touches my heart – because I can hear how genuinely supportive she’s wanting to be: “And – they were algood, aye.”
“Yup,” I reply. “They were algood.”
Riley gives me a look of radiant solidarity; I feel that she knows it isn’t exactly simple but that it’s damn well true anyway. And right then I really love her for that.
Thursday 9 September:
This afternoon I ring Youth Services about Tau. The lady tells me that one of their caseworkers is already ‘working with him’ – talking with the family; sorting a course out. The way she says it, it’s like it’s all taken care of, there’s no need for me to get involved. Guess to her it’s just something and nothing. She’s not rude or unfriendly, but I still think: oh, Tau will think I’ve ditched him, he’ll think I’ve just passed him on to someone else. I imagine him being visited by strangers; with no warning, no preparation – and I wonder what he thinks about that, and what Scott and Sheree think. Do they think I’ve just forgotten? Forgotten about Tau – as if I ever could.
At lunch I say to Leroi, “Have some course people been to see Tau lately?”
“No,” he says, surprised.
“Really? Because I rang them, and they said someone had been around to see him about a new course.”
“No-oo,” says Leroi again. “I don’t think that’s right.” He adds, “Tau hasn’t said anything about it. But I’ll ask him.”
It does, of course, occur to me that maybe Tau doesn’t feel ditched at all. Maybe he’s absolutely fine. But even though I try to think this way, it really doesn’t fit with anything I know about him. So I’ll still do my part – and if I’m stubborn like that, then I’m stubborn like that
Friday 10 September:
Aperamo has already seated himself in the little corner behind my desk (the exact same spot where Argos used to hide), on top of some books. “I’m so-oo comfortable,“ he pronounces, with a sigh of contentment. He brings out his phone and leans back happily, “Please can I have special assembly today?”
“And me,” pipes up Simeon.
“No, you guys, no special assembly today – come on Aperamo – get off to house assembly.”
“Ohhh Miss… Miss,“ they beg, “Please? We’ll be so quiet – no-one will know we’re here.”
“Geez, you two,” I say, exasperated.
But Aperamo still looks so completely at ease. He stretches out his limbs and yawns.
“You’re like a cat, Aperamo,” I tell him. “Cats get comfortable sitting on top of books like that.”
“Nah, I wanna be like a dog,” says Aperamo. “Dogs are more manly.”
Simeon and me start to laugh.
“Cats are more girly…” Aperamo continues, unperturbed.
I give up. “Oh, have your bloody special assembly then – but only cos you look so comfortable.”
“Yay!” they chorus.
At the end of the day, La-Verne comes in to say hi. “I’ve hardly seen you this week,” she begins.
We’re chatting when the new caretaker appears. “Which one of you is the one who can read the tags?” he asks, and La-Verne defers to me at once.
She and I both laugh, but really my heart just sinks. “Who put you on to me?” I ask, pretending to be amused.
“One of the teachers,” he says, adding, “A lady – I don’t know her name.”
He shows me several pictures on his phone – mostly from the boys’ toilets:
I lie and say I don’t know but I’ll ask around. I feel bad, cos the new guy seems so friendly and grateful. If he only knew that I can’t snitch on Inia and Noa. I couldn’t, in a million years, betray them. We chat, and I lie, and then La-Verne and I talk some more, once the caretaker leaves. She thinks it’s Libya or Teki – she thinks she’s seen one of them practicing something like that. I nod, but I hope she forgets what it even is, by Monday.
I bet it’s Sarah Malin who’s mentioned my name to the caretaker. Privately I wish she’d just stop being an egg. She’s got me all wrong – obviously.
But I think to myself: I made it worse; not better. I didn’t help, and I didn’t know what to say. A ‘normal’ teacher would know what to say. A teacher who just behaves like a teacher should. One who would give Inia and Noa’s names to the caretaker without hesitation. One who would send Aperamo and Simeon to assembly. One who would know how to stand apart from people and not take things to heart – or want to.
And most people might be a lot better off with that kind of teacher. I don’t help – I don’t know how to be like that anymore, if in fact I ever did.
For what it’s worth, I still don’t wanna be that teacher. And I know I can’t ditch Tau. Even if Youth Services are doing what they say they’re doing, I still need to know what’s going on. Cos Tau’s one person who never did want to see a ‘normal’ teacher’ – and somehow that resolves the issue for me a little.
And as for the rest of everything – I need a plan, and fast. I need to think now: what would I do if I was not afraid. And then I need to do those things. There’s no other possible route out of here.