Good, but not easy

Monday 13 September, 2010:

An extremely energetic day, in which I hustle nonstop. With the following result: Karys approves us painting directly onto two wall spaces in the block.

Even Dimario looks impressed.

Every time I pause for a moment, I’m aware that the empty feeling is just being held at bay, it hasn’t gone – but I know I can’t let myself dwell on it. I hold onto the upswing for all I’m worth.


Tuesday 14 September:

Karys wants to know what kind of paint we’re using, but she seems happy enough so far.

At lunch there are two ‘chairs’ in the hair salon, each with its own straightener in operation:  Serena and the girls on one side; Andre and the boys on the other. I’ve never seen so much hair look so straight and so shiny.


Thursday 16 September:

First day of the special two-day projects. It’s kind of a strange day – where should I start?

Leroi texts me this morning – can I pick up him and Taurangi?  I leave my class with Kost (20 year old ‘guest artist’ and member of CP crew), and go.

All the kids just look when we walk in. I wonder what Dimario thinks, but I don’t glance over at his table. Tau goes to sit by Noa, and seems relieved that he’s made his entrance without incident.


It’s not ‘easy’ for Tau today – it’s good, but not easy. He’s so unused to any kind of restriction these days. His whole manner, in front of the others, is staunch, and his eyes dominate the room. Yet touchingly he asks me from time to time, “Miss, can we go for a walk?”

“Where do you wanna go?”

“Anywhere,” says Tau.  He’s hot and restless.

So we embark on a number of little strolls: to student services, the cafe, the office, the reception desk; anywhere I can think of. And as we walk around and about, Tau talks quietly to me, losing that hard look in his eye.


He tells me the Youth Services people have been to see him once – they left a card and told him to go round and see them. As if that’s gonna happen. They didn’t tell him anything new, and he didn’t ask anything.

“Tau, would you rather be back at school?” I ask him.

“Yes, I would,” says Tau simply.

We talk about it as we walk. I think it’s such a good idea in principle, but – like I said – he’s very much out of the habit (not that he ever had much of a habit in that direction to begin with.) And that really shows today. He veers from good, to sly, to virtually unbiddable in places, and then – with a mighty effort – back to good again. He draws on my cardboard boxes, my folders, the tray on my desk, my desk itself (he has to spray and clean that, much to his sorrow) He gets hot and wants to go for more walks, and we just walk, and talk, and go back to class.


On one of our walks, Tau asks me, “Do you think I should join CP?”

“Um…” I say, considering this. “Maybe.”

“Chase and Kost just asked me,” says Tau.

Did they?” I say admiringly. “Maybe you should, then – who’s all left in SSC now?”

“Quite a few people,” says Tau. “Like my uncle – and these boys who go to Carthill High.”

“But what about all those year 9’s?“ I say. “Are they really in SSC – or do they just think they are?”

“I don’t even know them,” says Tau. “They’re just little kids.”

“Who are the Carthill boys?” I ask. “How do you know them?”

“Met them at parties,” Tau tells me.

“Oh yup,” I say, thinking about it. “Um, then I think that it’d be alright to join CP then – maybe it’s a good idea.”

“Yeah, aye,” agrees Tau.


Later I see he’s hit CLUZO CP on a few things. CP’s a good crew to be in, anyway. And Tau gets up everywhere already, so it’s a good deal for them too. I understand Tau so well that it scares me a little bit. I don’t even prevaricate in these discussions – to be honest I feel quite normal about being consulted.

And Dimario is real good about Tau being there, by the way. Not one snide comment drops from his lips all day. Plus Dimario’s right in the zone today himself.


The cans are delivered. Tau comes with me to uplift them from main reception, and eyes the boxes with a yearning look.

“Can I have one?”

“Not today – tomorrow,” I tell him.

“But I might not be able to come tomorrow – my uncle’s just got out of jail and we’re gonna be drinking.”

“Oh, try to come aye Tau – you can drink in the weekend.”

“But it’s like… his first steps to freedom, “ muses Tau. “I wanna come school though tomorrow. I wanna paint.” He has a sudden thought. “If you gave me a few cans today, I could sell them and get some buds for school tomorrow!”

I can’t help but laugh at his serious expression. “No Tau – that’s a stupid idea.”

He chuckles.

I say “Remember – you promised to be good while you’re here.”

“I said I’d try,” Tau says, grinning at this technicality.

“Yup, and you’re a good boy, I know you’ve tried hard today – but you still can’t have cans. We have to count them – Mrs Kirk needs us to make sure they’re all there.”


It’s raining hard, and Tau is wearing a school jacket over his ordinary clothes. This provokes a minor confrontation with Marjorie, who sees us near the reception desk. “Taurangi!” she says, in a challenging way which makes Tau puff up. “Why are you here and wearing a school jacket?”

Tau looks her in the eye.  “Don’t own any other jacket,” he says, flatly and with subtle menace.

“He’s got a visitor’s pass,” I add (this is true; wisely I’ve signed him in).

But Marjorie must have passed things on, for later an email appears from Karys.  It says, somewhat ridiculously that since Taurangi has been seen here ‘in school uniform’, could I please explain the situation. But her tone is courteous rather than interrogative.

I do – with polite restraint – explain that Tau is in fact not in school uniform; he has also been signed in, and is clearly displaying a visitor’s pass. I add that he is not attempting to slip under the radar, and that the jacket is the only one he owns.

And I also mention next year and school – why not strike while the iron’s hot?

I don’t honestly know if Tau could handle school. Maybe yes, maybe no. But I’m more certain than ever that someone has to try something. I think: well, at least he knows I haven’t ditched him. And I won’t, I won’t ditch Tau.


Late in the day, Tau and Kost go off site for a bit. “I’ll be four minutes,” Tau tells me as they depart.

When they come back, I say, “Where did you guys go?”

“Went for a sesh,” he tells me, straightforward and perfectly frank. “I’m allowed to smoke buds now,” he adds proudly. “My dad said.”

“Cos you’re 16?” I ask.

He nods, as if it’s legal when you’re 16.

Tau’s doing his best for me – and yet he hardly knows the difference between what to do and what not to do, now. Something about this has intensified, and it makes me feel afraid for him. He doesn’t have the least sense of caution. Things and events come in moment-to-moment segments for Tau. They don’t join up. It scares me a bit.

And yet, just like I told him, I believe he’s a good boy – I believe it with all my heart. But ‘good’ means… what? I dunno.


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