Wednesday 17 November, 2010:
There’s no Wednesday afternoon graff for the rest of the term – the kids all have to attend the new junior-combined games programme. It doesn’t really fly with my graff artists. They complain and grumble when they see me at lunchtime:
“Why can’t we just have graffiti art?”
“Why do we have to do this?”
“I’m not gonna go.”
Leroi says, “I’m gonna wag, so’s Zion. We don’t like playing.”
“No, you should give it a try,” I say, attempting to get him there anyway. “It might even be cool.”
He peers at me in the way he does. “But… will you be there?”
“Yes, I’ll be there.”
“And if I’m shy, can I stand by you?”
“Yup,” I say.
“And will you play?”
I feel like laughing and crying, because right then he reminds me so much of Tau.
“Yes,” I said. “I’ll play. Ok, Leroi?”
They arrive late to the gym door, see me, and speed to my side.
“Oh, hey you guys,” I say, acting like it’s no big deal. I ask Leroi, casually, “How come you just got here?”
“Because I didn’t know where you were,” he replies. “I couldn’t see you, and I looked all over.”
“Where did you look?” I say, feeling the same sensation pulling at my heart, of missing Tau, and caring about Leroi, and trying to stay a little distance from it all.
“All the blocks, everywhere – we didn’t know where you were,” mumbles Leroi.
“Well, that’s alright – you guys are here now and that’s the main thing,” I tell them.
They sit, looking extremely wary and shy, watching the others and half-wanting to join in. I go out to the side of the court for a while, to show them it isn’t so scary. After a while they slip up to join me, but Zion is like a wild creature, his eyes darting and his head down. He looks half-longingly at the game, but then picks up his heels and runs back to the safety of the bench – and Leroi joins him. When I go back to them, “I don’t know anyone…” whispers Zion, in shame.
“Then it’s alright Zion – just sit here with me.”
Thursday 18 November:
It’s someone’s birthday and Sara provides morning tea up in the office (we all drew names at the start of the year – it’s a politeness which means little to me but which I have no objection to). There’s two kinds of cake, served with yoghurt and mascarpone; and gems, made in her grandmother’s gem irons (which she has restored from their rusty condition).
So it’s a strange little murmur that seems to come straight out of a different place and time – to hear everyone talking about gem irons, and baking; and cutting pieces of blueberry yoghurt cake and sultana cake. Words swirl around me, and I can’t stay there at the table for long. I go and sit on a chair by La-Verne, who’s working at her desk. I feel like a little girl, waiting there for someone.
But at the same time, I’m kind of patient. There’s nothing much I can do about anything, just at the moment, except wait. I don’t know quite what I’m waiting for. But something. And I think there’s nothing I could do to actually find it – it’s gonna have to come find me. And so I feel a little bit tired; a little bit consoled; a little bit placid.
This afternoon 9 Social coo at me, “Miss, this is cool… ours is the coolest class!” God alone knows why – I think. I don’t do anything to merit these accolades.
“Honestly, Miss,” Andre says earnestly. “We’re so lucky to be in this class.”
“I know,” agrees Eddie.
They get diverted by the flyer for the project week choices, and Eddie says, “Ooh cool, look at this one – there’s a barbeque, and it says ‘places to swim’ – we might be going to the beach. If it’s at the beach there might be hot chicks!”
I laugh out loud, because they conveniently ignore every other descriptor (and it doesn’t actually mention the beach at all!)
But Andre, bless him, says sagely, “No – there won’t be any hot chicks who pick the barbeque one.”
“How come?” they ask.
“Cos hot chicks don’t eat,” says Andre, in explanatory tones.
I crack up laughing. “Oh jeez, you guys,” I say. “You think?”
They nod, with some certainty.
“But we’ll still do the barbeque at the beach, k guys?” they say to one another.
At the end of class they go off saying, “Bye Miss, thanks Miss!”
“Oh well,” I say. “At least you appreciate me now.”
“Now?” says Eddie.
“No, we’ve always appreciated you,” Andre assures me.
Friday 19 November
I get to school and find that Leroi and Zion have both received a two day ‘continual disobedience’ stand down for various antics yesterday. Marjorie and Morris had given them direct instructions not to leave the school grounds, and they’d disobeyed these orders and gone to Municipal for the afternoon on a (stolen) bike.
I don’t know what will happen to Leroi and Zion if they’re eventually kicked out of school.
Tau is a strong person. As much as I’m worried about him, I know he’s strong. Leroi isn’t – or not yet. He’s not ready for the streets; I can’t bear to see it happen. He’s just a kid. Tau had already put aside so many childish things – he always did what he had to do. Leroi though: he’s so sensitive and fearful and I don’t want him to be pushed towards these same things.
School’s a strange place. I don’t want what a lot of people want from it. But I want something from it. Something it’ll never give, but I’ll just have to take it anyway.