Monday 6 December, 2010:
Most of the furniture’s back in now, but my room still looks bare. I get some of the year 9 boys to bring my stuff down from the office shelves. I don’t have 9 Social today, but I know they have Workshop, so I go over and ask if I can borrow two ‘helpers’.
Hands shoot into the air – I choose Andre and Eddie, but see some of the others look at me with crestfallen expressions. Mr Jordan says hopefully, “Would you like to take that whole table with you, Miss?”
“Oh, I don’t really need five people helping me, but… okay then,” I decide, causing them to jump up and down with happiness.
They follow me across, actually linking arms in their joy and bounding along. It takes them only three trips to carry everything down to my room, and they say, “Could you give us other jobs to do as well? We don’t want to go back.”
“Well – I do have one other job you could do,” I tell them. “But it isn’t a very nice job.”
“We don’t mind! What is it?” they clamour.
“I need all the chewing gum scraped off from underneath the tables…”
“Eww…” and then in the next breath, “Ok – we’ll do it!” they say with glee.
So they turn all the tables over, sit on the floor and scrape away at the old gum. Andre cuts his finger with the scissors but pays it no mind, and then after a few minutes they all spontaneously break into a rousing chorus of ‘Jingle Bells’. They finish that song in triumph, and begin another loud carol as they scrape.
“Hey you guys, not too loud – what about the class next door?” I say, but I can’t help laughing at their exuberance. However, after a few more rounds of their strident carolling, I suggest we might listen to some songs instead. This idea is met with delight. Then begins a musical sequence which alternates between majority decision and ‘Eddies’s choice’. Chris Brown followed by Tupac. Bruno Mars followed by Bone Thugs. “We’re not gangstas – only Eddie,” Andre announces, and Eddie grins.
I am actually rather fond of Eddie. I give him a number of special jobs to do, such as scrape the remains of the Ironlak spray off the whiteboard – fine droplets have misted around where the edges of the drop sheet were taped (weeks ago, during Wednesday project). He also gets to clean a few tags that we spy on table legs and a chair back – the latter is actually a ‘GAME’, but Eddie tells me, “Hey! I did that in my Math class – I remember doing it. I didn’t do it in your room.”
“Yes, but the caretakers moved the chairs around a bit when they gave us our furniture back,” I say, and he cleans it off assiduously.
Andre, working on a flipped up table, says, “Here’s a tag under this table, Miss. Shall I clean it off?”
I have a look: AXIS. “Oh, he must have done that ages ago,” I say. “Nio hasn’t been at school almost this whole year.”
“Who? Who’s Nio?” they ask.
“Just someone who used to come here…” I say.
“Shall I clean his tag off?” asks Andre again.
“No-oo, don’t clean it – you can leave it there.”
“Cos you really liked him,” concludes Andre, in a contented way.
“I did,” I agree.
“Why did he leave school?” they ask.
“Got kicked out,” I say with a sigh, remembering the very beloved Nio.
And all day long I keep thinking about things. How they’ve happened like this. For some reason, I remember back to when I was a little kid, and my mum used to buy eggs from the poultry farm up the road. While she talked to Mrs Chin, I watched the eggs being rolled through a sorter; dropping gently through the holes to end up in one or another of the various gradings. Some went all the way down to the bottom. I remember that… and suddenly I feel like I’m one of those eggs that just dropped and dropped through all the holes, until there were no more grades left. The ones that fell right past the levels where the other eggs peaceably lay.
Things drop away… what’s left?
I feel like I’ve been sorted, without even knowing what was happening. I just know nothing fitted, so I dropped down… and down, and down. Down to the valley; down to the underground; down to rest on the last bed of wire. What’s left? What’s left?
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I only know that the categories don’t fit; don’t make sense.
So I drop down and down, and at the bottom of it all there are eyes that look at me without surprise. Inia, Noa and Aperamo. Alexander, Jack and Dimario. Libya, Leroi and Zion. Argos, George and Nio. Tau.
And how could I have never really known all this for so long? I don’t know. I just know that I was always looking for that space to drop through; trying to get through all the gaps and just drop through. And so, when at last I saw them – I recognised all those other people who were dropping through: jumping, leaping, crashing, sliding through; getting through any which way, and finding that last grade, that bed of wire, which feels like the springingest, springiest, quietest and only peaceful place to be. Bird to its perch.