Sunday 17 July, 2011:
Zion texts me about the site visit, tentatively scheduled for today. It gladdens my heart to think of him remembering, and wanting to come. He tells me he’s at Leroi’s, and I reply that I’ll be there soon. I get a text straight back: ‘Yo miss I thnk teki an leroi want to come hahhahaha???’ I just say we’ll see if there’s room first.
I go round to Fitzroy St, and there are the three boys, on their bikes out in front of the driveway. They look so young (and they are young – all still 15), and I think of Tau, who never really had that look about him of just being ‘young’. And I wonder if he’s ok. I dunno – just something on my mind, without any real reason for it, yet.
So, “Can we come, Miss? Where are we going?” asks the ebullient Teki
“Maybe, it depends if we have room in the car…” I begin.
“And where are we going to?” repeats Teki in breathless anticipation.
“To see the wall.”
“Ohhh! Yes! We’re going to see the wall! Yay!” bursts out Teki.
“Yup, but hold on – first we have to work out how many people there’ll be in the car. Cos Leroi… do you know if Tau’s coming? And Zion – is Kost coming?”
Leroi looks at me uncertainly: “I don’t know, Miss.”
“Is he home? Right now?”
“I… think so,” says Leroi.
Zion tells me, “I think my brother’s coming though, he’s waiting for us in Carthill, we’ve just come from there, on our bikes – you know where Inia’s aunty’s place is, aye Miss?”
“Yeah… in Clancy,” I say, kind of absently, thinking of Tau.
“Yeah – at the drug house,” says Teki helpfully, and then, “Nah,” in an attempt to retract his potential gaffe. He looks at his feet.
But I just nod, and Teki relaxes. I already know it’s the drug shop, where Noa works on the door.
“So – you think Tau’s home?” I ask Leroi again. “I texted him before, but he hasn’t replied yet.”
Leroi just shrugs, saying, “He couldn’t find the charger for his phone last night, I think it might have gone flat, but I dunno if he’s home… he was home.”
“K then – I’ll just go and check, and then we’ll go,” I tell them.
I set off up the drive, but I have the same uneasy feeling. Then as I get halfway up the steps, the door opens, and out comes Shae, and she closes the door behind her. She just says, “Oh, Miss… hi.”
It’s the first time I haven’t been able to just walk into the house. She isn’t being rude – it’s just that something for sure is going on, I can see that now. Shae looks at me and I look at her. Her hair is all in her face and she looks beautiful and sorry as she quietly and unobtrusively blocks my progress up the stairs. She doesn’t actually stand in my way… but I take the hint, and stop, looking up at her.
She says again, “Hey Miss… oh, Miss?”
“Hey Shae,” I say, just trying to sound normal.
“Oh, Miss, Tau’s not home, sorry Miss. He went to his mate’s house… like 20 minutes ago. But you can text him, Miss… is that ok Miss?” she says.
She sounds embarrassed at herself, and I can see it makes her feel uncomfortable to turn me away like this.
“Yeah, no worries,” I say, gently. “Thanks for that, Shae.”
She smiles, and I want to just give her a hug. But I’m not going to alarm her by coming any further up the stairs. I say, “Tell him it’s all good – and I’ll be in touch.”
“Course I will, Miss… and thanks for coming, Miss.”
So I go back down to the others. I say to Leroi, “I saw Shae – she said Tau’s not there.”
Leroi looks at me, just… puzzled; a little bit apprehensive.
Teki sees the look that passes between us and says, in his usual uninhibited fashion, “Maybe he didn’t wanna come, so he pretended he’s not home.”
“Maybe,” I say. “But that’s ok, too. If there’s stuff going on…” I turn to Leroi and say, quietly, “Is something happening?”
Poor Leroi – he nods, saying, “Tau and Shae have been having a really big fight this morning…”
We just stand apart from the other two, who have lost interest in the conversation and are rolling their bikes up and down.
“Then it’s ok, I’ll just talk to Tau some other time. K Leroi?”
He nods, relieved that I’m not going to barge on in – as if I would. And I think maybe there’s more to it, as well. I wonder if Scott and Sheree are ok.
But there’s nothing I can do. So I just stand in the sun and I feel ok; I stay calm, because there’s nothing else that makes sense right then. And I say, “Ok, it looks like Cluzo’s not coming – so let’s go get Kost, and then we can go.
“Aye? Can we come – can we come?” Leroi and Teki chorus, excitedly.
“Yup – come on then.”
We go pick up Kost, who is still waiting faithfully there, at the end of Clancy – between the tin shop and the park.
As we head out towards the motorway, my phone beeps and I glance at the text: ‘sorri ms il kum on tha 30th is tht alg0od ms? sorri for waysting ur time :),’
I’m worried – but I have to shelve it, really, and concentrate on the day ahead.
It’s fun driving out there with them. Kost is the navigator. I’ve already jotted the directions down on a scrap of paper – but it’s definitely more of a ‘note to self’:
“What’s that word that starts with an ‘A’?” Kost asks, turning the piece of paper this way and that. “And what does this mean – right off the motorway and then right, but not as far as… something starting with, is it ‘W’?”
He’s nice and quiet, Kost – and it makes us both laugh, especially when we get lost a couple of times.
In the back, Teki, Leroi and Zion are in a state of high excitement, calling out things like: “Ohhh! A horse!”
“Ohhh! A factory!”
“Ohhh! An animal shop – a pet shop!”
Teki tells jokes, too: “So, there was a Pakeha, a Samoan, and a Maori…” he begins, and then, as an aside, “How come in those ‘three people’ jokes, the Maori’s always the dumb one?” and the whole car cracks up laughing.
He continues, “And so, they met a genie, and he said they could each have one wish… so the Pakeha called out ‘Gold!’ and jumped over, and…”
“Jumped over what?” I enquire, laughing.
“But why did he jump over the cliff?”
“I dunno, cos he just had to, that’s just how the joke goes… and anyway he called out, ‘Gold!’ and when he jumped off he landed in a pile of gold. And then the Samoan came up and yelled out, ‘Silver!’ and he jumped off the cliff and landed in a pile of silver. And then the Maori came up and looked over the cliff and said, ‘Shit!’ and fell off and landed in a pile of…”
Everyone is just laughing like mad at this stupid joke and the way Teki tells it. I can hear Leroi and Zion snorting helplessly, packed into the back seat (Zion in the middle).
They turn on some music and sing along.
“Are there shops? There’s a town when we get there, aye Miss… will there be food shops?”
‘Yup – but we’ll get something on the way back, k?”
It’s a 45 minute drive, but the trip is relaxing and diverting. As we arrive, the boys jostle one another and grin as they take in everything with a 360˚swoop. They frolic around, responding to something in the country air. I can sense it too: just a little scent on the breeze that kind of soothes my mind, so that I stop worrying quite so much about Tau.
At the site, Kost and Zion – especially Kost – appraise the wall carefully. “It’ll take two, or maybe three boxes of paint,” Kost tells me. “And a whole day – maybe even longer.”
“So why don’t we aim for a whole day, then?”
He nods. “With an early start.”
“Yup… and paint all day, and then see if we need to come back to finish off.”
“And we’re gonna need scaffolding,” Kost tells me.
“I’ll sort that out,” I say. “And nozzles – what kind?”
“Stocks,” he says. “And banana caps.”
Then we go to the beach. Kost and I walk about, studying the landscape, while the three younger boys run around, wheeling and spinning and giddy with the expanse of it all. I watch Leroi wade into the sea with his black slippers and socks on.
“Gangstas, ha – gotta keep your shoes on,” I say, only half facetiously, and Kost laughs. “This is a mean beach, Miss,” he says. “I’m gonna come out here again.” He’s been tagging in the sand with a stick. We walk over to sit down on a big piece of driftwood, while the other three run to look at some dune buggies and quad bikes that have appeared in the distance.
“I get what they mean about the colours, now,” says Kost, thinking about our brief. “They’re into that natural stuff, aye. We need that really dark, dark grey… almost black.”
“And Panther, do you think?” I ask.
“Yup, Panther,” says Kost. “Other purples as well.”
“And Atmosphere,” I say, looking at the sky. “That’s my favourite colour at the moment.”
“Atmosphere… and there’s another one just a little bit darker, Reef,” Kost tells me.
“Is it kind of the sea colour?”
He nodded. “Kind of like Aqua… maybe we could get some Aqua as well.”
When we pile into my car for the drive home. “Who’s going in the middle this time?” I ask.
“Not me!” cries Teki, and then Leroi. Zion just smiles, resigned to being squeezed in between the other two. Actually I don’t think he even minds, he seems quite happy about it.
We pick up lunch en route to the city, stopping in the main street of one of the small country towns. I come out of the fish and chip shop to find Kost scaling a drainpipe and doing a quick tag on a shop awning.
“Geez you guys, can’t take you anywhere!” I scold. He looks guilty, then grins at me.
Zion takes a vivid from his pocket and applies it to a bench, industriously.
“Hey!” I pretend to growl, making them giggle at me some more.
While we eat, Kost and I continue our discussion, get a palette sorted in our minds, and list the colors on the back of an envelope. I can see how animated he’s become, even thinking about it. And like Zion, Kost just hits a different place when he’s painting. I’ve seen him almost ‘kiss’ his piece as he works.
It’s good that it’s taken us so long to sort out this wall, because this group that we’ve got now are real tight – Kost, Quest, Cluzo, Statik and Rich – and I think they’re going to do something beautiful.
When I stop in Fitzroy St, the boys linger as they get out of the car.
“That was mean, Miss.”
“Yeah, Miss, we had the best time – honest to who – that was the meanest fun.”
Zion is the last one out of the car. He actually puts his hand on my shoulder and pats it, which I find very touching, coming from the shyest one among them. He says, quietly, “Thanks Miss. I mean it, straight up.”