A fabled country

Tuesday 26 July, 2011:

Squally rain and wind all night long. The rain clatters against one window like stones – I wake up panicking.

Now that all the intensity of the first week has died down (although I’m sure it’s a temporary lull), I’m stuttering and faltering. I don’t feel like doing what I ‘should’ be doing, you know… a bit of school work; a bit of resting up. I feel cut adrift when it’s quiet.

I head to school, but can only hack it for an hour: there’s no heating in the holidays.


La-Verne and I meet for coffee at McDonald’s at 4, to assess outcomes so far. She’s much more strategic than me. She says Karys is going to be monitoring the Zion situation and will reconvene the Board as soon he breaches his conditions. La-Verne knows someone on the Board, and, “Karys made it clear – she wants him out,” she tells me.

I’ve got to think strategically as well though. I tend to go straight for the scorched earth policy in these situations, and sometimes –  though not always – regret it. La-Verne reminds me, with a laugh, that such things are only to be used as a very last resort.


Sunday 31 July:

Trust and care are the hallmarks of this weekend.

Yesterday Tau is ready and waiting, and springs down the drive to the car. Soon as he gets in, he looks at me with a very worried expression, saying, “Fuuck, my dad got beaten up last night. Beaten up really badly, his face is all smashed up. Honest to who, Miss – I’ve never seen a person’s eye look so bad, it’s almost popping out.”

“Do you need to stay home, Tau?” I ask.

“Nah, Miss, there’s nothing I can do,” he says, simply. “I don’t know what to do. So I just think we should go and do the wall.”

“Ok,” I say. “Just let me know if you need to go back early, k.”

“I will, Miss,” says Tau.


We go to Clancy and round up the others, one by one. Turns out Inia can’t come – he has to do community service today, as part of his restorative justice plan. There’s a suggestion that Levi might take Inia’s place, but I veto this – though I don’t elaborate, except to Tau. Levi and me are alright now. But that’s as far as it goes.

When we get to the site, the owners are there and the scaffolding’s up; it’s pretty high. I walk out on the planks to check that it’s safe, and then Zion gets up and goes back and forth a couple of times. Tau and Noa look less than sure about the thought of prancing around up there, and, “I don’t like heights,” says Tau to me, quietly.

“That’s ok,” I tell him. “You don’t like heights, and Noa…”

“Would break the scaffolding,” concludes Tau, smirking at me.

So Zion and Kost are delegated to work up high, while Tau and Noa carry out the ground level and stair work.


Painting begins. Soon everyone settles into a rhythm with it. I just kind of look after Tau a bit, without making a big deal of it. Every now and then I go sit between him and Noa as they paint, and talk about nothing in particular. Up on the scaffolding Zion (ol’ twinkle toes, dancing around) and Kost are painting in unison, completely in their element.

Just after lunch I see Tau texting a bit, looking stoic and worried. I go over to him and he draws me away from the others, saying, “Miss – my phone’s going flat, and I haven’t heard from my dad.”

“Are you getting stressed, Tau?” I say, putting one arm around his broad and unhappy shoulders.

He nods, sighs, and looks at me without guile, saying just: “Miss, could you… could you take me for a little drive in the country?”

I see in Tau’s eyes that he’s coping as best he can, but is almost at breaking point. “Just give me a minute to think about it, ok?” I say, and he nods, not wanting to give me any pressure. Because I know he needs a sesh. And he just looks at me trustingly: whatever I decide, he knows it’s ok to ask.


So, after a minute, we just go outside and stand by the door.

“Tau, I’m alright with you asking me, you know that, aye,” and he nods. “It’s just that… it puts me in kind of an awkward position.”

“I know Miss, I’m sorry,” Tau says, sighing again.

“It’s ok,” I hasten to reassure him. “But I need to know what do you think would happen if you don’t have a sesh? Would you be ok… or not, Tau?”

“Um…” begins Tau, and then, with resolve: “Well, I’m not gonna nut off, but –”

“Well, that’s good,” I say in admiration, and Tau smiles, knowing I mean it.

“But Miss, it’ll be hard to just…”

“To just stay ok?” I ask.

“Yeah… cos I feel all worried, and I’ll probably have to just stop painting and go and sit somewhere by myself, and say nothing to anyone, and I don’t want to do that.”

I weigh things up, and I decide that Tau is trying to do this day with as much courage and responsibility as he can muster. And I want to recognize that, and to act as ethically as I can. But I’m aware that none of it is simple.


He goes and speaks to the others, quietly. Then he comes back and said, “Kost wants to come – is that ok? But Noa and Zion will stay here.”

So off we go, and drive down the road towards the beach. There’s a weird and open feeling in my heart, knowing that I can’t even imagine going back to how things were, only a couple of years ago. To a time when choices seemed like separate decisions and simple steps… one thing at a time, not a series of linked and overlapping tides that bring you in further and further.

About ten minutes down the road we find a good place to stop, away from any houses. “Don’t worry Miss,” says Tau, as he rolls up on the cover of Skywatch magazine. “Me and Shae just have a bucky in the carpark at the mall, heaps of times, and no-one even notices.”

“I know,” I sigh. “But I’m not being paranoid Tau, it’s just… well, you know how it is, teachers lose their jobs over this kind of thing.” I hasten to add, “Even though you guys left school years ago. And it’s not like I’m planning to have a sesh with you either – but even just letting you do it in my car -”

“I know, Miss – and thanks,” says Tau, lighting up and taking some deep, fast tokes, with obvious relief. The smell fills the car, and I breathe in with something like relief myself


They finish their smoke and settle back in their seats. It isn’t raining now, and it’s warm in the car, and aromatic, and it just feels… it feels safe.

We drive back to the site, getting lost on the way. This causes great and gentle mirth in my relaxed passengers, as I try without success to find Kaitoke Rd again. “We’re in La La Land,” says Tau, happily. Finally Kost calls out, with the excitement of an explorer who lays eyes on a fabled country for the very first time: “Kaitoke Rd!” and points to a signpost, and we all rock with laughter.


When the day ends, and we’re back in Clancy dividing up the cans, Tau carefully and patiently tidies up the boot of my car, putting any rubbish (can caps, empty cans, used nozzles) into a box, and saying, “I’ll put this in our bin at home, Miss.” Without the least self-consciousness, he just steps forward and wraps his arms around me. And then Noa, Kost, and even Zion do exactly the same, before returning to the job of tagging a fence that belongs to no-one in particular.


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