Roles

Saturday 30 June, 2012:

I go see Sheree at Municipal Hospital. She hugs me and introduces me to her mum, Lena, who tells me it’s good to meet me at last.

I have some time just with Sheree, while Lena is organizing the transfer to the maternity centre. That’s when I give her the card, which has 100 dollars slipped inside it. I don’t want anyone else to open it. If Scott takes it home, it’ll be gone – probably within the hour. So I just say to Sheree, “Don’t lose the card. There’s a little present in it for baby.”

“I won’t,” she says, understanding. She puts her arms round me, saying, “Naughty girl… I should give you a ‘mack…” and she pretends to smack me, and we giggle. “But thank you,” she says, and we sit there with our arms round one another.

Sheree tells me, “I’m alright, but I don’t wanna go home yet.”

“Yeah, you make sure you stay in there for a bit,” I say. “I guess they’ll wanna keep you in anyway.”

“Scott wants me to come home.” She wriggles her nose, making me laugh. “I think he wants me there, to clean up!”

“Well, he can just wait,” I say, lightly. Of course I know that Scott doesn’t manage well without Sheree. He’ll be wanting her home – but she needs a rest.

 

Just before I leave, a nurse comes in and says, “Oh, hello,” and: “Is this your midwife, Sheree?” she enquires.

“No, I’m not the midwife,” I tell her, and then, as she continues to look at me curiously, I add, “I’m just… a friend.”

But obviously the nurse still assumes I’m a social worker or something. Later I hear her say in an undertone, to Lena:

“So… who is she; what’s her role?”

I don’t listen to the rest of the conversation – don’t even try to. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, anyway. But something about the assumption keeps bugging me. That obviously, I’d have a ‘role’. That my clothes, appearance, skin colour, whatever: fits in with one set of assumptions and not another.

 

Actually that’s the second time it happens. The first time is when I’m walking up the corridor, looking for Sheree’s room. And as I walk past a group of staff (I don’t really take much notice of them), someone calls out, “Excuse me…”

At first, I don’t think this interjection is even directed at me, so I keep on walking. But the same voice calls out again: “Excuse me! Oh… excuse me!”

This time, I turn round. A woman leaves the group and comes towards me. “Hi!” she says, and then, “Did you do your midwife training at City hospital?” It’s clear now that she is a midwife, and that she ‘remembers’ me.

“I’m not a midwife,” I tell her. “Do I look like someone else?”

“Yes,” she replies, a little crestfallen. “You do – I thought you were someone I trained with.”

And we just laugh, and I go on down the corridor.

 

But, you know, when she first speaks to me – I honestly think, for a few seconds, that she’s going to tell me I can’t go that way; don’t have access or something. I think she’s going to ask me if I have ‘permission’. I always feel like I might be snapped –  just pretending to know the ropes. Using the persona, whatever it is: teacher, ‘professional’, ‘good’ person, person with all the correct authority to proceed, recognized as such by some learned trick of bearing, and some accident of race. Of course I’d be seen as the midwife and not the visiting friend. The midwife; the social worker or psychologist.

It’s almost a game… only, it always gets real hard to feel like I’m living some kind of double life. Spy in the camp. And to what ends and purposes I don’t know. All I know is that I’m real lonely, round about now. Gotta marshal the troops. What troops? And oh, oh, oh; I don’t know what any of it means.

 

Sunday 1 July:

3 years “since”.

My mind is like a wild animal tethered, worn out from trying to escape the leash. Defeated, tired… and still too strong and wild to be set free. Haah. So who’s keeping me locked up. And why?

I’m so tired. Sometimes I just, simply, long for freedom. Just to walk away and rest, lie in the grass; breathe quietly. I fear that I’ll never be released. And I don’t want to just live and die like this.

And it’s so shaming when others see the whole sorry performance. Sometimes it shames me terribly, just to limp and creep round this circuit again and again and again – shackled and chained. No beast could be more pitiful.

But I don’t want to give myself the minor luxury of whimpering. It does shit – honest, it does nothing. I know, because I’ve tried it. I just need to… to get so fuckin’ tough. Want me to be laid low? Crawl on my knees is it? I need to escape the prison of my mind. Isn’t that what Brother Baines (that composite character) said to Malcolm Little, there in the penitentiary: “I can teach you how to get out of the prison of your mind.”

But who can teach me?

 

Monday 2 July:

Shay stays over. She’s shy lately, and only says, “Hi Miss,” when she comes in one time. Apparently (this according to Tau) she feels shy after what happened.

And I kind of get it. Because, when all that stuff – the big bust up – happened, I was aware that I was ‘Tau’s’ person. That through everything, my loyalty and my support would be given to Tau without question. Even though I care about Shay. I’m not ‘Shay’s’ person. And that’s just the way it is.

 

Wednesday 11 July:

Tau has a few people over this evening: Leroi, Mischa, Robbie.  There is a quantity of alcohol consumed:

“We’ve got casks of wine,” Tau tells me.

“Aye? I thought you didn’t like wine.”

“I drink anything,” Tau replies, matter of factly and with no particular pride.

 

Later on (and probably ‘of course’), Leroi can be heard shouting the odds to the world in cgeneral. “Fuck! Whaat… Whaaat!” he yells, meandering about on the gravel. “Fuck it, I wanna rumble!”

It’s around midnight when all this shouting and stamping around starts. On one hand, I’m glad it isn’t Tau. But Leroi sounds very similar, just not quite as adamant. I think – and not for the first time – of Scott’s influence on the boys.  The way they snap so fast. Go from proximate happiness to dishonoured rage in a matter of seconds. It’s so close to the surface; all the time.

And when I hear Mischa (the voice of reason), I’m thankful. “Tomorrow, my ge, tomorrow. Is that all good ge? Come on; come inside. Tomorrow my ce… that’ll be all solid; come on inside now. Tomorrow, and I gotcha back…” he soothes, and Leroi goes back in. So I don’t have to get up (which, until then, I have considered doing).

 

This morning, I ask Tau, “What does your mum say, when things start up like that with you guys?”

“She just leaves it,” Tau says, and I nod.

That’s true – and should I? Should I not? What do you do – when they’re out there in all their unsettled, alcohol-inspired bravado. When they think they can go anywhere, and step to anyone. Who knows what I’m supposed to do.

Anyway – it all ends up alright. No trouble – except that someone’s lost the padlock to the shed. But I have another one, so all’s well.

 

 

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