My corner

Wednesday 19 September, 2012:

Nothing much happens today. Wednesdays aren’t that great, now that there’s no Urban Art.

I read over my ‘Karys response. And you know, I wouldn’t change what I did, except to try do it better. Honest and truly, I’d do it all over again, if I had the opportunity. I think about that stuff, this morning. And in a way, I’m happy with my corner; my little part of the whole campaign. Better that – a thousand times – than not being in on it


Thursday 20 September:

Eddie and Simeon appear (with visitor’s passes attached to their chests) during 12 History; Marjorie arrives just behind them. They’ve said they’re here to visit me (thanks guys, just the kind of press I need right now…) But all the same, I can’t help but be pleased to see the two of them. So I tell Marjorie that I’ll supervise them until the end of interval, and will make sure they leave the school grounds after that.

They’re most impressed to see Zion doing work. “That’s because it’s your class,” Eddie suggests.

“No, Zion does heaps of work these days,” I assure them, and Zion glows with pride.

Slade is mentioned in conversation, and the boys enquire who he is. “Rook,” Zion tells them, adding casually, “He could rip you up.” Slade and Zion – such individualists – seem to have become pretty tight, lately.

We take a little stroll over to the cafe at interval, to get a drink. Mindful of my promise to Marjorie, I fully supervise this excursion. I even consider not letting them go to the bathroom. After Eddie protests, I send Zion in after them. “And don’t let them tag!” I instruct. “If they pull out a vivid, just come straight out and tell me.”

Later, as I escort them off site, Simeon and I talk about the circumstances of his exclusion from school, two years ago. “I stole a bike,” he tells me, matter of factly.

“Well it’s not exactly the crime of the century,” I say, and he grins.


Friday 21 September:

13 History are working on their assessments, so I float around the tables a bit,  ending up at Riley’s side for a chat. I love Riley so much, some days. Her pretty, pugnacious, gangstafied little face sneers at half the stuff she hears, just out of ‘right’. She pushes her silky hair back and scowls as she catches a fragment of conversation from the next table. “Miss,” she says, in outrage. “They’re being racist over there!”

“Huh?” I ask.

“They are, Miss,” she insists.

“I doubt you heard it properly,” I say, soothingly, because I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to cause offence.

“Nah Miss, it was racist,” says the very beautiful Nakesha. “They were talking about the Maori awards night, and she said it was discrimination.”

“That racist girl did,” adds Riley matter of factly, pointing to Lauren.

Now that, I can imagine. Lauren is… well, not racist, but she has a disingenuous streak. And her academic ability comes coupled with a complete lack of political awareness.

Nakesha, Demet and Riley huddle in towards me. Riley looks at Lauren’s unsavvy back and grimaces, then smiles like a hungry crocodile.

I sigh, hoping to defuse this situation with honour. I say, “Oh… was that what it was. Well, perhaps it’s just that they haven’t heard of equity.”

Nakesha looks at me radiantly. She says, “Yes Miss, equity.” And she and Demet nod at one another.

“What’s equity?” asks Riley, with interest.

“Equity is when one group of people, who have been historically disadvantaged…” I say, and Nakesha nods again. “Get special opportunities – in certain areas – to try to even out the playing field again.”

“It’s a good thing, aye Miss,” Riley says.

“Yes it is, and it’s fair,” I tell her.

And with that, she looks perfectly content.

Later on, when I’m at my desk, I hear Nakesha murmur, “It’s like Miss said… haven’t they heard of equity…”


Break time, and Slade, Zion and Carlos arrive. We all just sit around and talk. It’s the friendliest, most relaxing time of day. Zion and I also have a little ‘secret’ today, which no-one else is aware of. He looks at me, I give a slight nod and point towards my desk, and he laughs.

This stems from yesterday. Slade makes a kind of a pitch for one of the leftover cans, the pink one. It’s the only full (ish) one left. He does it so nicely, and so unassumingly, that I tell him, “Ok.”

“Can I really have it, Miss?” he checks, before believing me.

“Yes, you can. But come get it after school, ok? I don’t like you walking round with a can in your bag.”

“I will, I’ll come straight after class!” he tells me, in jubilation at his good luck.


After school, Slade and Zion both arrive. I unlock the desk, take out the can, and give it to Slade. The boys know there aren’t any other fulls left, and they seem quite happy with one… and I assume (because Zion’s there with Slade) that they’re going to share it, anyway.

So off they go – and then later my phone goes: ‘Ur sad miss weaz mi can haha, awguds den’

I reply to Zion, laughing to myself: ‘Huh? I thought you were gona share it cos it’s the only full one left. You should have said.

Haha nah yeah awguds miss haha i dnt lyk asking for paint by my self only if ur offering it an yeah rook wont share his can anywys haha,

I’m actually surprised by this text, and the way he’s thought about it. How he feels slighted, a little bit, and can find a way to express this. So I reply at once:

Aw im sorry zion I feel bad now. k then im offering my atmosphere can as a replacement il bring it tomorow 

Eah haha awgud miss u dnt hav 2, coz I dnt wanr be lyk stink about it haha but yo il hav da can only if u war giv it away hahahah,

 No worries il bring it tomorow


And I do. It’s my only full can, and Atmosphere is my favourite colour. I’ve kept it back, for some reason (in the laundry cupboard), and I’m glad to give it to humble Zion. It touches my heart  just so much that he could actually tell me how he felt. I remember when I first started noticing Zion. Little boy with big eyes, and how he just used to slip about on the fringes, running for cover when anyone looked twice at him. Inarticulate… but his eyes said a lot more.

After school he comes back on his own.

“I’m sorry about yesterday, Zion,” I tell him. “I really thought you guys were going to share that can. I didn’t know ol’ bossy boots was intending to keep it for himself.”

“Awguds Miss,” says Zion, grinning. “Yeah… he wasn’t gonna share. And thanks, Miss.”

We’re interrupted by Slade knocking at the door, and Zion slips the can into his bag before opening up.


‘Ol’ bossy boots’ I’m also extremely, extremely fond of. There’s just something about Slade that appeals to me. He’s oddly confident, for a start. Confident to a fault.  When he starts waving his arm around and holding forth on one of his pet topics (tagging, toys and biters, cake niggas…) the self-confidence of this skinny, unselfconscious, unrepentant boy just intrigues and delights me. And as usual, I see beauty in all the little things, the things you start to notice once you know and care about someone.

Today, Slade tells us he had a job (back down the line) as a ‘bobby calf lifter’. Then, after a minute, “Miss, do you know what a bobby calf lifter is?” he asks.

“Not… exactly,” I tell him.

“We had to put the calves onto the truck. There’s three levels. After you fill up the bottom, you have to lift them, and then kind of throow them up onto the next level…” and he demonstrates the manoeuvre.

Do you?” I exclaim. “I thought they had a ramp thing, to walk up.”

Slade looks at me in disbelief.

“And do they go ‘mooooooo’?” asks Carlos, in a fair rendition of the probable sound.

“Yeah, yeah… just like that,” says Slade, and moos and flails around, showing us how the calves try to escape their fate. “Sometimes I just grab them and push them in, and they go down, like this…” He splays his legs out, making the boys laugh.

“Aw, what do you do that for?” I say, tsking.

“Cos, who cares – they’re gonna be mince meat and hamburgers soon anyway.”

“Are they just going to the meat works?” I ask, half aghast. “Is that where they’re going?” I guess I just don’t have those country sensibilities.

“Yeah, from all over… the truck goes round everywhere, all the farms.”

“Ohh, that’s kind of sad.”

He shrugs. “Oh well.” (this is a favourite expression of Slade’s)

We all just sit round the front table and yak, today. No-one even picks up a pen. I feel so content; so content, so content. When I see Zion’s big, sensitive eyes; Carlos’s Cheshire cat grin; Slade extending one bony finger as he emphasizes some point to us… I feel so totally safe there, and I just do.




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