That exact conjunction of stars

Wednesday 7 November, 2012:

 Today works out alright, in a way. Even though the whole time, I’m on the verge of gapping it. All day long I want to throw things, swear, just smash something.

At one point I even get mad with the boys – Slade and Zion. “K, that’s enough,” I declare, banging my stapler down hard on the desk. They go quiet. I stalk across the room, and add, haughtily: “I’m going upstairs. I’ll come back when I’m ready.”


What prefaces this is the question of the credits – their last few credits. Zion just has to get his literacy ones now, and Slade needs (we think, after calculations) only 2 more credits to achieve Level 1. So we’re trying to figure out a time for them to come in during study leave, and work on an English assessment Chloe has given me for them.

Every date I suggest is deemed unsuitable by one or other of the boys. Zion is working tomorrow, Friday is ‘a drinking day’, and Monday, well Monday’s ‘the holidays’ – like some long-imagined Utopia. They’re joking, a bit – I have to admit that. They don’t really sense that I’m getting pissed off. And I usually take things like that with a pinch of salt. But not today. Slade makes some unconsidered response to my next suggestion, and I round on him at once. This is as I stand at my desk, stapling together the bloody Connect Four assessment which I’ve just printed out for him. I give him a tongue lashing, which includes Zion in its scope. Tell them that they should stop being little eggs and think about doing something for someone, occasionally. Say they should work it out for themselves, and appreciate it when people want to help them. And that’s when I hit the stapler on the desk and sweep out.

I go to the bathroom and lock the door, kind of shaking as I look at my reflection in the mirror. Tears well up in my eyes, and I stroke my own face, saying just audibly: ‘It’s ok… it’s alright.” All I can think about is Tau. I choke down all my tears, as at last I start to figure out why. This is the last day of Tau’s cohort – the class of 2012. No wonder I’m feeling it. Tau (even though he’s been tresspassed for over a year), Inia and Noa; Argos, Simeon and Riley; Aperamo and Levi. Never again at MC. No, that particular constellation, that exact conjunction of stars is never gonna come again. And the ‘never again’ feeling just takes my heart and squeezes it up so bad.


When I push open the door and walk back in, there’s a hush in the room. Slade looks up at me, the assessment booklet open in front of him. “I’m gonna start this today,” he tells me, quietly. “And then I’ll come in any day that Quest can come in.”

I go sit down by him, feeling the ache in my heart subdue a little. “Hey, I’m sorry for getting mad with you,” I say. “I just… it’s just that I don’t like to see you throw it all away at the last minute, when you’ve worked so hard.”

He nods, listening.

“And I care about you guys, and it matters to me. But I’m sorry I got angry about it. It’s just kind of a stressy day, that’s all.”


Zion’s patient after that; I wouldn’t say that about Slade – he has a slightly frenetic air, and a roaming look in his eye. But he stays the distance all the same, wobbling his incautious way back to my room at every possible opportunity. A few people look at him curiously. “Who’s that, Miss?” a girl asks. He’s prancing about by the window, coughing, gesticulating to someone in the block.

“My nephew,” I say.

“Is he really?”

“Honorary,” I tell her, and she laughs, saying ,“Well, he acts like he’s your nephew.”


I stay the distance too. It isn’t an easy day. And prizegiving just gets my goat, really. They even use the same speeches every year; the DP’s – and they give the student leaders a pre-written script as well. I remember the exact phrases from last time.

Zion and Slade gap the prizegiving assembly, but instead of going home, they mysteriously pop up again after school, taking my last few boxes up to the faculty office, and sitting round the table there. They look quite comfortable, which makes me laugh.


Thursday 8 November:

 Ross gives me some panadols, and the office isn’t too bad. My desk (for the duration of exams) is next to his, thankfully. He’s a no fuss, no nonsense type. The kind of person who has a calming influence on me.


Just before 9, I get a text from Slade: ‘Miss what class are you in’

I tell him, and ask where he is.

‘Having cig in the carpark’  is the reply, which made me laugh.

It touches my heart that Slade comes in today. He sits and works on his Connect 4 assessment with a steadiness that has been absent the day before. “Maaan, yesterday was a crazy day,” he comments, at one point.

Later on, when Zion finishes work, they come over and paint until the sun goes down.


Friday 9 November, 2012:

Slade and Zion (with Tyler sometimes tagging along) follow me round, doing their assessments as I teach class. I’m multi-tasking all over the place, and find it hard to concentrate on any one thing

Slade’s assessment is really good though – despite ciggy breaks and getting distracted. Chloe comes in and takes a look today, to see how they’re going.

“Is it alright?” I ask.

“It’s better than alright,” she tells me.


But I get that craven, chaotic feeling at times. Where’s my authority? Why does it only come out, or switch on, at times of need. Times of crisis, mostly. How come I can fly under the radar with no fear; run my part of the campaign like a general, then face off against Karys in her own boardroom? When at other times, the stupidest things throw me off balance.  Like dealing with AJ’s learning assistant (who is a very innocuous person, to be honest). Or seeing Marjorie peering around in the block (because who really gives a fuck). Or just when I’m teaching some stupid shit out of the year 9 folder, and think: I don’t care about this, so why anyone’s going to listen to me I don’t know.


Saturday 10 November:

I feel sad last night, but I kind of hug that to myself and fall straight asleep. The things that make me want to cry; they never quite leave my mind but stay in the loop and just roll past. There’s a regularity to this which I’ve almost accepted. Even when I cry, it’s more like milking a cow. A routine procedure.

Just writing that down right now, a couple of big tears roll out, the process is automatic, almost prosaic. I could be anywhere, and it would be the same. You get to that place in the loop: you cry. Like a cow deciding when to stroll to the automatic milker, I can choose to go there or not go there. What I’m saying, I guess, is I know how to manage it. For the most part. But every now and then, it just takes me by surprise all over again. Like I never thought of it before.


This morning, opening the blinds, I look out to the shed where Tau used to stay. And I think life’s strange and kind of interesting. It’s not all about being sad, I know that. There are lots of times when I feel straight glad I tried, anyway. It’s like the fiercest feeling in the world, it makes my heart leap for joy. I just wish I could remember that when I’m sad. That lack of regret and that feeling of casual bravado… wish I could bottle it and pull it out for a swig whenever I need it.

I’ve said this often enough – I feel sometimes like I’m close to turning this whoooole thing on its head. It feels like one… little… click, and I’d get it. So it’s frustrating, to keep going through this same cycle. How many times, dear God, how many frickin times I have to do this?


Monday 12 November:

I stay at school until 5:30, so that the boys can keep working on their assessments.

Around 4, they’re flagging, and I go get Maccas. When I come back, they fall on the food with ravenous haste. Slade, being the skinniest and hungriest, dives in again and again like a seagull, snatching up every loose chip from the bottom of the bag. Afterwards he sits and writes and writes, satiated temporarily.


Tuesday 13 November:

Slade and Zion turn up again to finish their assessments. We find a temporary home in Kuli’s room, hooking up the speakers and turning one of the tables into a little nest: laptop, graff books, dvd’s, paper for drawing on in those spare moments.

“Faar, look at all this writing…” breathes Zion, looking at the result of his labour. “I can’t believe I wrote all that!”

“Yeah, me too,” Slade agrees. “Usually write jaaaacc.”

“Far yeah, usually we just write jacc, aye.”

They kind of giggle – they’re like that sometimes, when they feel happy and relaxed. I feel a rush of affection for the two of them. It makes me laugh to think of them coming into school during study leave, despite their ‘best’ intentions.



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