Right by my side

Wednesday 15 November, 2012:

Wednesdays kind of suck since the demise of project, and today’s no exception, at least not to begin with. I feel so frustrated with teaching. The year 9’s bore me almost to catatonia. I just think: hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. They’re sweet and try really hard. But nonetheless, I’m grouchy.


Then I’m 10 minutes late back after lunch – thank goodness for Vikshal, who covers for me. And what, in fact, am I doing? Taking Slade and Zion to my place, so they can paint for the afternoon.

They’ve texted me earlier:

Whens the soonest we can paint miss? (Slade)

Anytime (not thinking they mean right now)

Miss can we paint aftr lunch, at ur house an we will set evrething up, an u will trust us to look afta ur house hahah (this is Zion)

Ok bt no alkies no buds at mine. be hea on time at lunch as i hav a class straight after.

Yes mum, hahahaha nah (this, endearingly, is Zion again)

I drop them off and get back to collect my class from Vikshal… meanwhile I’m getting another couple of texts from Zion: one about nozzles, and then:

Mis iz thea a lyter at urs? Coz rook wants a smoke

It cracks me up that Zion’s the one who’s not shy to text and ask this stuff. I direct them to the correct location, so that Slade can have his ciggie.


When I get home, they show no sign whatsoever of wanting to head off. Instead, they stay to thrash the cans until the last squeeze is gone. Throwies, tags – all over one of the old boards (which we’re going to buff and paint, anyway). ROOKs, QUESTs, CZMUPs… they have a lovely time of it. Zion manages to stay remarkably tidy, while Slade gets messier and ever more paint stained as the hours go by. I look at him in disbelief. “Maaan, you’re grubby,” I say.

“Ohwell,” he replies, inspecting his hands and clothes with something close to outright happiness.


I take them home round 6:30. Drop Zion off at Clancy, then head down to Slade’s. As we pull up outside his house, there’s a guy walking past. I don’t even really look at him, but I see him peer at the car, intently. Then I turn and look again – and it’s Nio.  I jump out of the car, and we take a couple of surprised steps towards one another . Honestly, Nio looks as delighted to see me as I am to see him. “Miss!” he exclaims, and hugs me tight.

Slade looks on, curiously. He knows Nio – he’s seen him around. He’s not over fond of him, either. But he shakes his hand, and I see that both of them are going to be polite.

So we stand and talk for a while, on the kerb outside Slade’s house. Slade doesn’t say much, just watches as the ebullient Nio springs around a bit, cracking jokes in that drawl of his. I remember Slade telling me one time, “I don’t like his voice.” But the atmosphere’s ok, there’s no undercurrent that I can feel. And things are ‘light’, not going anywhere.


After a bit, Slade says to me, “K Miss, I’m gonna boosty, catch you up later,”


And he waves and goes indoors.

To be honest I think Slade’s handled this whole unanticipated meeting with Nio really well. Stayed out there a decent length of time, been polite and everything, but not cocky. Not tried to show off or act like the man. It makes me feel proud of him, that this 16 year old kid just handles himself with dignity.


Nio, who I love unreservedly, is  showing off. I don’t care; that’s Nio all over, and it’s so good to see him anyway. Clucking to me about his girlfriend Kaya (who’s pregnant), telling me she’s gone to stay with her family, he hasn’t seen her for a few days, he’s gonna have a drinkup tonight.

“But, you two are all good?” I ask. “You haven’t had a argument or anything?”

“Um, not really – they just wanted her to go round there when they heard she was pregnant.”

“But are they alright with it?”

“I think so…” says Nio, airily – and I can see he’s not at all sure about this.

“Well,” I tell him. “You just be good, and treat her right and make sure her family know that you are.”

“Nahh…” Nio drawls at me. “Why do I have to do all that? I’ve already done all the work, I made the baby, she don’t have to do anything except push it out.”

“Aye?” I say, pretending to be stupefied. “What an egg you are, Nio,” I add, lovingly, seeing that he doesn’t mean a word of it.


By now, we’re in the car. I’m giving Nio a ride to the Carthill shops, where he’s gonna buy a box. He counts his money as we drive:

“Can you add this up, Miss… twenty three dollars for Country Wine, twenty one for Cody’s… how much is that?”

“Forty four,” I say.

“Forty four… aye Miss? Is it?” Then, “And smokes… thirteen for smokes,” he adds. “How much is that then? Altogether.”

“Fifty seven,” I tell him.

Nio counts change out in the palm of his hand. “Fifty two, fifty three… fifty four… got ten dollars, Miss?”

“No, I haven’t,” I tell him. “I’m not giving you money for alkies.”

“Aww… go on Miss,” he wheedles.

“Nah, no way,” I say matter of factly, making him  laugh like anything.

We’ve stopped outside the liquor store and Nio tries again, without hope. “Go on Miss, for the boys…” he suggests.

I shake my head.

“What about three dollars? Three dollars – that’s all. Just for the smokes… you’re not even buying me alkies!”

“Oh gosh Nio,” I sigh. “Ok, three dollars then. To fuel your addiction.”

“Yeeeh Miss, solid…” he breathes.


Next thing: “Can you come into the shop with me? Stand by my side – right by my side.”

“Why? You’re over 18,” I say.

“Got no ID, and… they don’t like me in there,”

“Oh mygosh…” I mutter, at the same time getting out of the car, helpfully.


We go and procure the goods. Nio speaks with a deliberately fawning manner to the guy behind the counter. “Hi boss, how are you boss?” he clucks, subserviently.

“Good, good,” the man says, regarding Nio with a jovial and yet suspicious expression.

“Haven’t seen you for a while, boss… you having a good day today? Can I get a packet of JP, please boss?”

There’s a kind of formula to it all: Nio’s clearly demonstrating that he’s being ‘good’ today, to get the desired outcome. It doesn’t surprise me to think that he’s been a problem here before. He looks to me several times during the interchange, nodding at me as I stand ‘right by his side.’ The indication – message received and understood by all parties – is that trouble will definitely not occur today.


We make the very short journey back, and I pull up outside Nio’s house.

“Not this one Miss, the one up there – the one with the boat!” he says, joking and cackling. We start laughing, and I say, “Ohh, it’s good to see you Nio.“

“It is, Miss, it’s good to see you too. Will you come and visit, Miss – when we have the baby?”

“Yeah, course I will,” I tell him.

“Come to the hospital and everything, will you come when the baby’s born?”

“Yup, definitely,” I say. “But you better be good now, look after Kaya and stay out of trouble. Alright?”

“Yeah,” he says. “Will try.” And then, “You should come in, Miss. Come in!”

I hesitate… and Nio insists. “Please Miss, come in for a bit – we’re gonna be in the shed, down here, look!”


This invitation from Nio probably perplexes almost everyone else there. But it’s so genuinely meant, and I just love Nio for even asking, and for wanting me to kick it with them for a while. So I go in, kind of laughing at myself.

End up staying about an hour. We sit around on crates and just talk, Nio tells me about this and that. About seeing Cluzo down Municipal. Nio starts cracking up laughing, saying, “You know what we call him, Miss?”

“Nah…” I say, not really wanting to hear any dissing.

“Biggie Smalls… and his crew’s Junior Mafia. Hahahahaha…”

“Aw, shutup,” I say, and Nio grins.

“Nah, true Miss, he’s Biggie Smalls – cos he’s big -” explains Nio, helpfully. “Well he is,” he says, as the boys rock with laughter. “And all the CP faggots… Junior Mafia, haah!”

“Nah, that’s enough now,” I say, just signalling an end to the whole thing. “CP’s alright.”

Nio says, quite thoughtfully, “Yeah… I’m awguds with everyone from Quest up. Cluzo, Rich… Kost. Yeah, so I’m just jokes there, Miss.” I nod, and he continues: “But you know those other little boys, the ones that kick it with CP now days… they all faaaaags.”

“Mmm… I only know the main ones,” I tell him. “Don’t really know the others. But you might have a point, Nio.”

“Yeeeh, all the bum boys,” Nio says, with glee.

“I don’t really know them,” I just say again. But in my heart I think about it, and I’m not sure who’s using who. Tau kickin it with all these people I don’t know, and why shouldn’t he? But Zion doesn’t really trust them. And Zion’s straight up about that kind of thing.


“Cluzo nearly got rushed, down at Municipal,” Nio continues with the original story. “Cos he was wearing his CP hat, and the ABK Boys saw him there, at the takeaways… Cluzo was waiting for his feed.”

I just listen, and Nio goes on: “I saved him from getting a hiding.”

“Whatever,” I shrug.

But the other boys nod at me. “He did, Miss,” says one.

“True Miss, I did. I just walked up and put my hand out like this…” Nio demonstrates by touching my arm. “And I just went – you awgud ge? You alright ge?” Then I said to the boys, “Nah ge, this is Cluzo…”

“Aye, Nio?” I say, in some amazement. “Well, good on you,” I add, most sincerely.

See, Miss? See, I’m getting more mature, aye,” Nio crows, in delight at my response.

“Yeah, must be fatherhood,” I say.

“Yeeeeeh,” Nio agrees. “And Miss – will you come visit?” he asks again. “Will you come visit us, when we get the baby?”.

“Course I will,” I tell him.

“Yeah!” he pronounces, satisfied.




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