Saturday 7 September, 2013:
I take Leroi over to where Sheree is (currently) staying, at their uncle’s place. On the way, he tells me she was drinking yesterday. They’d been supposed to go see about a house, but obviously that didn’t happen. Tau shouted at her, called her a stupid bitch, and then smashed the glass door with his foot and left.
“Ohh, he’s back,” Leroi says in surprise as we pull up. He gets out, and it’s then I see Tau coming down the path. I’m surprised myself when he ignores Leroi and comes up to the car, looking tired and rather dejected. I open the passenger door, but Tau just leans on it, not getting in.
“You algood, Tau?” I ask him.
“Yeah,” he says, without conviction.
“Kay, um… I hope you’re ok,” I push on, gently. “Cos… Leroi told me what happened yesterday.”
Tau nods unhappily. He hovers at the side of the car, looking half as if he wants to stay, half to flee. Seeing his miserable expression, my heart swoops out to him. “Oh Tau,” I tell him. “I hate seeing you stressed like this.”
“It’s algood Miss. I just don’t wanna give you stress.”
“You don’t, Tau – it isn’t you. I’m just… it’s just the whole situation, for everyone.”
He nods again, a tiny fraction easier. “I’m algood, Miss,” he tries telling me again, but his voice tails off and I see his eyes swell with tears.
“Ohhhh, Tau,” I kind of whisper. “Sit down for a sec.”
“Naaah, Miss, I’m alright, I better go back inside.” But he just leans there, and tears begin to drip down, and he sniffs and rubs his eyes on his sleeve, and then more tears fall out, patiently and miserably.
I clamber over the gear shift and out of the car to his side.
“Tau, I breathe, just rubbing his arm. “It’s alright, Tau. We’ll get this stuff all sorted out… we will.”
He nods, rubbing at his eyes.
“I really care about you,” I tell him. “You’re the top priority guy, to me. You never stress me out, it’s just… sometimes other people do. But it isn’t your fault.”
“I don’t wanna make you stressed,” Tau tells me. “That’s why I haven’t been coming back lately. I don’t wanna put extra stress on you.”
“Nah,” I say. “I want you there. I don’t want to see you sleeping in the dang park or something.”
“It’s Leroi, Miss, letting the others come around. I won’t bring trouble to your place. I don’t even wanna see him, at the moment.”
“I know, he told me,” I murmur.
“I feel like I might hook him,” he adds.
For some reason, this makes us both laugh a little bit.
“I’ll come back tomorrow,” he says. “I’ll have to sort things out with mum first – I’ll text you tonight though.”
“Good boy,” I say, and then, “Ok Tau, I better let you go back in.”
“K, Miss,” Tau says, and we hug.
For the hour between 4 and 5, I just go for a walk. The city is in that transitional mood between day and night, it makes me feel a little bit forlorn, at first. But by 5, when it’s just starting to rain, lightly, and a few cars have switched on their headlights, I kind of perk up. It seems like something has switched over, you know? Like a change of phase. So I’m alright again.
I get home, go inside and just flit around doing small things to settle myself. Folding the washing. Checking my emails, and facebook, and twitter. I’m kind of into twitter. It isn’t a big deal or anything, I just like the way you can sometimes get past the usual formalities.
Then I take a shower, and lie on the couch with a cuppa tea, watching TV and listening to music and jamming the laptop all at once. The sun’s going down and I feel alright again. I’m a bit elemental about that stuff sometimes, kind of like Tau I guess.
Tuesday 10 September:
I’m not really in the mood for writing about other people, and today I don’t suffer fools gladly. But just writing that word down: ‘suffer’, reminds me of Deshaun, who, at the start of writing the 9 Social assessment, puts his hand up and asks me, “Miss, what does this word mean?”
‘Explain why people suffer from poverty’ – is the directive (there, on the assessment booklet), and Deshaun points to the word ‘suffer’.
“It means – why do people have poverty,” I tell him.
“And poverty’s being pohara, aye Miss,” he says.
“Yup, that’s right.”
“Oh I get it now,” he tells me, and sets to work.
The whole period, I’m aware that Deshaun is trying super-hard, and really wants to finish his essay. He gets distracted from time to time, and once falls off his chair in the process of throwing an eraser at Jackson, but he finishes it, independently and under assessment conditions. I feel extremely proud of him.
Wednesday 11 September:
You know what? I do actually like getting up in the morning, getting ready for work. Knowing I haven’t capitulated, knowing I’m going to get there again today. But I need to stop just holding on. At times, when I look in the mirror, I sigh with fatigue at the continual effort, yet tighten the screws on all my suppressed and hovering energy.
Ezekiel Peo (new to MC and 9 Social, since round June I think) waits after school and asks me if he can get a lift home. I’ve dropped him off twice before, once (opportunistically) when he saw me with Slade, the other time when it was pouring with rain.
“I don’t want to walk, today,” he tells me. “I’m really tired.”
He looks really tired, too. Doesn’t speak much on the way home. One thing I’ve picked up is that Ezekiel doesn’t smile a lot, either. He gives out (and wants to give, I think) the impression of being playful, sort of happy-go-lucky – but there’s a ‘flatness’ behind it, which I notice. I don’t even want to speculate about that. But he’s a nice kid.
As we drive, he tells me, “Miss, I’m… I’m kind of like what we’re learning about. Poverty and stuff. That’s what it’s like at my house. Everything’s just putting food on the table.”
“Yeah, I get you,” I tell him, sympathetically but without asking him anything else. I figure that if there’s anything more he wants to say, he’ll tell me himself some other time.
He also says that he used to get in trouble at his old school (out west somewhere). That doesn’t surprise me, even though there’s no evidence of trouble here at MC.
The old radar’s picking up some kind of signal from Ezekiel, but I don’t know what it is, exactly.
Thursday 12 September:
There’s a potential ‘situation’ with Leroi this evening, which doesn’t go anywhere. Tau’s back, then Leroi texts me and says he wants to come back too. Wants to play his new PS3, (there’s a long story to all this, involving Leroi spending all but $100 of his Winz back pay on shit, according to Tau – and I don’t doubt it.)
I’m about to go pick him up, but I check with Tau first – and he isn’t keen. He says he needs a break from Leroi. So I ring back and tell him we’ll leave it for tonight. Leroi hangs up on me, and then I get a text which is definitely tetchy. It’s not overtly aggressive, just says, ‘ionly wantd to play my new game coz we cant uze power here fck algd’
Tau’s worried, though. His shoulders tense up, and he sighs, telling me, “It’s ok Miss. If Leroi comes over, I’ll have to go. But if he starts anything here, I’ll jump in first – don’t worry.”
“Aye?” I say, in some surprise. “Do you think he’s gonna come over?”
“Yeah, I do,” Tau sighs again. “He’s not listening to anyone at the moment, and he’s drinking today. He’ll probably just walk round… but all sweet Miss, I’ll just have to go somewhere else.”
Little Michael, who is here too, nods at this, saying, “Yeah Miss, if he starts trouble we’ll sort it out, and then I’ll take Tau somewhere.”
“Faar, where shall we go though, ge?” Tau says wearily. “I came round here to get away from Leroi. I need a break, he’s pissing everyone off – but I don’t wanna hook him.”
“Course you don’t,” I say to Tau. “But you don’t have to go, either. At the end of the day, it’s my call who’s here.”
“Yeah true, it’s Miss’s call,” agrees Michael, and both boys look at me with a little interest, this fact only just having occurred to them.
“It is my call,” I reiterate. “And if Leroi comes, I’ll have to take him somewhere else for the night. The sleepout’s your space. The only reason he’s been here is because you were algood with it. And now you need some time out, so… he’ll just have to accept that.”
“He might not listen – he’s not respecting anyone at the moment,” Tau says.
“Tough,” I say. I sound more authoritative than I feel, and Tau actually smiles at me. I add, “If he comes, I’ll have to spell it out to him. I don’t mind.”
We talk a bit more – and then I go to bed. I think to myself: If he comes, I’ll deal with it. But I picture Leroi’s face, and get a sense of the basic respect and sensitivity which he tries so hard to maintain with me. I try to shrug off any worries. A kind of peace steals into my heart, despite the potential problems. And so, I fall asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow.
Friday 13 September:
In the morning, I think Tau’s more surprised than me, that Leroi hasn’t come.
Man, I can’t believe Leroi didn’t put any of that back pay towards a bond. Tau mentions this again today, saying, “That’s what he’s like, Miss. He doesn’t think of anyone except himself at the moment. And even when he’s got money, he expects everyone else to buy him things.”
“But nothing, though,” I murmur.
“No, Miss – nothing,” Tau says, sighing deeply.
“What did he get with it then?”
“The PS3. And just flash stuff, clothes and shit. Whatever he wanted.”
Not much we can do about it though. We just shake our heads.
And I go to work.
Aurelius is back at school today, after several weeks absence. “I missed this class,” he tells me, very nicely and without a qualm.
I take this at face value, and smile at him.
Later, he appears again out of nowhere, when I have 12 History. He sometimes ‘pops down’ to see one of his boys, but always leaves directly when he’s snapped.
“Aurelius,” I begin, but quite fondly all the same. “What are you doing here? Go back to Geography.”
Aurelius beams at me, quite happy to be apprehended this way. “I just came to see you, Miss,” he tries. “I came to gaze upon your beauty.” He adds, “You’re fo’i lole,” making my class get the giggles.
“Go away,” I tell him. “Go to class.” But I can’t help laughing at him.