Wednesday 18 September, 2013:
It’s an ok day I guess… though when Ezekiel comes in at break time, I’m not sure what to say, or how much to ask. He seems so subdued, and I feel a bit useless. I’m not your typical ‘teacher’-slash-do-gooder in these situations, the one who goes directly to the Deans, or pens pastoral notes about student ‘disclosures’. And maybe that would be the proper way to do things.
But I don’t know what I should do, exactly. I decide I need to wait and see. To me it’s about getting a sense of how to proceed. It’s not about doing what ‘teachers’ do, it’s definitely nothing to do with being a frickin teacher full stop. And so I feel the vibe is a bit… wary, today. Just checking it out: me and Ezekiel both.
Making it more awkward (for me, anyway) is that Slade isn’t at school today either.
I’m pretty sure Ezekiel hasn’t eaten. When I pay my cafe bill today (it’s only $6.20), the manager, who knows my ways a little bit from times gone by, tells me that if there are kids going hungry, to come see her after lunch, and check if there’s spare food. She says she’ll gladly give it to me. Otherwise the cafe staff just take it home.
So after lunch I slip out, while 9 Social are doing their storyboards, and she gives me a leftover fish burger and a chicken mayo sandwich. I’m going to see if Ezekiel wants to eat after sch – but then he doesn’t stay back, he just leaves class with the others. Maybe he’s ok after all… I’m not at all sure.
I stash it in the fridge upstairs, it’ll be algood until tomorrow.
Then today’s just awkward all round. I get home to find Sheree in the sleepout, and there are a few Cody’s cans lying about, which could belong to the boys. But I’m not quite sure. My mind goes round in circles about it all, even after she starts talking to me quite soberly, telling me she’s been offered a house, on Rutherford Ave.
Thursday 19 September:
When I get to school, Slade is waiting there outside my room. I’m honestly so glad to see him back. It’s just that mutual feeling of – oh, I know you.
All day, he comes in and out. Break times – and then numerous other little visits as well. It makes me laugh to see his face peering in the big windows. Waving his arms up and down to get my attention, at times (because my door locks automatically, from the outside it can only be opened with a key.)
Round 2:30, he gives up the whole idea of ‘class’ at all and bounds in for the remainder of the day. It’s actually because he wants to share some joyous news with me. “My art teacher told me I might be the first person to finish my board!”
I look at him in surprise. Cos Slade’s always been a bit worried about the progress of his art board.
“Yes, I showed her the photos,” he tells me. “And she said I can use heaps of them. She printed them all out and they’re going on my board, it’s almost enough to finish the whole thing!”
“Whoa,” I say, seeing his expression of pride and delight. “Oh, that’s cool.”
“She said… first she said, you didn’t do these.”
“Huh?” I say, not getting it.
“She didn’t believe they were my paintings. She said, “Those aren’t yours – who did those.”
“Really!” I exclaim. “And what did you say?”
“I showed her… the photos of me painting,” he tells me, with the utmost satisfaction. “The ones we took. And then she got all excited and started running around and then she printed everything out.”
“Wowwww…” I say, and we look at one another with elation.
“And now I’ve had enough of class for the day, just wanna kick back with you in here for a while, and Miss is all good with that, honest truth, she don’t mind if I leave. Cos she said I’ve done heaps.”
Slade has already sunk into a chair and is now almost horizontal with contented relaxation. My few remaining year 13’s (the rest are using the library computers) take his presence completely for granted. Writing about it now, I get a little pang of sensing how much I’m going to miss Slade at school… in just a few short weeks, really. The seniors get study leave in November, and that’s the end of their school careers, pretty much.
Ezekiel’s another one who would have happily stayed in my room all day, I have to practically shoo him out at the end of breaks. And at 3, back he comes, to wait for me while I go to a meeting upstairs.
“Can I go on your computer?” he asks, but with no especial hope.
“No, sorry Ezekiel – I can’t leave students on my laptop if I’m not in the room. It’s just a rule.”
“But Slade does…” he says, a little bit wistfully.
“Yeah, he does,” I admit. “Technically, he’s not supposed to either. But he’s year 13, and not just that, he’s… I mean, I know him really well, and everything.”
“He’s like your son,” says Ezekiel.
“I guess so,” I say. “Some people even think he is my son, when they see him come in all the time.”
“Yeah,“ Ezekiel agrees. “I thought that too, to start with. It’s not just because he comes here, it’s how, um… it’s just how you are with each other.”
“Yeah, I get you,” I say.
At breaks, Slade and Ezekiel get along quite well. They go halves on the chicken sandwich, and then I go upstairs and toast them the fish burger in the grill press.
“These are from the cafe,” says Slade in joy.
“Yup, the lady gave them to me for free,” I tell him. “She asked me if I wanted them, cos they were left over. And I said – yeah, for sure. I can easily find someone to eat those!” This was a slightly ‘flexible’ version of the real conversation, but I wasn’t about to say anything about Ezekiel’s predicament.
“Haaaaaard,” Slade says. “Alday.”
Ezekiel just grins at us. After school, he tells me that he’s had ‘energy’ for all his work in class.
He’s a really nice kid, and I hardly know him. I just know I can’t ignore it when my radar goes off. I have to pay attention to these signals, when I receive them.
Friday 20 September:
Slade and I play a whole lot of old school jams today; this makes us almost ridiculously happy at times. Dopey grins on our faces, we listen to George Mc Crae (Rock your Baby), follow it up with Gregory Abbott (Shake you Down), Sam Cooke (Chain Gang), James Brown (Try Me) – and our ‘new’ discovery (courtesy of Ezekiel and a J. Cole sample), David Ruffin (Double Cross).
“Faar, this music makes me feel like having a lazy beer, aye Miss,” Slade sighs, happily.
“I reckon,” I say, snorting at him.
We look at one another indulgently.
“Could crack one open in your room…” Slade says, and we get the giggles, imagining it.
Oh I’m gonna miss him so much, here in this frickin place.