Contradictory things

“Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideas alive and well inside your heart and head at all times. If it doesn’t drive you crazy, it will make you strong.” (Bruce Springsteen)


Saturday 12 April, 2014:

On my way out, I tell Tau that if any of the boys turn up, he can just use me as an excuse to get rid of them.

“Just say – Miss is being a bitch,” I tell him, frankly. “I know you don’t really think I’m a bitch, but it’s algood to say that, if it helps.”

“Yup,” he replies, grinning.


When I get back I’m tired. Partly it’s the events of the last few days, and partly just the long term at school… and then the two glasses of wine I have at Mia’s. I lay on the couch and fall asleep. The cushion under my head is too hard, and I wake up with a dull headache.


Monday 14 April:

School… it’s just your average Monday (apart from being extra tired). 9 Social are alright, I guess, apart from a scrap between Obey and Aidan in the library; I break it up, getting a bruise on my wrist in the process. A year 13 student who I don’t even know assists me in this intervention – he’s a nice guy to jump in like that.

Honestly though, ‘learning’ just doesn’t cut it, today. Like I could care less about the cultural mindmaps; alas for 9 Social. Cultural schmultural. Domestication and bullshit, that’s what it is. Consequently my teaching lacks all conviction, today.

I just know I’m going to feel exactly the same way about the ‘Ancient World’ assessments tomorrow (for 10 Social).


I get back home and the boys are out, and there’s nothing much left in the fridge. This only serves to make my brain micro-manage like crazy. Which is not a good thing!

 When they get back, Tau comes in and we talk. He tells me they’ve just been walking around all afternoon, trying to get by without a sesh. I’m almost going to ask if they need to go get one. But I know they’re trying to cut back – and that is a good thing. And to be honest, he looks ok – so I decide to just leave it, rather than interfere.


Tau also tells me Sheree had her meeting with the housing people at Winz this morning, it didn’t go too well. They told her they’ll put her name on the waiting list… for all that’s worth (not much). And her beni’s been cut by half.

Sheree started crying; just sobbed right at the desk. Then the case worker said (to Tau), “It’s alright, I’m just trying to help your mum.”

“Pffft,” I comment, with some scorn for Winz’s customer relations.

“Hard,” Tau agrees.

“Didn’t she take Vailea?”


“Ohh, why didn’t she?” I lament, and then, “I wish I’d known about her appointment – I would have gone with her.”

“Haaard,” Tau says again, with feeling. “That’s what I was thinking too, Miss. But my mum didn’t even tell me what day her appointment was – I didn’t know until this morning.”


Tuesday 15 April:

This time it’s Leroi who coughs all night. He says he didn’t sleep because he couldn’t breathe. He doesn’t really smoke ciggies – so it’s probably the K2 stuffing his lungs up. Stress has something to do with it as well, I guess.

Both boys come and talk to me this morning while I’m getting ready for school. Tau suggests I could text Vailea about Sheree again. And it pleases me to think he’s strategizing… because Tau’s in kind of a good space at the moment. Ok it’s not unproblematic, either – but what I mean is that he knows he’s safe, and he’s getting some support from a few people, and he’s getting paid. So it could be worse, it really could. And he’s not unaware of that fact.


Wednesday 16 April:

Tau and Leroi both get paid today!

“We’re gonna budget the money.” (this is Tau, very seriously)

“We’re even gonna save some,” they tell me.

“And we’re not getting a sesh till tonight – we’ll just go for a walk to Municipal, get a lazy breakfast.”

I know, it’s not like everything’s suddenly sorted out. But to hear them talk like this again is pretty damn amazing.

They also insist on giving me eighty dollars. They want to be responsible for as much as they can do right now – I can see it in their faces, which are looking happier by the day.


Thursday 16 April:

Somehow I make it to the gym – I don’t even want to go, and before I head off there, I have a bit of a cry, just sitting unhappily on my bed. Everything just seems so hard, today.

I stop to say hi to the boys before attempting the gym (this is attempt #1). But it turns out not to be a good idea, right then. First of all, they’re stoned, and so I can’t be sure of the vibe, which is very low key. I feel like I want to say shit about my shitty day, but at the same time I don’t want to burden these two, who have enough of their own shit to deal with.

And then Tau tells me Vailea has been over, and asked Tau for some kind of paperwork (a Winz letter I guess) – to check up his beni; something about job search. I don’t think Tau’s all that sure about the ins and outs of it. But my mind immediately jumps to conclusions, like: does Vailea think I’m all shit?

I don’t know, but I feel even shittier. I get in the car to go to the gym, and then I just start to sniff and sob. I sit there for a couple of minutes, not wanting to get out in case Tau and Leroi see me crying. Then I dry my eyes and go inside.


Soon as I sit down on my bed, I started to cry again. I just whimper a little bit, to think of everything about the whole dumb day. Having to function in my despised role at work, and now… does Vailea Poe think I don’t know shit about shit?

Oh maaan, I’m tired of being all alone with this stuff. I think of Kepaoa – just a little – as I cry. And then I have to switch that thought off, because I know sometimes people say they got you, when really they don’t.

So I harden up, dry my eyes one more time, and text Vailea, to let him know Tau has a med cert, and there’s no need for job search; everything is sorted and approved already.

Then I go to the frickin gym after all (attempt #2), and do a workout. It kind of helps, I guess. It’s better than not going.


There are three texts when I take my phone out of the locker:


Then: I was just checking with Winz to see how Max invoices for the psych appointments.’

‘Saves me paying’  was the last; this even makes me laugh a little bit.

‘Ok cool.’ I write. Tau wasnt sure but he thought you needed to check something out with winz so I just wanted you to know that side of things was all sweet

He replies again:  Thanks for all you are doing with the boys

So, it’s obviously nothing like what I first thought. But all the same, I just sigh to myself. Because really, I think  to myself, I don’t do shit that anyone actually wants. Sometimes I do what people need, which isn’t the same thing. And right now I wonder about this all so much – is it all I’m good for?


I go on home and make noodles. I feel guilty – can you believe it – for not cooking tea, even though it’s already late, and Tau and Leroi have been paid and all.

Tau comes in and out to get a drink, and I sit there feeling stressed and guilty. Like I ‘should’ get dinner sorted every single night, so that they don’t have to be shy. Though I know it isn’t me who’s making them shy – they’re just shy, fullstop. I also know, when I stop and think about it, that if they’re shy here, they’d be even shyer somewhere else.

Eventually I give up on the contradictions and try counting my blessings that they’re here at all. I mean, even that they feel just safe ‘enough’, you know? 


Thursday 17 April:

13 History first up, today. I’ve got nothing really planned for the last day of term. They can jam the chrome books… or go to the library and just keep going with what they’re working on.

“A history quiz!” Mandy suggests, brightly:

“Nah, nah,” I tell her. “Anyway, they’ve all done different topics this term.”

“What about a debate?” she says, in all seriousness. “On a current issue.”

“Geez, Mandy,” I say. “It’s the last day today. That’s way too much effort for me. I just want to mark the assessments.”

That’s the difference between ‘me’ and ‘teachers’. I tell ya.


After school, there’s drinks in the staffroom for the end of term. I go for a while, with Ross and Mandy. It’s kind of fun… and a little bit not, that’s how these things go. Still, it’s good to get a free drink off school, at the very least. I have a Carlsberg, and nibble on a mini potato-top pie, and we talk out on the balcony.

Around 5 I get a call from Leroi, wanting to know if I can come home. Something about Tau… I can’t hear properly over the chatter in the staffroom.

“Oh yup, does Tau need to go somewhere?” I ask

“To the boxing…” is what I hear.

“Huh?” I say. “Where?”

“He can’t breathe, Miss. He needs to go to the doctor.


I rush back to find poor Tau is standing mournfully in the carport, all ready to get in the car. “Could you say I need the nebuliser, Miss?” he asks me, as he very tiredly sits down in the passenger seat.

“Yes, of course Tau…” I murmur, worried about him. He can hardly talk.

We get to the medical centre just before it closes; their signs are already in. But they’re so nice to Tau, just whisk him off to the doctor – the same one as last time; the one the boys liked. He has his nebuliser, and comes out, looking tired, and none too happy with the world, but at least able to breathe.


“Is that it?” I check.

“Think so…”

“You didn’t get any medicine?”

“No,” they both tell me.

I accompany them out to the car, then think about it some more and conclude aloud, “Well – that can’t be right.”

They shrug, having no idea what should or shouldn’t be the outcome of this visit.

I go back up to the counter, and lo and behold – there is a prescription, for antibiotics and more prednisone. I get it filled at the pharmacy counter, pay the bill (the whole thing only costs me twenty, including the meds), and take it out to Tau. Pick up chicken and chips on the way home, and they settle back in the sleepout.


Then I go to the supermarket. It takes ages, everywhere’s busy and the roads are jammed; all the shops are closed tomorrow for Good Friday. I spend nearly a hundred dollars on food today (the takeout included), having done the budget first. Got heaps of stuff, the pantry’s full, and the freezer too. Full isn’t like at bursting point – but it’s still a big improvement on that feeling of scarcity and the totting up that goes on in my head.

And work bothers me, it troubles me unduly… but when it comes down to money, oh I’m grateful to be earning it.

So there’s another two contradictory things, right there.



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