For practical purposes

Wednesday 7 May, 2014:

The first week of Term 2, and my intentions already seem so unsupportable, compared to a few days ago. I struggle to hold these two contradictory ideas:

1) Financial independence – I have to support both myself and that flexibly constituted entity: the ‘household’.

2) The teacher persona – I can’t outwit it, I can’t hide from it, I can’t redeem it… I don’t know what to do with it except to feel so endlessly, helplessly, tired of struggling with it.


This morning we have a ‘Learning Team’ meeting. Chloe starts off with a few of the dreaded games, and then we have a discussion about learning goals and learning celebrations for the year 9’s. The entire time, I miserably accept the role I have to perform. I shrink from it, at the same time as I force myself to behave exactly as expected. Taking part, contributing to the conversation, making suggestions -and also in some way despising myself for all of this.

My mind gets so tired, twisting and turning, and finally capitulating to the task. I take little, shallow breaths, in and out… just getting through it.

But I keep telling myself: people go through way worse. And I will I will I will I will I will be ok. So fuck it.

I’m still lingering in my tribulations though, most of the day. But I’m another person the minute I get in my car and drive away. Not a teacher anymore. And when I get home and see the boys, I think, oh thank goodness! Because someone knows me;  knows I’m not that dumb after all.


Thursday 8 May:

9 Social. I hate the fact that they expect a ‘teacher’. I dislike a few of them very much. The one I can’t stand is Jacobina. The thing I resent the most about Jacobina is that she’s not even the power broker in that class. She’s got a smart mouth, but she only jumps on the bandwagon when Audrey and Chenille start trying to wield their own (13 year old, very constrained) authority over the others. And honestly, the ridiculousness of having to deal with it, today.

I try to settle my breath a little bit, but it won’t settle. It’s still shallow and kind of painful. This is what ‘stress’ feels like, right?  I think about how Tau must feel more stressed than this, all the time – no wonder he’s on the K2. Which is, of course, now illegal (as of 12:01 this morning, but that’s a whole nother story).

The one tiny fact about school that gives me consolation, albeit of a very partial and limited kind, is that there’s not even one person there anymore whose opinion I actually give a damn about. And furthermore, if I’m stressing, at least there’s no-one there who it might matter to, or who I need to compose myself for.

But it hurts to hold my breath in. So I think, for practical purposes, there’s only one thing truly to be done today, and that’s breathe. Breathe and then breathe some more. See if I can iron that out.


After school, the K2 thing. Tau and Leroi have smoked up pretty much all their seshes by 5 o’clock – there’s one left. They’re stoned as all fuck, and Tau keeps chuckling at my expression, which is slightly perturbed (not at them being stoned, but at the lack of any surplus for days of possible need).

I make dinner, but the boys are way too stoned to do anything except sit on the couch in the sleepout, with the radio providing a soundtrack to the game start menu: just rolling its intro over and over while they sit and watch.

Eventually Tau comes inside and gets a drink… and I sense some kind of look in his eyes, but I don’t know exactly what this signifies. So I just say, “Hey, Tau,” while he busies himself at the sink.

And then, “It just… feels like you were gonna ask me something,” I surmise, and he laughs, saying, “Oh!”

I push on a little further: “I don’t know why, Tau, but I thought you might be wanting a lift somewhere.”

“Oh Miss,” Tau says, coming to sit down by me. “I was gonna ask for a lift… and a loan. For a box,” he explains, with a little sorrow.

“Huh?” I say, but gently. “Are you sure you guys wanna start up on a box, after smoking up all that K2?”

“We can’t get to sleep,” Tau tells me, sighing. “I’ve had like six sleeping pills, and we’ve smoked all our K2, and I’ve been stressing about tomorrow.

Quite apart from the contraindications of mixing sleeping pills and alcohol, this is what I’ve been worried about: the replacing of K2 with other substances. So Tau and I just sit and talk, to try get it a little bit sorted – no preconceived outcomes in our minds. We both approach the situation very calmly, willing to listen to one another’s perspective.


Tau tells me he’s been worrying about the K2 situation all day, so has Leroi. This, he thinks, is actually why they’ve consumed their stash in one long burst. They just want to take their minds off what’s going to happen next.

“And have you got no money left?” I ask him.

“No – we spent as much as we could on K2,” he replies. We bought fifteen bags.

“Oh my gosh,” is all I say, thinking about it. And then, “But Tau.. this is just day one. I know you need to get through the day and all. But have you thought what could happen, if you feel like this tomorrow… and the next day.” I add, “I’m not being judgmental – I know you have to find a way to cope. But it’s just that I care about you; both of you. I don’t want to see you start up on the alkies again.”

“I don’t want to either,” Tau says. “I remember how it felt – I hated wanting it every day.”

“I know,” I tell him.

“But it would be the last time, Miss,” he tries. “The only time.”

“I’m not asking you to say that, Tau,” I reply. “I’m not expecting that from anyone. It’s just that I don’t want it to be a strategy you use every day. For one thing, we can’t afford it, and for another thing…” I look at him with a lot of love in my heart, as I continue, “I just want to see you guys happy, and looking forward to things again, you know? Having goals, and figuring out what you want to do, and enjoying your days.”

“I want that too,” Tau says, quietly. “Max talked to me about that as well.”

“And I know you’re trying your best, Tau,” I tell him. “I’m not knocking you for any of it. I’m just… not sure what I should do, that’s all. Just let me think about it for a minute.”

“Algood, Miss,” Tau says. He sits with me very patiently – not even trying to flee. I can see he feels a kind of safety, which makes me glad.


After a while, I decide what to do. I don’t know if it’s what anyone else would do, or even approve of. But that doesn’t really matter. I tell Tau I’ll go get him a box, just a 12 pack for him and Leroi. I say I won’t be getting any more than that, if they run out. It’s just to see them through, and they have to pace themselves.

“Sweet as,” Tau says. “I understand everything you’re saying, Miss.”

Then, “Do you know, you guys have been here for a whole month?” I say, in slight surprise.

“Have we?”

“Yup – and it’s been pretty good,” I go on, contemplating this fact. “I mean, you’ve both been calm, and not stressing too much till now.”

“We’ve been algood,” Tau agrees.

“And we want it to stay that way, right? So if I’m worried that you’re drinking every day, I’ll be on the phone to Vailea real quick – and Max.”

Tau chuckles at me, saying, “But that won’t happen, Miss.”

“Just saying,” I tell him. “Just letting you know the deal, from my end.”

Then off we go to the liquor store, and Tau goes in and gets the box. I see him go in, and I think, love ya Tau. And I hope I’m doing the right thing.


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