Friday 13 June, 2014:
12 History. Aurelius asks me, “Miss – will you teach 13 History next year?” He adds, “I hope so.”
“Um,” I begin, and then, “Ah.” I wonder how much I should actually say about anything. But I really like Aurelius a lot, and I don’t want to lie. So I just say, “Actually Aurelius… I probably won’t be here next year.”
“You won’t be here?” he says, looking at me disbelievingly. “Are you going to another school?”
“Probably not another school,” I tell him.
“Then where?” he asks.
And we just talk about it. I tell him the truth, or as much of the truth as I’m able to let out right now. I can’t quite bring myself to tell him that I’m not even going to be at MC next term. But Aurelius knows a little bit about me: stuff that most of the other kids don’t know. He knows, for example, that Kepaoa used to stay at mine. And I think we have some kind of understanding – so I tell him what I can.
It’s good, in a way, to be frank like this with Aurelius. For weeks now, I’ve felt like I’m letting him down. I’ve even wondered if he thinks I’m all shit these days. Sometimes when he switches code and talks in Samoan during history class, I perceive it – unfairly – as a signal that I don’t know jack about anything. But today, I see that he’s speaking Samoan because he feels comfortable. His voice is so everyday and matter of fact, and unselfconscious.
I say, “Sometimes I miss our history class from last year.”
“Me too,” he says. “That class was gangsta as.”
“I miss it too,” says Carly, from across the room.
And we just talk and stuff.
After school I pick up Tau and Leroi from their uncle’s, and all the way home they talk about the family group conference and how it went. They tell me the other social worker was talking shit, but Vailea stood up for them, saying how much they’d changed. He said he was going to get letters from me and Maxwell, to prove it.
“Cos we need more support, aye.”
“You should have asked me to come too,” I suggest. “I wouldn’t have minded.”
“Nah… nah, it’s okay Miss,” they say.
“You’re busy and everything.”
Busy alright. Busy with fuckin school, busy hating everything about it.
And their Auntie Yvette stood up for them too at the meeting – they go on and on about the whole thing. I can tell they’ve had one, maybe two cans already. It makes them more voluble, and so I hear all about how great Vailea is, and how it’s been ‘costing him a fortune’ to pay for the counselling, and how he said CYFS should pay for some of it.
“Yeah – they should,” Leroi says.
They continue: “And Vailea told us – you have to speak up.”
“It was hard, but we did it.”
“Vailea said, (this is Tau) that when he first met me, I couldn’t even speak in a whole sentence…” They both laugh. “And look at me now!”
I just think – well I’ve always seen that you could, Tau.” But I don’t say that.
“And we told that social worker: Faar, we’ve changed heaps since Vailea came into our lives.”
My eyes are already going a little bit blurry, but I just keep driving. I got no objections, matter of fact. But all the same, I think – what about me what about me what about me? – until my mind just coasts on it.
We get home – they’ve left the heater on all day, and I rebuke them mildly. I think – aw fuckit, power bill. And really, who cares? It’s more important that Vailea doesn’t spend his money. I’m just here to look after that everyday stuff.
I’m so tired of hearing about Vailea (and Maxwell, for that matter), who appear on the scene like frickin gods from heaven, every now and then. I’m tired of hearing about all the things they do, and how great they are, and how much they help everyone. I’m tired of hearing about Auntie Yvette, and I’m tired of hearing about Sheree and her 99 problems. And I’m just plain tired all round. Tired of not being important, and of simply plodding on – like some pony going up and down the mountain every day. Tired of trying to stay calm, and never get upset, and never complain about work, or expect… anything really. Certainly not attention; certainly not affection.
I go into my room and gently shut the door, and my chest heaves, and I feel my breath panting out in quiet gasps. Tears tumbling out of my eyes; no sound.
Briefly, I think again: Ohh, where’s Kepaoa when you need him? And then I tell myself – he isn’t coming, better harden up my girl.
I start to cry, cry properly. I lean forward and cry, then I lie on my back and cry, and the whole time I try to stop.
I kind of stop. I can hear Tau reading out some text he’s got from Auntie Yvette, saying how she’s proud of them, and their dad would be proud of them too, and how they’ll all have their house soon, and, “I love you my nephews,” it finishes.
That’s the other thing. Getting a house. Apparently they have to wait three months (three months!) before CYFS will even decide if they’re allowed to all live together. It depends on ‘if they’re good’ (or that’s how the boys put it).
“Especially mum,” they tell me. “She’s the one that’s stuck.”
Oh – I think. So I have to keep things on lock while Sheree stuffs around all over the place. No one checks if it’s ok, or asks how I feel about it – I’m not even invited to the goddamn meeting. It’s all just assumed and taken for granted. And Vailea’s going to ask me to write a letter of support, as if my role is nothing but a bit part. As if I don’t have a single feeling about anything, or any sorrows of my own.
I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if there’s something wrong with me, that makes me unlovable and unremarkable. Because I can never be, ever be quite sure.
Out there in the sleepout, the boys are on that happy vibe. I can hear them still talking about Vailea, and how he understands them, and how they’re buzzing themselves out with how good they’re doing.
I can’t begrudge them any of that. And I don’t want to ruin their evening, either. It just breaks my heart a little bit to be so commonplace and invisible.
I wonder if I should go to the gym maybe, just go do something so that I don’t stay here and have to listen to them and feel this way. But honestly I got no heart for it; not right now. I don’t think I should even try.