Monday 8 September, 2014:
I remember how Kepaoa used to say, “If anything happens, just text me – I’m only a suburb away.”
Words. Because on Saturday, I was facing things alone. My phone losing charge in the bedroom; it might as well have been a suburb away too. And even if I’d had it right in my hand, there was no Kepaoa to call in the middle of the night. So I stood my ground – I didn’t once let myself become afraid. It’s only now I feel kind of scared, kind of sick about it all.
I’ve just about decided to take the day off when I get a text from the agency. So I accept the job, and get out of bed.
Afterwards, I reflect that it’s lucky I didn’t know I’d be teaching drama all day; that’s some pretty out-of-it relief: warm up games, impromptu performances, and all the rest of it. But I don’t really mind. All care and no responsibility – and sometimes it’s ‘no care and no responsibility’.
The daily contradictions don’t stay on my mind for long, with substitute teaching. It doesn’t really matter whether things go good, bad, or indifferent. It wasn’t like that when I had a permanent teaching job. The dissonance rubbed away at me all the time. Of course the feeling’s still there… it just has less of an impact, I guess.
This evening I get a text from Rose: Leroi is still here, sorry about all the trouble I know how you are feeling.
I’m glad he’s still with his Nan. I remember one time La-Verne said (rather glibly and irritating me) that the family was a ‘package deal’. But that’s just the point – they aren’t a package deal. I’ll do whatever I can reasonably do. But I know I can’t do for everyone what I’ll do for Tau.
And as well, nothing’s been cleared from the weekend. I’m still kind of upset with Leroi – but it’s Sheree I’m really angry with. I’m sick of the way she wants to be babied when something goes wrong, like she’s still a little kid, when she’s a grown ass woman.
Tuesday 9 September:
I get a text from Leroi tonight, which means I have to make a decision:
Hi mis me Leroi I feel so terrible for what ive done im so sry for my behaviour mis iknow that waz totally unexceptable towards you and urv done so much for us more then anyone and idont want ruin the progress me and tau have made at course or let anyone down. please cud i come bak? ican understand if u don’t want me there. but i promiss u miss that will never happen again, and ipromiss there will be no more drinking ever miss hope u cn forgive me.
I think it over for a while. I know Leroi’s young, and I tell myself he’s allowed to make mistakes. Still, the way he turned on Tau really shook me. Well, where’s the loyalty now? I ask myself.
It takes me ages to reply and poor Leroi must be worried, he sends a few of those ‘Miss?’ texts as he waits. Eventually, I decide: I tell him he can come back
Wednesday 10 September:
Everything goes ok, but at the same time I can see that the boys are slightly anxious and on their best behavior – especially Leroi. You know, just being that extra bit more polite. They’ve had a good day at course and want to shout dinner, which is nice. Even so, we’re aware of recent events, so it feels a little awkward. Leroi asks if he can take a drink out of the fridge; that kind of thing. It’s all kind of tiring. Not in a bad way, just… in a way.
Thursday 11 September
I miss a call from the agency and debate with myself over whether to ring them back or not. I eventually decide I’d rather crawl over broken glass than go do a day’s substitute teaching today. I don’t know why, because it isn’t that bad. But really? – I ask myself. Did I quit teaching at MC just so I can keep doing the same old thing somewhere different?
Bang goes another 230 bucks (that’s about what it is after tax), but I just can’t do it today. And I even packed up my lunch, too. Oh well.
Friday 12 September
Pretty crap weather out – and I’m supposed to be teaching PE all day. But I see a narrow window of opportunity to be seized, as the relief coordinator at Carthill High comes out with the timetables. “Which one do you want?” she asks the assembled group of substitute teachers, vaguely proffering a couple of sheets towards two of us. One of these looks to be Junior PE from start to finish; the other has a mix of PE and other subjects. I see Samoan 301 in period 1, English 101 in period 2… “I’ll take this one,” I tell her.
The other reliever, who has waited too long and now hovers just behind me, says uncertainly, “I was told I was having English…”
The relief coordinator looks a touch exasperated at this, saying, “We’ve asked for eight relievers and we’ve only got six. I’ve got all this internal cover to do as well…”
So off I go to 13 Samoan.
Saturday 13 September
I get up to make a cuppa tea and some toast, thinking how this time last week, Sheree was here and clinging like a leech to the boys. And this time Sunday, I was still outside with Leroi as the sun came up.
It doesn’t sound nice to write that Sheree’s clinging like a leech. But ‘nice’ is not where I need to be at present.
Friday 19 September:
My evening doesn’t work out quite as planned. Because after school, where am I? At the doctor – waiting two whole hours to get Tau’s forms filled. And where’s Tau? Out at Clancy with the boys, who’ve come to pick him and Leroi up. And why do I do it? Because I can’t not try. Sometimes I wonder at myself, though. I question my sanity, sitting there in the waiting room, having already been told by one of the receptionists that the doctor (not being Tau’s regular GP) might not be able to sign the forms without his actual presence. She shrugs, not unsympathetically, saying, “Try if you want. But I can’t guarantee it.”
Admittedly Tau had tried too, earlier on in the day (they told him to come back later; there was only one doctor on). So I wait patiently, talking with a man called Wiremu – who turns out to have Alzheimer’s – about his army days. His wife (Joy is her name), comes out from her consultation and sees us, flurries straight over to ask if he’s been bothering me.
They affect me greatly, Joy and Wiremu. His voice has the unmistakable tone and oratorical style of a native speaker of Te Reo. She’s Pakeha. He remembers the old days, she tells me; his army days. All the people, all the places – he served in Malaya and Singapore. He forgets the things that happened a few minutes ago. They married in 1960 and have been living in Municipal for 48 years.
He doesn’t drink beer anymore, doesn’t go out in the evening nowadays. And every afternoon, he says to her, “Mum, can I have an ice cream,” and she makes him a big one. He eats it in the room, and five minutes later, he asks, “Mum, can I have an ice cream.”
“You’ve already had one,” she tells him.
“When did I have one?” he asks. “I didn’t have an ice cream.” He insists, and gets bad tempered, argumentative. “He takes it out on me,” Belle tells me.
“It must be very hard on you,” I say.
“It is,” she replied. “Sometimes it’s like that all day long.”
She doesn’t have a single complaint to make about her situation – she’s just tired, and acknowledges it. I’ve already heard her coughing in the doctor’s room. She has high blood pressure, and edema in her legs (cellulitis, she says, showing me the purple swelling).
At 5:45 I come away with Tau’s signed paperwork. The boys are still up at Clancy, of course. I have a feeling they’re going to ask me if they can have a few cans here again, sometime soon. I don’t know how I’ll play it when they do. It’s not a ‘never again.’ (despite Leroi’s text hyperbole). It’s just… I do need to set boundaries.