Rogue energies

Friday 26 September, 2014:

Kendrick Lamar through the speakers, news on TV, books and lappy out on the kitchen table. I like mornings; going to work and shit.

Get home again to find three DVDs and a note on the table: ‘Miss will you be able to drop these dvd’s off before you go gym plez. MISS wel B N CLANCY THANKS MISS 🙂 an miss we can’t find the pad locks’.

I carry out this request, then hit the gym. Come back and warm up some leftover chicken curry and rice, which has evidently been mined for its chicken, and is now almost vegetarian.

 

Around 10, Tau texts to see if I can pick them up, they’ll start walking along Carthill Rd. I go collect them and we head back via the shops at Municipal, where Tau does a long and complicated tally of his finances before ordering chicken and chips. They want to buy me takeout as well, and though I keep on explaining I’ve already eaten, this only serves to mystify them (despite the lateness of the hour) and intensify their efforts at persuading me otherwise.

I can’t help but laugh a little bit, despite my worry at their overall state. Both of them are so drunk that it isn’t really funny at all, stumbling around and “m’bro’ing” everyone out on the street.

 

Back in the car, I’m barely able to engage in the general conversation. I’m just trying to stay one step ahead (thinking of the potential for things go awry) – and I feel slightly resentful, too. Not at coming out to pick them up, but at having to absorb all these rogue energies. I can’t tell them they’re being dicks, even in jest. Tau and Leroi wouldn’t cope with that right now. It would just get them all upset, which is not the way to roll with drunk people.

So I put up with them going on fulsomely about everyone and everything, all the way home. I’m quiet and, I guess, reserved – which only makes them more garrulous in their approach; trying to make me happy, I think.

 

The minute we get home, Tau realizes he forgot to pick up a foil (which he already paid Kost for) and so out we go to Clancy again – Leroi stays back to make a start on the takeaways. And as soon as Tau’s on his own with me, everything just comes tumbling out. Because he’s so drunk, there is almost no caution in his approach. I can see (and he even says at one point) that he trusts me enough to talk about certain things. So I can’t keep running that ‘polite’ strategy anymore, holding the vibe at arm’s length.

“Well, it’s good you want to tell me, Tau,” I say.” But I’d listen anytime. You don’t have to get drunk first.”

“It’s hard to talk about it,” Tau says. “I don’t like saying things to people.” He thinks about this and reconsiders his words. “Except you, Miss,” he clarifies.

 

So… all the way to Clancy and back again, Tau talks. First, about the way he wrestles with his conscience. It makes me think of that ‘two wolves’ story, maybe one day I’ll show it to him.

Next he tells me he had another bad day at course today. He and Leroi left early and went home, because Tau was getting aggro with everyone all day long.

“It’s ok, Tau,” I tell him. “If that’s how you were feeling, then you did the right thing going home early.”

And he looks momentarily soothed by this.

 

Then he confesses he almost hit Maxwell – it was at their last counselling session, when Max mentioned Sheree.

“I know my mum’s doing dumb stuff,” Tau says in frustration. “I know she’s doing the wrong things – no-one has to tell me that, I can see it for myself. I

I nod and he goes on: “I wanted to just hook him. But I didn’t – cos we’re getting paid more to go to counselling.”

“That’s not the only reason,” I suggest.

“Yeah, I know,” Tau agrees reluctantly. He shakes his head, saying, “Max’s taught me heaps. And… I like him. I couldn’t hit him – but I did want to.”

“It’s not unexpected though, Tau,” I say. “Counselling can bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings. Honestly, Max wouldn’t have been surprised if you felt upset. I’m sure he expected it, and knew what to do.

“I think he felt… scared, for a second,” Tau says. He sounds guilty at the thought. “I think that’s why we finished the session early. He just went all quiet, and then he said, ‘Ok, let’s wind this up.’”

“Yup,” I say, getting it. “That makes sense. But, the thing is, Tau – you didn’t hit him. You did the right thing, and you got through it. I’m glad you’ve told me.”

Tau manages a smile, and I think I understand now why Max seemed more reticent than normal last Sunday, when I went to get those forms signed. He was almost… a touch abrupt when talking about Tau.

 

By the time we get back, Tau has a slightly jolty expression of relief, to have gotten at least some of these worries off his chest. I think he’s about to say more, too – but for the fact that Leroi arrives straight out of the sleepout, to celebrate the arrival of the foil.

“You both need a sesh,” I sigh. “Go on then, and I’ll go make a cuppa tea.”

They laugh, tickled by this. “Cuppa tea…” echoes Leroi. “Should have a sesh too, Miss.”

“Hell no,” I tell them. “Someone has to stay straight, round here.”

“Haard.”

 

I come back out with my tea, and we talk, Tau circles back and forth, sometimes bestowing a hug upon me as he completes each tour of the sleepout. “I don’t know how to explain it Miss… I just don’t know how to explain it,” he repeats.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“When I see my family, and they say, oh we’re here for you, your family’s here for you, I feel like telling them – that’s nothing compared to this.” He looks at me and shook his head. “I can’t explain it Miss, I don’t know how to say it. But I just don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have anywhere to go; if I didn’t have you, didn’t have… this.” He holds one arm up to demonstrate, then embraces me, saying, “I love you like family, Miss.”

“Me too, Tau,” I tell him. “I’m here for you through thick and thin.”

“If I was rich…” Tau begins again, dreamily. “If I won Lotto, I’d give you a million dollars Miss, straight up.”

Pop

Monday 7 April, 2014:

Where to begin?

I guess with the simple stuff – the stuff I don’t really give a shit about.

13 History, for starters. They want an extension on their assessment: they’re ‘busy’, some have had Polyfest, they have part time jobs… on and on it goes. I have no sympathy; oh I could care less about their moaning and grumbling, today. We’re all busy, fuckit. And anyway, if that’s the case, how come no-one asked me last week?

So I just repeat myself: No, no, no.

“Well then the majority of the class won’t hand it in!” flounces Teresia.

“Oh well,” I remark unemphatically (thank you Slade, thank you). “Less for me to mark.”

 

I get (I think) around 11 submissions – maybe 12 –  by the cut-off time, 4:30. Lana Te Ua is the last one to turn in her folder. I find her sitting patiently on a bench outside the block (the caretaker having locked up the main doors already). She has a charming air of serenity about her as she waits for me to come out.

 

Other simple stuff: 9 Social are a more appealing ensemble – still babies, but they’re nice kids. They mess up the library, and I growl, then confiscate Chenille’s phone – an action for which she bears me no grudge. Which is why I like them. 13 History would have kicked up a big stink over that, with everyone jumping on the bandwagon.

In fact, Chenille comes up and puts her arms right around my neck. “Love you,” she says, before floating off back to her table.

Later, I see her doing exactly the same thing to her friend Karlene.

 

I don’t want to be a better ‘teacher’, that’s for sure – so Lord alone knows what I want to be better at. Better at getting it to run my way, I guess. Better at not caring about the small stuff. Maybe better at caring about the important things (of which there’s some… yes there’s some, even at Municipal College).

Better at doing my own thing, regardless of what anyone else thinks, or thinks they know about it. Because there’s no-one left there who knows me like that.

 

Ok… and then after school things begin to ‘happen’, things that aren’t quite so simple. And then are not simple at all.

I’m packing up when I get a text from Tau, saying he’s got that sixty dollars to give me. I’m touched that he wants to pay me back so fast, so I text him to tell him thanks, and I’ll come get it later on.

But just as I’m leaving school, my phone beeps again:

Sorry to b a pain miss, bt will I b able to loan tht 60 till payday pleaze miss, we jus got tha eviction notice tday an it sayz we have to move out by tmro lunch time

 Course you can have that money for as long as you like tau. But you should get your mum to ring vailea cos im sure th landlord cant do tht. Giving you one day thts nt right, you gota get 21 days notice I think.

 Thanks miss, an yup il try get her to ring vailea but mumz stressd out, I dnt thnk she feelz like talkn to enyone miss, r u bizzy by eny chance miss?

Free until 5:30, I can come pick u up if you want

 Oh yes pleaze, if thts alryt wth u?

 Ok il be there soon

 

I go pick him up, and he gets in the car, very stoic and impassive at first – I can see right away he’s stressed. I totally don’t know what to do, but we just talk for a while. It’s all I can think of, you know. And he does talk to me, which is something; more than nothing. Tells me Sheree’s just been crying and crying…  and everyone’s started packing.

Later, I take Tau back to Rutherford Ave, then go home and ring Vailea myself. No-one picks up, and I leave a long message, feeling like a a dick… but oh well. Then I text him to make double sure he gets the message.

By now I have no wish in the wide world to go to the gym. But somehow, I make myself put one foot in front of the other. I just figure that it’s got to be better than worrying and fretting over this whole thing.

 

When I get there, it’s already 6 pm, and it’s dark, and I’m tired. But I go do my workout anyway, and I even leave my phone in the locker… I just think, Ooh, how’s it going to help if I check it every two minutes, it won’t help at all. It won’t help me and it won’t help Tau.

I have to take care of myself too, no matter what’s happening with Tau – who I care about so much. I have to be strong, and I know it. I can’t take on anyone’s energy that way, letting it resonate and double up. Instead I have to kind of ‘pop’ mine out, then flatten and smooth it – I mean shape it like a piece of dough; that’s the analogy that comes to mind.

Then my actions become almost… meditative, in a way. I read that over, and crack up because it sounds so gumpy. But honestly, I know what I mean – so it’s alright.

Afterwards, I come home and make a kind of hash-brown omelette thing, with garlic and vegies. Spoon of sour cream and some chili sauce on the side. It turns out surprisingly yummy, considering it’s just created out of bits and pieces from the fridge.

 

At 9:45 I hear back from Vailea:

I will go around tomorrow and see what I can do.. the landlord must give more notice than that.

So the cavalry’s on the way – and thank goodness for that, because I don’t know shit about tenancy process, and I have to go work in the morning.

I text Tau to let him know Vailea’s going to try and help sort things tomorrow. But I don’t hear anything back, and I reckon they’re all stoned by now – so I try to get some sleep, which is what I need.

 

Tuesday 8 April:

There’s a full staff meeting after school, to which I half tune in; half tune out. I keep my phone on, and around 4 I get a text from Tau, asking me if I’m busy. And then – rather obliquely – he wants to know if him and Leroi can come kick it in the shed.

I don’t know if he means now, later, or for an unspecified length of future time. So I just reply that I’m stuck at a meeting until 5:30, I’ll call him after.

He tells me that the family packed up last night and left the house this morning. And he hasn’t heard from Vailea all day.

I’m not saying Vailea didn’t try to go round there – I’m sure he did. He would have contacted Sheree, too. Who knows if she’d even reply, the way she is at the moment.

 

To be honest I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m there for Tau, that goes without saying. And I have aroha for Leroi, I don’t want to part the two of them, not right now when they need one another. But honestly – what are they going to ask of me? And can I cope with whatever it is? I don’t know the answer. I just know I need to change, so that I can do it, and so that it takes me… somewhere. God knows where I’m going, but I guess I need to go there.

And why, and why… and why? What does it mean, and how come it’s me… for this? Because it is – and even though I don’t know much, intuitively I think I should trust whatever strange process is leading me through this time and place. But I don’t know how to control anything yet, and I have to learn.

 

I feel kind of floaty, after Tau’s text. I just stick my earphones in and say nothing to anyone. I’m sitting next to Ross and I honestly don’t even say one word – my thoughts preoccupy me.

The meeting finishes and we all walk across to the car park, and Marjorie makes some little managerial joke and everyone laughs – except me. I’m almost oblivious to my surroundings by now. But it impinges very slightly on my consciousness. Normally I’d make the effort to give some socially conventional response: a little laugh or a bit of a comeback. Today though, I just feel the attempt fall away, without any attempt to grasp it.

She turns and looks at me and says, in a curious and actually a caring way: “Are you ok?”

“Yes, yes I’m fine…” I murmur.

Holding up

Friday 21 February, 2014:

The alarm wakes me at 6 o’clock, and I put it on snooze a few times before getting up half an hour late. I jump in the shower – I feel quite energetic, despite my broken sleep. Eat some weetbix, make a cuppa tea, and I’m at work before eight.

All I have to do is hook the laptop up to the data projector and I’m ready to go. I actually welcome having something to do and to think about, plus I have a ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe today that makes all the kids very orderly.

But at the same time it all just keeps pushing at my mind.

 

Saturday 22 February:

I find some random line today which really appeals to me:

The thing most forget while dreamily looking off into the horizon for the ship of their dreams to come into port is that such ships never sail in but are actually built beneath your very feet. (Mike Dooley)

And just so you know, that last part kicks it in even more. I really like ship metaphors. I don’t know why – I always have done. So I have one of those ‘aha’ moments, where words align with images, and resonate quietly in my mind.

Maybe, just maybe… this is the way to proceed. Maybe I’m wrong, thinking all I’m doing is sweeping the floors and securing the doors of the ROR. And you know, I’m not straight wrong, because there’s an element of that too. But what I’m saying is, it could be exactly the right thing to do now. For whatever reason – and I don’t know what it is yet – maybe it’s time to build my ship, from right inside this very citadel.

 

Sunday 23 February:

I go to school, and start sorting out stuff in my room. Take it real slow, just a couple of things at a time. Documents and papers, to begin with – getting rid of everything that’s out of date, and streamlining all the current stuff in a more accessible way.

I’m not a hoarder by nature – well of course I’m not. Even when I’m travelling, I keep culling my suitcase. So I find this kind of activity quite relaxing.

As I leave to go home, I walk past the other classrooms: piles of paper all over the desks, and things falling out of cupboards, and clutter on the floor, and I think – well if that’s the way you like it.

 

Monday 24 February:

I try to keep my mental state buoyant today. I’m nice to the babyish year 9’s and don’t take personal offence at the lazy and immature year 13’s. I go to the departmental meeting (a whole hour after school) and actually try to be helpful to Shakira. Then I return to my room and begin my preparation for tomorrow’s classes. By 5:45 I’m at the gym, and I’m home by 7, heating up a nice big bowl of spaghetti.

I really am trying. In a way, it’s as much for Tau as for any other reason. I always remember, I never forget, how Tau’s brave. And so I guess I can be brave too. And please God don’t forget about my Tau.

 

Tuesday 25 February:

Maybe the Room of Requirement’s meant for me, at the moment. As a place where I can be quiet, and busy, and free of unnecessary paraphernalia. It’s calm and soothing – even without my bro Slade. I feel kind of… economical here. Efficient, but not hurried.

And the thing I’m discovering about work this week, is that it actually does help me to put my heart into not the stupid things, but the important things. Therefore, to realize the stupidity of the educational curriculum doesn’t rule out giving my attention to the kids who have to go through it every bit as much as I do. So every time I feel bored as a motherfucker, I just try to go work with the tables. Not for the doing of the task itself (i.e. not for the ‘learning’) but really, for the sense of not being alone in this clangy old jail. And if there’s a better way to describe school, I don’t know what it is. Especially now the troops have left.

 

But there’s got to be a reason for me to be here right now. So I like the idea of building that ship right under my feet, and right under the noses of whoever thinks they know what’s good. Because they don’t know. If there’s a way in, there’s a way out. And just like always – if there’s a way, I can find it.

Patience, and activity, and working through my fears: fears of being abandoned, being forgotten, or just not being important to another soul. Those beliefs have got to go. And while I work them out, patiently, I’m going to build that ship from whatever I find, or can take, or stockpile, or create out of bric-a-brac. And when it’s ready, I’m going to go hook up with the troops.

Until then, I won’t refuse the important things. Finding solidarity with others. Treating people like brothers and sisters.

 

Later, the blog post is posted; this time it gives me a little flip of trepidation to hit ‘Publish’. I’m getting further into this whole story, and I don’t know quite how I’m going to write about the next thing, and the next thing… but I’m not stopping.

 

Wednesday 26 February:

10 Social, I’m going around the tables and this new little girl from down the line, her name’s Miria – has been tagging on her book cover in black vivid. Big, bold tagging; it reminds me of all the old days with the year 10’s, way back when. So I just note it and say nothing, just sit with her table and help them with their ‘Roman Menu’.

“What’s an entrée?” Lauralee asks, and we talk about it, Meanwhile Miria keeps on admiring her own handiwork, waiting for me to tell her off.

And I just say, “How are you getting on, Miria? How’s your menu going?”

“Look, tagging, Miss,” says Eden, with a smirk.

“Oh yup,” I say. “But I bet you’ve been doing your menu too, aye Miria.”

She glances at me as if to say: What the fuuuck?

And Lauralee says, “Miss likes tagging, aye Miss.”

“Yes, I do,” is all I say, and I just say it in a matter-of-fact way, so Miria can see I’m not trying to labour some point about the difference between graffiti art and tagging’ (as if I ever would – but she doesn’t know me, and so I keep things simple).

 

Miria says nothing, but about five minutes later she calls me over softly, and says, “Miss? Can you help me with my menu?”

“Oh my gosh!” I scold Lauralee, who’s meant to be the helper for that table, because she’s finished. “Didn’t Lauralee help you like she’s supposed to, girls?”

“No!” they say (Miria and Eden). “She ain’t helping!”

“Come over here and help, Madam!” I tell Lauralee, who gets the giggles with me. And then she goes to help Mia, and I sit down with Miria, and we all just get along with the frickin Roman menu: fruit and cheese and small fish and water and wine.

“Small fish…” says Miria. “Sounds yuck.”

“Must be like sardines, I guess,” I say, thinking about it.

“Ew, yuck – I hate sardines,” Miria shudders. “I like that other stuff better. Tuna.”

“Me too,” I say. “Tuna’s nice – sardines are alright though.”

Then we all discuss the sushi at the café, and how it’s got tuna in it, though Eden says it’s yuck too, and so on and so forth… and I feel so much better and less bored, and I really do like Miria, whose tagging never bothered me, not one whit, I can tell you. And I hope she could sense that.

 

After work, I coax myself to the gym, and spend fifteen minutes asleep in the car before going in (à la Kepaoa). Yawn my way up the stairs to pump class, set my weights out nicely, and then kind of crash on the floor until the last ten seconds before the class starts. At which point I have a big swig of water and pick up the bar.

I’m fine straight away, once things kick in. On a good day I feel tough, at the gym. It can restore a lot of my energy – and today was like that.

As for Tau, I just hope he’s holding up, that’s as much as I can wish for.

Happy

Wednesday 29 January, 2014:

I wake up at 4 am, with questions that press at my thoughts and won’t go away, like a large and persistent cat squashing and squirreling itself onto a cushion. What am I doing back at MC? How am I going to cope there on my own? And when my mind straight away adds, ‘without Slade’, I lay in the peaceful dark, and feel tears sting my eyes.

The troops have left… I feel like the last watchman, sometimes. I need to pack up the last handful of stores, shut the door quietly on the dusty rooms, and ride out.

 

Sarsha mails me – Tau didn’t go see her last week. I say I’ll try to get hold of him. I guess his beni’s been cut by now. He has to actually go to a course, for Winz to be satisfied with paying him on an ongoing basis. Having said that.. obviously I’ll help in whatever way I can to get him reinstated.

It’s not like he doesn’t know the deal, either. It’s more that… things get in the way, I know they do. And Winz (apart from Sarsha) have been useless, really. They insist on ‘compliance’, and at the same time they make it technically so difficult to attain. But as far as I’m concerned, Tau’s entitled to something. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about that. He does his best with all of it, and he tries over and over again. It’s just – like I said – things get in the way.

 

Thursday 30 January:

Just being at school keeps  irritating me, just scratching at me all day. I have to keep reminding myself to take ‘that look’ out of my eyes. Even so, it hovers there.

Sometimes it works to just tell myself – honey, you’re doing good, you’re doing great. No shit – but my eyes still feel big and hounded. I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t notice.

 

Sunday 2 February:

Shame is so embodied, for me. I never actually think  – oh, I’m ashamed – in advance of any situation. When it happens, it’s more like a physical and instantly betraying reaction. I feel it kick in, and then I’m powerless as a limp little kitten terrified by a big dog. My bones quiver. It can happen at the weirdest moments: one time it was the supermarket checkout. I could hardly speak, my mouth felt as if it might lock up, I was dizzy – I don’t know why.

And yet there are times I can just stroll in and take control, like it’s no thing. When the stakes are so much higher. When the game matters.

I guess in some ways, shame (that old knee-jerk reaction) could just be my body’s way of trying to cut myself some slack, after those high stakes situations. Maybe it forces me to go to ground for a while, and to rest.

But there must be other ways I can restore my energy. I look in the mirror and sometimes I wonder: So, what do I have? Do I have anything, or no? Could I ever be one of those lucky people who gets stronger, more useful with time? And I do not know.

 

Monday 3 February:

I’ve been thinking about how it feels (or how I think I remember it feels) to wake up and be relaxed and happy. Just plain “happy”, huh. Could I ever get it back? And I’m not sure. I remember a time, long ago, when I didn’t wake up with my jaw clenched like a trap, to steel myself for the day ahead.

Being unhappy, it’s like the worst habit of all. It’s not a thing you do in itself. It’s like a combination of all the other things, the things I was trying to write about yesterday. Endlessly looping that old shame circuit, with a little rest in between rounds. My mind’s constant wheeling and the exhaustion that brings me to an halt… before the whole thing just cranks up again. Over and frickin over.

There are things that make me happy, and there are times I’m happy – don’t get me wrong. But often, I have this sense that I’m just doing those rounds. That I’m allowed small bits of happiness, that I can have these crumbs if I’m ‘good’. If I’m loyal. Never complain, never refuse my part, never stand out, never try to be anything special.

It is enough, I sometimes think, to be acknowledged for your role (and you know by that I don’t mean teaching). But what if you can’t keep on proving your worth?

Makes me feel very quiet, writing this down.

First day blues

Monday 23 April:

First day back at school, and I feel like a creeping, scuttling thing – a stupid mouse with its stupid paws up to its stupid face. Furtive, and afraid, and ashamed. And I don’t know how to fling myself back into the warm alive feeling of breathing and a heart beating, and love not lost at all.

 

Rewind:

Just first day blues, in a way. I wake up at 4, and can’t get back to sleep. Day doesn’t look good. Well, I always feel a bit like that at school, anyway. And the first day of term it just kicks in real hard.

I have 9 Social, first up. At least they’re cheerful souls. But honestly – the folders – and I’m waffling on about ‘character’ and it all feels so contrived, and I still have to do it. I growl the big table of boys at the back, for talking when I’m talking, and three of them obligingly split off and come sit up by me. I can’t help but really like them; doing their work like it means something.

And the day’s only just begun.

 

Interval. The race to pack up, do the board up, get outa class, get a coffee, eat something – barely 20 minutes from start to finish – and my feet are killing me. Haven’t worn heels for two weeks.

And then 12 History. It goes and doesn’t flow… but yeah, it’s alright. Losaline, today… with her mascara on so thick she can hardly keep her eyes propped open.

Then the next quick break; I find these dumb short breaks so stressy. You see even one person, and the time’s gone. And on a busy day it’s just too much. Morris ‘pops in’ – and then lunchtime’s over. At first I think he’s come to say hello, but really, he only wants the key to get into the classroom next door. We talk, inconsequentially. I feel (and probably sound) slightly short with him, seeing as: a) I’m missing the chance for a break, and b) I know Morris is not actually ‘catching up’ with me, it’s a means to an end.

Ok – I get to eat my chocolate yoghurt and talk to La-Verne for five minutes. And then it’s on to 11 Social. Thank the good Lord for small mercies. They are so nice, and interested; and for the first time all day, I feel like what we’re doing, or learning, is… important. And they’re not my ’09 class, but they’re cool. Neon’s back – what a crack up guy. He actually sounds like he’s taking the piss – or is gonna be – and then he doesn’t; he just nails it.

 

We review the Civil Rights Bill, and: “Why was it controversial?” I ask.

They pore over their books, muttering to one another, “Why… why was it controversial…?”

But Neon lifts his head and says, “I know why it was controversial.”

Everyone laughs – can’t help it – it’s just his pleased, but also quasi-joking tone of voice.

“Ok, why was it controversial?” I ask, playing along, but actually hoping he does know.

“Because of the Federal Government,” he announces.

I say, “Ye-es… what about the Federal Government?”

“Because…” he replies. “Of people thinking the Federal Government was interfering in things that should really belong to State law.”

I look at Neon’s intelligent and happy face, and I can’t help grinning. “Well done!” I say.

The class realize I’m not joking, and crack up again – partly at his expression which combines mirth with satisfaction.

 

Yup – that class I really like. And so I feel a little bit more at home in the classroom again. But it doesn’t last… and after school at the mentoring meeting I feel like the biggest fake on the planet. Truly.

Fine (who I really like) has provided a big afternoon tea, and asks all the mentors to introduce themselves and share any tips they might have. She says a few introductory words for a couple of people, including me – telling everyone that I’m: “very experienced,” and a “huge asset” to the programme. “And modest,” she adds, as I demur; partly out of politeness, but partly also because I think – oh maan, if they only knew. Elroy on Friday. Tau still in business. Me driving Kepaoa away from the cops; the discussion with Paki on how to frame the story and procure the substitute gun.

I feel like I ain’t shit. A shit, fake teacher… and stressed. Because my feet hurt in my dang heels, and I’m just fronting now – at the mentoring meeting. I feel bad about all of it, because Fine’s pretty straight, and I don’t even think I should be here.

 

After the meeting winds up, I go to the supermarket to get a couple things, go home – and I feel so low, and afraid, and ashamed. And that’s why I start off the way I do.

But when you kinda rewind the day, it starts to make more sense; this feeling. So I just sigh, and cook dinner… and then Tau bounds in. And I think: Oh… couldn’t I just be grateful for what I’ve got? Which is, I guess, the trust of this very wary and private soul, who came here when he had nowhere else to go… and is still here, to the amazement of his entire family. Surely it counts for something – it does. Against all the odds, and against the first day back at school.

So I decide to be more realistic. Old patterns; maybe you can’t beat them… but perhaps you can use them, to catch that orbit as it swings round. Powerful old patterns contain a huge amount of energy – I’ve said that before. But the question is: how do you harness that energy; direct it somewhere else; do something different?

Ethics

 

Monday 23 April:

There’s kind of an ethical battle going on in my mind. And I start to wonder: God, what kind of person am I?

This morning I go pick up Elroy; it’s been arranged (via Kepaoa), days ago. I ask him if the Youth Mentoring people have rung his brother yet, and he replies: elroy zd naup ae, bicchz ah. U gne take him?’

 

So we agree: 9:30. But when I get there, no-one answers the door. I text Kepaoa, get no reply. But just as I’m about to leave again, the garage door rolls up, and Paki is standing there. I jump out to ask him if Elroy’s home, and: “Yes,” comes the reply.

I say, feeling irritated with Elroy. “He knows I’m supposed to pick him up.”

Paki opens a door off the hallway to reveal Elroy sleeping soundly. Upon being woken, he protests that Kepaoa hasn’t told him I’m coming.

“Yes he has,” Paki says, with a matter-of-fact sigh.

“I’ll wait for you in the car,” I tell Elroy..

 

A few minutes later, Elroy appears, in a blue T shirt embellished all over with the letters ‘CG’. He gets in, saying easily and apologetically, “Sorry Miss… Kepaoa did tell me, he told me heaps of times. But then I got really stoned last night, so I slept for ages.” He adds, “Kepaoa’s gone somewhere with our uncle. He’s got no texts – otherwise he would have reminded me, too.”

“Yeah, well it’s alright… now,” I say.

 

So off we go to the Youth Mentoring place. On the way, Elroy tells me he’s been doing nothing. And he’s clearly relieved to see some new developments, after a whole month of this. So I say, “But Elroy – if you knew I was coming early, why did you get so stoned last night.”

“Cos… I’ve been getting stoned a lot,” he replies, without pretense. “Too much.”

“Yeah – that’s what Kepaoa said, too.”

 

As the interview proceeds, my phone goes off – a text from Kepaoa:

‘ms its Kepaoa, ms aye, can you du me a favr after? If that’s alryt wichu? kanu pik me up?’

 So when Elroy finishes up (looking very cheerful about the whole thing), we start out for their uncle’s house, a couple of suburbs east of Municipal . He and I soon establish that I know the the general direction  (he doesn’t), but he knows the way to the actual street from the motorway off-ramp (I don’t – and Elroy proves to be a surprisingly good navigator).

As we drive along, drugs is a predominant theme. Far be it from me to be judgmental about these matters, but it’s pretty clear that weed is high on Elroy’s priority list. Elroy straight up tells me he wants to score; has ten dollars on him for a half. He’s totally up front about it – checks to see if Cluzo’s got anything after being busted. And there’s no point in me being cagey – Elroy knows all the boys – he could find that out for himself.

But nonetheless, I feel like: Oh, who am I, to be discussing this, so freely and frankly? When I’ve just taken Elroy to his mentoring appointment, and I do care that he doesn’t get himself into more trouble. But also… there’s no point in pretending Tau doesn’t stay with me, so: what does it all signify? And even then, the story’s only half told, but I’ll come back to it… because first, we pick up Kepaoa.

 

No-one’s home. We park in the driveway and contemplate this fact. “You should text him; tell him the meter’s running,” says Elroy.

Right then we see them (Kepaoa and his uncle) coming up the road carrying bags, and, “Ohh… they’ve been shopping,” Elroy remarks.

“Well we did get here pretty early.”

“Look – they’re not even hurrying!”

Indeed, they’re strolling, but when Kepaoa sees us he leaps across the road, laughing and whacking Elroy’s head (which is out the window) as he goes past. “We’ll just be a minute…” he calls to me.

 

The minutes tick by.

“What are they doing?” grumbles Elroy. “Kepaoa’s putting on his makeup; he spends ages in the bathroom – like a girl,” he adds.

I snort. “Straightening his hair,” I suggest.

We look at one another, and get the giggles at the thought of Kepaoa applying a flat iron to his buzz cut.

 

At that moment, the door opens and out he comes, having changed his clothes.

“Told you – in the bathroom,” Elroy says to me under his breath, and we shake with laughter.

Kepaoa sees our faces and comes to an offended halt. “What are you laughing about?” he asks.

This just makes us laugh all the more.

“Nothing – but geez, hurry up!’

“Cos the meter’s still running!” Elroy points to the clock on the dashboard.

“Taking too much time doing your makeup…” I add, and Elroy bursts out laughing and receives another clout from his brother.

“Right – no lunch for you two then,” Kepaoa says; then, “Nahh, here you go,” and hands out some pies.

“Aw, it’s ok Kepaoa, I don’t wanna take your lunch,” I begin – but he insists, saying, “But Miss, I got it for you. Look, there’s heaps here – we bought lunch for everybody.”

So I accept it gratefully – I’m actually pretty hungry by now. And just like always, it simply makes me happy to feel normal, the way I always do with Kepaoa.

 

As I write, my mind keeps settling on the things which come next in this narrative – the things I’m not proud of:

We go somewhere (to ‘sort out some stuff’), and Elroy and I wait for Kepaoa; just talking in the car. Then we go back to Municipal, where I drop Elroy off at the mall, before taking Kepaoa home to Carthill. Only, there’s more than this too – and I don’t mean to, but I think I let people down.

Kepaoa’s parents trust me… Paki trusts me. And what kind of person am I? Would I do the same thing again? Calmly sit in the car while Elroy buys half a foil from Tau. Basically ‘facilitate’ it, by stopping at home on the way back, when I know that’s what Elroy wants me to do. That’s not why I go by home… I’m just saying that, effectively, that’s also what it is – or it’s one way of seeing it. At the time it doesn’t feel like that. And it’s not that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t get it elsewhere. I know that. Or even that I’m opposed to it on principle. But Elroy’s got enough problems – am I just adding to them?

And what must Kepaoa think of me now? I almost text him in the middle of the night to say sorry – but think better of it. Kepaoa doesn’t need to be burdened with the meandering of my night-time mind. I don’t think it’s anyone’s dilemma but my own.

 

 

Good, but not easy

Monday 13 September, 2010:

An extremely energetic day, in which I hustle nonstop. With the following result: Karys approves us painting directly onto two wall spaces in the block.

Even Dimario looks impressed.

Every time I pause for a moment, I’m aware that the empty feeling is just being held at bay, it hasn’t gone – but I know I can’t let myself dwell on it. I hold onto the upswing for all I’m worth.

 

Tuesday 14 September:

Karys wants to know what kind of paint we’re using, but she seems happy enough so far.

At lunch there are two ‘chairs’ in the hair salon, each with its own straightener in operation:  Serena and the girls on one side; Andre and the boys on the other. I’ve never seen so much hair look so straight and so shiny.

 

Thursday 16 September:

First day of the special two-day projects. It’s kind of a strange day – where should I start?

Leroi texts me this morning – can I pick up him and Taurangi?  I leave my class with Kost (20 year old ‘guest artist’ and member of CP crew), and go.

All the kids just look when we walk in. I wonder what Dimario thinks, but I don’t glance over at his table. Tau goes to sit by Noa, and seems relieved that he’s made his entrance without incident.

 

It’s not ‘easy’ for Tau today – it’s good, but not easy. He’s so unused to any kind of restriction these days. His whole manner, in front of the others, is staunch, and his eyes dominate the room. Yet touchingly he asks me from time to time, “Miss, can we go for a walk?”

“Where do you wanna go?”

“Anywhere,” says Tau.  He’s hot and restless.

So we embark on a number of little strolls: to student services, the cafe, the office, the reception desk; anywhere I can think of. And as we walk around and about, Tau talks quietly to me, losing that hard look in his eye.

 

He tells me the Youth Services people have been to see him once – they left a card and told him to go round and see them. As if that’s gonna happen. They didn’t tell him anything new, and he didn’t ask anything.

“Tau, would you rather be back at school?” I ask him.

“Yes, I would,” says Tau simply.

We talk about it as we walk. I think it’s such a good idea in principle, but – like I said – he’s very much out of the habit (not that he ever had much of a habit in that direction to begin with.) And that really shows today. He veers from good, to sly, to virtually unbiddable in places, and then – with a mighty effort – back to good again. He draws on my cardboard boxes, my folders, the tray on my desk, my desk itself (he has to spray and clean that, much to his sorrow) He gets hot and wants to go for more walks, and we just walk, and talk, and go back to class.

 

On one of our walks, Tau asks me, “Do you think I should join CP?”

“Um…” I say, considering this. “Maybe.”

“Chase and Kost just asked me,” says Tau.

Did they?” I say admiringly. “Maybe you should, then – who’s all left in SSC now?”

“Quite a few people,” says Tau. “Like my uncle – and these boys who go to Carthill High.”

“But what about all those year 9’s?“ I say. “Are they really in SSC – or do they just think they are?”

“I don’t even know them,” says Tau. “They’re just little kids.”

“Who are the Carthill boys?” I ask. “How do you know them?”

“Met them at parties,” Tau tells me.

“Oh yup,” I say, thinking about it. “Um, then I think that it’d be alright to join CP then – maybe it’s a good idea.”

“Yeah, aye,” agrees Tau.

 

Later I see he’s hit CLUZO CP on a few things. CP’s a good crew to be in, anyway. And Tau gets up everywhere already, so it’s a good deal for them too. I understand Tau so well that it scares me a little bit. I don’t even prevaricate in these discussions – to be honest I feel quite normal about being consulted.

And Dimario is real good about Tau being there, by the way. Not one snide comment drops from his lips all day. Plus Dimario’s right in the zone today himself.

 

The cans are delivered. Tau comes with me to uplift them from main reception, and eyes the boxes with a yearning look.

“Can I have one?”

“Not today – tomorrow,” I tell him.

“But I might not be able to come tomorrow – my uncle’s just got out of jail and we’re gonna be drinking.”

“Oh, try to come aye Tau – you can drink in the weekend.”

“But it’s like… his first steps to freedom, “ muses Tau. “I wanna come school though tomorrow. I wanna paint.” He has a sudden thought. “If you gave me a few cans today, I could sell them and get some buds for school tomorrow!”

I can’t help but laugh at his serious expression. “No Tau – that’s a stupid idea.”

He chuckles.

I say “Remember – you promised to be good while you’re here.”

“I said I’d try,” Tau says, grinning at this technicality.

“Yup, and you’re a good boy, I know you’ve tried hard today – but you still can’t have cans. We have to count them – Mrs Kirk needs us to make sure they’re all there.”

 

It’s raining hard, and Tau is wearing a school jacket over his ordinary clothes. This provokes a minor confrontation with Marjorie, who sees us near the reception desk. “Taurangi!” she says, in a challenging way which makes Tau puff up. “Why are you here and wearing a school jacket?”

Tau looks her in the eye.  “Don’t own any other jacket,” he says, flatly and with subtle menace.

“He’s got a visitor’s pass,” I add (this is true; wisely I’ve signed him in).

But Marjorie must have passed things on, for later an email appears from Karys.  It says, somewhat ridiculously that since Taurangi has been seen here ‘in school uniform’, could I please explain the situation. But her tone is courteous rather than interrogative.

I do – with polite restraint – explain that Tau is in fact not in school uniform; he has also been signed in, and is clearly displaying a visitor’s pass. I add that he is not attempting to slip under the radar, and that the jacket is the only one he owns.

And I also mention next year and school – why not strike while the iron’s hot?

I don’t honestly know if Tau could handle school. Maybe yes, maybe no. But I’m more certain than ever that someone has to try something. I think: well, at least he knows I haven’t ditched him. And I won’t, I won’t ditch Tau.

 

Late in the day, Tau and Kost go off site for a bit. “I’ll be four minutes,” Tau tells me as they depart.

When they come back, I say, “Where did you guys go?”

“Went for a sesh,” he tells me, straightforward and perfectly frank. “I’m allowed to smoke buds now,” he adds proudly. “My dad said.”

“Cos you’re 16?” I ask.

He nods, as if it’s legal when you’re 16.

Tau’s doing his best for me – and yet he hardly knows the difference between what to do and what not to do, now. Something about this has intensified, and it makes me feel afraid for him. He doesn’t have the least sense of caution. Things and events come in moment-to-moment segments for Tau. They don’t join up. It scares me a bit.

And yet, just like I told him, I believe he’s a good boy – I believe it with all my heart. But ‘good’ means… what? I dunno.