Much aroha

Monday 21 October, 2013:

Ezekiel seems ok, quiet. Asks me for a pencil, does some work, then draws on his diary a little bit. He slips out at the end of class without saying a word about the phone.

“Think he needs another talk…” says Slade at interval, in a significant way. “Fuckin sketchy fulla.”

But I tell him to leave it.

It’s funny, because ‘sketchy’ is exactly the right word to describe Ezekiel, in a way (not in the exact way Slade means it, but there’s a link there all the same). It’s like I’ve only got an outline of him, and more than that I don’t know, at present

 

Tuesday 22 October:

Slade’s in my room most of the day, working on his art board. It’s all legit, he’s signed out of class – the board has to be done by tomorrow. Together we create a work space at the back table, and I provide some fine markers and earphones, and then go make him a coffee.

I’m going to miss Slade so much at school, it’s one of those happy-sad feelings right now. There’s a kind of tenderness in the air between us, with the knowledge that something’s almost over. Oh, it’s not ‘everything’ that’s over. But, you know, it’s a time and a place, and it’s been an honour to share that with him.

Today the two of us talk quietly, but very freely, about a lot of things. Sometimes the vibe just makes everyone else in the room go quiet too, I can sense it.

I really have a lot of love for Slade today. Much aroha.

 

After school, I call round and see Nio, taking some leftover cans (he wants to do some throwies in their shed).

I also feel a lot of love for Nio today. Ohh, fatherhood suits Nio. I’ve never seen him so happy, and settled, and so dang positive about the world and everything in it. He doesn’t say a bad word about a soul, the entire time I’m there, just holds his son and feeds him his bottle, and we talk.

 

Wednesday 23 October:

Slade and I set up in my room again. Before I go to the staff meeting, I write down my logon and password on a sticky note, and give it to him in case the laptop times out.

It’s kind of a big deal, and though I don’t say as much, Slade knows it. I never give my password out to anyone at school, not since Tau was there. Slade folds the small piece of paper and slips it into his pocket, saying, “Shot, Miss.”

When I get back from the meeting, he looks at me triumphantly. “Finished, Miss!” he says. “I’ve finished my board – the whole thing!”

Big grins on both our faces, as he continues, “I just took it over to my art teacher, and she’s put the number on it and everything, and it’s going down to Wellington!”

“Ohh…” I say, and then, “Wow, you’ve really done it!” I glory.

“I know!” he says in elation.

 

We have fifteen minutes before my first class, so I go upstairs and make us coffees. We kick back and share a piece of banana cake which I got on the way to school.

“Shot, Miss,” Slade says again. He looks super-content, which almost brings tears to my eyes. “Where did you get this from?”

“Bakery,” I tell him.

“Solid…”

 

Slade’s going up north this afternoon, for his uncle’s unveiling. “I have to,” he tells me matter of factly, but with a worried look all the same, not wanting to miss out on his last few assessments: PE and Hospitality. He can’t get back until sometime next week, soon as he can hook up a ride.

I email the teachers concerned. They say he can finish off the assessments when he returns.

At interval, I drop him home (hard and fast, because of the short break).  We share a quick cig outside, and I get back just in time for tutor. Have to piss around opening the bollards at the gate,  then sign myself in at reception, and cruise into the block like it’s no thing.

After that, the day is just its usual busyness, one class after another. I take the path of least resistance, much as I can and wherever I can. The only person I’ve put myself out for today is Slade.

 

Ezekiel comes to see me at the end of lunch. He has some story all prepared about the phone, and telling his parents, and them locking it away, and him needing to apologize… but I still don’t get the phone, and I don’t really believe his story (which in any case is confusing).

Lucky for him Slade’s left by then. I, on the other hand, am reasonably unperturbed at Ezekiel’s tale, and his (feigned?) remorse. I just tell him I’ll talk to him after class about it – 9 Social is about to start.

He works ultra hard in class, too. Keeps coming over and asking me “learning related” questions. So it’s easy to just shelve the whole business, for the time being.

But after class, he doesn’t wait back.

I don’t really know what to think about the phone. I’m reminded of what Alexander said once, about that DVD: “I think you might have to let it go, Miss.” In my mind, I’d let it go already. And that’s how I feel about the phone, too.

As for Ezekiel, although I don’t believe him, I can’t help feeling for him, all the same.

 

Thursday 24 October:

Without Slade, how do I cope with the sheer banality of school. Ohh it’s brutal, too, but it’s… blunted, it’s normalized for its citizens (including me – because how else do I stand it?)

And just the happy and resilient ‘everydayness’ of having one real friend in this stupid place, I’m going to miss that like crazy. Just writing it down makes my eyes sting with a couple of tears.

 

I get home, fix something to eat. I’m just sitting on the couch, and I get this feeling… like something is about to happen.  I’d  had that same intuitive sensation this morning as well. Actually took a peek out of the blinds to check whether anyone was there. No-one was, and I laughed at myself.

But then, tonight… I hear a lot of thumping and bumping at the front door. I know it’s Tau, before I even open it.  He has obviously been running, and he’s panting heavily – and drunk.

Tau gasps, “Miss… is it algood to get a lift, would that be ok?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I murmur. “You ok, Tau?”

He nods, but his eyes have that glazed-over, amped look.

 

In the car, he settles just a little bit.

“You ok… Tau?” I say again.

He takes some deep lungfuls of air, and his head and eyes swivel, and he just nods again.

“It’s ok Tau…” I say. “I’ll just drive, kay.”

 

As we drive, he tells me bits and pieces: someone is after him, over something that happened ‘ages ago’. The worry in my heart causes my driving to suffer somewhat, and we can’t help laughing at this, despite ourselves. Tau wants to stop at the liquor store (but of course) and I do a hasty U-turn into an angle park.

“Sorry Tau,” I say, unable not to smirk at myself.

“Algood Miss,” Tau says. He has gained a slight amount of equilibrium, the danger of my driving being comparatively much less than whatever has caused him to flee to my door.

A couple of minutes later, he’s back with a box of Cody’s. I don’t bat an eyelid, of course. And as we drive on to Rutherford Rd, he tells me that Scott is getting out of jail on Wednesday.

“Oh,” I say, and then, “Where’s he, um… gonna stay?”

“I wouldn’t have a fuckin clue,”  Tau replies, rather wearily. And the thought of Scott being out, and possibly at home, despite what doubtlessly are everyone’s doubts and fears, makes my heart kind of sink.

Tau directs me to pull up next to a ‘Give Way’ sign, saying, “That’s it, Miss. This is our house.”

It’s a friendly looking house with a white picket fence, and I coo, “Ohh Tau… that is a nice house. It’s nice as.”  And I really mean it.

Although Tau has already told me it was only ‘ok, better than nothing…’ he still looks pleased. And to my surprise, he just reaches across and gives me a great big hug.

Then he goes in, with his cans.

 

I come home, and for some reason I have this urge to clean up my wardrobe. I pick out few shirts and some shoes, and a couple other things that I don’t really wear anymore. Fold them in a bag to take to the charity skip tomorrow.

And then I just make a cup of tea.

There’s no-one else quite like Tau, I think. I can’t not love Tau. It would be unpossible. I just wish he was happy and safe.

 

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Better days

Tuesday 24 September, 2013:

I arrive at school just before 8:30, and miss the staff briefing to show ‘Exhibit A’ to Slade. He confirms that it is, without doubt, a “baggie”, and though he lets out a couple of ‘ohhwell’s, he is very kind and patient.

“It’ll get sorted, Miss,” he tells me, his tone soothing my ruffled energies. “It’ll all get sorted, don’t worry Miss.”

We decide that my modus operandi should be to speak to Tau, on his own, as soon as possible after school. I’m to approach the matter calmly, and not accuse him of anything. “He’ll tell you, Miss,” Slade assures me. “If you just have a quiet talk, he’ll tell you what’s going on.”

“I’m not judging anyone for using – the boys included,” I say, and Slade nods, saying, “I know.”

“But if that’s a choice they make, doesn’t mean I have to have it at my place either.”

“Fair enough,” he says. “My aunty’s the same.”

“I’m not saying I like it, if Tau’s using,” I go on. “But at the same time, I don’t think he’s a P head. I just wanna have a say about what goes on at mine.”

 

I drop Ezekiel off after school, it’s started to squall by now, and a cold and driving rain has set in. As we walk to the car, he lifts up his shoes to show me their soles. They’re worn right through, and saturated.

“Thanks for the lift, Miss,” he says, with genuine feeling. “My feet are pretty wet, aye.” He laughs, but shivers in his school shirt (no jumper, no jacket).

“Sure are,” I say, just lightly.

 

When I get home, it’s close to 4. I feel discomforted, at the thought of bringing things up out of the blue, with Tau. But I know I have to do it. So I go out to the shed, chat to him and Raphael for a moment first (about a couple of inconsequential matters), and then say, “Hey, Tau… can I talk to you for a sec?”

“Yup Miss,” says Tau, looking at me curiously as he picks up on my tone. “Ok.” And he gets up and comes into the house with me.

Once inside, I murmur, “Just… hold on a minute, Tau.” He sits down, waiting with a slightly wary patience, and I flit into the bedroom and pull the tiny ziplock bag out of my handbag, where it’s been all day. This, earlier, has made Slade grin. “Faar Miss, if anyone saw that, they’d probably think you were using!” he tells me, with great amusement. “It’s still got a few bits in it, too.” He peers at it, adding, “You should lick it,” and we dissolve into laughter.

I come back into the lounge, and begin, kind of ‘formally’ I guess:

 

“I don’t really know how to start,” I tell Tau. “But I’ve been thinking about it all night, so I better tell you what’s up. First of all, I want you to know I’m not upset with you, and I’m not assuming anything, but… I found this in the bathroom last night.” And I hold up the bag.

“Oh,” is all Tau says. He actually looks quite surprised by my revelation.

“So, I’m not gonna go off at you or anything Tau, promise. But I do need to know what’s going on, is that algood?”

He nods, saying slowly, “I… probably left it there, I think. When I had a shower.”

“That’s what I thought,” I say. “I didn’t know what to do, when I saw it, and I felt kind of upset. So I decided to just sleep on it, talk to you about it when I felt calmer.” I don’t mention Slade, knowing he’ll be the very soul of discretion.

 

There’s a little pause, and Tau just looks at me steadily. He says, “I don’t really use that stuff at all, Miss. Hardly ever. I haven’t, for ages…”

“Then… why was it there?” I ask, wonderingly.

His eyes meet mine, without any guile. “I had some with Michael,” he says. “He wanted to shout me. We didn’t do it here though, it was when we went out Saturday. The bag must have stayed in my pocket that whole time, and I just found it when I was getting changed yesterday. That’s the truth, Miss. I’d never use that stuff around here. I don’t even… I don’t even really use, honest truth. It was just that one time, with Michael. Apart from that, I don’t touch it, not for ages…  not since way back last year, with Mischa.”

I nod, and he goes on. “I don’t even know how to drive it, honest, Miss. Other people have to drive it for me. I don’t wanna learn, either. Don’t wanna get addicted, straight up.”

“That’s good, Tau,” I say. “That’s a relief.”

“Honest to who, Miss,” he assures me. “I won’t bring anything like that here. I didn’t even know I still had the bag on me.”

“And none of the boys, aye Tau.”

“None of them, promise. I’ve never let anyone use crack round here.”

“I believe you,” I say, and we give each other a little nod, which means – I trust you, and – I understand.

 

“And Tau… please don’t hold anything here, for anyone, kay?” I say, just to clarify this point.

“No, I won’t,” he says. “The only thing I ever keep here is just a few foils for myself.”

“And I’m algood with that, Tau,” I say. “You know I trust you on that one.”

“Yup, sweetas, Miss.”

We look at one another, knowing that this whole potentially difficult conversation has been navigated with respect and care on both sides. I think we’re both relieved, at that.

 

I mail Slade, and this is what he says:

its allgoods miss sweetas, allways better days, solid you sorted it all out, allgoods miss anytime

 

Wednesday 25 September:

I’m sad from the moment I wake up this morning. I don’t really know why. Tears just fall out of my eyes, no real reason for them. I try (honestly!) to imagine my ‘happy place’. I don’t know… I keep getting this mental image of lions at rest in the long grass, near a quiet lake. And then I just feel tired of being sad, and I get up and take a shower.

Michael’s car is blocking the driveway again. I get a surge of impatience when I see it – I stamp my foot, in the shower. But the feeling gradually recedes. By the time I leave for work, round 7:45, I’m calm, and just knock on the door of the sleepout to wake Michael up.

Tau comes to open the door, bleary-eyed. He’s left the keys to the house in the front door all night, which is just one more thing to frustrate me, when I see them there. But again, I sigh, telling myself they don’t do these things to annoy.

He’s apologetic, and so is Michael. “I didn’t mean to stay the night – I just fell asleep,” Michael tells me. “I’m sorry, Miss.”

“It’s ok,” I say. “I just need you to move the car, that’s all.”

All the same, the day hasn’t started off so great.

 

And then, at work I feel ugly, straight up. Bad hair day, just for starters. Itchy eyes, blotchy skin. The feeling lasts the whole day, pretty much. Driving home (after dropping Ezekiel off in Bream), I look in the visor mirror a couple times, and sigh.

 

Thursday 26 September:

Today, right when I need it, a little bit of gratitude kicks in. As I head off to school, it kind of occurs to me. An oblique thought, just something like – I’m grateful to live in this house. And then, I’m grateful that I earn enough to pay the rent. After that, things seem pretty simple. I look around and think, maaan, what am I fussing about? I got food in the cupboards, and everything’s paid up: the rent, the bills, the car. And I don’t have to depend on anyone for that.

Can you believe it, when I get to school, I still feel happy. I walk along thinking – ohh, I’m glad I’ve got a job.

All day long, I just keep getting these little waves of the same sensation, which feel like bubbles fizzing. Even when I look in the mirror, I don’t feel ugly anymore.

I’m grateful for the tiniest things. Noodles at lunch. Being able to run up the stairs. Email notifications on my phone.

After school, I go upstairs to the Faculty meeting, and I still feel fuckin grateful. I’m there till 4, collating grades with Mandy, like it’s no thing. Everything feels sweet and in tune.

Drop Ezekiel off, and I head home. Have a little talk to Tau, in the sleepout. He’s been resting, and I feel real tender towards him. I just think – Tau, I’m so glad you’re here right now. I’m glad it’s safe, and you know you’ve got somewhere to go. Doesn’t even matter about whether I’m special or not. It honestly doesn’t.

Then I go to the gym. Same deal. I feel like – ohh, wow I’m here.

When I get back home I make sausages and eggs for us, and watch Shortland St, and jam the laptop.

 

Friday 27 September:

Last day of Term 3. And Kepaoa’s court case, down the line. I text him to say good luck, though I don’t expect to hear back (and don’t).

School. I decide not to show a movie to 9 Social after all. I was going to, but it’s actually not such a great idea, on the last day of term. Phones and food and iPods will come out, feet will go up on the table – everyone thinking they’re the big boss. So, nope. We go to the library to do something on the computers instead.

At break, I go upstairs to make a coffee, and when I come back, Slade has popped out to have a cig, and Ezekiel’s sitting calmly on my laptop (on Facebook). I biff him off straight away, and banish him to a netbook at the far table.

 

Later on, Slade and I talk about it.

“I wondered if I should leave him on his own, lil shit…” says Slade.

“Nah you’re algood, he just needed to be told,” I say. “He’s alright.”

“Mmm, suppose so.”

We tsk a little bit at the absent Ezekiel. Probably wisely, he stays away for second break, though he comes back after school, and waits through the Faculty meeting (I take my laptop with me, this time).

 

When I get home, that holiday feeling kind of kicks in… almost. I still feel a kind of suffering patience, which I don’t want to feel anymore. I want to be over it; the craving to be special. I used to think I was over it. But really, I don’t know.

Some nights, if Tau doesn’t come inside, not even once, I imagine all sorts of things. Sometimes I imagine that he hates me. Sometimes I imagine that he resents me. Sometimes I think he feels sorry for me. And sometimes, I think (and this is more like the truth), that he doesn’t think about it one way or another.

One thing I’m pretty sure of, is that I’m not special anymore.

I’m going to be honest, it does sting. It really does. But it’s too easy to kind of nurse pain. Sometimes when you feel it real bad, you almost want to hold onto it. I don’t know why that’s so. Maybe because it lets you have a memory of happier times, which croons to you. Remembering when you were special to someone, letting your mind run over those feelings again and again, like you can experience them one more time. The pain is almost like a stroke; a touch… a hug. It’s bewildering, how it doesn’t help, but you want to feel it anyway.

But no matter how hard you focus on trying to re-experience that original impetus, in a sense it’s spent. Memories don’t produce better days, at least not on their own. They need to be put to the service of something new.

And (thanks, Slade) always better days.

Familiar

Saturday 14 September, 2013:

By 6 pm I’m ready to go meet Mia.

We go into the city, which is cool – and a little bit not. It is, and I yet feel kind of dowdy, all the same. My skin and my hair and my eyes and everything seem just so dull and plain. I want to be glammed up, but I’m just wearing jeans. I wish I’d made more of an effort, I guess.

Because Mia looks pretty. She’s wearing this T shirt which has a little ruched ribbon thing through the scoop of the neckline, and a skirt that picks up the colour of  the ribbon.

 

I get home to find Tau  drunk, in the sleepout. He’s alright though – I guess – and no-one’s been over, apart from the trustworthy Raphael.

When I say Tau’s alright… he is and he isn’t. My heart hurts for him, a little bit. His gestures and expressions and posture have that real trusting, almost exaggeratedly childish quality to them that sometimes tumbles out, when he’s drunk and not holding everything in as much. We share a ciggie and talk. He offers me a sesh as well, but I turn it down of course, not wanting to let that paranoid feeling hit me like a kick from a mule.

He tells me how he went for a drive with Michael the other day, and they drifted sideways around a roundabout; “I liked it…” he muses. “I was scared, when we started sliding. But it was kind of interesting… thinking, am I gonna live or die? I looked and I could see 180 on the clock.” He laughs. “And then we just slid right to the side and stopped, and I got this big adrenalin rush.”

 

“Hey Tau, I say, with a combination of relief and worry. “Be careful, aye?”

“Algood, Miss,” Tau murmurs.” “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll worry alright,” I tell him, and he smiles at me. “Tau, I want you to stay safe, please.”

“Do my best,” he replies, implacably.

Late at night, he goes out. I’m in bed by then and hear a car pull up, then leave. It must be been 12 or 1 by then, and I fall back asleep. I think I hear Tau’s footsteps returning sometime in the early dawn.

 

Sunday 15 September:

This morning Kepaoa texts me, he’s leaving town today:

Thanks mis fo seeing me. Hardz ms gna misu mis, chilin and dat wichu.

Naaaaaw, algood. im gona miss u too, egg.

 There is a kind of poignancy to this, knowing that we aren’t just talking about ‘till next time’. Kepaoa’s court case, which has now been relocated, is next week. And his lawyer’s told him he’ll very likely get home detention, minimum of 6 months.

 

I drop Tau round at his uncle’s, via the liquor store (the one off Rangitikei Rd).

“They must be missing you here,” I remark, as we pull up outside the shop.

“Saw me Saturday,” says Tau, with no fuss whatsoever.

“Oh my gosh, Tau,” I can’t help saying, but my tone makes him laugh, albeit briefly.

Raphael is with him. I’ve never seen Raphael drink, which I’m pleased about. Tau looks after him, I must admit. It’s Tau I’m concerned for, though. He sits very tired and relaxed in the car, smelling like he hasn’t had a shower for a week at least (which is probably the case). But that in itself don’t matter a thing. Tau’s so… familiar to me, honest truth. Familiar/familia.

Doesn’t mean I’m not worried though.

 

When we get to his uncle’s, Tau just puts ten dollars down on the seat, saying gently, “Gas, Miss.”

“Ohhh Tau, you don’t have to…” I begin.

But he nips out of the car and away, turning back to look at me and smile.

 

Monday 16 September:

This morning when I get up, I see Tau’s come back and made himself a feed – my mind eases a little.

Another day at MC. I have 9 Social first up, and afterwards Ezekiel waits behind and asks me, “Miss – where will you be at break time?”

“Right here,” I tell him.

“Are you gonna stay here?”  he checks.

“Yup, I usually do,” I say truthfully. With some kids I’d bullshit them and say I have to go upstairs, but I can sense what’s coming next, and, like I said… there’s just something about Ezekiel, I don’t know quite what, yet.

“Um…” he begins. “Is it alright if I stay here too?”

“If you want to,” I say. “Slade usually kicks it here as well – he’ll probably be along in a minute.”

“Who’s Slade?” he asks me.

“You met him one time,” I tell him. “You might not remember, though.”

“I think I know who…” he says, and sure enough, a moment later he points out the big windows to the block, saying, “That’s him coming now, aye.”

“Yup, sure is.”

Slade comes in and greets Ezekiel without apparent surprise, and in a friendly way. They don’t really say much to one another, but there is a slightly companionable vibe all the same, between these two aloof characters.

 

When the bell goes, Ezekiel asks me, “Miss? Where do you go, next break. Do you go somewhere?”

“Not usually,” I tell him.

“Is it ok if I come back?”

“Course it is,” I say, lightly. I’m not sure if something is going on, or if he just needs a little rest from his mates, today.

 

Second break, Ezekiel is there before Slade. When Slade arrives, once again not a lot is said, but there’s definitely an air of tolerance, rather than irritation.

At the end of break, Ezekiel stays behind and says, quietly. “Miss… do you have anything to eat?”

“I’m really sorry – I don’t,” I tell him. Which is the truth.

“That’s ok,” he says, and then, looking around the empty room, “Don’t you have a class now?”

“Nah… but you do,” I say, gently.

“Ok, I’m going,” he replies. “But… is it algood if I come back here? At breaks?”

“Course,” I say. “But Ezekiel, don’t you wanna kick it with your friends at break times? Jackson and the boys?”

“I’m not… really good at the stuff they like doing,” he tells me.

“Ohh, I bet you are,” I say, hearing a certain tiredness in his voice which resonates with the way I feel sometimes. “But no worries, you just turn up anytime you feel like it, algood.”

I still don’t know what it is, exactly, but my radar’s picking up some kind of signal. And so’s this, I guess. Signs – and those who can read them.

 

Tuesday 17 September:

At both break times, Ezekiel is in my room. Once again, Slade is friendly enough to him, and he just seems tired, worn out. At the end of interval, he waits behind again and says quietly, “Miss? Could I have a coffee… at lunchtime?”

“A coffee?” I repeat. Cos he’s seen me bring Slade one, yesterday.

“Yes… is it ok?”

“I guess so,” I said, adding, “Yesterday you said you didn’t like coffee.”

“Um, it’s just… I haven’t had anything to eat,” murmurs Ezekiel. “My parents went out, and there wasn’t anything in the fridge or cupboard, last night.”

“Oh,” is all I reply, processing this information and realizing that all my instincts say he is telling the truth. My class are coming in, so I just tell him, “Come back at lunchtime, kay Ezekiel.”

“Ok, Miss,” he says.

 

At lunch, I go to the cafe and get a pie and a big sausage roll. I’m not going to ignore Slade, who pretty much never eats at school either (though I know he makes himself a feed as soon as he gets home, Lois always has food in the cupboards). I come back and act like it’s no big thing, just divvy up the food on a paper bag. Ezekiel waits deferentially while Slade selects his share, then he takes the bag with a look of actual relief in his eyes.

I just wish it could have been more, you know. I had to put it on tick myself, and I’ll pay for it tomorrow. Money’s tight – and at the same time, I can’t ignore Ezekiel. I can see he’s not trying to hustle me. It’d take a lot for a newcomer to hustle me these days. No, he just looks… kind of wilted. And it reminds me, somehow, of the days when I first got to know Tau, and how people’s instincts are to tell, despite the flickering sense of incipient shame.

 

After school I drive Ezekiel home. He sits  there quietly, talking just a little bit – and then thanks me when we get there, saying, “See you tomorrow, Miss.”

“See you tomorrow,” I say.

I almost wish it wasn’t like this, and that I could just laugh and put it to one side, and tell him, hey, stop tryna hustle me, man. Cos I don’t ‘seek’ this in my days; there’s already such a lot of stuff to do.

But he’s a good boy, a nice kid, and he’s choosing to let someone know he needs a little bit of shelter right now. And I think: ohhh Tau, Tau. Because every time I’ve done this for someone else, I know I’m also doing it for Tau, if that makes sense. It’s always and already for Tau, too. Even though it might appear there’s no direct link – there’s a link in my heart, and I know it’s changed my response forevermore.

After school, I stop at the supermarket to pick up stuff to make dinner. I’m already tired, and then feeling kind of wearier at the thought of money coming in, money going out. Payday, and everything’s pretty much budgeted, right off the bat. And the power bill being so high, last month – I’ve only paid half of it so far. And yup. But what else should you do?

 

Leroi turns up this evening, to see if Tau’s here (he isn’t, having gone somewhere with little Michael). I give him a ride back to his uncle’s, which pretty much uses up the rest of my gas.

“He hasn’t even been texting me back…” says Leroi, wistfully, as we drive.

“It’s ok, Leroi,” I say. “I think Tau just needs some space right now.”

“Have you seen him?” Leroi asks. “Has he been staying, much?”

“Now and then,” I murmur, knowing it’s more than that, but not wanting to upset Leroi’s sensitive heart.

“I don’t know why he doesn’t text back, when I text him…”

“Like I said, I think he just needs some time out,” I tell Leroi. “You know what Tau’s like.”

Leroi nods, but I know he’s hurting, to feel apart from Tau.

 

Late at night, Leroi texts, wanting to know if Tau’s home, so he can walk round.

Tau’s back by then, but he asks me to tell Leroi he’s still out. I feel bad about the lie, but it’s not my call, I reckon.

 

 

My call

Saturday 7 September, 2013:

I take Leroi over to where Sheree is (currently) staying, at their uncle’s place. On the way, he tells me she was drinking yesterday. They’d been supposed to go see about a house, but obviously that didn’t happen. Tau shouted at her, called her a stupid bitch, and then smashed the glass door with his foot and left.

“Ohh, he’s back,” Leroi says in surprise as we pull up. He gets out, and it’s then I see Tau coming down the path. I’m surprised myself when he ignores Leroi and comes up to the car, looking tired and rather dejected. I open the passenger door, but Tau just leans on it, not getting in.

 

“You algood, Tau?” I ask him.

“Yeah,” he says, without conviction.

“Kay, um… I hope you’re ok,” I push on, gently. “Cos… Leroi told me what happened yesterday.”

Tau nods unhappily. He hovers at the side of the car, looking half as if he wants to stay, half to flee. Seeing his miserable expression, my heart swoops out to him. “Oh Tau,” I tell him. “I hate seeing you stressed like this.”

“It’s algood Miss. I just don’t wanna give you stress.”

“You don’t, Tau – it isn’t you. I’m just… it’s just the whole situation, for everyone.”

He nods again, a tiny fraction easier. “I’m algood, Miss,” he tries telling me again, but his voice tails off and I see his eyes swell with tears.

“Ohhhh, Tau,” I kind of whisper. “Sit down for a sec.”

“Naaah, Miss, I’m alright, I better go back inside.” But he just leans there, and tears begin to drip down, and he sniffs and rubs his eyes on his sleeve, and then more tears fall out, patiently and miserably.

 

I clamber over the gear shift and out of the car to his side.

“Tau, I breathe, just rubbing his arm. “It’s alright, Tau.  We’ll get this stuff all sorted out… we will.”

He nods, rubbing at his eyes.

“I really care about you,” I tell him. “You’re the top priority guy, to me. You never stress me out, it’s just… sometimes other people do. But it isn’t your fault.”

“I don’t wanna make you stressed,” Tau tells me. “That’s why I haven’t been coming back lately. I don’t wanna put extra stress on you.”

“Nah,” I say. “I want you there. I don’t want to see you sleeping in the dang park or something.”

“It’s Leroi, Miss, letting the others come around. I won’t bring trouble to your place. I don’t even wanna see him, at the moment.”

“I know, he told me,” I murmur.

“I feel like I might hook him,” he adds.

For some reason, this makes us both laugh a little bit.

“I’ll come back tomorrow,” he says. “I’ll have to sort things out with mum first – I’ll text you tonight though.”

“Good boy,” I say, and then, “Ok Tau, I better let you go back in.”

“K, Miss,” Tau says, and we hug.

 

For the hour between 4 and 5, I just go for a walk. The city is in that transitional mood between day and night, it makes me feel a little bit forlorn, at first. But by 5, when it’s just starting to rain, lightly, and a few cars have switched on their headlights, I kind of perk up. It seems like something has switched over, you know? Like a change of phase. So I’m alright again.

I get home, go inside and just flit around doing small things to settle myself. Folding the washing. Checking my emails, and facebook, and twitter. I’m kind of into twitter. It isn’t a big deal or anything, I just like the way you can sometimes get past the usual formalities.

Then I take a shower, and lie on the couch with a cuppa tea, watching TV and listening to music and jamming the laptop all at once. The sun’s going down and I feel alright again. I’m a bit elemental about that stuff sometimes, kind of like Tau I guess.

 

Tuesday 10 September:

I’m not really in the mood for writing about other people, and today I don’t suffer fools gladly. But just writing that word down: ‘suffer’, reminds me of Deshaun, who, at the start of writing the 9 Social assessment, puts his hand up and asks me, “Miss, what does this word mean?”

‘Explain why people suffer from poverty’ – is the directive (there, on the assessment booklet), and Deshaun points to the word ‘suffer’.

“It means – why do people have poverty,” I tell him.

“And poverty’s being pohara, aye Miss,” he says.

“Yup, that’s right.”

“Oh I get it now,” he tells me, and sets to work.

The whole period, I’m aware that Deshaun is trying super-hard, and really wants to finish his essay. He gets distracted from time to time, and once falls off his chair in the process of throwing an eraser at Jackson, but he finishes it, independently and under assessment conditions. I feel extremely proud of him.

 

Wednesday 11 September:

You know what? I do actually like getting up in the morning, getting ready for work. Knowing I haven’t capitulated, knowing I’m going to get there again today. But I need to stop just holding on. At times, when I look in the mirror, I sigh with fatigue at the continual effort, yet tighten the screws on all my suppressed and hovering energy.

Ezekiel Peo (new to MC and 9 Social, since round June I think) waits after school and asks me if he can get a lift home.  I’ve dropped him off twice before, once (opportunistically) when he saw me with Slade, the other time when it was pouring with rain.

“I don’t want to walk, today,” he tells me. “I’m really tired.”

He looks really tired, too. Doesn’t speak much on the way home. One thing I’ve picked up is that Ezekiel doesn’t smile a lot, either. He gives out (and wants to give, I think) the impression of being playful, sort of happy-go-lucky – but  there’s a ‘flatness’ behind it, which I notice. I don’t even want to speculate about that. But he’s a nice kid.

 

As we drive, he tells me, “Miss, I’m… I’m kind of like what we’re learning about. Poverty and stuff. That’s what it’s like at my house. Everything’s just putting food on the table.”

“Yeah, I get you,” I tell him, sympathetically but without asking him anything else. I figure that if there’s anything more he wants to say, he’ll tell me himself some other time.

He also says that he used to get in trouble at his old school (out west somewhere). That doesn’t surprise me, even though there’s no evidence of trouble here at MC.

The old radar’s picking up some kind of signal from Ezekiel, but I don’t know what it is, exactly.

 

Thursday 12 September:

There’s a potential ‘situation’ with Leroi this evening, which doesn’t go anywhere. Tau’s back, then Leroi texts me and says he wants to come back too. Wants to play his new PS3, (there’s a long story to all this, involving Leroi spending all but $100 of his Winz back pay on shit, according to Tau – and I don’t doubt it.)

I’m about to go pick him up, but I check with Tau first – and he isn’t keen. He says he needs a break from Leroi. So I ring back and tell him we’ll leave it for tonight. Leroi hangs up on me, and then I get a text which is definitely tetchy. It’s not overtly aggressive, just says, ‘ionly wantd to play my new game coz we cant uze power here fck algd’

Tau’s worried, though. His shoulders tense up, and he sighs, telling me, “It’s ok Miss. If Leroi comes over, I’ll have to go. But if he starts anything here, I’ll jump in first – don’t worry.”

“Aye?” I say, in some surprise. “Do you think he’s gonna come over?”

“Yeah, I do,” Tau sighs again. “He’s not listening to anyone at the moment, and he’s drinking today. He’ll probably just walk round… but all sweet Miss, I’ll just have to go somewhere else.”

Little Michael, who is here too, nods at this, saying, “Yeah Miss, if he starts trouble we’ll sort it out, and then I’ll take Tau somewhere.”

“Faar, where shall we go though, ge?” Tau says wearily. “I came round here to get away from Leroi. I need a break, he’s pissing everyone off – but I don’t wanna hook him.”

“Course you don’t,” I say to Tau. “But you don’t have to go, either. At the end of the day, it’s my call who’s here.”

“Yeah true, it’s Miss’s call,” agrees Michael, and both boys look at me with a little interest, this fact only just having occurred to them.

“It is my call,” I reiterate. “And if Leroi comes, I’ll have to take him somewhere else for the night. The sleepout’s your space. The only reason he’s been here is because you were algood with it. And now you need some time out, so… he’ll just have to accept that.”

“He might not listen – he’s not respecting anyone at the moment,” Tau says.

“Tough,” I say. I sound more authoritative than I feel, and Tau actually smiles at me. I add, “If he comes, I’ll have to spell it out to him. I don’t mind.”

We talk a bit more – and then I go to bed. I think to myself: If he comes, I’ll deal with it. But I picture Leroi’s face, and get a sense of the basic respect and sensitivity which he tries so hard to maintain with me. I try to shrug off any worries. A kind of peace steals into my heart, despite the potential problems. And so, I fall asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow.

 

Friday 13 September:

In the morning, I think Tau’s more surprised than me, that Leroi hasn’t come.

Man, I can’t believe Leroi didn’t put any of that back pay towards a bond. Tau mentions this again today, saying, “That’s what he’s like, Miss. He doesn’t think of anyone except himself at the moment. And even when he’s got money, he expects everyone else to buy him things.”

“But nothing, though,” I murmur.

“No, Miss – nothing,” Tau says, sighing deeply.

“What did he get with it then?”

“The PS3. And just flash stuff, clothes and shit. Whatever he wanted.”

Not much we can do about it though. We just shake our heads.

 

And I go to work.

Aurelius is back at school today, after several weeks absence. “I missed this class,” he tells me, very nicely and without a qualm.

I take this at face value, and smile at him.

Later, he appears again out of nowhere, when I have 12 History. He sometimes ‘pops down’ to see one of his boys, but always leaves directly when he’s snapped.

“Aurelius,” I begin, but quite fondly all the same. “What are you doing here? Go back to Geography.”

Aurelius beams at me, quite happy to be apprehended this way. “I just came to see you, Miss,” he tries. “I came to gaze upon your beauty.” He adds, “You’re fo’i lole,” making my class get the giggles.

“Go away,” I tell him. “Go to class.” But I can’t help laughing at him.

 

 

Problems of my own

Sunday 1 September, 2013:

The boys have stayed out all night, everything seems securely fastened when I look out the window this morning. But in the time it takes me to have a shower, all of a sudden the shed lights are on, door wide open. And still no-one home. It hasn’t been locked in the first place – just the bolt slid across from outside. I guess someone has been over and gone in to see if the boys are here. It pisses me off that whoever it was could just stroll in there, like it’s no thing, like they’ve got the right to.

I look around for the padlock to lock up properly, but I can’t see it. So I just shut the door, pull the bolt across once more, and start to pull out weeds in the garden.

 

After a while, Leroi and little Michael arrive in Michael’s car. Leroi is truly surprised to learn someone has been around and let themselves in. But he’s also far too blasé about it for my liking. “There’s no lock,” he informs me casually, as he rifles through his possessions to find a couple things. He and Michael are going back to the city, Tau is still there.

“What do you mean, no lock?” I ask him.

“We haven’t got any padlocks.”

“But… how come?” I say, unable to help sounding a bit interrogative.

“Cos we lost the key, yesterday. I had to break the padlock to get in…”

“You broke the padlock… again?” I repeat, incredulously. “Faar, how many times are you guys gonna do that? I only got the new padlock a little while back, you need to keep hold of the keys.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he says, in an airy way. “We got nothing to steal anyway.”

“It does matter,” I retort, crossly. “It matters to me – because this is my house, man. I don’t like random people just coming right on in like they own the place. Opening up the shed. They could do anything they wanted if we weren’t home – and we wouldn’t even know. It’s not good, Leroi.”

His face falls. “Sorry… Miss,” he says, rather uncertainly.

“I’m sorry for growling, Leroi. But honestly – I can’t just leave the place unlocked. I’ll get another padlock, but this time you have to hold onto your keys and not lose them. And if you do, then don’t just break the lock. Text me, okay?”

“Yup, Miss,” Leroi replies. He sounds meek enough, but actually I’m not sure if he’s really taking these directives in.

 

I let them go off back to town, and return to the gardening. Only by now I’m annoyed. And this particular task (which I’ve never enjoyed in the slightest degree) just makes me feel even more stressed out. I whisk my way around as quickly as possible, grasping weeds and hiffing them into a plastic bag, then moving onto the next spot. On the way, I get my nails all dirty, and my jumper snags on twigs, and I prick my thumb. Then, by the time I reach the back yard, I find cans in the bushes, Cruisers and Cody’s, God knows for how long they’ve been there. Ciggie butts and pie wrappers… and yeah, I know, sometimes stuff blows over the back fence from the park. But some of it is just too close to the shed. There are even chicken bones, for fuck’s sake, just chucked out on the grass, like it’s no big deal. And by the time I’ve picked these up, I’m outraged by the whole thing. I’m glad the boys aren’t home right then, otherwise there’d be some dramas for sure.

Just as I finish the last of the weeding for the day (out by the gate), I cut my face on a cactus spike, and the feeling of warm blood on my cheek kind of brings me back to a more restful state. I don’t know why, but somehow it grounds me again. And I go wash the blood off my face, and my heart starts to settle, and I realize that I’m really hungry. So I go make a feed, and then I start to calm down.

 

I procure another padlock from the supermarket, and make a list of things I need to ‘discuss’ with the boys. There are quite a few items on the agenda, ranging from the padlock itself, to the ciggie butts, to the rubbish bin, to keeping the shed tidy, and so on and so forth. It all has to be said, and probably should have been said sooner.

But like I said – calmly. Because my two house guests, I must concede, have been doing their recent best to adjust to some difficult circumstances (and it’s not like they’ve ever been asked to curtail their social lives before, either).

To be honest though, Leroi’s ‘default setting’ is extremely laissez faire, which is pissing me off a bit. And yup, he’s just doing what he knows, and what’s got him through life so far, and he’s had it pretty damn tough. Tau too, but… I guess the difference, for me, is that I have a more natural understanding of Tau’s ways. Inside me, I resonate with Tau so much. Leroi, the Piscean, is harder for me to grasp. Kind of like my mum was hard to grasp. I never knew what she thought about anything; not really.

And I notice Tau says ‘home’ when he’s talking about this place, even though I know that in some sense it’s simply born of necessity. But all the same, it touches my heart.

 

Monday 2 September:

Slade and I have an argument, well, kind of. He brings up the subject of Leroi and Raphael in Municipal the other day – with those Carthill boys. Apparently it’s all over Facebook, and there’s more happening, of course. Anyway, I tell Slade what I knew, and how Leroi (and probably Raphael, too) had been ready to have a fight right there in the Youth Services office. I say to him how I’d realised that Leroi wouldn’t have hesitated, even in front of me, or the office staff.

Slade just shrugs and says, “Oh well,” in a manner which implies I should get over it. I feel hurt by this – I can’t help it. I’ve always tried to let Slade know that his reactions to things are not to be slighted. It’s not that we always have to agree. But I don’t trample on his feelings. And in this moment it seems that he’s willing to just tromp on mine without a second’s thought.

So I feel myself bristle up. Slade’s sitting at my laptop, jamming Youtube and I say, at his side. “No it isn’t ‘ohwell’.”

He says nothing.

“One of those boys had a knife,” I continue. “And I had to go out there and deal with it, cos otherwise Leroi was just gonna let them bring it on.”

“Ohhhhhhhhhwel,” Slade says, in that very concluding way. “That’s just… life,” (and ‘harden up you sook’ – is what I read into that)

“Yeah, it is life,” I reply. “And I know that, and that’s why I dealt with it. But I got feelings about it, all the same.”

“Yup, well I got problems of my own,” Slade says.

“Yup, well so have I,” I say back. “And if you feel like that, why don’t you just go away then.”

And then the bell rings, and off he goes without another word. All day I feel cross about it. Because I do have frickin feelings, and you know what? I don’t need to be talked down to by Slade, even if I care a lot about him.

So.

 

When I get home, both the boys are back. Raphael’s with them, so I don’t say everything I’ve planned to. I mention the key though, and the ciggie butts on the driveway, and the cans in the bushes. Tau is sorrowful about the last two points, telling me (truthfully and trustingly) that whenever he sees the boys leaving their rubbish around, he tells them off.

But inside me, there’s some resentment that won’t go away right now. And it’s more complicated with both boys here, not to mention more expensive. I do care about Leroi… and yet the fact remains that he’s here in the first instance because of Tau. If it wasn’t for Tau, I wouldn’t be offering. And as for the other boys… well, likewise. I wouldn’t be even a quarter as welcoming as I’ve been, if not for Tau’s sake.

Plus money’s so tight, honestly. It makes my heart catch, some days. To think that as soon as my pay comes in, it’s spent. And yup, I still pay for the gym. But it’s one of those things I can’t give up. It’s like a refusal to capitulate – to actually give myself something I want. Otherwise all the budgeting and nursing of my income doesn’t even make sense.

The little lamp

Saturday 31 August, 2013:

IM SORRY MS!! 😦 nd I mean it ay i waz to stuborn to lyk take tha truf instd i wantd to be ryt unau. Too busy thnkn im ryt bt fxk I waz in the wr0ng big tym!! Im sorry fo all the tymz ms gvng u a headache being a hasle im sory fo every done or said to hurt or make u fee usd 😦 I miss tht juc knowing u have dat sumwun whu thea thru thick nd thin be thea fo u far HARD now days trust people. 😦 but ua difrnt ms

Pls don’t be sorry Kepaoa, no need. Im far from perfect. But I really do care abwt you and always will, straight up. And it’s good to hear from you.

It is, it means a lot to me, to hear from Kepaoa. But after almost three months, I feel a kind of wariness prickle up, too. I can’t be really sure about what anything signifies.

 

A few texts go back and forth, over the course of the day, and then – it’s as I’m cooking dinner – I get another one which says: ‘Hey ms uhm kan ask a favr plz? Plz?’

Turns out he’s in town for the weekend with his cousin – they’re after a ride home. I don’t know what to say, so I just buy some time. I tell him I’ll be busy for an hour, but to text back after 7:30, and see.

He just replies: Thanks ms, and I wonder if that’s that. Again, I’m not even sure what I’ve signaled, myself.

Then right on the dot of 7:30, another text. Asking, very politely, if there is still any possibility of a ride home.

So I make a decision. At the very least, I want to see him. I know it’s not the way it used to be, but that’s ok.

 

They’re at Municipal, down by the station. I text when I get there, and they come out to the car. Kepaoa approaches my door, and I get out and we hug, just in the way you’d hug anyone who you haven’t seen for a while. His cousin gives me a hug and a kiss on the cheek, too.

On the way to Carthill, we just chat about stuff. Work, Elroy, Tau and Leroi. I start to feel a kind of light sadness, that things seem so… ‘neutral’. It’s ok, course it is. What was I expecting? Well, nothing more, honest truth. But in my heart; that gentle sadness about it, all the same.

When we pull up in Montgomery Rd, Kepaoa’s cousin gets out and Kepaoa just sits there, quietly. He says, “It’s good to see you Miss,”

“You too,” I tell him, truthfully.

“Riding around like this… it’s like I’ve never been away,” he says

“Mmm, I guess,” I reply, unconvinced of this, but not wanting to say as much.

“It’s really good to see you,” he says again.

“It is,” I tell him. “But I feel a little bit sad, or something.”

Kepaoa nods, saying, “Me too, Miss. I just wanted to see you.” He adds, “We didn’t really need a ride, Miss. I just wanted to see you. That’s the truth.”

“I wanted to see you too,” I tell him. “I thought… sometimes I thought I might never see you again.”

“No,” says Kepaoa, and he shakes his head, then he puts his arms around me, and holds his cheek against mine. I feel his warm head kind of bump and scratch my skin, and I put my arms around him too, and we hold onto one another, just as still as can be. Kepaoa murmurs against my face, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry for that night, Miss.”

“I’m sorry too,” I whisper back.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he says. “You were right on point, everything you said was right on point. We were behaving like little kids, I can’t believe how we were acting. I was angry at the time – then I just felt ashamed. I was too ashamed to get in touch. I thought I’d better just try to be my own man.”

We stay close beside one another, saying these things.

“I’m sorry too, I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

“You had a right to,” he tells me.

“I didn’t,” I say. “I’m not trying to make excuses, I could have done it differently. And I tried to get in touch, and to tell you – but you never replied. So I knew I just had to leave it.”

“I was missing you hard out,”

“Me too,” I say.

 

There’s a little tap at the car window. Kepaoa’s cousin has been waiting to go inside – the door is locked, and he doesn’t have a key. He’s just been waiting there patiently, in the cold. Kepaoa laughs and gives him the key.

Then he says, “And me and Teri have broken up.”

“Oh, right,” I reply, kind of noncommittally.

“Yup, I broke it off with her,” he tells me. “She went back to Oz, and… I didn’t feel the same anymore.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yes, really. I just… I dunno, Miss. It just wasn’t what I wanted anymore, I guess.”

“Was it hard though, at first?”

“No,” he says. “Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought.”

“Well, algood then, if you’re happy,” I say.

“I’ve grown up heaps,” he tells me quietly. “Heaps, I reckon.”

“Yeah,” I say, looking at him. “Working man and all. Getting money, taking care of your own.”

“Trying to,” he says. “Miss – I’m trying to.”

“That’s all good,” I say.

“Man, Miss – it’s good as to be riding around with you again,” he says again. “Just kickin it with you again – I’ve missed it heaps. And, I’m sorry, Miss.”

“I’m sorry too,”

“No need.”

And then we just hug one another again. Our heads resting side by side, pressed close and quiet. I can feel Kepaoa’s hands stroking my shoulders, and I run one fingertip over the back of his head, rubbing his buzz cut hair.

 

I know, I know. I write about it so tenderly, and yet everything’s ‘charged’ too, in a way. I know it, and sometimes I yearn for the world to be different, and for time to be… fluid, so that I maybe could have met Kepaoa in a different time and place. But it is what it is, hmm. I guess what I’m saying is, I understand that it’s got to be this way, and not some other way. It’s this time, and this place – and I’m alright with that.

All day I’ve been remembering that Katherine Mansfield story; the one that finishes: “I seen the little lamp.”

Because that’s how I feel. Sure can’t have it all. But it’s something, to be me, here, right now. It’s something, it isn’t nothing.

 

The protocols

Monday 19 August, 2013:

I wouldn’t say I spoke too soon, exactly – about the protocols at home. But I’m right about things not suddenly being perfect. This evening I have to go and exercise my authority to a shed full of boys. I give them a growling and tell them to go home.

It starts when I get back from school (after Staff Professional Development) – to find Tau and Leroi are already on the Cody’s. “We’ve only got a 12 pack,” Tau tells me, rather airily. “And no-one else is gonna be drinking.”

Raphael and Michael are the only others there – and are sober. So I go to the gym, a little pissed off that Tau and Leroi haven’t checked with me first about this merry little drinkup, even though it does appear to be a private one.

 

I come back out into dark and driving rain, have to stop at the supermarket on the way home – getting wet feet – and then arrive home to general drunkenness. To be fair, it’s still only Tau and Leroi that are drinking – but the atmosphere is just a bit too party-central for a Monday night, in my opinion. I’m about to take a shower when I hear cars and bikes in the driveway, and then some exuberant shouting. It seems like half of Municipal has turned up, so I go back out.

“Bloody hell, how many people are here?” I interrogate Tau, who is standing outside the shed with Michael and another boy I don’t know.

“But they’re not drinking,” protests Tau.

“I don’t care – it’s Monday night, and who told them they could all roll up over here?” I say, as a couple of other boys tumble out of the sleepout to see what all the fuss is about. “Who else’s parents let everyone just turn up like this? No-one’s, I bet – and I’m not even his mum!” I gesture towards the shed, where Tau has slipped inside.

“Yeah, you’re right, Miss,” say a few voices, one is Raphael’s, and Michael is also nodding in agreement.

“I’ve got work tomorrow,” I tell them. “I need to get an early night, and there’s too many people here, whether you’re drinking or not. It’s far too loud – and this isn’t a hang out pad. You guys are just taking advantage of Tau being drunk. I don’t even want them to be drinking on a week night, but when I got home it was already too late for that.”

“Fair enough, fair enough,” they mumble, as they begin to make their exit.

“Sorry, Miss,” Raphael says. He sounds genuinely apologetic. “I should have told them to go home.”

“It’s ok Raphael,” I say, wearily. “Tau’s not thinking, cos he’s drunk. It isn’t your fault if boys turn up.”

“We’ll keep it quiet now,” he says. Just me and Michael – I’ll make sure the others go home.

“Good boy,” I tell him.

 

And then I go back inside. I feel really fucked off. I think if anyone else turns up I’m gonna have to go out there again. Hell, I don’t need this shit on a frickin Monday, and Tau should know it.

But he’s been really good… yeah, Tau has been trying really hard, and like I said, it was never going to be perfect all of a sudden. So I’m ok. Even though I think he should back me up when I tell people off, not just disappear into the shed. But what I think and what Tau does don’t always coincide. He’s got his issues and I’ve got mine. And we do our best, I guess, with it all.

 

Tuesday 20 August:

9 Social are ok, the nicest class of the day. Deshaun touches my heart by doing all his work (and then losing the plot, but never mind). He’s one of those kids who incurs a slew of pastoral notes from teachers (“teachers” that is – not me) for his every indiscretion – in kind of a Nio-ish way, if we’re talking old-school. But we’re not. I don’t get attached, these days. Slade’s my only attachment, at school.

Then I have 12 History, who kind of suck as an ensemble – really because of that table of prima donnas. I take a laissez-faire approach though. I can’t be bothered making an effort, that’s why.

A few years back, I would have tried to find some way of achieving détente at the very least. I don’t know… maybe even last year. Nowadays, honestly, it doesn’t make the priority list.

 

I get home and Sheree is there.

We sit and talk a bit, kind of ‘carefully’. I don’t think either of us knows quite what to say, or how to begin saying anything. She tells me she’s looking at houses, she’s going to see one on Thursday. Before she leaves, she asks if I can write her a reference, to show prospective landlords. So I type one up, I’ll print it out tomorrow and give it to Tau.

I wouldn’t say it’s awkward between us, exactly. It’s more… a little bit sad. I guess we can’t go back to how we were. But I miss Sheree, I miss being ‘close’ with her, or at least thinking it could be like that. But you know, it is what it is.  When it comes down to it, it’s Tau I’m here for. And I feel a kind of sensitivity towards Leroi, too, and I’m aware that he’s got very few obvious supports in this whole situation. So I’m ok with him being here as well. But I can’t let Sheree lean on me, or on this place, in the same way. I know if I let her, she’s going to use me, even though it’s not like she means to. It’s just the way she’s used to playing it, that passive, helpless strategy. The boys (on their own) are more… resilient, is how I’d describe them. I can live with that, but I can’t live with passivity and the knowledge that other people’s path of least resistance is my hard road. So I’ve had to make it clear. And yeah, it’s a little bit sad, but that’s the way it is.

 

Wednesday 21 August:

School’s.. ok. Ish. 12 History doesn’t go great. The ‘mean girls’ get lippy. Nellie swears at me, the silly little bitch, and I march her down to Chloe’s and deposit her there. She tries the “Is it my turn to talk now?” restorative claptrap that they’ve all learned to parrot since primary school, which just makes me pull rank. For fuck’s sake, I think. I’m the adult here. It’s not up to you, little girl. And the thought makes me sigh, because school’s so ridiculous, honestly, it is.

I go back to class without Nellie and try to be calm, but truly – the bullshit attitude that school produces, literally produces.

 

Thursday 22 August: 

I don’t bring school work home. If I can’t do it at school, it can wait. Even marking. But at the same time, I don’t like being unprepared for class. So I get stuff done fast on site, multi-tasking my way through the day.

Pulling into the driveway, the tired and happy, relieved feeling of it being nearly Friday, becomes slightly tense again, at the sound of ‘boys in the shed’. It doesn’t sound like a lot of people. But even one or two visitors puts me on incipient alert.

Boys in the shed. Fucks me off that they think it’s ‘Cluzo’s place’. Because it is, but only for Tau. What I mean by that is, everything has to come through me, it doesn’t pass down through Tau to anyone else. And so there.