Beck and call

Monday 25 February, 2013:

Conversation with Slade:

21:31: miss I’ll prolly come skool tomoro, still on pills an the other medicine hahaha

21:32: quest was at sch today. i think he was bored. you leave that other med at home, kay..

21:33: haha ill make sure to bring a extra dose for quest tomorow that way he wont get bored haha

21:35: oh no you don’t! you can both just stay bored. I got more paint though.

21:35: oh yo meeeean i can still paint with a fuckd up leg haha lucky it wasnt my hand ae.


Tuesday 26 February:

Indeed Slade is back at school, cast up to his knee in plaster. He manages to stay all day (despite his initial intentions) and I drop him off home afterwards.

Then Tau comes over, and we sort out some stuff with Winz, and the bank. By now I’m already tired, with a dozen things still crowding my brain. I try hard to just sit with it, and not put anything extra onto Tau’s already burdened shoulders.

Leroi and Raphael turn up too after a while, and then little Michael. With not much preamble, Tau goes to kick it with them in the sleepout. I remain sitting on the couch for a few minutes, hearing bits and pieces of conversation and music drifting lightly through the house. For some reason tears well up in my eyes and I make no effort at all to check them; I’m too tired. I go lay on my bed and hug my pillow and cry softly, until my eyes are pink and swollen. I think I’ve had a hard day too, but no-one gives a fuck. I feel like the loneliest person in Municipal, I dunno why. And every time I think of Tau, I just cry harder.

Right after that, Tau comes in again, to ask if I can drop them off at Fitzroy. I don’t think he even notices anything. I’m glad about that. I say yes, and then go and wash my face, kind of automatically. I still look like shit but it’s ok, I’m too tired to be shamed, I just go out to the car and Raphael looks at me curiously, saying, “Miss, you mohe?”

“Um yeah… mmm,” I say, in a non-committal way.

Take them to the liquor store so they can buy some kind of chocolate milk with 13% alcohol, and drop them round at Fitzroy.

Then I go to the gym. Which is actually pretty cool.


Later, Kepaoa texts me. He sounds upset; even shocked. Something has happened. Actually, more than one thing.

First, Teri’s been bleeding. Went to hospital, was crying her eyes out – she’s had a miscarriage. Kepaoa is gutted, he can’t stop thinking about him: Babygangstah – feels like he was already born, he says.

And then, what he refers to as ‘an incident’. The cops have been talking to him. He’ll tell me when he sees me. So I go pick him up.

We go home, Kepaoa tells me more; stuff almost no-one else knows about. Last year, down the line, he got wasted at a party, and got into a fight. Beat someone up real bad. Used a golf club to smash his face in. And now, all of a sudden, a cop has turned up on the door, flown all the way up here. Someone has mentioned Kepaoa’s name to the police. And after all this time, they want to ask him about it. Show him pictures of the guy. Jaw all smashed up and stoved in. “It’s like he doesn’t even have a jaw anymore,” Kepaoa tells me, stroking his own face.

He denies all of it to the police officer, says he wasn’t even there when it happened. But, the investigation’s proceeding. So who knows?

At first I’m shocked by the neutral (not cold) way Kepaoa speaks about it. I guess… it’s happened; there’s no point in pretending it hadn’t. He’s visibly affected by it, but not in the sense that people might expect. I don’t think he’s ‘remorseful’. He’s worried, but he doesn’t feel that he’s done wrong. “Oh well, if you wanna be gang bangin’, that’s what happens,” he says.


And then there’s more about Teri. She’s asked for 500 dollars. Something about the charge for the hospital. It doesn’t sound right to him – Kepaoa’s starting to think she was never pregnant at all. Fake tears and a fake story. He doesn’t know; can’t tell. Can’t think straight, with everything going on. Hasn’t eaten since the night before.

Kepaoa’s arm and leg twitch, as he tells me all of this. I can see he’s ultra stressed about it. He keeps saying she’s a hoe, a bitch. Then he wants to call her, talk to her. I don’t know quite what to say. I can’t read it at all – I don’t know Teri well enough.

I suggest that maybe she’s lost the baby, but needs the money for something else. Kepaoa considers this, and I could see him calm down slightly, at the thought that he might be only half right.

In the end, I just go get burgers, because honestly, he needs something to just physically ground him, if you know what I mean. And I’m way too tired to make a feed. Kepaoa eats and drinks, and then he is able to relax a very little bit. He lies on the couch, weary but still kind of poised. We talk about the ‘incident’. Weirdly enough, some kind of gang documentary comes on the channel we’re on, right then. I look at Kepaoa’s face, which is calm and kind of ‘flat’, not much visible emotion. But I can see that he’s pushing stuff away.

Around midnight, he falls asleep on the couch, tucked up like a kid. Man, this guy… I dunno. But I’m tired, and I go to sleep too.


Wednesday 27 February:

Wake up just as tired as when I started. My eyelids are flickering and fluttering all the way through the staff PD. I can only just handle the day. Stupid tutor, stupid Social Studies. Fuckin sheeit, all of it. Honestly, I’ve never hated teaching so much as I hate it today.

Do things for other people, all day long. Feeling worse and worse and worse. Tireder and tireder and tireder. Trying to be patient with the stupid fuckin’ babies in my classes. Bank transfers for Tau and Leroi. Email the district court to get some paper work which Tau needs. Take Slade home after school. Stand in a mighty long queue at Winz, to drop off Tau’s papers. Go round to Fitzroy, to drop off Leroi’s money (He’s got no ID and the bank won’t let him take cash out; Tau’s new ATM card hasn’t arrived yet). I’m tired of worrying about anyone. Tired of seeing everyone ignore everything. Effort I go to, and for what? No-one gives a fuck, why should they… and why should I? Can’t try harder. It’s unpossible.

Leroi tries making some joke: “Look Miss, there’s two waggers,” (Raphael and little Michael – they haven’t been at school – and all the boys are drinking). But I feel my face go as blank as Kepaoa’s last night. I just say, “Oh well, they can do what they want, I don’t care. I got more important stuff on my mind.” Other people can care about it, I think. I haven’t got energy for caring about anyone extra.


Come home, Kepaoa has taken the key from the French doors. D’fuuuuuck, it’s like a frickin heat wave in there, and I can’t open the door. I feel all pissed off; why would he even take it without asking? And right then, he 798’s me, and I call him back, and the first thing he says, straight off the bat: “Oh, hey miss can you pick us up? Me and Elroy. We’re just over the bridge by the gym, walking towards Carthill.”

I felt my blood surge up and beat hard. I just mumble something like, “Um, I’m real tired – and why did you take the key?”

He starts telling me some shit about how it was when he went out that door and locked it from the outside. I just say, “Whatever.”

And then I hang up.


I send two texts, after that. First one reads:

Iv had a shit as day. My head realy hurts an im tired. An im just a taxi aye. 

Second one reads:

Il always do whatever i can for u, thts th truth. Im very loyal, if u dnt already know that. But i dnt like being used.

I shed a few tears, more of frustration at myself than anything else. To be so dumb, and to be played by the masters of mayhem. I wrote that once, years and years ago it seems… oh, how little I knew. And I guess I don’t know much now, either. But I know more than I did then.

I feel actually kind of outraged at all of it. To be so frickin dumb. To have gangstas thinking they running it, everyfuckinwhere they go.

I really do care about Kepaoa. And I just… well, I like kicking it with him, and I do care, and I get it, probably more than he knows. But it hurts my pride to be taken for granted. And to think that when I have my own sorrows, no-one really wants to know.

So, it’s better to just give up, sometimes, than be at someone’s beck and call. No matter how much you care. You can’t drain your energy that way, without suffering for it. I should know that already.

And honestly, fuck school. Fuck it entirely.




Thursday 11 October, 2012:

This morning, Kepaoa makes breakfast for everyone: hot chocolate; toast. The toaster pops up and down over and over again, while he assiduously butters, Nutellas, and plates. He’s in kind of a hyped up mood, and it pleases him to be in sole charge of the assembly line. Afterwards he cleans up everything, flicking with dustpan and brush, then going for the big guns – the vacuum cleaner. Kepaoa looks very satisfied as he whisks it round, having first emptied it to ensure maximum suction.


After breakfast, a discussion is held about plans for the day ahead.

“Why don’t you guys do something?” I suggest. “For Teri’s last day here. Go to the beach, maybe?”

“I hate the beach,” Kepaoa says, somewhat mystifying the rest of us.

“No you don’t! How can you hate the beach?” I ask, teasing him.

“Cos, that’s where all the white people hang out… fags!” he mutters, and then laughs with that little edge which tells me he’s getting stressed. He shakes his head at himself: “Nah, I don’t hate the beach, I’m just talking shit aye.”

“Yeah, never mind,” I say, soothingly.


“Well… where shall we go?” they muse.

“Got any good spots Miss?” asks Kepaoa, causing us all to fall about laughing. “I don’t mean ‘spots’ he assures me. I meant places, oh you know what I mean, Miss.”

“Weell… I did wonder, for a second, when you said that,” I tell him. “I almost told you to go look out in the shed. Probably find some of Tau’s leftovers out there,” I add, and Kepaoa snorts with amusement.

Dante, who over the course of events has become a lot more comfortable with things, looks at me and bursts out laughing again.

How about Sutton, Miss?” says Kepaoa, with gusto.

“Sutton?” I exclaim “That’s the most white person’s beach there is!”

“Yeah… but nah… it’s all good there, aye Miss. Can we go?”

“Miss might have her own plans, for her day,” Teri says, gently.

“Um… yeah, I don’t really know, yet,” I tell them. “I can drop you guys off there though, that would be fine.”


But when I go out of the room, Kepaoa follows me, and says, “Miss… you know how you said you could drop us off?”


“Well… you don’t have to come with us, if you don’t want to Miss. But… it’d be all good if you did. I mean, if you could kick it with us today. That’s what we want.” He says this so naturally and so sincerely.

“Awww, Kepaoa,” I say. “Ok then, all good.”


So we spend the afternoon in Sutton. We end up down at the wharf, where Kepaoa jumps off, and Dante joins him for a second attempt. They wear their wet clothes all the way home, sitting on a rug in the car.

As the day wears on, I can see Kepaoa is stressing out at the thought of Teri’s incipient departure. A couple of times he says something a little bit off the wall, or laughs in that slightly manic way. So, when he asks me to please stay at the airport with him (I’ve intended just to drop them off, not wanting to interfere with Teri’s family goodbyes), I listen to the subtext, and do so.


Kepaoa sits quietly and watches Teri check in, but his expression becomes flat, except for a little muscle in his cheek, which is twitching. At one point, he draws me aside and tells me, “Miss, as soon as I walked in here my leg started shaking -” and he points to it. “I know that feeling, it always means I’m about to have a scrap.”

“Well you’re not gonna have a scrap, aye Kepaoa – not today,” I reply, sounding as matter of fact as I can. “Have one tomorrow!” I add, just trying to joke and keep things light – and he actually laughs a little bit. I notice, though, that he sticks to me and Dante like glue.

Dante keeps on making eye contact with me, and we close in on Kepaoa like two sheep dogs herding one recalcitrant sheep towards its pen. We give positioning nods to one another as we see him look yearningly towards a group of youths who have just walked in through the automatic doors..

“Those guys got eye problems…” Kepaoa murmurs, bobbing up and down slightly.

“No they haven’t, just leave it,” we (his minders) assure him.

“Fuuck, wanna scrap so badly,” he says, low and under his breath. “Feel like going over there right now.”

“Well don’t – or else I’ll have to tackle you,” I retort, attempting to break the tension, and Dante can’t help but laugh out loud at the thought. Then, to my relief, Kepaoa laughs too.

“Hey Miss, shall we go over and sit by Teri now, on those seats?” he suggests, quite easily it seems. She’s waiting with her mum, and a couple of other people.

“Ok, good idea.”


We wait there with them. To be honest, Teri’s mother doesn’t seem overly fond of Kepaoa, and he looks at her with a little bit of hostility too. So Dante and I hover close to him again, one of us on the left and one on the right. Together we escort him up the escalator to the departure lounge, right behind Teri and her family.

As the time draws near, Kepaoa’s cheek twitches more and more, and he begins to pace back and forth, although he still stays close to us. By now, Teri is saying her goodbyes. Kepaoa hugs her tightly, and tears fall silently down his face. He stands back while she embraces Dante. I see his shoulders shake too, and then Teri began to sob and sob. “I don’t want to go…” she cries. “I don’t want to…”

Dante and Teri cling together, and Kepaoa stands a few steps back, hoodie up around his face. He looks numb.

Teri’s mum tries to comfort her, and appeals to me, saying, “It’s good for her to go, isn’t it? You’ll be back soon, Teri… everything will be fine.”
“Yes, yes… it’s gonna be fine, these guys will be ok,” I tell her.

“I’m worried about them… I don’t wanna go,” she weeps.

“Aww, I know… I know, but they’ll be fine. You’ll be back for Christmas – it’s only a few weeks away.”

Teri nods, bravely. She puts her arms around my neck for a second, saying, “Miss, thanks for everything, and – please will you look after him, can you check he’s alright, please? I’m so worried about him.”

“Course I will, he’s gonna be fine,” I say. There’s no point in saying anything else. If she stays, what will that tell Kepaoa? That if he’s upset, the world stops?

And she goes through the gate. It’s a relief, but only for a moment. I’m still aware of the need to keep Kepaoa in check.


Right then, the same group of youths comes up the stairs, and walks past us. Kepaoa stands forlorn; head down – he doesn’t even notice them to begin with. But Dante and I look across at one another, instantly on the alert.

“We should go now…” Dante says, casually. “Shall we go, aye?”

“Yeah, come on Kepaoa,” and to my relief, he turns wearily and follows along. But there is one more guy coming up the stairs, and he turns his head to stare at us. Kepaoa jerks his own head backwards, and bobs up on the soles of his feet, making eye contact with the guy. “Yeeeeh… what? Fuckin little bitch,” he hisses.

We make an immediate cordon around him, and he’s willing to take a few paces with us, although his head twists around stiffly as we walk. And this way we reach the next flight of stairs, then, to everyone’s great relief, the whole thing is out of view.


We make it to the main exit, still kind of carrying Kepaoa along with us. And then we see Paki, waiting just outside. He’s been worried, and come straight from work to find us. I’m so incredibly glad to see him. He wraps his arms around his brother and holds onto him, and tears course down Kepaoa’s face. Paki and I look at one another and our eyes say it all.  Relief; gratitude; shared understanding. “I’ll take him home,” Paki tells me, very gently. At that, I actually feel half the tension leave my body, and it’s immediately replaced by an intense wave of fatigue.

I can’t believe I have school on Monday – I haven’t even really thought about it. There’s the whole Karys thing to deal with… and it seems like a million miles away.


The right thing

Thursday 8 March, 2012:

This afternoon I attend Tau’s disciplinary meeting at the TI. Kuli covers 11 Social for me. Later, Marjorie questions my apparently ‘non-standard’ approach to relief procedure (by email), then backtracks and says I’ve done the right thing!

Actually I am attempting to do the right thing – finding my own cover; notifying the SLT in advance. And besides, there’s no actual procedure for this situation – it’s just the fact that it is a ‘situation’ that (as usual) unsettles the DP’s. Not that they know any of the details, apart from that I organize cover for a non-standard absence from a timetabled class. They can assume what else they like, cos they’ll never know.


In the car, parked at the TI, Tau finally starts to get things off his chest. He’s been having problems with Wayne – his tutor this semester – the one who rang me about the meeting. “He doesn’t help me,” Tau says, in unhappy frustration. “So I can’t do all the work… and then when I get it wrong, he tells me off in front of everyone. That’s why I took his bit of wood, and used it for my work. I chiselled his name off and put my name on – I was behind, and he didn’t help. I wasn’t trying to steal his stuff, I just…”

I pat his arm. ‘It’s ok, Tau, I understand what you’re saying.”

“Yeah Miss, and then he growled at me in front of the whole class – that’s when I said Fuck you.”

“Oh,” I say, but mildly. “Wayne never told me all that – he just said he took you out for a chat.”

“He did – but after that,” Tau explains. “See… he’s all shit. He was like, ‘don’t be like that’, and, ‘Come and talk about it,’ and I did. But then I just took off, cos he was pissing me off. Tryna be all nice, when he’d already gone off at me.”


And that was just Monday… or maybe Tuesday? Every day this week, something’s gone wrong. On Wednesday, Wayne had tried talking to Tau again; this time bringing another student out as a ‘support person’ (this was Wayne’s take on it). But Tau had interpreted it differently:

“He told that guy, Chris. My friend – well you know…”

I nod. Cos Tau really doesn’t mind Chris, the other student – it was just the situation.

“Wayne told Chris to come out with us and talk, but then on the way, he said in a big loud voice to Chris – ‘The boys are alright with Taurangi, aye’. And then he said to the class, ‘Everyone’s alright with Taurangi, aren’t you, guys?’ and everyone was like, ‘Yeeah…’ “(Tau’s voice implies they were merely going through the motions). “And I was like – fuck this. Cos now they’re gonna think I’m dropping my nuts, him checking if there’s any trouble like that – he just doesn’t get it.”

“Ohh – I see.” Cos I do now, completely.

“Yeah – and he took me outside, with Chris, and said he wanted to make sure there aren’t any problems with the boys. And now everyone’ll think I’m a little bitch. So – I told them to get fucked, and I just took off.”

“Aw – Tau,” I say. “So it isn’t the class… or hating the work, or anything like that. Just the way Wayne is handling it.”

“Yeah, that’s what it is,” says Tau. “I’m ok with the class. I don’t like them or anything, but I don’t care about that – I’m all good with that.”

“And you don’t hate Construction? That’s what I’ve been worried about.”

“No, I like making that stuff,” says Tau. “I need some help, but I still like doing the work.”

“Well, it’s a big help to know all that, Tau,” I say. “It really helps with what we’re gonna say at the meeting, and I’m proud of you for telling me what’s going on – I know it’s hard.”

“All good, Miss,” says Tau, in some actual relief to be talking about it at last.


“So – we all good to go in?”

“Yup, Miss.”

“And it’s alright if I mention some of this?”

“Yup,” says Tau, unhesitatingly.

“Good boy,” – and we grin at one another.

As we walk into the foyer I say, “Tau, I know it’s hard sometimes, but I want you to try really hard to not run away, even if you don’t like what they’re saying.”

“I’ll try,” he nods.

“And…” I conclude. “If you do have to run away, I just want to you run to the car, and wait for me.”

Tau starts to laugh.

“Can you do that… promise?”

He nods again.


And then he doesn’t even come close to taking off; I just pat his shoulder a couple times, when I see that he’s having a moment of alarm or discomfort. The Head of Faculty looks quite tickled at this, shooting me an amused glance as I non-verbally ‘coax’ Tau along. I actually think he sees a different side of Tau today, despite the recalcitrant appearance and stoic looks. And so the meeting is really very productive, and several degrees more trust is established between parties.


In the car park afterwards, we just talk, now that we’re kind of in the zone for it.

“Tau?” I ask him. “You know those times that you run away? Like if I ask you something and you run away from me.”


“Well, if there’s something I’m doing that’s upsetting you… you can tell me. And I won’t be mad, I promise. I’ll just try to find another way of handling things.”

“No Miss, you don’t upset me,” says Tau. “That’s the real truth – I just don’t wanna talk, sometimes.”

“Ok,” I say, and we look at one another acceptingly.


We drive home, via the new CP stomp (just off the motorway off-ramp), which Tau wants to show me: “Kost and Quest and Inia and Noa did it on the weekend… and Eddie and Simeon…”

“Eddie and Simeon?” I ask, mystified at their inclusion.

“Yes! Cos they paid for the bucket of paint, and the rollers,” Tau explains, and we crack up laughing.


Friday 9 March:

School’s hard again today. 13 History: what kind of teacher am I? I just feel like – well, I just don’t care about your Excellences, or ‘historical skills’, or essays. Essays… pffft!

And so I feel false. I think: please don’t expect anything, because I can’t give you anything – not today.


Then 9 Social: starting to piss me off, as an ensemble. And I have to put up with TJ’s Learning Assistant, who I feel uncomfortable with. She’s this straight-looking, pursed-lips kind of lady. And she waits round for me to explain everything, and meanwhile the class are being annoying little eggs. I growl – and they shut up (eventually). But what kind of teacher am I? I don’t care about the learning. I just feel like: oh, this is all shit, pretending I give a damn. My heart feels sorry, for Trenton, and TJ, and the others … but I don’t care about the stupid learning, the folders; the waste of time, and life, and vibrant energy (theirs; mine).

And my energy’s so low. I can hardly keep my eyes open. After school I just sit in the car, wanting to close my eyes and sleep, and sleep…


Saturday 10 March:

Today is the day things start getting to overload. Why now? It isn’t even the hardest day – it just feels like too much, somehow. After the events of the last couple weeks. I don’t know what to do to get some of it off me – but I can’t keep going under this much pressure.

Even though it’s Saturday, I have to do report comments and write the 12 History assessment. Tomorrow… I should do the stats analysis (waste of time; probably gonna take all day). I’m exhausted before the weekend even gets underway, and what can I do? I don’t remember what it’s like to wake up and feel right about a day.

The last two days I try to go to the supermarket and get stuff, I end up getting like five things just for that day, because I’m too tired to walk around and get the whole list. And last night I just lay in bed, tired, and my thoughts go over and over the same circuit. Life’s very hard and I feel like there’s no let up from everything that makes me feel so exhausted. I wish there was a magic word, or a power, or an act. That could restore everything to how it should be.

Actually, more than that right now, I wish I could just feel someone’s arms around me. I wish there was someone to hold onto me: tell me it’s ok and everything’s gonna be alright.



Yin and Yang

Monday 16 November, 2009:

I can’t believe I said that to Levi on Friday! Never mind… he was almost kind to me afterwards; he even tried to do his work. But God, he’s exactly right – what sort of teacher am I?  It’s enough almost to make me laugh.

And I see Noa a couple of times around the place. The first time we just walk by saying nothing, but the second time we look at one another and laugh.

I say, “I was cross with you on Friday.”

“You were Miss, I know – and I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” I tell him. “I’m sorry too.”


Tau isn’t at school again, he must be with his dad. If the pills weren’t working, they were going to operate again. And I don’t think the pills will work – because Tau’s dad is drinking alcohol on top of the medication.

He tells me, “I had to go and get alcohol for my dad – he wanted weed too, but I don’t know any tin houses round there.”

Then they drank it (at the hospital). I don’t even ask where Tau got it from; he’s already told me before – he just goes to a liquor store and asks a customer going inside to buy it for him, gives them the money and they get a can as payoff.


When Kuli and I are driving back home, I see Aperamo waving at me as he walks with some other kids along Municipal Rd, and for some reason it feels like he’s the only friendly face in the whole world – and I don’t wanna go home. There isn’t anywhere to go, so I go home anyway.

But I try to catch this somehow. So… what happens next? Where do I go when the battle’s over for another summer? Where are my quarters, where are my tents? I can’t be at home only in the valley.

I can’t quite make it out. I’m gonna have to move one way or the other. I can’t just stay here permanently, in between all possibilities. I have to move. And what if I lose? What if I just can’t have ‘that thing’… whatever it is.


Last Thursday, when I say to Tau, “What have you got next?”, he replies, “I’ve got – you.”

Technically, he hasn’t; he’s got Math. He knows it’s gonna be alright with me, and with his Math teacher too, and he can stay… but it’s just the way he says it:

“I’ve got you.”

Not “I’m gonna stay here,” or “Can I stay here?” But that feeling of you and meme and you.

I don’t have it in many places.


Today; Nio and the Social revision class – he stays and tries his best to write an essay. By the end of the day his perseverance is somewhat depleted, and then at times it’s just a matter of containment. But as I order him to a chair at my side, he says proudly, “This is the first day I’ve been at school all day for ages. Probably all year!”

“I know,” I sigh. “It’s a bit much for you, aye Nio, cos you’re out of the habit.”

“Yeah Miss, I know,” he readily admits. “I need a sesh now.”


Even though I’m tired, I feel quite absurdly contented after a day of Nio.

“Don’t fiddle with Mister’s stuff, ” I tell him. We’re in one of the Math rooms for revision day.

“I won’t take anything, I’m just looking,” says Nio.

“I know, but it’s not my room, so just leave it.”

“Okay, I won’t touch it,” says Nio.

And I know he means it; I know he really does mean it, and so we trust one another – and I turn my attention back to the class.


Oh, but I hope Tau’s alright. He must get tired. Nio says today, “Cluzo’s like one of those zombies…” and I kind of see what he means. But it’s only because Tau is so tired and has to do so much weary, automatic stuff. I admire Tau’s stoicism but at the same time I worry, because I know all sorts of shit goes down.

Tau and Nio are like… like yin and yang; like two sides of the same coin. And man do I get it. I dunno, I don’t know why – but I do.

Exhaustion (part ii)

Thursday 12 November, 2009 (contd):

The pizzas have been ordered, and I go pick them up from reception with Jack and Dimario. When we get back to class, there’s Tau sitting outside my room with Simeon, looking very mournful.

Tau tells me, “They sent Leroi hooome…” then, “I don’t wanna be at school now – I’ve got no water buddy. I wanna gap it.”

“No Tau, just stay here. Either go to class or come with my class.”

“I don’t wanna go to my class.”

“Then come into my class – it’s ok”

“Nooo… cos you’re having a shared lunch, and I’ll be shy.”

I say to them, “Alright, stay out here and I’ll get you a drink.”


Jack pours drinks for everyone, and I quietly take two cokes out to Tau and Simeon, then get some Hawaiian pizza and take it out too:

“Come on – may as well have some pizza.”

They accept it happily.

After a bit, I bring them out more pizza and drinks. Tau looks so relieved just to be fed and watered. It makes my heart sore to think of him not eating – I can’t bear it. I just keep thinking (literally): ‘Feed My Sheep.’

And I think: well if nothing else he’s had a feed; he’s had something to drink, and so I leave them to it and go talk to the year 11’s.


I ask Dimario, “Where’s Alexander?”

“Oh Miss,” Dimario says, with sorrow. “He’s… well, Alexander got up to all sorts of trouble in the weekend. Big trouble.”

“Well I wish he’d come in,” I grumble. “He’s still got that assessment to finish.”

“He won’t, Miss, honest – he can’t come!” Dimario insists

“Nah Dimario, that’s what you always say about Alexander – but he always turns up in the end.”

“Not this time, too much went down,“ says Dimario.

“Yeah,” echoes Jack. “Heaps of trouble in the weekend.”

“Oh bloody hell,” I mutter.

They laugh, but very ruefully, and Dimario says, “Miss, you shouldn’t put faith in Alexander.”

“Why shouldn’t I have faith in Alexander?” I ask. “He’s done a good job this year.”

“He has done alright… in Social,“ they say, thinking it over.

“Yes. And so have you guys,” I tell them, and Dimario smiles at me.


As I’m talking to them, I happen to glance around and see that Tau and Simeon are sitting at my desk, making no fuss. So they came in after all – that makes me laugh, secretly. Tau’s quieter now, but still looks restless and a bit agitated. And then Jamal comes in late: ohh shit.

Jamal says to Tau, “Why did you squirt me?” He adds, “I just wanna know,” and then, to me, “Miss, sorry I’m late.”

“It’s ok Jamal. I heard what happened.”

“Fuck, get fucked…“ Tau mutters at Jamal.

“Aye Tau – don’t say that,” I tell him.

“Nah Miss, that cunt was trying to staunch us out. He gave us the fingers, that’s why we squirted him.”

“I wasn’t giving the fingers to you,” says Jamal. “I was doing it to my mate.”

“Nah, get fucked, ima fuck you over after school,” murmurs Tau, in a threateningly matter of fact way.

Jamal looks reasonably troubled, and says, “Look, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to do anything, I just… I’m sorry I hit your friend.”

I say, “Tau, it looks like Jamal’s apologized – so just leave it aye?”

“No Miss, that cunt was eyeing us up. He was tryna staunch us out – and I’m gonna smack him over later,” repeats Tau.

“No you’re not, just leave it,” I say. And I tell Jamal, “It’s alright, just forget about it – I’ll sort it.”


I leave Tau and Simeon to their own devices for a few moments, and go get Alexander’s assessment to give to Dimario, in case he sees him.

“Oh okay,” says Dimario, seeing the sense in this. “Yeah, I’ll take it. I don’t think I’ll see him… but I dunno.”

“Well, do me a favour – let him know I want to see him, ok?”

“I probably won’t see him,” Dimario says, patiently.

“But – just text him for me.”

“I can’t text him. Alexander hasn’t got a phone.”

“He hasn’t got a phone?” I repeat, intrigued.

“Nah Miss, you have to text his missus.”

“Ohh,“ I reply, and then, because I’m interested, “What’s Alexander’s girlfriend like?”

“She’s gangsta,” says Jack.

“No she’s not – she’s freaky,“ says Dimario.

“Nah… oh, kind of,“ says Jack, and they laugh.

“She’s all weird looking, she looks like one of those crack babies,” Dimario tells me, while Jack guffaws.

“Oh you guys, don’t be mean,” I protest.

“No Miss, she does. She’s got these weird eyes… but it don’t matter if she’s ugly, cos so’s Alexander!” Dimario rejoices.

“Oh shut up – that’s just sad,” I say, and Dimario laughs, adding, “It’s like Shrek meets E.T.“

Actually I can’t help laughing, cos they say this stuff so tenderly and untruthfully. And I know if Alexander was here he’d just give that gentle, peaceable smile.

Then, “It’s ok, Miss,” Dimario assures me. “Alexander’s sensei. He gets all the girls.”

“Yeah,” Jack agrees. “At parties, all the chicks go for Alexander.”


The room’s very contented. I think for sure if any class deserves a shared lunch, it’s this one. I’ve had such a fun time with them all year, and I wish Alexander was here too. But at the same time, it’s good to see Dimario just hanging on in there – now he’s asking me about the study days!

“I really think I’ll come to them,” he tells me, as I write the dates on the board.

“That’s great,” I say. “I’m really glad, Dimario.”

And it’s a nice afternoon in that way, but Tau is not very settled (understatement of the year) and I’m worried about him; I can’t help it. He’s still got that wild look in his eye, and I know that he’s barely, barely contained… and so close to cutting loose.

Near the end of class he runs around a bit, wanting to start up the squirting again. Noa comes out of a neighboring classroom, sees me and Tau, and laughs – putting one arm around him briefly. “Fuck, Cluzo… still going,” he says

“I know,“ I sigh. “Noa, I’m so tired, all I’ve done today is run around after this guy – and what does he ever do for me?”

Tau, standing on the stairs, looks at me, and says, earnestly, “I did do stuff for you, Miss.”

“Like what? Run away when I ask you to come, and not go to class?”

“No, like… I brought down your drinks, I carried down your drinks!” he tells me triumphantly, filling up a huge Sprite bottle from the tap.

I snatch the bottle from him. “No Tau – that’s not a good idea.”

“Oh Miss…

I hand it over to Noa, who accepts it without batting an eyelid.

Jamal looks out the door and Tau says, “Gonna fuck him up later. Gonna shoot him.” He pats his jacket, telling me, “I’ve got my gat with me today.”

“You have not.”

He says, “It’s here – wanna feel?”

“No I do not,” I say, and Noa grins.

But honestly, I’m not sure – it wouldn’t surprise me if he had got it with him – and this is getting too hard to roll with, right now. It all seems to be leaping past the few boundaries that still exist – and I dunno what to do. It’s very hard to do anything except try and hang on. That’s all I do today; just try hold on for the duration.

But at the same time, my heart just about breaks. Because like I said the other day, the things I love about Tau are also the things that hurt, or are gonna hurt.


After school, I check my emails (floods of emails). Most of them are fairly idiotic, especially Marjorie’s. She thinks Tau and Leroi are ‘bullying’: targeting their aim towards ‘marginalized learners’ – what a crock! They’re not targeting anyone, just indiscriminately wetting any poor sod who comes along. Thankfully Morris agrees with me on that one.

But what will tomorrow bring? My aim is to have a quiet day, whichever way it goes. This doesn’t mean I’m gonna stop doing stuff, I’m just not gonna chase it. I’m too tired – if Tau wants to find me, he knows where I am.

Lil’ Homies

‘Just pay attention
Here’s a story bout my lil’ homies, straight thuggin’
Lil’ bad young mothafuckers, gotta love em..’

(2Pac – Lil’ Homies)

Sunday 2 August, 2009:                                                                                                  

I’m listening to Tau’s CD which makes me feel oddly (or not all that oddly) comforted. The song that gets me right in the heart at the moment is Lil Homies, cos then I just see their faces: ‘Lil bad young mothafuckers, gotta love em…’

Argos and Tau, Dimario and Alexander, Nio, George and Conor… and I wonder, honestly wonder how I’m gonna hang on when I’m so fuckin’ tired. I wonder how long I can stay so tired and still stay under the radar with my guests and the walk-throughs.

No space, make space, bring em in, sitting on my floor like tired puppies, bombing their affiliations and decorating the school with their efforts… off for a smoke at lunch, their caps and hoodies on, then sitting outside my room ready for class; SirC and Hazard listening intently in 11 Social.

My DVD being passed around the taggers of the district; so much for Nio keeping that quiet, Aperamo even tells me he’s seen it now: “We watched it in the garage at someone’s place…” It goes forth again, hits upon hits now apparently decorating it, it’s like the venerated object… they say wonderingly, “Where did you get it… we can’t get it.”


I trust them so willingly – I just do. It’s been a source of great inspiration to me that they know how to keep things on the low at school, know much better than I do. I watch and learn. They don’t look like they would know, but they’re masters of the art of subterfuge; even George has his two friends to keep him on track: Conor and Hala, who slip him through somehow, who get him moving, who stop him from hooking any other body who pisses him off on the road to school. They are his guides as he makes his way along, and his quick guards.

He arrives at my door with his face flushed and scowling. “Fuck, Miss – almost smashed someone…”


“Dunno,” he shrugs. “Someone on the way here.”

“It’s ok Miss, we get him here,” Conor says.

I remember Riley saying, “He never smiles,” and I look at George’s face, which is softening… perplexity replacing belligerence… relaxation gradually easing out perplexity.


‘Gotta love em…’ yup, that’s what I think. Tau strolling, with his checked shirt hanging out from under his school jacket. He gets bigger every day, his air of solid wariness increases, and he keeps his intentions on the low; whatever they may be. But out of the whole lot of them, it was Tau who, from the very first moment, always read me right. I have a special fondness for him because of that. The mystery man; he don’t say much, and what goes on with him I don’t know – but I’m willing to bet his mind’s moving real fast. I would never underestimate Tau, never have.

Then the other man of mystery – Alexander. Sometimes he’s in kind of a trance, his eyes go swirly, then he just focuses like someone flicked a switch. His comments are only random if you assume he’s been daydreaming, when in reality it’s a logical sequence, the culmination of a thought process which operates first. And the impeccable Dimario, who is more ironic and laidback than any 16 year old boy has a right to be. And Nio, the escapee – the drawling, cocky, shimmering Nio, who runs school after his own fashion: swaggering, unhurried, then leaping through a gap so small that no-one else could have spotted it.

And Argos, who is gentle, starry… and who trusts me; who I’ve calmly walked across the line for, and into no-man’s-land, which is where I find myself now, an observer no longer. I’ve gotta start moving fast, and getting wise, and if I can’t find a way to do it then I’m no use to him or to anyone. Gotta be so much smarter, and I don’t know how, but I’m about to learn, I think… could I learn?


And why now? Honestly, every day I ask… why now, of all things… this? What happened to the world far away from that line? Close enough to touch, but faraway, like a snow-globe; snug little bubble of Christmas and vacations and barbecues, of gardens and glasses of wine and ‘lunch with the girls’. It’s there, I can put a finger to the round, strokable, secure little enclosure, touch the glass softly and not without affection, not without a sense of wonder… but I don’t long for it, I don’t have a moment’s hesitation, not even a moment. I can leave it where it belongs, and my mind goes ‘far away’ to this strange battlefield… really, if they only knew, just beyond the glass. Where my heart sings and rises. Where my eyes narrow to read signs for the way, signs for those who care to read them.

God help me, I don’t know what on earth or in heaven convinces me, but this is for me, and I have to do something here.


Living signs

As if in a dream my arms are no longer white and thin. I stand lion strong limb limb. (Alastair Galbraith)

Wednesday 28th January, 2009:

Last night in my dreams were a parrot, a tiger, and two black panthers, all roaming over the sheltering hills which we used to explore as children. The parrot perched in the walnut and fig trees at the front of our house. The panthers, which I saw from the window, were not really black, but the colour of smudged grey charcoal. I felt a surge of alarm, but knew soon I would go out to where they wandered shoulder to shoulder, quietly slipping against the summer hills. My heart said white and green, like a flash; violet and smudgy grey, like a velvet shadow; dust-pink and tawny, like the hibiscus with a sunrise flush at its centre.

My heart says no more daydreaming please.  My eyes can’t slide sideways anymore, to the shining world inside my head. I have to look out now, into the real world, with attention and care, and see real people and speak to real people and mean it in these times.


Saturday 31 January:

Classes start Monday, and I need to think about the year 11’s. A double period of Social, Monday morning – and on my class list are Dimario and Alexander. The kids who are already, by the age of fifteen, totally not into going along for the ride. Dimario – I taught him in year 9 – will occasionally do the most painstaking and beautiful work, otherwise (and usually) nothing. Alexander is a friend of Dimario’s – I’ve seen him around. The teachers say all he ever does is tag.


Looking out something in a box of school stuff, I find the ‘Indigenous Knowledge’ assessment from last year. Certain lines stand out to me now like they’re written in magical letters:

When it gets cloudy and you can’t use the sun or the stars all you can do is rely on the ocean waves. If you can read the ocean, you will never be lost, when the sky gets black at night under heavy clouds, and you cannot see the swells. You cannot even see the bow of the canoe, you can just feel the different swell patterns moving under the canoe and can tell the canoe’s direction lying down inside the hull of the canoe.

Living seamarks are called ‘aimers’ and are such things as a tan shark making lazy movements, a ray with a red spot behind the eyes, a lone noisy bird, a swimming swordfish, and so on… these seamarks are found along routes between islands and indicate to the navigator that he was at a certain point along his route, for example the seamark called ‘the swarming of beasts’ consisted of an extraordinary number of sharks and indicated the canoe was a day’s sail downwind of land. Other marks include a region where flying fish leaped in pairs, a zone of innumerable jellyfish… an area of sharks and red-tailed tropic birds… a place where pairs of porpoises point their heads in the direction of the passage into Tarawa lagoon.

Once the canoe is in the vicinity of its destination, the navigator starts looking for land.  Islands are usually found in clusters – if the navigator can hit any of the islands in this target screen, he can reorient the canoe.

I feel really nervous now, about school tomorrow. But I know that will pass as the day goes by. As yet it’s unknown, that first class, and I can only get it known by ‘feeling’ it,  like a living dynamic which starts and shifts.