Fireworks and pouring rain

Wednesday 30 October, 2013:

I remember that (according to Tau) today’s the day Scott gets out of jail. My heart just sinks, thinking about it. I don’t know if there’s any ‘plan’ in place. I doubt it. Agencies and institutions talk a good game about this stuff. I’ll be surprised, truly, if they’ve actually done anything at all.

Oh well. If Tau needs to get away, he’ll come. I just don’t want all those other boys, and cars, and hangers on, they can all go somewhere else.

Yeah, I already know I’m not special – but I’m not stupid either.

 

After classes finish for the day, I find Ezekiel on the stair outside my room. He asks if I ‘have time’, and I say (truthfully) no, not really. I’m intent on marking assessments for an hour. But he follows me in, anyway.

“So… you don’t really have time?” he asks again, though not with particular hope.

“Time for what?” I say.

“Um… to get a ride home?” he tries.

“No, sorry, I don’t,” I tell him. “I have to get this marking done, that’s why I’ve just made a coffee.” (I have it in my hand). “Anyway, it’s a nice day – you’ll be ok.”

“Oh, okay,” he says. He looks crestfallen, and I feel guilty, irritating myself.

“You’ll be fine,” I say again. It is, really, a nice day. If it was raining, maybe I’d be swayed. But I think to myself – no, best to let it go.

 

And he leaves. I feel guilty for a bit longer, and then just sigh to myself and mark the assessments – some of which are quite good.

Ezekiel’s not a bad kid, not at all. But I can’t be at anyone’s beck and call. And I don’t know what the story is, with that one. Maybe I’ll never know. Anyway, I don’t want to get attached to anyone else, at school.

 

Thursday 31 October:

Bloody school… bloody useless today. And it’s Thursday, so that’s not fair! Thursdays are supposed to be alright.

The thing that pisses me off the most is the overt sentimentalizing of the ‘last week of school’ with the seniors – the whole place feels like like some big playroom today. Honestly, it’s so false, the system that apparently celebrates their success at the same time as it’s already booted out so many of their peers over the years.

13 History today, in the main they’re smug lil fuckers, pissing me off with their self-indulgence – like no-one else has ever left school before. Eli comes and works with me, which pretty much saves my bacon. Because at times I feel I’m gonna snap and tell all the rest of them to fuck off.

“I know, Miss – I can tell,” Eli says to me quietly, apropos of this sentiment. I’m very grateful to have him there, I can tell you.

 

After work I leave the whole stupid place behind and take small measures to ‘normalize’ my day: stop at the gas station to put air in the tyres; pick up fruit and vegies; make a coffee at home, head over to the gym…

And the gym is another life-saver. Soon as I hit the treadmill, I can feel the whole chaotic vibe lift. Then I’m alright again.

When I come back home I make fried eggs, eat them with bread and tomatoes, avocado, and then a big chunk of pawpaw. Two posses of cute kids trick-or-treating arrive at the door, and I give them Doritos. Altogether I feel much, much better.

 

Friday 1 November:

Funny old 9 Social in the morning, they’re quite sweet.

Jackson says to me, right off the bat, “Miss – do you live with CP?”

This surprises me so much that at first I’m almost shocked… then I just about choke with laughter, and he and Deshaun look at me, wide-eyed. I say, “Um, yeah right. They all live at my place,” and they actually wait with bated breath, checking to see if I’m joking.

Once I realize that they’re not even trying to take the piss (which is very un-Jackson, to be honest), I say something like, “Heey, where did that come from?”

“I met this guy in Carthill, and he told me,” Jackson says.

“Who on earth was this?”

“Um… a boy who used to come here, but he got kicked outa school,” he explains. “He asked me if I knew you, and then he said – you’d better be good for her, she lives with CP.”

“Who was he?” I wonder.

“I don’t know his name,” Jackson says. “I just met him.”

“Oh,” I say, still wondering.

But not wanting to inflate the matter any further, I just tell them with a certain degree of frankness, as we walk over to the library. “No, I don’t live with CP. But I’ve had a few… foster kids, from time to time.” I don’t really know how else to put it, in a way that would make sense. And more than that I can’t say, obviously.

Jackson and Deshaun are fine with that – and they leave it. I’m as matter of fact as I can be, with these two really very nice boys. And they pick up on the vibe, which ensures there’s no ‘secrets’ in the air, nor rumors flying around the library.

At the library, Eli and one of his friends come over and work at my table, chatting to me in a most collegial way throughout the period. The 9 Social boys look over with interest, and I realize that my stocks are currently quite high, the understated presence of these two lending additional credence to the earlier reports.

 

Saturday 2 November:

Mia and I go for brunch, it’s good… and a little bit not. We order pancakes, which turn out to be very bijou (and expensive to boot), and I’m still hungry afterwards. City cafés, hah. Not like out in Municipal, where the pancakes come in fat stacks.

And I feel tense, it’s an effort to hold that in, and at the same time I don’t really want to – I just don’t know what else to do. My jaw and my eyes get stiff from the effort of smiling and conversating. And both before and afterwards, I can’t stop yawning – some kind of attempt to release the tension, I guess.

 

Leroi turns up unexpectedly when I get back. He’s looking for Tau (and I haven’t seen Tau since that one time last week.) Which makes me feel even tenser than I already am.

Scott’s out of jail. He’s staying with them too – just as I thought. Of course he isn’t supposed to, but does anyone really check? Nope. The probation officer came over, and Scott pretended Sheree was his aunty.

“And they believed him?” I ask, very incredulously.

Leroi nods, in an amused but still matter of fact way.

“Sheree doesn’t look like she could be Scott’s aunty,” I continue. “ You’d be way more likely to think Scott was Sheree’s uncle.”

“I know,” Leroi agrees, and we snort with laughter.

 

Leroi says it’s going “ok,” with Scott. Then he adds, “So far…”

“He off the alkies?”

“Kind of…”

Honestly, I know it isn’t a good bet. But no-one’s sorted anything out for Scott, and so where the fuck is he supposed to be going? It’s not exactly his fault. Or Sheree’s. And those probation people and social workers and men’s groups don’t do shit. All those so-called ‘wrap-around’ services. Just like teachers never do shit either – I’m not saying they do.

And so… Scott’s just ‘out’. No home detention, no community service. Nowhere to go, and wanting to see his family. What the fuck would you do? Honestly – what would you do? If you were Scott, or Sheree, Tau or Leroi? All the same, Sheree’s the one who really gets the crap deal here.

 

After Leroi leaves,  I cut my losses and take a nap, wake up and turn on the TV. Got nothing more than that to do, nowhere to really go. The foxes have their holes… and the birds of the air have their nests. Didn’t Jesus say that? I sometimes think of a happy place, when I’m sad. Lions, resting in the long grass, by a little river.

Or I think of my ‘one good thing’. How I won’t let Tau down. It feels like my atonement for everything else I’ve done or left undone. But at the same time, I’ll be ashamed, if he comes. I’m so shamed, just thinking about it. My heart cries, quietly. Because I used to be special and now I’m not. Serves me right, for being so bad at everything else I’ve ever put my hand to.

And I don’t know anything. I just pine for those days of being special too.

 

Sunday 3 November:

When I lay in bed last night, I ‘talk to’ Slade, Kepaoa, Nio and Tau. Actually address them, each one. Say the words I’ve been wanting to say. Then as my brain gets tireder I start actually falling to sleep, and I hear myself mumble some random out of it things. “Reading a book…” I say, at one point.

Reading a book? Oh well, why not?

 

The gym’s good, this morning. I chuck some extra weights on my bar, and feel a bit better for it. But it’s kind of a precarious feeling, just yet. Still, I tell myself – the reason you’re feeling better is because you chose to feel better. Got off that bad buzz all by yourself!

And well, maybe things aren’t over at all. Maybe things are only just getting started. Stuff keeps right on happening, there’s always something new about to happen – even when you think it’s not.

 

Monday 4 November:

My muscles are aching after another round of Pump. One thing about the gym, I always show up when I say I will.

Partly, this is because I don’t want to waste my gym fees. And partly, it’s because I like it. And then, even when I feel tired… I tell myself that half the battle’s won just through showing up. Which is true, in pretty much anything I reckon.

I get home and take a shower and wash my hair, it’s the night before Guy Fawkes and there’s fireworks exploding all around Municipal, literally.

Fireworks and pouring rain.

 

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Close and uncomforting

Saturday 3 November, 2012:

I spend the morning shopping for fireworks with Riley and her boyfriend Miller. He seems very quiet, very reserved. Riley holds his hand, calls him babe, chats away to him while he replies quietly in short sentences. The first time I see him animated is after the purchase of a Great White Shark. He holds it in his hand, saying, “This one’s for me,” then waves it around to demonstrate what he intends to do with the rocket. Riley wears the calm and competent air of a duty police officer as she responds to this potential ‘situation’, telling him he can put it in the ground, not point it at anyone.

When I get home Kepaoa’s sleeping on the couch (blue rag tied round his head, iPod jammed in one ear… gangland Sleeping Beauty). He’s been here a couple days. It’s Thursday that he texts to ask if he can come to mine. He’s bought an airline ticket to see Teri, and doesn’t know how to tell his parents about the trip. I say ok, but keep on encouraging him to tell someone, saying I don’t feel right about him going without his family knowing about it. He says he thinks he could tell Paki, and we schedule Friday night as a suitable time.

 

So on Friday I drop Kepaoa off at Montgomery, and go back later to pick him up. He says he’s told his brother. I believe him… well, kind of. Not one hundred percent. Seeing this, Kepaoa seeks to further convince me.

“Miss, I have – I promise I’ve told him.”

“But how do I know that?”

“Cos he’s gonna come to the airport too – if he finishes work on time.”

“If he finishes work on time…” I say, suspiciously.

“Honest, Miss. Then you’ll know I’ve told him, when you see him.”

If I see him…”

“I have, Miss. Honest to who.”

“Alright, alright,” I say, thinking about this. “But if he doesn’t come to the airport, I’m not gonna let you board the plane!”

Kepaoa cracks up laughing. “I have, Miss. Don’t worry.” The ‘don’t worry’, which is Kepaoa’s trademark attempt at reassurance, usually means that I should be very worried indeed. Knowing this himself, and seeing my eyebrows shoot up, he grins at me wickedly.

“Well, I will worry… till I see him,” I mutter.

“You’ll see him, don’t worry.”

And we both end up laughing.

 

Monday 5 November:

By the time we get to the airport at 3:30, Kepaoa’s kind of jittery. What’s seemed like a big adventure is suddenly close and uncomforting. I’m probably not much help, on that front. My day has gone particularly un-smoothly. The classes drag, the netbooks don’t work, and then – to cap it all off – Shakira evicts a group of kids from the desktop computers upstairs and sends them back down to me. Apparently some of them have been playing games while “unattended”. I go up and try (politely at first) to explain that although I’m monitoring them,  I can’t be in two places at once. It would be preferable, I say, to come get me to talk to the kids, rather than send them away. My politeness evaporates when Shakira shows not the least sympathy for my plight. And then La-Verne tries using her ‘calm and reasonable’ voice: “In Shakira’s defence…” she begins.

By this point, my blood is boiling. I’m not even inclined to listen to her. I draw myself up in outrage. “Who put either of you in charge of the computers?” I said. “You two are not in charge of the computers.” I walk out, banging the door. Then down the stairs I go, to deal with 9 Social. AJ comes in for a special dose of my wrath, meandering in at precisely the wrong moment from God knows where. I even chastise Slade (who has signed out from the Learning Centre), for ‘encouraging’ AJ (some nuance of look, which to be honest, is more imagined than real: I’m just in a bad, baaad mood). Wisely, Slade just lets me growl, although he has no crime to answer to. His nice and responsive manner calms me a little, and I sit by him and let the atmosphere kind of settle. After class, he stays to put up my chairs; tidy papers and books. I can see he’s being caring, making sure I’m ok. Reciprocity; it gets me through, and that’s for sure.

 

I’m still on a stressy buzz though, even at the airport. I lose my temper again, this time with a group of queue-jumpers who try to push past everyone at check in. Yell at them; wave my arms around; block them; tell them to get to the back of the queue. Kepaoa is most impressed by this. “Maan, Miss,” he comments afterwards. “Never seen you get angry like that before. Stepping out all those people.

“Yeah…” I sigh. “Sorry, Kepaoa.”

“Nah Miss, I like it. That’s what my family would do, too. I hate the way everyone else was being so polite, like they were scared to tell them off.”

By now, he’s calmed down a little bit. It’s partly the novelty of seeing me be ‘ruthless’, as he puts it. And then Paki arrives, straight from work. Kepaoa looks at me in triumph. “See Miss – I was telling the truth!” he said, as his brother approaches.

“Aww… you were, I say, tenderly.

 

We sit and talk until the boarding call. Kepaoa stands up and hugs us, very tight.

“Be good,” I instruct him, “Don’t wanna see you on Border Patrol.”

He nods.

“And no alcohol on the plane,” I add, as an afterthought.

“Nah, I promise, gonna be a good boy,” he says, with feeling.