Friday 1 February, 2013:
Karys has told Chloe she wants all the canvases down from the walls of my classroom. This is almost (or maybe is?) a deal breaker, in terms of my relationship with Karys, and by default: Municipal College. However, Chloe is supportive of my position, and has offered to liaise with Karys on my behalf. So I’ll wait to see what eventuates.
This unpleasantness is mitigated in part by having the kids back today. All that ‘connecting’ stuff we have to do on the first day isn’t exactly my thing. But it’s good to see them – Andre especially. Actually, Andre is pretty damn wonderful. He volunteers his assistance time and time again: shepherding the year 9’s round the school on a guided tour, running games on the field for the juniors, and just being my go-to person all day long. He’s ten minutes late back after lunch (after going to the shop – for a coffee, of all things!), and a couple of times he gets frustrated with the juniors and says things like, “Fags, line up!” to them, but it just makes them dissolve with laughter.
“Andre, watch your language!” I call to him, tsking slightly, but more as a precaution than anything else – you never know who else is in earshot.
“Sorry Miss, I didn’t mean to – it just pops out,” he calls back, making me laugh too.
At the end of the day, as we walk down to the field for Karys’s ‘principal’s assembly’, Andre unobtrusively slips away, and goes home half an hour early – a reward he richly deserves.
Round 5, Mandy and I go for cocktails. I have the ‘El Presidente’, which consists of five nips with no mix: two kinds of rum (dark and white), Vermouth, Cointreau, and Grenadine – plus cherries soaked in liqueur. It’s surprisingly mellow, yet kicks in after the first few sips, effecting a feeling of relief in my tired brain. “Five drinks for the price of two…” I sigh, gratefully. Mandy (who is drinking a ‘Galvanised Rusty Nail’) grins, at that.
Later on we get pizza (switching down to Chianti at the same time), and then Mandy and I share a serve of tiramisu.
Saturday 2 February:
What happens tonight is both unexpected and (on reflection) kind of explicable. Well, I think so… and maybe I’ll know; maybe I’ll never know.
It’s kind of a quiet day, to start with. Tau comes over, and later Leroi as well. Nothing unusual in that. Leroi says that Tau has told him the ‘rules’, i.e. the more formalized (post-cops) behaviour protocols at mine. This makes me laugh, and I pat Tau’s arm proudly – he looks pleased.
I go round to Mia’s for a while. As I leave, Tau asks how Kepaoa is; tells me I should bring him over soon. Says he wants to get to know him.
Round 10, when I’m almost ready to come home, there’s a text from Kepaoa, asking if he can stay round at mine tonight. So, no problem – I go pick him up from Montgomery Rd.
When we get home, the TV’s on, and there’s a nice smell of food being prepared in the kitchen.
“We’re just making some noodles and stuff,” Tau tells me.
“All good,” I say, with what is only the most passing interest. Kepaoa and I have both eaten earlier, and I’m happy that Tau and Leroi are not drunk, and are actually making a feed for themselves.
Kepaoa and Tau greet one another in a friendly way, and shake hands. Tau goes and attends to his noodles; Kepaoa and I turn our attention to Facebook. He hasn’t contacted Teri since Wednesday, mainly through having no internet access – and she’s posting comments like ‘Running out of patience’.
“If she wants to give me attitude, then I don’t even care today – I’m too tired,” Kepaoa tells me. He hops on the laptop anyway, but with a sigh.
Meanwhile, things have gone quiet in the kitchen, and, “Where are they?” enquires Kepaoa, but again, with only a minor interest.
“Umm… outside, I think,” I tell him. The back door is open, it’s a hot night. I guess they’re eating out on the steps, and this doesn’t surprise or bother me – knowing their ways. I guess they’re a little bit shy, to eat with Kepaoa there.
A few minutes later, I see Tau’s back reappear in the kitchen, he’s filling up the sink to do the dishes.
“Hey Tau,” I say, thinking of some piece of mail that’s recently arrived. “Do you want to do that WINZ form later?”
“I don’t give a fuck,” replies Tau, in a distressed voice that I’m not expecting.
“Aye?” I say, in surprise, and then continuing, kind of hopefully: “But don’t you want to get it sorted out?”
“I–don’t–give–a–fuck,” repeats Tau in a more staccato and definitely hyped up tone.
I ignore the warning signals, and slip out to the kitchen, where he turns his stiff back to me and busies himself with the dishes. His hands thrust pots and plates into the sink, to drown them with a splash.
“Are you ok… Tau?” I ask, not understanding what is going on.
“I’m all good!” Tau says, through clenched teeth. He doesn’t look at me.
“Has something happened?”
“No. I’m all good.” Tau grabs a cloth and begins to swing it around the bench, wiping and thumping crumbs away. He exerts himself in short breaths, and keeps his head down.
Then he flings the cloth down to one side, and strides out the door.
Leroi comes in and hovers next to me. “What happened?” I mouth, with hardly a sound.
“I don’t know,” Leroi mouths back.
I feel my eyes get kind of big and apprehensive, as we hear a couple of things smash outside.
Kepaoa comes into the kitchen and flanks me, protectively. “What’s up with Tau?” he asks.
“We don’t know,” I murmur, and Leroi, I think, is too nervous to even answer him.
“Is it me?” Kepaoa says, but wonderingly.
“I don’t think so,” I tell him, and Leroi shakes his head.
“What’s he smashing?”
“Something in the shed, I guess – he does that sometimes,” I say, and I see Kepaoa’s eyes register the fact that I’ve been through this process before. “I’ll go out to him,” I add, and flit off, before anyone can stop me.
“Tau?” I say, coming up to the shed door, and knocking, lightly. I can see him pacing about in there, and, “Do you want me to take Kepaoa home?” I ask him, not knowing if this will help or not.
“No, I don’t care. I’m all good. I don’t want to talk about it,” Tau cries in agitation, and so I withdraw.
Kepaoa, who has followed me out and is waiting just a metre behind me, draws in close and shepherds me away. “Miss!” he says. “What’s happening?”
“I don’t know…” I say, feeling almost distracted by some kind of calmness inside of me.
“If he does anything to you, Miss, I’ll have to jump in. Sorry Miss, I know you care about him, but I’ll never let him hurt you.”
“I don’t think he will,” I reply.
Kepaoa just looked at me, trying to appraise where this situation is headed. “Should I try talking to him?” he asks, next.
“Yes,” I say, thinking it can’t hurt.
So Kepaoa goes into the shed, and I come back inside, to where Leroi is standing in the exact same spot in the kitchen, looking upset and afraid.
“Did he say anything to you?” I ask.
“No, and I didn’t ask him,” Leroi replies. “I could see he was angry, and I didn’t know why. But I was scared to ask, cos I thought he might fuck me over.”
“Do you have any idea what happened?” I try.
“No,” and he shakes his head, miserably.
Kepaoa comes back in, and with a little shrug, informs us: “He wouldn’t tell me what was happening – but he said he was algood with me.”
“What did you say to him?” I ask, looking at Kepaoa’s calm eyes and slanted cheekbones. Even while I feel embarrassed, I know there is an amount of control which Kepaoa’s presence brings to the whole situation. There’s no question about it – I’m very glad he’s here.
He tells me, “I just went into the shed and asked him, What’s up, ge? He was just walking back and forth, back and forth, you know. He said he was awgud, and then I asked him, Is it me, bro? and he said – nah, I’m awgud with you locc. Then I asked him: So, do you wanna talk about it? He just looked at me, and for a second I thought he was gonna tell me. But then he just said – nah, nah awgud ge, and we shook hands. And I said: Alright, but just let me know later if you wanna talk about, that’s awgud ge, and he said – awgud bro. And that was it.”
Leroi, who’s been listening to all this, says, “Thanks for trying ge,”
It’s quiet out there, and for some reason I go back. I don’t know what I’m thinking I could say, but I begin, “Tau?“
He’s fumbling around with a key, kicking at the mat, which is getting stuck under the door, and there are two padlocks discarded on the ground already. “Fuck, I don’t want to fuckin talk about it, Miss,” he tells me, in that same highly stressed and frantic voice.
“Ok,” I say. What else is there to say.
And Tau just gives up on the door, and heads off out the gate and into the night. As he leaves, he yelled, “FTP!” and then, “CP Gang!” Leroi flurries out behind him, stopping to say to me, “I’ll go after him, Miss.”
Then Kepaoa and I go back inside. I dry the dishes, kind of mechanically. Rinse out the sink, pushing bits of egg and noodles down the plughole. Pick up the sodden cloth from where Tau has left it, and wipe down the stove.
“Miss?” Kepaoa calls, from the lounge. “You algood?”
“Yeah, I’m algood,” I tell him.
“Come and sit down, Miss.”
“I will – I’m just doing this first. Aren’t you supposed to be skyping Teri?”
“Yeah, but I’m worried about you. Miss, come and try to relax now,” he entreats. “Just chill out and watch TV for a while, jump on facebook.”
“K, I will… I will,” I tell him. And I do come and sit down, but my eyes still feel big and hounded, and I can’t settle to anything. I get up and sit back down again, a couple of times – then go to my room and change into my pyjamas.
When I come back in, I’m glad to see Kepaoa lying on the couch, talking to Teri now.
He sees me, and takes his attention away from his iPhone, saying, “Miss? Are you alright?” and then, “You’re not, are you,” he adds.
“Nah, I’m ok – honest,” I tell him. “But… I’ll take you home, huh?” Cos I suddenly feel real awkward, looking at poor Kepaoa. Coming round here after his hard day, to relax; call his girlfriend. And instead he’s kind of babysitting me. I feel aghast at myself, for not offering earlier. And so I say again, “After you’ve talked to Teri, I’ll take you home.”
“Nah, Miss – I don’t want to go home,” replies Kepaoa. “I’m algood here. I want to stay here with you.”
I can see how compassionate his eyes are, and I feel awkward again. “Aw man,” I say. “I know you’re being kind, and I really appreciate it. But you don’t need to worry, I’ll be fine.”
“I know, Miss – but I don’t want to go home,” he insists.
“Well, if you change your mind, just say,” I told him. “I’ll take you anytime – whenever you’re ready.”
“Yup, but I’ll just stay, if that’s algood,” Kepaoa replies.
By midnight, I can see there’s no chance I’ll be getting to sleep for a while. As I wander around, making a coffee; doing whatever I can to settle myself, I tell Kepaoa again, “Honestly, I think you’d be better off to go home. You’re the one who’s had a hard day, not me. And maybe you need to be with your family, huh?”
But he repeats, quietly, “I don’t want to, Miss.”
“Please Kepaoa, I want you to,” I almost beg.
“No, Miss. You’ve done so much for me. It’s my turn now.” He adds, “A favour for a favour, k Miss?”
“Tau won’t come back tonight,” I say. “He’ll be shamed to. You don’t have to worry, honest.”
“It isn’t that, Miss,” he says. “Well, it is that too – but that’s not the main reason. It’s cos I want to look after you. Is that ok?”
“It’s ok… but I feel bad about it,” I say. “You don’t need to look after me – in fact, I think someone should be looking after you – can’t I just take you home. Please?”
Kepaoa just looks at me real steady, and says, “Do I have to go home?”
“No – I’m just saying I’d feel better about it if you did.”
“I wouldn’t,” he tells me. “Please Miss, let me stay.”
So I get him his pillow and blanket, and he just settles down on the couch. I try to sleep after that. But for ages I just lay on my bed, with the light on, and little tears falling out of my eyes, piteously. I keep seeing Tau’s face, when he first used to come to my room at MC, way back in 2009. And I think: oh, Tau – it’s not too hard, it’s not too hard for me. And I just cry a bit, remembering it all.
It’s real hot, and once or twice I get up and have a drink of water. As I walk through the lounge, I see Kepaoa look up at me. At first I feel so embarrassed – knowing my eyes are wet with tears, and there are tears on my cheeks. And then I just sigh, and cut my losses. I think – well, Kepaoa’s seen all this, what can I do? – I can’t do anything. And sometime round 3, I finally turn off the light and fall asleep.