Real time

Friday 28 November:

The boys are over at their uncle’s, drinking. After a few hours I get a text from Tau, and I go pick them up. There’s a slightly odd vibe on the way home; nothing I can really put my finger on, so I just put it down to the alcohol.

Ten minutes later, I hear raised voices. I chuck on my shoes, grab my phone (with both sangfroid and prescience) and go out there.

Tau and Leroi are about to fight. I remonstrate with them, get in between them (several times), while they wrestle, and things are rocked and tipped about the shed. Tau’s eyes are bulging and shiny white; Leroi takes his shirt off and smiles with rage.

Finally I have us all sitting down. I know it’s only a lull in the proceedings, but that’s as much as I can ask for. I ring Nana Pam.

 

Fifteen minutes later, as the atmosphere lurches and threatens to tip back to crisis point, I’m very grateful when I hear Pam’s car in the drive. She comes in and I briefly explain things (in a surprisingly calm way), before she tells Leroi to come with her. There is a short altercation over buds and I instruct Tau to split the foils, which he does, throwing Leroi’s portion on the floor and saying, “He can stick this up his ass.”

As soon as they’ve gone, Tau begins to cry. He cries until there are foaming drops of spittle at the corners of his mouth, and a ribbon of snot bobbing from his nose. His shirt is all ripped from the fighting, and he crouches next to me – and I hold onto him.

“Don’t gap, Tau,” I say tenderly.

“I won’t – it’s alright Miss, I don’t wanna gap anymore,” he sobs. “This is the only place where I feel comfortable. I just don’t want to be around him.”

“I know, Tau… I know, it’s ok,” I tell him.

After a while he has a quick cone. I smoke almost a whole ciggie and don’t even feel sick; this connotes stress city, for me.

 

At 2:30 I go to bed. Four hours later the alarm wakes me up, and I get ready for my day at work: one day shy of a whole calendar month since the last time. After last night I don’t want to go. But I keep telling myself – this is breaking the drought.

Before I leave, I ring Pam and ask her to keep Leroi with her for the day. She says she’ll do her best – but by midday Tau texts to tell me Leroi’s walked back on his own, and they’re “algood now”; this of course does not reassure me greatly.

 

At the close of the school day I take my time sheet up to the office, then go home. The shed’s dark and the door is ajar so I push it open, knocking a little first. Tau’s lying on the bed, Leroi’s asleep – or maybe pretending to sleep – on the couch.

Tau sits up as soon as he sees me. He’s wrapped in a white duvet with a frill, and looks almost comically sweet. It reminds me for some reason of a book I had when I was a little kid – a bear who wore a party dress for some special occasion.

“Oh my gosh, Tau,” I say, touching the frill for an instant. “You look like you’ve got your prettiest outfit on,” and he can’t help but laugh.

 

We talk in low voices. I’m worried and relieved and tired all at the same time, and I can hardly keep my emotions in check. Besides, I’m almost sure Leroi’s only feigning sleep, and the thought that he’s overhearing everything frustrates me so much that I nearly cry.

I go back inside, where I can’t settle, flitting about in the cold breeze that’s coming in through the french doors. I don’t even have the will to shut the door, and after a while I just give up and let a few tears spill from my eyes.

By now it’s getting dark, and, “Oh, who cares,” I conclude, with a degree of insouciance that has kicked in right when I need it. I go out again and find Leroi has ‘woken up’. So Tau and I go do the drug shop run (which God knows how we can afford, but today they really do need it), and pick up fish and chips from Municipal.

 

Saturday 29 November:

Pam rings and we have a talk – during which she tells me that Sheree might not take up her spot in rehab after all, as she “doesn’t like the boys living in the shed”. I’m so enraged by this that I just about can’t speak for a moment. Sheree! She’s already the biggest victim out… and now she’s looking for an excuse to get herself off the hook from rehab before she even gets there.

Anyway, Pam gets an earful about it. I’m actually shaking, and my mouth quivers as I reply. Not that it’s Pam’s fault – I can see that I’m kind of shooting the messenger here. But I still do a big rant about how Sheree doesn’t do jack shit for anyone and if she has a problem with where the boys are she should put her money where her mouth is and sort out her own shit. And (seeing as I’m on a roll now) I add that Tau and Leroi aren’t ‘living in the shed’; they have the entire house at their disposal. I come to a halt with one last flourish, saying that a lot of their shyness and their limited social skills are down to Sheree’s atrocious parenting.

And Pam just keeps saying, “I hear you,” and really being nice about it, the poor lady. She says she understands exactly how I felt, she has to put up with the same crap from people who do nothing and then run their mouths about everything, and, “Oh, what’s going to happen to that fuckin family?” she laments. “Excuse my language, but I sometimes think they’re all fucked, every fuckin one of them!”

“Can I get an Amen!” I exclaim, and then we both burst out laughing.

 

After all that, I do something dumb. Even though Pam has asked me not to mention this to the boys, I don’t have a show of containing my feelings about the matter. I go out to the sleepout, and everything comes tumbling out.

Poor Tau doesn’t know how to respond; his face crumples up with the effort of having to take this on board half-asleep. He starts by surmising that Nana Pam is probably just talking shit, to which I reply that no, she heard it from Sheree herself.

Then Tau says (making a mighty effort to stay calm, I might add) that it must have came out wrong because his mum’s worried about going to rehab. I reply that Sheree isn’t the only one who’s allowed to have worries, and I’m sick of having to hear about it all the time. I have feelings just like anyone else, and if she wants to talk about me and my place like that, she should come say it to my face, not behind my back.

At that point, a kind of impasse is reached. I turn on my heel and walk out; Tau slams the door after me, I hear him yell out once: “Fuck!” and then there’s silence.

Oh well, I think. I can’t be super-human. And what of it?

 

Then the door of the shed just swings gently open again. I’m not sure what this signifies, but I read it as a sign of stalemate rather than open hostilities. So I quietly go back in.

Tau’s busy firing up the bucky. That’s an advance in itself, if you ask me – the old Tau would have already been a mile down the road by now. And I sit on the weights bench and tell him I’m sorry for putting all this on him; none of it is his fault.

Thus all is well again, up to a point – but all the same, if Sheree wants a get out of rehab card, it better not be me.

 

Sunday 30 November:

Tonight the boys are off to farewell Sheree. She’s decided to go to rehab tomorrow after all – at least I’ve heard nothing different – but either way she can’t be a priority of mine. I still feel sorry for her, but that’s almost neither here nor there by now. I’ve played it far too soft so far, worrying about her tender feelings way more than I ought to.

I need to harden up, I tell myself. I actually do need to raise my status, especially with Leroi here. He thinks it’s all ok, thinks it’s kickback. Tau once told me Scott was the only person that Leroi ever listened too.

Which brings me back, in a roundabout way, to Friday, when I had to stop the boys from fighting. There was one thing which really surprised me. Tau admitted, when we were on our own afterwards, that he’d been scared. I don’t mean scared of falling out with Leroi (though of course there’s that, too). He was actually afraid, thinking that Leroi was probably going to waste him. “But I knew I couldn’t let him see that,” he said. “So I just tried to act like I wasn’t scared.”

At first this gave me a shock – I just didn’t see it coming. Tau, who’s always been the dominant one, telling me he was afraid to fight Leroi. But then I actually got it, too. How sometimes you have to act like the world’s your oyster, and show no fear.

And in one way, this is exactly what I’m doing too.  It’s a contradiction I guess, that the higher the stakes, the more confident of victory you have to become – but maybe that’s the point. I don’t have the luxury of stopping to figure it out. I have to learn the game in real time – and not just learn the moves, either. Somehow I also have to learn to feel like I can’t lose

 

Friday 5 November:

Tau and Leroi head off with Nana Pam for some kind of reconciliatory weekend down the line. The boys tell me they’ve been so excited about this trip that they stayed awake half the night.

“I was over-thinking,” complains Tau, cracking me up.

“Hard, I was looking forward to it so much I couldn’t get to sleep,” Leroi says.

I tell Pam, and “I don’t know what they think we’re going to be doing!” she says, giving us both the giggles.

 

Sunday 7 November:

Tau shows me some pictures of the weekend on his phone, telling me that at the motel they got Nana Pammie to take them to the liquor store.

“And she didn’t mind?” I ask opening my eyes very wide at this.

“Um… we just said we wanted to go to the shop, and so she took us to the shops – but we went into the liquor store,” Tau confesses. “When she saw us come out with the cans she growled us – but not heaps.”

“Guess there was nothing she could do,” I said, unable not to laugh. It was like a foregone conclusion, probably to Pam as well.

Tau sneezes and sniffs, and goes on, “We were drinking in the rain… and that’s why we got sick, I think.”

“Why were you drinking in the rain?”

“Cos, there were heaps of people inside, all these people…” Tau begins, and then both of us snort with laughter.

“So how much did you drink?” I ask him.

“Um – we got two 12 packs. Bourbon.”

“And did you and Leroi drink it all?”

He nods.

I think to myself… twelve cans each, that’s still a lot of alcohol.

 

But later, when I’m lying in bed, I hear Tau come in and warm up another bowl of chicken curry. As much as I still get worried about him, I’m grateful he’s here. And just knowing that he’ll eat, and that he can talk about things, sometimes – and that he’s got somewhere to lay his head. It’s more than I can explain. But I just keep on trying to explain… and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to tell it.

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Loving eyes

Wednesday 19 November

When I wake up it’s 5:15 am, and I don’t feel too bad. I get up at 6 and look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I even try to smile at my reflection, before I hop in the shower.

Normal morning routines, huh. Routines are my saving grace right now. I turn on Firstline, make a cuppa tea and some weetbix. Actually, I want toast, but the bread is still out in the sleepout. I say to myself firmly, “And I’m grateful for that weetbix!”

This makes me think of a ‘Kepaoa’ story – one time his mum took his ATM card, then withdrew all his pay, leaving him just eighty dollars. “And I said to myself… I’m grateful for that eighty dollars,” he hastened to add, cracking us both up.

I feel like that about a lot of things. I’m grateful for the dang weetbix. I’m grateful for the milk. I’m grateful for the hundred and ten dollars in my current account; I can pay the phone bill and still get twenty bucks gas and a coffee from Z.

I’m grateful for Kepaoa, and everything he taught me. How to sit loose to things: how to be a hustler and not a hustlee. Ohh, I miss that egg right now, or maybe I just miss the way I felt when he was there… and then I stop and think: Couldn’t I feel like that, all by myself?

Well, couldn’t I? Maybe it’s possible.

 

Friday 21 November

I get little moments of happiness at the weirdest times. Parked at Municipal, between the council buildings and the train station. Despite the money worries, I feel so glad to be exactly here. “Oh, this place!” I say to myself.

A lot of people are walking up from the train, one woman’s knee-high black boots giving me another little surge of happiness. Something about them reminds me unexpectedly of childhood days – I always wanted to whirl up the stairs, amidst a flock of a hundred people: Pursuit of Happyness. That’s right, I think. That’s the feeling.

All the same, I lose it over the dumbest things.

 

Like the boys misplacing their keys again – and the padlock to the sleepout, this time. They can’t even lock up this morning. I badly want to growl at them for being disorganized, and for (it seems) not giving a fuck about the hassle for me of having to replace everything for the umpteenth time… or about the money either.

Instead, I just try to squash my feelings down. But I must seem irritable all the same, and then I just feel more pissed off at the closed off looks on the boys’ faces, as they try to minimize ‘conflict’. I know that any disagreement, no matter how minor, feels like conflict to them; it brings up all sorts of things… but at the same time, what about me? Don’t my feelings matter at all? And if they don’t, then why don’t they?

So everyone is stressing now. The boys offer not to go to course today (thinking, no doubt, that I’m worried at the idea of leaving the place unlocked). Then I feel guilty for upsetting them. I persuade them that course is a good idea, and I even drop them off.

 

When I come home, I don’t know what to do – so I wash the car. I swish the hose about and wonder what’s going to happen. I’m tired, and I’m almost broke, and I’m still trying to look after these two like it’s no big deal. And yet I’m basically running myself out of options, if a job doesn’t turn up soon. While I house, feed and protect them, provide them with every necessity of life, right down to rides and broadband (not to mention loans and petty cash).

Do I look after myself? Well, yes and no. I don’t know. I don’t have a frickin clue. Maybe I should just tell it like it is. Maybe I should tell Tau and Leroi how I’m right on the line with money now. And would they even really understand? Or would I just be one more person to let Tau down?

And I can’t let him down. I can’t let him down. It’s no good asking why, because in truth I don’t know. But I’ve never once lost that feeling, even through so many twists and turns of circumstance. And I won’t leave him stranded. In my heart, I wonder if Tau knows this. I think he probably does, somewhere.

 

Monday 24 November

Tau asks if I can come to the doctors with him to get the Winz forms signed; this takes us a while. Then we go to Winz itself, then the tinnie house, and lastly the bakery (for pies).

The two of us actually have a good talk at the doctors – it’s funny how sometimes things get ‘said’ in neutral places. The conversation is mostly about alcohol and drugs: “I still remember how I hated coming home from school everyday,” he tells me. “You know, waiting to find out if mum and dad were drinking…” He laughs quietly. “And then after a while I thought, well I can’t beat ‘em, guess I might as well join ‘em.”

 

Wednesday 26 November

I go do ‘stuff’. All the usual Wednesday stuff: gas, groceries, get coffee if there’s a few dollars left over. I practically give myself palpitations tracking every cent at the supermarket, but it’s worth it. I even manage to get grain waves and juice for the boys, yoghurt for me, and a little tub of nuts and raisins (which feels like the luxury of luxuries right now; I’ll save it for tomorrow).

Inwardly though, I’m pretty scared. It’s my last self-funded “payday”. I’ve gone nearly as far as I can with the measures that I put in place months ago. It’s almost time for my next move. But today… well, today is just a day to be steady.

I try telling myself: the drought’s breaking, it’s going to be ok. I want to believe it. I get caught up in the ‘hows’, and the crazy feeling of things going right down to the wire – a team that scores in the last few seconds of play. That’s how it feels. Mixed metaphors, but you get the picture.

 

The agency texts me, there’s a day’s work going at Carthill tomorrow. It’s a good sign, but at the same time, I’m jangling with electricity and nerves. It’s not surprising I feel this way, but I just want to be nice to myself, the same way I’m nice to Tau. I can’t imagine saying to Tau the things I say to myself sometimes: “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just be like everyone else?” Or, “You’re so selfish!” Or, “No-one cares about you.”  Or, “Look at you, you look like shit today.”

Far too often I tell myself these exact things. Things I never think for one second where Tau’s concerned. Even if he hasn’t been able to, or hasn’t wanted to care for himself, I’ve never stopped being proud of him. I yearn to do that for myself. Not in some kind of narcissistic way… but to look at myself with loving eyes.

 

Thursday 27 November

After work, I try to think of things I’m grateful for, and get stuck almost straight away. The day’s pay, of course. And I’m grateful for, um… the yoghurt, I say to myself. And the extra click on my coffee card yesterday. Seriously clutching at straws here, I add, to no-one in particular.

Then – what else am I grateful for? I wonder. I’m grateful for a whole four months of making rent and bills, since leaving MC. And I am grateful for that – don’t think I’m not – but what the fuck’s going to happen now?

I lay on my bed, it’s so warm and quiet and I can hear voices in the sleepout, Tau and Leroi back from course. They don’t know, and I don’t want them to know, that I’m scared. They think everything’s ok – perhaps it is. Perhaps it is.

So I start making dinner – a big stir fry with pork and vegies and noodles. As I slice up cabbage and broccoli, I feel a tiny bit of calm return. I just fix the dinner, and go tell the boys it’s ready, and they come in.

Crumbs

Thursday 13 February, 2014:

I come home to find the front door and shed door both open. First thought, as I pull up in the driveway: Tau’s here.

I tap on the shed door, then look in, but it’s dark in there. So I go into the house, and right away, I see the alarm has been pulled out of the wall, and one of its wires is snapped right off.

And even then, it takes me a few more seconds to work it out – that Tau isn’t here at all, instead there has been a break in.

I walk kind of patiently into the bedroom, to find (just as I expect) drawers open and rummaged through; things pulled from the wardrobe, turned out on the floor and left on the bed. The entry point is one of the windows, the one half-concealed by some overgrown shrubs. They’ve jimmied open the window using the point of a small knife (which has broken off and is still in the latch).

I sit down on the bed, just thinking for a moment. It seems a tiny bit surreal, but nothing more than that. I wonder – what to do?

 

I go back out to the shed, this time I have a proper look around. The light isn’t even working, it’s been pulled out of the fitting and is hanging down from the ceiling. And all Tau’s stuff has been gone through too, the same way as in my room.

After this, I come back inside and do a reconnaissance of the house. Not much is actually missing. Some jewelry… but most of my clothes are there. It makes me laugh though, all the snack food has gone out of the cupboards and fridge: chips, noodles, muesli bars, yoghurts, drinks… a can of spaghetti, some chocolate. And they’ve even taken a bag to carry it all away in.

I feel a surprising (I guess) gratitude to the unknown burglars for leaving things relatively tidy. Nothing is actually broken, except for the window latch and the alarm – and the light fitting in the shed. And those items have been broken rather discreetly, not smashed to smithereens. That time the police came with their search warrant, it was way worse: doors ripped off hinges, and broken glass everywhere, and things ransacked.

 

Anyway this seems like kids – teenagers. The missing food is one of those hallmark signs, it’s exactly the kind of thing I can imagine Elroy purloining from someone’s house.

There’s nothing big missing – I’ve got no big ticket items, anyway. No plasma TV, or PS3. I’m glad it’s not the weekend though, otherwise the laptop would have been picked up for sure. It occurs to me that I’d better start stashing it, the way I used to.

I make a coffee, and tidy up a little bit, just this and that. I notice a couple other things, like shampoo and conditioner missing out of the bathroom – I can’t help laughing at this. Means it had to be boys. Girls would have taken the more expensive stuff, like the beauty products (which are all still there, and so is my perfume).

I tidy up in Tau’s shed too. Just pick a few things off the floor.

 

And then I go to the gym – as you do. Because I feel ok. Quiet… but I’m fine. I think on the way, how I don’t really ‘mind’ or anything. It’s kind of a pain, to have to get the window and the light fixed – but it isn’t the end of the world.

On the way back home, I stop off and buy a new padlock, then I lock the shed up. I’ll email the property manager about the house but I don’t need them checking out Tau’s stuff, I’ll get that taken care of myself.

 

Friday 14 February:

Today I lose my non-contacts because of sports day. And I could really use the time too. I actually resent being the only person still in the office at 5 pm. Emails have been sent out about staff drinks – but, fuck off, I think to myself. I’m determined to get my work done, there’s no way I’m taking it home.

And sports day makes me think of Kepaoa. He loved athletics – he would have run every single event ten times over. It’s for Kepaoa, somehow, that I don’t really even protest at having to compete in the staff rounds. What’s more, the other teachers in my group are all men. I just bite the bullet, thinking of Kepaoa and how he would have wanted me to go hard. But afterwards I miss him so much.

When the relays are on (at the end, and all the kids are gathered on the bank), Lauren and Hazel come and sit down beside me. Lauren is running the relay for the year 10’s. She’s very nervous, and suddenly thrusts her phone into my hand, saying, “Miss – hold it for me?” Then she goes out to the track, trying to be brave. And I feel… not blank, for a little while. I think, someone knows me.

 

Later on, Mia and I go out for drinks. By then I’ve had a shower and changed my clothes, and I felt my mind lighten, as the school day starts to recede. We drink sparkling wine and eat prawn tacos, which are fresh, aromatic and delicious.

But afterwards, I think about Kepaoa again, and how it still kind of hurts, that feeling of wanting to be special. That phrase: On a hiding to nothing, keeps running through my mind. But there’s a part of me that also simply remembers how it feels when someone else sees you as ‘real’, I guess. Like  a real person with flesh and blood, and breath and warmth.

So I miss Kepaoa, and  then at the same time, I think how it was all just crumbs from the table.

 

I’m too tired to really cry. I’m tired and sunburned and a little bit cold (the temperature being cooler at night), and so I just feel a couple of tears for being forgotten splash out of my eyes – and then I fall asleep.

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.

My moments

Wednesday 28 August, 2013:

I could explode, thinking about the whole dumb day. I waste my morning on Professional Development, babysit 9 Social at the library, and then have to sit through the inter-house speech finals – Chloe has appointed me one of the judges – which last the whole of lunchtime. As if I care about the speeches, most of which are full of the glories of being a ‘MC learner’. The winning contestant spouts the most wretched drivel. The other judges seem to quite like this, seeing as it all sounds a bit like a TED talk. Credit where credit’s due though – a couple of the others are actually alright. .

After missing my lunch break, I have 12 History – with Nellie, her big eyes popping and rolling. She gives the usual performance over shit all, just as I’ve come to expect. Only this time I’m furious. I feel like I want to smack her.

Chloe takes her away to DP alley, and I tell her on the way out that there’s no way I’m having her back in class. I don’t give two fucks about that restorative crap, I think to myself. No little bitch is speaking to me like that.

Then I get home and find a power bill for over $500. It’s an actual reading, which means that the last one (an estimate) was way under – hence the astronomical sum. And money’s really tight this week, I don’t know how I’m going to pay it.

 

Thursday 29 August:

Still on my mind: the power bill. There’s no way I can pay by the due date. I ring the power company, they say I can split it and pay half next time – but it means I lose the discount (a considerable $53).

Oh well, it’s been cold and we’ve had heaters on, taken hot showers. I’m not sorry about that.

 

Today at school, a lot of times I feel that tangled up messed up unruly pain in my heart, at having to be there, and function and exist there. Chloe wants to meet about Nellie. And then the data projector in my room stops working, and the electrician can’t come till Monday.

So, 11 History with the old-fashioned things: paper and the whiteboard. They grumble, but only in the most routine way. But that pain in my heart won’t quit. In my non-contact, I have to re-do the whole year 13 lesson, knowing the prop of the data projector is gone. I mail the class the powerpoint and activities. But I don’t care to teach history today, as if the events of the past were destined to be nothing more than a learning activity. I suffer all the way through the afternoon, and at 3 o’clock Slade and l leap out to the car and share a cig on the way home.

 

Friday 29 August:

After school I take Leroi (and Raphael) to Youth Services, all Leroi’s paperwork needs to be dropped off. While we’re there, I become aware that the two of them have stepped outside and are eyeing up some boys in school uniform, who have halted on the footpath – right by the door. I hear a bit of two-way verbal interchange going on, like, “Bring your boys…” So I go out too.

“Go back inside,” I tell my two, and they actually obey this directive. The lady on the front desk looks at them uncuriously, no doubt having seen this all before. But she seems none too pleased, either.

 

“Who are those boys?” I say.

“Dunno.”

“Carthill boys.”

“And do you know them – have you met them before?”

“No, we’ve just seen them around,” is the reply.

“Well, I want you to leave it,” I tell them. “This isn’t the place to bring trouble.”

“It was them who started it,” Leroi says. “They were eyeing us up, down Municipal. And then they came past and saw us here.”

“Probably just trying to step us out cos we’re wearing blue…”

“Probably,” I sigh, guessing this is quite accurate. “But I still don’t want any trouble. This isn’t the right place for it. Think, man!”

“Sorry, Miss,” Leroi says, and then in the next breath, “If they come in, I’m gonna pick up that chair -” He looks at Raphael.

“One of them’s got a knife,” Raphael informs me. “It’s down his sock.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I say, exasperated and also getting alarmed at this piece of news.

“They might not come in,” Leroi goes on, and then, seemingly resigned to action, “But when we go out, they’ll be waiting.”

“Yeah, they will,” agrees Raphael.

“No they frickin won’t,” I mutter. “You two stay here.” And, “I’ll move them on,” I add, half to myself as I go out the door. For some reason I feel perfectly calm, and sure enough, there they are, not a few metres down Municipal Rd.

 

As soon as the two of them see me, they turn away and take a couple of reluctant steps in the direction of Bream. But I walk a little faster, and catch up with their faux-nonchalant pace.

“Hi boys,” I say, and neither of them acknowledges the greeting. A couple of girls are watching, now.

“Hey boys,” I say again, and this time their heads turn. They look about Leroi’s age, and regard me with some ambivalence.

“Everyone needs to get on their way home now,” I say, in a voice that signals friendly firmness of intention. “That algood?”

They look over their shoulders, pause again – and I decide to drop a deliberate signal into the conversation. “I’m a teacher at Municipal College,” I tell them, using the despised persona (well it’s got to be good for something). “And those two boys in there are with me. So everyone needs to leave it, and go on home. I’ve told them exactly the same thing,” I add, to try convey a sense of equity. “Exactly the same as what I’ve told you.”

They nod, deciding it isn’t worth the risk. She’s a teacher. She’ll probably ring our principal: I’m sure these are the thoughts going through their minds right now.

One of them starts walking away, and the other one follows suit.

“Thanks, boys,” I tell them, in a fulsomely teacherly way.

“Algood,” one of them says, politely. Thus signalling an end to the whole thing.

 

I go back to Youth Services, and find Leroi and Raphael have stayed put – good boys – though at the same time they are lunging towards the door, straining to see what’s happening outside. When I come in, they wait with bated breath for my report.

“They’ve gone home,” I say, and I actually see the tension lift in Leroi’s eyes. But it bothers me, of course. That he wouldn’t have considered where he was, or who else was there.

“This isn’t the place, Leroi,” I tell him again.

“I know, I’m sorry Miss,” he says, and I can see he means it. But he’s still hyped.

 

It’s funny to me, how I can be calm, authoritative, and unafraid in this situation. One of the boys has a knife, I don’t even think about that when I go to talk to them. I literally forget Raphael has even mentioned it. It’s only afterwards that I freak out a little bit – not because I’ve put myself in danger (I haven’t: we’re out in the open, and I’m pretty sure the ‘teacher’ reference will do the trick, if my manner’s alright). But because Leroi wouldn’t have hesitated, if they’d come in.

And how is it that can I handle myself like this, and then be so upset by  little idiots like Nellie, who don’t mean anything to me. Or feel a kind of downcast shame at the very idea of having to teach the year 13’s. I guess it’s because I feel ashamed, to be fake. Whereas today, I behave as myself. I actually feel stable, and certain of my actions. Which is why it works, and why teaching can never work like that for me.

Ohh, I have my moments. But they’re nothing to do with teaching. They’re just small moments of connection or freedom. With Slade – or with Aurelius the other day. When you ‘bow’ towards someone, and think to yourself: this person is good, this person is kind, this person is worth my time and attention. Even in the midst of the falsest environment, I can feel gratitude, for a little while.

 

The right thing

Sunday 23 September, 2012:

I pull weeds out of the garden for an hour and a half (the three-monthly property inspection is coming up next week). I hate gardening, doing it only when I must. I know lots of people are into it –  even Sheree and Scott enjoy it. But it reminds me of all the old ladies I’ve seen out sweeping their paths; snipping the shrubs with secateurs. And the whole time I feel self-conscious and ready to flee.

Back inside, I catch sight of my reflection in the glass of the french doors. In that half second I notice every flaw on my face. But I know that isn’t a fair reference point; not after I’ve been gardening. So I just sigh and go take a shower.

While I’m doing my hair, I hear my phone go off in the room. Text from Zion: ‘Miss Kost and Statk asked if u can take us to get paint, is it alright wif u??’

I think about this for a moment. Technically, it’s a little inconvenient, when I have a few things to do. But honestly, the idea of a trip to the paint store gives me that sense of blissful restoration, the perfect counterfoil to gardening. So I text back: ‘Yup thts fine when do you wana go??’

They want ta go nw mis haha, cum wen ur ready mis fuk dem haha,

This makes me laugh. I take my time and pack up first, then go meet them down Clancy.

 

Everyone’s outside, as they usually are there. Kids playing in the park; boys on bikes; older boys in cars… I see Zion standing with a group around one of the cars, and Kost next to him… and Inia. I pull over, get out of my car and Inia sees me too and we make a beeline for one another and hug. “Maan, Inia… it’s so good to see you,” I say.

“You too, Miss,” and we hug again.

“You still at course?” I ask, with just a little trepidation.

“Yup, still there, and it’s mean as, Miss,” Inia tells me.

“Oh, I’m so glad!” I say, and he grins, and then I see Noa come up the road pushing his daughter in the stroller, and he wraps his arms around me too. The boys in the car, just down from where we are, holler at this fond greeting: “Get in there Noa!” and we start to laugh.

There in Clancy right this minute, I feel like I know what I’m all about again, because people know me, and I’m not on my own, and I’m not doing the frickin garden anymore.

 

Noa says, “Who’s Rook, Miss?” in that suspicious hustler’s voice which brings back all those calm and happy memories for me. He adds, “Is he the one on your video on facebook… doing that green canvas?”

“Yeah,” I say. “That’s him. And he’s all good, aye Zion.” Because Zion is standing next to us now, and he nods. “Yeah, he’s awguds… Slade.”

“He’s Shanice’s cousin,” I add.

Noa considers this dual recommendation, cocking his head to one side and twisting his mouth for a second. “Shanice’s cousin…” he says, slowly. He processes the available information for a moment, then “Mmm,” he pronounces, “Rook, aye.” Thus indicating that he’s satisfied with these credentials for the time being.

 

Next person I see is Levi, who’s pulled up on a bike next to us. “Oh, Levi!” I exclaim in surprise. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“He’s been here for like the whole time, Miss,” Zion tells me.

“Oh,” I say, and Levi kind of shrugs, as if to say: whatever.

And I remember Kepaoa saying to me, just the other day: “Levi said he heard you didn’t like him.”

“That ain’t true,” I tell Kepaoa. “I never said I didn’t like Levi. It’s just that I don’t… really trust him as much as I trust some of the boys, you know.”

So our conversation, at first, is ‘polite’. I ask Levi what he’s doing now, and he tells me: “Nothing… jacc.”

“Really?” I say. “I thought you were hooked up with a job.”

“Nah, it didn’t happen. I just stay home, pretty much, when I’m not doing graff.”

“Oh,” I say.

 

“We’re going to do a legal wall, Miss!” Zion tells me then, with great joy.

“Aye, are you? Where abouts?”

“In Carthill somewhere – people are allowed to do painting there, true, Miss.”

“Aw cool,” I say.

“Miss, you should come with us,” Zion suggests, and Kost nods.

“Oh, maaan, I’d love to – but I can’t,” I tell them honestly. “I have to be somewhere.”

“Awww…” they say.

“Just not the right day for it…” Kost adds, sadly.

And I see that they really did want and intend me to come along. Not just to take them to the store, but actually to come and kick it with them while they paint. Right then I don’t care what happens with Karys, and school. I know that I’ve behaved in the only way that’s ever made sense to me; tried to act ethically – even if she and the SLT don’t see it that way. I also think about Tau… and how again, I’ve tried to do the right thing, because Tau has brought out the best in me. And even if it’s not been enough, I’ve tried, and I’m not ashamed of that. And never will be.

 

On the way to the mall, Kost asks me, “Have you seen Cluzo lately, Miss?” He’s sitting in the front with me. Levi, Inia and Zion are in the back seat. Noa’s on daddy duty with Shaleesa, and can’t come.

I shake my head, and say, “Not for a few weeks. He’s been… he’s been occupied with other things.”

Kost nods and says quietly, “Drinking, aye Miss.”

“Yeah.”

“Horced every day…”

We fall silent for a moment. Then Kost says, “Ask him what he’s doing today and he says, ‘getting horcey’. Ask him what he’s doing tomorrow and he says, ‘getting horcey again.’”

I’m aware that everyone else is listening, and I feel my heart kind of choke up, and I just say, “Oh well, I guess that’s his choice. But  I’m worried about Tau – I won’t deny it.”

“Yeah, Miss,” says Levi, in what is actually a sympathetic way.

“Oh well, Tau’s cracking enough to buy heaps of alcohol,” Kost says, matter of factly.

This I don’t doubt. I just say, “Yeah, but he never used to spend his money like that.”

“True, Cluzo’s always been a stingy cunt,” Levi says.

I laugh, saying, “True that, he’s the tightest person I’ve ever met… but that’s kind of a good thing, I reckon.”

“That’s how you get rich, aye,” Inia says, admiringly.

“Yeah, but then if you start spending all that money on alkies, you probably got a drinking problem,” I say, not beating around the bush, because what’s the point?

“He does have a drinking problem,” says Kost, again very matter of fact.

“So does Leroi,” adds Zion. “They just sit and drink all day, every day.”

We’re all worried, but no-one’s being judgmental about it, and so it soothes my heart just a little bit.

 

Down at Municipal, it’s hard to get a park, so I pull over to drop them off near the entrance. Right then, I hear, “Hi Miss!” and there’s Nakesha waving at me from the car next to us, which is being driven by her mum. I wave back, and see her eyes kind of pop as Inia, Kost, Levi and Zion launch themselves out of my car and into the mall. She grins at me, then her mum drives on, and I park up and go in to meet them at the store.

When I get there, they’re choosing paint. Zion tells me, “I got that can you gave me too, that Atmosphere.”

“Aye, did you bring it?” I say.

“Yup, it’s in my bag in the car.” He grins and adds, “And I told Slade you gave me the can.”

Did you tell him?” I ask, in wonder.

“Haha, yupp.”

“And what did he say?”

“He was surprised…  cos yeah, he thinks he’s the number one hustler,” says Zion, and we just burst out laughing.

 

Inia says again to me, “Course is mean now, Miss. I go to the TI on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – and sometimes I get work experience on the other days.”

“And will you get your ticket, at the end of the year?” I ask him.

“Yup, I will,” he says.

“Ohhh…  that’s cool, Inia. And are you still like the top student in your class?”

He smiles, saying, “Yes, there’s three of us. Me and these two other guys, my two mates.”

“So you guys are the top students?”

He nods, and says, “Miss, I love it there. And it keeps me out of trouble. Yeah, it keeps me outa trouble, and it’s cool, too.”

I look at Inia, and get this huge swell of gratitude, for being lucky enough to be here and be part of it. I can’t really explain it. Just a feeling that nothing’s ever wasted – nothing can ever be wasted, no matter how you look at it. The feeling that it’s not wasted for them; not wasted for me either – no matter how it’s looking at the time – you just never know. And right then I’m cool widit, and for Tau as much as for Inia, and for the days that stack up like cards, and again: you never know, you might be building your best hand.

 

“I can’t wait to paint today… says Kost, kind of dreamily, at the counter. He places his hand on the cans, saying, “These two are mine, and this one, and this one…”

“Nah kieeent, that’s my one,” Levi puts in.

“Aye cunt? I got these two greens…”

“Ohh aye, is that my green over here, and this one?”

“Yeah ge.”

And so it goes, and the transaction is settled: twenties and fifties are waved around and the cans are boxed up.

 

On our way back to the car, I say to Levi, “Nice tattoo,” (there’s a new one on his arm), and he replies, “Thanks, Miss,” and I feel that the atmosphere has gotten easier between us.

Inia hands me ten dollars. “Here Miss – gas,” he says, just as simply and nicely as anything.

“Aw, thanks… but nah, you keep it,” I tell him.

I drop them off in Carthill somewhere, and as they get out of the car, Levi just turns around and says, “Miss… good seeing you, Miss.”

“Good seeing you too, Levi,” I reply, and I really mean it.

As I drive away, I keep thinking about Inia, and Noa, and how much I miss them at school, and how things aren’t the same, but you know… things are still good. Even though sometimes I think that nothing new might happen, that everything’s already happened… But that’s not true either. There’s always life, and stuff just keeps right on happening, and you can always win, and so you got to keep your head up and stay on the move. Because nothing’s ever, ever wasted. Well that’s how I see it.

 

How do I show that this is who I am?

Wednesday 18th March, 2009:

Nio, in the library when I bring the year 9’s over. He comes up straight away, gives me a little touch on the shoulder, something between a stroke and a prod. “Sup, Miss,” he says.

“Hey Nio – what you doing here?”

“Wagging PE,” he tells me, and then “My sister’s here, Miss – wanna meet my sister?”  He puts his arm around the shoulders of a young girl, and brings her forward. She stands and smiles, very sweetly.

I say, “Are you really Nio’s sister?”

“Yes, Miss,” she replies.

“It’s  nice to meet you,” I tell her. “I’m a… a fan of Nio’s.”

Nio dances at my side, happily. “Yeeh Miss… my biggest fan, aye Miss,” and his sister laughs.

“Yes, that’s right – I’m your biggest fan,” I reply, with mirth but not irony, and Nio grins at me.

We have some kind of understanding, Nio and I. Almost all the teachers think he’s a diabolical child. So it counts for something; it counts for a little bit.

Nio really doesn’t want what school’s got. He wants it less than Dimario; less than Alexander. I admire him, but it’s difficult to see what would be of use to him. I guess just to try be faithful to his Nio ways, not get angry with him for things that he refuses completely intelligently.  I’m as consistent with him as I know how to be, given all the constraints of my role. Still, it’s kind of heartbreaking to see what lengths he’ll go to to stand on his principles. Cos he’s going to get into so much trouble, all the way down the line. But he’s an intelligent, good person – and if ever I can stand up for him I will.

 

Tuesday 24 March:

It’s crazy to make the money last for so long. Crazy and kind of cool, but a little bit not…

  • I have 3 oranges left
  • I have 5 slices of bread
  • 1 teabag, but I do have coffee (very important)
  • No milk, no meat
  • I have half an onion, some peas, some garlic

Kuli’s driving this week, so I don’t need to get gas until next week. I can’t top up my phone (and haven’t for a fortnight). I have 70c in my wallet.

Money… Food… Work… My poor brain. I just want to give in. I keep having to push myself past some kind of recurring point. I can’t keep going on and interminably on like this.  There’s got to be something else I can do.

 

We have staff PD as usual today – a woman from the university comes in to talk about her research on ‘transitioning’ to high school. I despise with utmost conviction all this kind of jargon, and I don’t complete the survey she asks us to fill out. It’s (apparently) optional, But when I hand in my blank forms at the end, she looks at me in surprise.

After that, someone else talks for a long time about ‘SDL’ (self-directed learning). It apparently involves a process of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’, but in my opinion offers no choice at all, just the ever increasing definition of the student day into smaller and smaller ‘spaces’, which are nothing like real spaces at all – but just more surveillance masquerading as autonomy. Those who don’t comply attend ‘Success Centres.’  Afterwards Mandy says to me, “Nio would be at the success centre all year!”

I dislike (even more than before) the latest ideas in education.

 

Thursday 26 March:

So tired. I can’t go on this way, even with milk this morning for the first time in a week. And I still don’t have teabags. I know it doesn’t matter, but I’m so tired of struggling. I would be so embarrassed if the teachers from work could see – embarrassed, why? I really don’t know. But it’s like two worlds to me, two worlds that barely coincide at times.

I’m not spending money on anything that I can save on. I don’t know – and then I do know – how it can be like this. Because there’s the rent, and I pay off my student loan, and then pay bills and get gas and buy some food… and then it’s all gone.

 

On the plus side – Dimario today:

He comes in, looks around. “Did Alexander get here yet?” he asks.

“No,” I reply.

“That means he’s not coming,” says Dimario matter-of-factly, and takes a seat. He gets out his pad of paper and starts putting a couple of finishing touches to one of his pieces.

But we’re having a practice for the test, and I’m pretty sure if Alexander doesn’t come today, he won’t be at the text next week either. So after a few minutes, I go over to Dimario and say, just quietly, “Do you know where Alexander is?”

He looks at me: “Yeah, I know where he is…”

I say, “Could you go get him for me?”

Dimario looks taken aback. Then he laughs. He says, “Yeah, ok – if you sign me out and everything.”

So I write him a note, and he goes off.

The kids by the door say, “Miss, Dimario’s just walked out.”

“I know,” I tell them, “He’s gone to get someone for me.”

“He won’t come back,” say the kids, shaking their heads.

“Yes he will,” I reply.

 

Ten minutes later, he’s back with Alexander and Jack. As he walks in, he says with cheer, “Look Miss, I brought you two for the price of one,” and grins. They sit down at the back, and I explain the thing to them, and then Dimario reads them the practice question out loud. At this point, to my surprise, they start to throw ideas into the conversation with alacrity. As I leave them to it, I hear Dimario say, “Right – now what do we think for question one?”

At the end of class, Dimario tells me, “Don’t worry Miss – I’ll get them back for the test.” He hands me his beautiful, articulate piece of writing. I read it over and felt very humble. Dimario, who feels like my brother; who has chosen to stay on board this stupid train for reasons I can’t quite fathom… but I’m grateful, oh I’m grateful.

Maybe part of it is that he’s starting to see that he can get ‘value’ here at least, without it requiring any declaration, any contract or promise Maybe that’s why he no longer has to show me that he doesn’t care about the rules and regulations – he knows that I’m not going to trip him up on that one, that I’ve already got it covered. But he’s so generous in return.

So sometimes your actions do bear fruit. Other times, you just have to keep trying, not because it’s necessarily having any effect, but because you know it’s all you have.

 

Monday 6 April:

As I’m starting to mark the tests, in the office, one of the teachers comes over and chats to me. She looks at the pile of papers and sees Alexander’s name, “Oh,” she says, “You teach Alexander too. He does nothing but tag in my class, and he’s hardly ever there anyway.” She picks up his test paper, and flicks through it in surprise, saying, “How on earth did you get him to do that?” She adds, “And he hasn’t even tagged on it… not even once!”

I say, “He just – wanted to do it, I guess.”

She’s mystified, and says again, “He does nothing in my class.”

 

Monday 13 April:

First day of the holidays. I walk down to the mall this afternoon and spend $70 on getting a new adaptor for the laptop. I figure I have to have the laptop back again after 4 months. I’ve been putting it off this whole term, and now I’ve got it, and the first thing I do when I get home is charge up the laptop, and since about 2:30 I’ve been downloading songs again, with joy in my heart, and after months of self-denial. I can’t get everything I want, but I’m getting quite a lot all the same.

Some people like gardening; some people like watching TV, or reading novels. I like finding music and making food. As the evening comes, I have a string of downloads ticking up, and I’m gonna make dinner. When I make a playlist and I get the order ‘right’ – it’s such a good, good feeling. It’s kind of the same when I make something to eat; it’s a lot like that feeling. And I feel all warmed up now, just saying these things. So I can get through, until tomorrow.

 

Sunday 26th April:

Just cut my hair (I’m not scared to cut my own hair, I do it without a qualm.) Then I put some product on it (a shine wax thing), and now I feel like I can look in the mirror with some equilibrium. I can’t bear a single second more of apology in my eyes.

The question that seems important to me right now is: What kind of person do I want to be taken for?

And then: How do I show that this is who I am? 

I feel a tiny bit of peace steal into my heart.

And maybe I can be alright at school tomorrow and get stuff done, especially for my year 11’s, who are one of my really favourite classes, and who will be expecting a loving welcome!