The equation

Monday 20 October:

I get ready for work – and don’t get a text. I tell myself it’s ok, there’s no reason to panic. Even if there’s hardly any day jobs around at the moment, money’s taken care of up to the end of the month. But I can still feel that I’m holding my breath a little bit. Because this is the story for the rest of the term; I know it.

I toy with the idea (I really do) of telling the boys I got a call from the agency, and then just ‘going somewhere’ for the day. It’s not that I’m embarrassed about the situation. It’s more that if I worry and they see that, then they’re going to worry. And I don’t want them to worry.

Thankfully I come to my senses, telling myself firmly that that’s the dumbest idea ever. Running away won’t help, fleeing and scrabbling around for a spot to lay low. It makes me laugh, really, to think how very like Tau I am in this regard.

But I miss having a job. It’s not that I miss school, exactly – I miss the routine things. Knowing what time to make coffee, eat lunch. Casual conversations. Some kind of easy professional validation – too easy, really. Facile, often times. But I miss it nonetheless.

Instead, I find myself trying to work on four job applications at once; wondering what time to take a break. I have a routine of sorts, but all the same, I’m on dangerous territory. My fears can so easily take over. And it’s hard to keep my energy steady; it feels like I’m trying to land a big jet aircraft, keeping it level, getting that baby safely on the ground.


Thursday 30 October:

The idea of lying in bed on a weekday morning is only tempting up to a point. I get up and take a shower, then find that the boys have finished the yoghurt last night, eaten the kiwifruit I was going to have for breakfast, and used up all the milk as well. I’d say something if they were doing stupid stuff – but eating isn’t stupid. And Tau’s got enough issues around food without me adding to them.

It actually makes me happy, in a way. Happy and scared. Money’s tight – but I’m glad they’re here. So glad that sometimes I can’t even explain it. I have to learn how to work through everything, accept the contradictions and not be afraid


I spend eighty dollars replenishing the stock of groceries. Previously, I would have considered this a feat of great economy – now it’s just everyday life. And I’ve got no real action plan as yet. But the need for one is dawning on me.

So I write down all the key dates for the next few months and do a first attempt at adding things up. Straight away, I can see that at certain points along this timeline I’ll need to have my own payroll in place to cover a variety of income permutations – because nothing’s going to be set in stone. And there’s a whole four weeks in January where I need to generate a livable income without school.  It’s like playing the wild card. And yet, somehow I have to do it.

Objectively (if there’s any such thing), finance poses the biggest obstacle right now. But somehow I don’t see it that way. Instead, I feel like I got out of MC just in time.

Besides, I’m convinced it’s not another ‘career path’ I need. I didn’t quit teaching to work on someone else’s institutional goals, and I’m tired of pretending (not always in so many words) otherwise. I just have this feeling that if I can harness the slightly wobbly energies that are around me right now, I could catch a ride to something different.


Wednesday 5 November:

I fall asleep to the sound of fireworks outside, like intermittent popcorn at first. After a while it becomes a steady artillery barrage which is actually quite calming to the senses; any rises and falls in tone and volume being constant enough to soothe, rather than irritate my mind.

I drift off to sleep, trying to think of things I’m grateful for, and, “I’m not grateful for anything…” I murmur, at first. Then, “Ok, I’m grateful the boys have a place to go,” I remind myself, quietly and very sincerely.


Monday 10 November

The big problem has suddenly hit me out of ‘nowhere’ (I know, right?) The money’s going to run out in, ooooh about three weeks. When that fact dawns on me, I feel my heart kind of flip. For two reasons.

The first is straight panic stations. I can almost hear my own thoughts rushing and gabbling at me: ‘Maan-you’re-such-an-idiot-why-did-you-leave-MC-how-could-anyone-be-so-out-of-touch-with-reality-did-you-really-think-you-could-just-snap-your-fingers-to-get-a-job-and-why-haven’t-you-been-trying-harder-you-are-really-a-dumb-bitch…’ and so on.

The second is a moment of sparkling curiosity which kicks in right when I need it: ‘Oh, I made it this far! I’m here, at the crossroads!’

And both of these feelings flick-flack me up and down like a fish caught and swiveling.


Tuesday 11 November:

I stroll past all the cafes at the mall, thinking how good it would be if I could get a coffee just for no reason. There’s two dollars in my account – so when I get home I make one instead.

Trying to stay in the present: There’s food in the fridge, and gas in the car. Right in this moment, I’m not dependent on anyone.

I do need a job though. I need to tie these two; no, three things together: happiness and work and financial security. It’s weird how I’ve always had them two at a time, never all together. The notion of work at all – well, it needs to mean something quite different from the way I’ve always interpreted it. Which until now, has been like this:

Happiness + work ≠ financial security

Work + financial security ≠ happiness

But happiness + financial security has, up to now, seemed an impossible conjunction. It’s just figuring out how to get all three things stacked up. What’s the equation?




Sunday 13 July, 2014:

Feeling a bit… ‘depressed’ today. It’s a word I don’t often use – but today it just seems to fit.

And stressed (now that’s a word I do often use). Less than three weeks – and then I’m flung to the four winds. Though I have an interview at the relief agency on Wednesday, and someone else (HR at a Private Training Provider) wants to have a phone discussion.

But all that isn’t really the main thing, today. I just feel sad. I think about how Tau and Leroi are here, and if they didn’t need to be here, they’d never even come; why would they come?

I know I’m letting… encouraging, almost, my mind to feel this way. That same old shotgun of regret and anxiety, blasting away from both barrels. And being cold and tired this morning doesn’t help.

So I go to the gym, which warms me up at least – it’s a very cold day.  Something stubborn gets me there, despite that useless feeling of ‘For why, for what?’  And I guess it’s better than not going.

When I get back the boys are inside watching TV. A few minutes after I come in, they go back out. And yes I know, they’re giving me space and everything. But it’s not space I want. It’s to be cared about (in general; I don’t even mean ‘by Tau and Leroi’) – and maybe that’s the real problem.


Monday 14 July:

Tau and Leroi’s visit to CAGS (the un-modestly named ‘Corporate Academy Group’) goes no better than ok. Actually CAGS is… frickin annoying, really. The whole place is annoying. A woman named Sharon, who interviews Tau and Leroi is annoying. The rules (no hats, no phones) are annoying too. And Tau and Leroi are nervous: “I was almost having a nervous breakdown!” Leroi says afterwards, and I don’t doubt it.

Sharon puts Tau on the spot with a number of personal questions about why he ‘hasn’t been doing anything’ (no recent education or training), and whether he has any criminal convictions. It isn’t so much the questions themselves – I suppose she has to ask them. It’s her interrogative but at the same time common-sense tone that irks me the most. Plus she asks me, “Who are you, where are you from?” I tell her that I’m Tau and Leroi’s high school teacher; that’s the only way to play it right back. I’m not about to disclose anything more sensitive than that, because she isn’t sensitive at all.

I do have to mention Scott though, otherwise the boys would be floundering. Tau alludes to ‘personal problems’ and she latches onto that, saying rather extravagantly, but with that same normalized sarcasm. “So – personal problems got in the way of you continuing your education for more than a year?”

That’s when I step in, and do a bit of explaining. God knows what she thinks about that –  and really I could care less.

But nonetheless, it just all adds to the anxious and doubtful feelings that Tau and Leroi already have. They haven’t done anything like this for ages, and as a first pass, it’s tricky.


Afterwards in the car, we discuss it at some length. Tau is quick to dismiss the whole idea at first, and Leroi follows his lead. Then Tau confides that he does feel like doing a course. He just thinks it would be haaaaaard. And this one looks real strict; too strict – as well as too ‘flash.’ And then there is that perennial problem of ‘the overalls’.

When Tau brings up the overalls, I can see he’s feeling safe enough to talk about stuff now. I’d never discount the significance to Tau of wearing overalls. Nor would Leroi, although he himself is completely untroubled by the prospect.

“If they gave me overalls and they didn’t fit… I’d just take off,” Tau says, truthful and horrified at the thought.

“I know you would,” I agree. “And that’s absolutely fine, Tau. I know it’s really important that you feel comfortable with what you’re asked to do. It’s just that… they wouldn’t know that, at the course. And if you didn’t tell them, and just took off – they’d just think you were wagging, or trying to look hard or something.”

“True,” laments Tau. “That’s what always happens!”

Leroi and I can’t help laughing, but our indulgent looks make Tau grin too.

“What kind of course wouldn’t have overalls… or tool belts…” Tau goes on. “Maybe electronics?” he finishes hopefully.

So we’ve reached an impasse, for the moment. But at least at Winz tomorrow the boys can say they’ve had a look at a course – and maybe the caseworkers will have an idea or too.


Afterwards I take Tau to the tinny house, and to buy cigs. Start dinner off before we leave; the crumbed chicken thighs are sizzling away in the oven by the time we get back.


Tuesday 15 July

Something inside me has just had enough of racing, and stressing, and my mind going haywire over it. And so I call some kind of halt, for now.

The morning doesn’t signal this, at first. I wake up with my thoughts galloping: first you have to do this, then you have to do that, and don’t forget about that either, or that… and so on and so forth. On and frickin on. I stop at Z on the way to school, for gas. Pick up a coffee as well, then swipe my card without remembering I already took the cash out; thus throwing my bank balance out of whack and throwing me into further panic.

I drive to school and sit in the carpark, sipping on my coffee and trying to get my head together. And I suddenly just think: No more! Absolutely more of this. So I walk into my room, and plug in my lappy and I say to myself – ok, I’m going to write now.

It just feels like the thing I was meant to be doing all along. ‘That thing’… along with that ‘other thing’, ha


By 3:30 I’m back home to take the (very stoned) Tau and Leroi to their Winz appointments.

“Your seshes are starting to creep up again,” I say bluntly. This causes a lot of hilarity in the car, and Leroi manages to say, through muffled laughter, “It’s Tau’s fault.”

“Eaaa, it’s not my fault,” retorts Tau from the front seat.

“Well whatever it is, you should be thinking about cutting back again,” I tell them,  and they agree, at least in principle.


Tau’s case worker (Sue) enquires very sympathetically if he’s ‘on meds’.

“Well, you did look quite sleepy,” I tell him later on, making him chuckle; and I haven’t seen a lot of chuckling from Tau lately – what with his injuries and everything. Both his hand and knee are still giving him  pain, and he can’t do weights. It seems to me like one source of solace has been removed from the mix, albeit temporarily, and been replaced by another.

“I’ve got sleeping pills – from the doctor,” he replies to Sue.

“Oh, sleeping pills…” she says, with a dubious look.

“But you’re starting to cut back on those now – aren’t you Tau,” I ask in a somewhat rhetorical tone, principally designed to reassure the case worker.

“Yup,” Tau says, picking up the cue. “I’ve cut back quite a bit on my sleeping pills.”

And he has, too. But this isn’t exactly the point, just now.


Leroi’s caseworker, Gurpreet, is a stickler for the rules and regulations – I have to go home and get his birth certificate (Sue hasn’t required one for Tau). But eventually it all works out fine.

Tau’s good at Winz now. He’s quite au fait with the whole process. In fact he blithely tells me, “I like the feeling I get when I walk out of Winz. I always feel… satisfied.”

I can’t help laughing my head off, at this.

Leroi finds it very amusing as well. Although, “I don’t like going to Winz,” he adds. “I feel uncomfortable there.”

“Tau used to feel like that too, but not anymore,” I say. “He could work there now, pretty much!”

Tau nods, grinning.


We get home and they fire up the bucky (again). I shake my head at them, just in a cautionary way. It doesn’t need a lot of saying.

A routine urban way

Monday 16 June, 2014:

This afternoon in 9 Social: “We’ll sit by you,” announces Obey.

“We’ll sit by you, the whole time,” Aidan echoes him.

They join me at my table; Kuli comes past and laughs at the sight. “Little puppies,” he says, with a grin. “That’s what they’re like with you.”


I’m going to bring Obey a graff book on Thursday (there’s some at home). In a time and place, just a few years ago, he would have been one of the boys, I don’t doubt it. His serious, concentrating squint and blink remind me so much of Inia. I lend him my own earphones, out of my bag – and I never do this kind of thing for anyone, these days. Obey plugs himself in and freestyles along to 2Pac on the chrome book, making the class giggle.

I’m going to miss them – but I can’t get a hold of it anymore: school. I can care for others, and I do. Even so, I can only hate the hypocrisy of myself teaching.


I get a call back from the City Mission today, about the vacancy for an ‘assessment professional.’ They want me to come in for an interview on Wednesday evening. Of course, I have no social work experience. But still, I say to myself: Why not?


Wednesday 18 June:

As I drive into the city, I think how I might even like this job. I’ve done my homework on the organization – I’m not even particularly nervous. Rush hour is beginning, but I still arrive in advance of my appointment time – only to find that the manager has ‘gone home’.

I’m so surprised that I don’t really know what to say. No-one else seems to be expecting me, and to be honest, no-one is particularly interested in what I might be doing there either. The place is ‘busy’ I guess – though not crowded. There are four people in the office, all of whom tactically ignore me. I suggest someone could ring the manager; this suggestion doesn’t even rate a response. One guy eventually goes to ‘look upstairs’ for him.

While I wait, I speak briefly with a woman working at an office computer. She looks at me with a disparaging eye, before saying, in my opinion somewhat patronizingly, that it would be “pretty full on” working here.” I immediately feel myself go on the defense. But then I decide if she wants a pissing contest – I’m out. So I say not another word.

The guy returns – the manager has definitely left for home. He asks me to write a note, which he’ll leave on the appropriate desk. I scribble a few lines and give it to him.

And that’s it – I have to go home too. It’s busy on the motorway now, and I’m not back in Municipal until after 7.


Tau and Leroi, who texted me earlier to wish me luck, listen to my tale of woe. “Ditched by the guy at the Mission, aye Miss,” Leroi says, sorrowfully.

“Yup,” I sigh. “And I didn’t get a good vibe from the place – I’m sure those other people in the office thought I was all shit.”

“Fuck ’em,” Tau growls. He adds, “You should have told them – I’ll just go back to the hood then.”

This makes me laugh and after all the bullshit, restores my equilibrium a little.


Later though, I think again about the unspoken message I got from the staff there: Who are you? What do you know?

Well I know a lot of things. And I don’t have to explain them to some bitches in the office.

Perhaps it’s a lucky escape, I tell myself. I don’t even want to give generic help to an interchangeable case load in a setting of institutional care. I’m not a social worker – probably every bit as much as I’m not a teacher. And I wonder, not for the first time, what I have to offer when school’s particular set of constraints no longer apply.


Thursday 19 June

I wake up with that ‘normal’ tired, anxious, achy feeling. Brain switches straight on, reminding me that I’m finishing up at work in six weeks, and what am I going to do then? I get a big wave of panic as I think about it. What if I don’t find a job? What if I wind up stony broke? What if I fail – and everyone sees it, and secretly pities me for such a poor attempt to break free?

That’s just stone cold fear talking though. The timing’s right, and every single cell in my body knew it weeks ago; months, probably.


Friday 20 June:

They’ve been drinking, and Tau wants to come home tonight, but Sheree’s crying and begging him to stay. Tau texts me from his uncle’s and tells me so. He says he’s stressing out a bit, trying to look after her. And he needs time out from Leroi, too – but it’s hard to tell Leroi that.

It hurts to see Tau stumble, when he tries so hard to be strong.


Saturday 21 June:

This evening, Tau arrives back on his own. I’m glad he’s finally getting some time out from his family. He just lies on the couch in the sleepout looking rested; kind of neat and nipped clean. It makes me happy to see him that way – I feel like a mama cat purring over its kitten. I go cook us a feed: crumbed chicken drumsticks, with mashed potatoes and vegies, and bread & butter on the side. Tau walks down to the shop to get the bread, and some drinks and Zig Zag papers.


Monday 23 June:

I like ‘work’. Not school, or teaching – but the workday routine. I like packing lunch at night, and getting up to the alarm, and all that shit. I like eating breakfast and jamming the lappy while watching the morning news on TV. And I like heading out on a routine city day, to earn my money in a routine urban way.

But I can’t even drive past a school nowadays without getting a physical sensation of resistance and loathing.


I feel guilty after 10 Social today. They’re the sweetest kids you could ever meet. And I still hope there’s some chance of them getting what they want out of school, the way Slade did.

I don’t value anything I have to teach. But I do value them, and I wish there was more I could do about it. I just can’t pretend to be a teacher – and that’s all I can say.


Thursday 25 June:

This morning I teach (and I use the word extremely advisedly) 11 Social. After about 15 minutes of faking it, I feel this big refusal in my heart kick in – and I just give out some paperwork and let them do it. I try quell my loathing for school just a little bit longer; a couple days more till the weekend.

Then 9 Social  greet me with hugs – can you believe it – and sit around me like chickens.

The boys say, “Everyone likes this class.”

And they tell me, “When we ask what’ve we got next, and someone says ‘Social’, we’re all like: ‘Yussssss!”


Friday 27 June:

It’s the day of the 10 Social assessment – somehow they manage to pull this off with aplomb. Good old year 10’s. I’m kind of astonished by the fact that they have evidently been revising for this event. I feel bad, too – I could have taught them way more than this. Or nah, maybe not. I did the best I could with it. I really like them, and all year I’ve tried to give them something.  Not the stuff I didn’t have and couldn’t manufacture (‘teacherly’ stuff, I mean). But something of me.


In 12 History, Aurelius tells me he wants to be a cop one day.

“Well, you’re just what the police force needs,” I say, and the conjunction is easy to imagine. “Even though I don’t really like cops, as a rule,” I add truthfully. “I’ve never had good experiences with the police.”

“Me too, Miss,” Aurelius says at once. “My whole family don’t get along with cops.”

We can’t help snorting at one another.

The flank

Monday 9 June, 2014:

Monday. First of five days. And I can only think of one at a time, otherwise I’d bolt. It would be so easy, now that I’ve accepted there’s no possibility of squaring things at MC ever again.

But bolting isn’t useful.  For one thing, it won’t pay the bills. An equally important consideration is that it won’t buy me any time… and I need that time to adjust to my new circumstances.


I take 13 History to the library and monitor them; not even that – I just stay in the library to fulfill some minimum function. The most useful thing I do is intervene in a confrontation between another teacher and a student in his class. When I see that the boy is about to lose it completely. I go over and calmly draw him aside, and for some reason he comes with me, not knowing me at all.

Later, the librarian gives me a look and a nod, saying quietly, “I saw what you did, well done.”

It’s the only thing I do all day that could merit any praise at all.


Tonight I apply for a job  as an ‘Assessment professional’ at the City Mission. Comme ci comme ca. Tomorrow there’ll be another to apply for – I’m going to do one a day from now on. I’m not expecting to find my ‘dream job’; it doesn’t have to be a forever thing. But there’s got to be something.


Tuesday 10 June:

I think of Slade this morning. When I walk into my room before school, and shut the door with a gentle click, the whole space is redolent with memories, just quietly holding and waiting. And the smell of ironlak seems faintly imprinted on the air.

10 Social come in. They’re such a nice class.  I go round and try to act like a human being –  that’s all I want to do. It’s not much, but at the very least it’s genuine. I feel a wave of revulsion for school, and then a wave of tenderness for everyone who tries to make something out of nothing in this place.

I don’t have to fake the relationship side of things. That’s a normal part of my response, when I’m standing face to face with someone. But it’s no longer possible for me to fake the values (whether they’re the ‘soft’ values about character, or the ‘hard’ ones, the ones school uses to include some people and exclude others).


Wednesday 11 June:

Last night I just sink miserably off to sleep, as if I’m slowly submerging into a bog. I feel tears ooze out of my eyes.

This morning, the only little nice thing I can focus on is that I’ll get coffee, when I fill up at the gas station.


So I get to school, holding my takeout long black. But it’s all fronting. My mind is skidding about, alighting on all these stupid little annoyances… it’s cold; my feet are cold; got to get upstairs to the meeting… wait, better grab the chrome books first… and so on and so forth.

It’s the same just before I leave home. I’m trying to put out the washing in the cold and damp, feeling aggrieved that there aren’t enough pegs: Why couldn’t Tau just put the pegs back in the bag? And why isn’t there enough time this morning… and why am I so tired today?  And why do I have to go to work while everyone else gets to relax. It feels like payday for the whole freaking world, huh. Sheree gets to come over here and chill out at mine, like the dang queen of Sheba, and I have to go and pretend to be a teacher all day.

On and on and on… my head’s spinning, and I can barely breathe.  At some level I know it isn’t fair, to blame either Sheree or Tau for anything about this whole state of affairs. Tau would have rushed out to pull his washing off the line in the rain last night, of course he wouldn’t have even grabbed the peg bag. It’s not like he did it on purpose to annoy me. And as for Sheree: queen of Sheba hardly cuts it, poor bitch. It’s not a lot to ask – to spend a day with the boys, shouting them a feed, making herself a coffee. I just feel… I know it’s stupid but I feel jealous.

Everyone wants somewhere to be. Everyone wants someone to be with. It feels like everyone’s the prize, for someone. Everyone except me.


School goes ok, all things considered. I have a ‘moment’ when 11 History come in, like: Oh, really? I’m supposed to be teaching thirty kids about something, and they’re expecting it, just like usual. But then I have to bite the bullet and start my patter.

I can do it, you know. It’s not that I can’t. I simply can’t believe any of it, even the very little amount that I ever did. And I don’t want the authority of a believer.

After work I apply for my ‘job of the day’ again; this one is a family/whanau coordinator for some government-funded organization.  I have no experience in this kind of role, of course. It just seems like something that isn’t  totally outside the realms of possibility. And I guess that’s all I’m trying to do. Just open up the field of the possible.


The ‘peg’ thing seems funny again (not annoying anymore), by this afternoon. I tell Tau the story, and he chuckles at me, saying triumphantly, “And they’re all back in the bag now!’


Thursday 12 June:

Almost the minute I get home from work, I pick up a very faint vibe about… something. I don’t know what, and Tau doesn’t say anything out of the ordinary. But there is a very slightly suppressed quality to his voice – and I’m so used to these signals that it makes my radar go off straight away.

I don’t say anything – well not at first. But when he comes in to get a drink, and ‘busies’ himself in the kitchen, just a fraction more self-consciously than usual – then I can’t ignore it any longer.

“Tau?” I say, actually surprising myself by just wading on out there, heedless of past experience with this kind of thing. “Um… are you okay?”

“Yup Miss, I’m okay,” he replies, apparently quite straightforward.

“Oh, algood then,” I say, but for some reason I can’t help wondering aloud. ”Cos… I just thought something might have upset you.”

Tau turns and looks at me; I think he’s surprised too. Not surprised that I’ve noticed – but that I’ve openly brought it up. He says, “Ah Miss… I just got a little bit upset today, with my mum.

“Oh,” I say, and then, “Just wanted to make sure you were ok.”

“Algood,” Tau says. “My mum texted Vailea, and he rang me and we had a talk.”


I don’t press him any more about it. I’m not proud of what I’m thinking – which is that I’m just the everyday carrier, kind of like the pack-horse. The big guns get brought in to handle the important stuff: Vailea and Maxwell, soon as the alarm goes off. And I just keep bumping along on the flank.

I feel so ‘replaceable’, I guess. Anyone could do what I do. You know… get a few groceries, pay the rent. And I love Tau like I raised him. But I don’t make the call. Those who make the call, well – they can call who they choose.


Later (on the way to the tinny house), Tau tells me more about what happened. I don’t ask him, he just tells me.

Sheree ‘wasn’t listening’ – is how he puts it. He’d been trying to talk to her about things, and then he wound up upset with her himself. “I just hate seeing her like that,” he says, softly. “In a… a tense situation.”

“Like what?” I ask, wondering which way he means it.

“Feeling uncomfortable everywhere,” Tau says. “Not feeling comfortable anywhere.”

“Ohh,” I say, getting it. “Poor Sheree… it must be pretty tough.”

“And I suck at explaining stuff,” Tau goes on. “I was trying to help, but I got all mixed up, and started mumbling and stuttering. It’s always like that,” he finishes, with a big sigh.

“Oh man, Tau,” I say with feeling. “You know what? You’re pretty damn good at explaining stuff. You just don’t see it… yet.”

He looks at me a bit wonderingly.

“You’re doing great,” I say. “You don’t have to be perfect, Tau. It’s ok to slip up and get upset sometimes.”

“That’s what Vailea said, too,” Tau tells me.

“Yup,” I agree. “Well, he’s right.”


There’s a Family Group Conference on too, tomorrow. Vailea’s going with them.

And it’s good… it’s good to bring out the big guns in these situations. Professional advisers and advocates, with their professional distance, which stems from the powerful knowledge I don’t have. The training, and the experience, the networks – the reputation. And at the same time, they earn the most genuine respect and heartfelt gratitude.

I ferry us home, just like the workaday carrier that I am. Tau thanks me, and goes into the sleepout to be with Leroi. I come in and make a cup of tea. 



Monday 19 May, 2014:

The second-main thing is that I don’t have to go back to work until next Monday, and I’m ok with that (after a fashion) because I’ll be giving in my notice in a couple weeks anyway.

The main thing is that I really am trying to get shit done in the meantime. Applying for jobs – though there’s been nothing much on offer recently. And (underpinning that), trying to shift some very old patterns. Which is probably the most important main thing of all.


Tau brings me back some snapper, from his Nan. I feel happy and embarrassed all at the same time; I don’t even know how to cook it.

“Fry it?” I surmise, when Tau confides that he doesn’t know either. “I think that’s the way Kuli does it…” I try to recollect how. “Snapper’s a firm fish,” I say, half-convinced that I’m right. “It won’t fall apart, if you fry it. But I think you have to coat it in flour first, or…”

“Breadcrumbs?” suggests Tau. “I’ve got breadcrumbs, too – in the shed. My Nan gave them to me as well. That’s how she does it… you know the way the fish and chip shop does it?” he finishes, hopefully.

We look at each other in a kind of relief; Tau has been almost too shy to give me the fish in the first place, let alone the dang breadcrumbs.

“But don’t you have to use an egg too… with the breadcrumbs? I don’t know…” I say, unintentionally sounding rather whimpery.

“Um… I don’t know either,” he replies in all truthfulness.

“I’ll text Kuli,” I decide, adding, “And if he doesn’t check his texts before tonight, I’ll give it a go. With the egg and breadcrumbs.” And we start laughing at one another.


Doing my own head in, at times. But honestly, I can feel something different coming on too. I can feel I’m sick of doing things the same old way. I’m going to shuck it off, it’s going to lift.


Tuesday 20 May:

Everyone’s up; the boys are coughing their lungs out after being disturbed early by a morning phone call from Sheree. Actually they’re having pretty good sleeps these days. It’s just their one nightly sesh (only buds now, not synnies) that still makes them cough in the morning.

I set cover and check my school email. Shakira says that 13 History are ‘struggling’ with working from the textbook. Like I could care, that’s the way relief goes. I reply that they’re struggling not because of the textbook, but because they have shown very little initiative or independence all year (which is indeed the truth). But I guess I could send some extra links through for the reliever.

I go have a shower and think about it: maybe yes, maybe no.

Turns out to be a no.

God knows what I’m going to do next week. What’s more, I’m kind of incredulous that my intent has gone pretty much from keeping up appearances to really not giving a fuck, in just nine days.


Wednesday 21 May:

I spend the whole day working, my style. This morning with Slade, first half of the afternoon with Tau, second half of the afternoon with Nio. All of it unpaid; all of it real work. With a purpose, a meaning, and a result – for people I actually care about. And, what’s more, I enjoy it. I don’t have to fake that, even when the day gets tiring – there’s no dissonance.

Again, that feeling of matching with something. But how I’m meant to produce an income from this feeling, I wouldn’t have a clue.


Nio is chasing a job – this is such an unexpected development that at first I don’t know if I should just take it with a grain of salt. He tells me that he has to get to the agency before Friday, and has been unsuccessfully trying to hook up a ride there all week. In a rather stop-start run of texts (and this doesn’t fill me with confidence either), we ‘kind of’ arrange that I’ll pick him up after Tau and I get done at Winz. I text him from there to say I’m on my way, but there’s no reply. And I’m not all that keen to go on a wild goose chase – this is Nio, after all.

“I wonder if I should just leave it…” I say, thinking aloud.

Tau laughs, at my expression.

“He hasn’t even texted back,” I continue. “If I go round there and he’s not home, I’ll be so pissed off.”

“Yeah, you’ve been busy today,” Tau says. “Doing heaps of stuff, aye.”

“True – but I don’t mind, as long as people do what they say they’re going to do,” I tell him. “Like you and Slade are algood, you always show up for things. But Nio… it’s not like he’s been the most reliable, in the past,” I emphasize unnecessarily, making us snort with laughter.

Then I sigh, saying, “Oh well. I’ll give him a chance. But if he’s not there – that’s it, and he can find his own way to the agency.” And off I go.


When I knock on the door, Nio appears at once, holding his son. Turns out he hasn’t got the latest round of texts – he dropped his phone in the bath last night, and the stuttering communications of today have coincided with the times he has been able to use his sim in his dad’s phone. He’s been waiting for me all afternoon, hoping I’ll come anyway.

After that, things move at speed. Nio clambers into his interview clothes piece by piece, passing me the baby across the bed. He has to change a diaper and do a hand-over (to his cousin) – then we hit the road.


I can tell straight away that this is legit. Nio smokes a cig in the car, nervously shuffling through his folder of paperwork and telling me about the agency (his brother has already got a job through them, he says).

After what turns out to be an hour’s interviewing and testing (identifying workplace hazards and the like), Nio emerges triumphant, safety helmet in hand. He’s scored a job on the roads: sub-contracting to start with and the possibility of going permanent.

All the way home, we’re quietly and reflectively elated.

“Haaard, Miss,” Nio says. “I used to be a little shit, aye Miss.” He cackles, reminding me suddenly and poignantly of many good days at school. And I realize, all over again, that I’m not sorry about any of it – I’m glad I was there. But it’s time for me to leave that place.


I hear from Slade later on, too. He’s going back down the line tomorrow morning, and sends me this text:

miss ive learnt heaps from you im glad i met you, you helped me through heaps thankyou miss

I get that same feeling, the same poignant reminder of good days. Not from anything school ever gave us, but from what we just took anyway. All our chances to make something out of it, any which way we could.


Friday 23 May:

I don’t set relief this morning. I figure what I’ve done already is enough; more than enough.

“Mum’s coming around for a visit,” Tau says, with some faith in my response to this news. My heart sinks a bit, but then I try to just ease that ‘be kind’ feeling into place. After a moment of feigned nonchalance, I’m alright.

I’m learning, honestly. I’m trying to learn as much as possible, as fast as possible, and yet without that hurried sensation of attempting to cram all future permutations into my already crowded mind.

And in terms of clarifying my mind, I’ve sorted one thing: I’m definitely outward bound from MC. I already am. I can tell this in a couple ways, at least. One is that I’m not stressing about dumb things like daily relief (I just set what I can, then it ceases to trouble my mind). Another is that I’ve started applying for every job that’s going.


Saturday 24 May:

I try step class this morning, and find it’s definitely not my thing. There’s a lot of  virtuous ‘participation’ to be contended with, which causes my eyes to immediately narrow: no way am I going to clap my hands in the air as I jump over a box. After twenty minutes I’ve had way more than enough, and go do a workout instead.

And doing weights relaxes me, despite the exertion. I feel slack with stored energy, like I have more than enough. In little moments, it reminds me of Kepaoa.


Later, La-Verne texts and asks if I want to come have dinner then stay the night; her husband’s away for the weekend, and she tells me she could use the company out there. So I head off, stopping to pick us up coffee on the way.


Sunday 25 May:

 La-Verne’s making date scones for us. Mixing up the dough, she says, “Oh, and I need the juice and rind of an orange, and I bought one specially yesterday – where is it?” She looks around, saying, “It must be here somewhere…”

Guiltily, I say, “I ate it… for breakfast.”

“What?” she says in disbelief.

“I didn’t know it was anything important,” I tell her. “I’m sorry,” I add.

“Well, you could go get me another one,” she says, offended.

“Um… I don’t really want to do that,” I tell her, deciding honesty is the best policy. Because I’m not going all the way into town again for an orange. “I got you a coffee…” I  try appeasing her.

“I got you a coffee…” she mimics.

There’s a slight standoff – and then she decides it’s mildly amusing after all. “Oh my God… I’ll have to use a frickin lemon,” she mutters.

Later on, she softens towards me, packing up a container of her homemade chicken risotto to take for my lunch tomorrow.