A grown ass woman

Monday 8 September, 2014:

I remember how Kepaoa used to say, “If anything happens, just text me – I’m only a suburb away.”

Words. Because on Saturday, I was facing things alone. My phone losing charge in the bedroom; it might as well have been a suburb away too. And even if I’d had it right in my hand, there was no Kepaoa to call in the middle of the night. So I stood my ground – I didn’t once let myself become afraid. It’s only now I feel kind of scared, kind of sick about it all.

I’ve just about decided to take the day off when I get a text from the agency. So I accept the job, and get out of bed.

 

Afterwards, I reflect that it’s lucky I didn’t know I’d be teaching drama all day; that’s some pretty out-of-it relief: warm up games, impromptu performances, and all the rest of it. But I don’t really mind. All care and no responsibility – and sometimes it’s ‘no care and no responsibility’.

The daily contradictions don’t stay on my mind for long, with substitute teaching. It doesn’t really matter whether things go good, bad, or indifferent. It wasn’t like that when I had a permanent teaching job. The dissonance rubbed away at me all the time. Of course the feeling’s still there… it just has less of an impact, I guess.

 

This evening I get a text from Rose: Leroi is still here, sorry about all the trouble I know how you are feeling.

I’m glad he’s still with his Nan. I remember one time La-Verne said (rather glibly and irritating me) that the family was a ‘package deal’. But that’s just the point – they aren’t a package deal. I’ll do whatever I can reasonably do. But I know I can’t do for everyone what I’ll do for Tau.

And as well, nothing’s been cleared from the weekend. I’m still kind of upset with Leroi – but it’s Sheree I’m really angry with. I’m sick of the way she wants to be babied when something goes wrong, like she’s still a little kid, when she’s a grown ass woman.

 

Tuesday 9 September:

I get a text from Leroi tonight, which means I have to make a decision:

Hi mis me Leroi I feel so terrible for what ive done im so sry for my behaviour mis iknow that waz totally unexceptable towards you and  urv done so much for us more then anyone and idont want ruin the progress me and tau have made at course or let anyone down. please cud i come bak?  ican understand if u don’t want me there. but i promiss u miss that will never happen again, and ipromiss there will be no more drinking ever miss hope u cn forgive me.

I think it over for a while.  I know Leroi’s young, and I tell myself he’s allowed to make mistakes. Still, the way he turned on Tau really shook me. Well, where’s the loyalty now? I ask myself.

It takes me ages to reply and poor Leroi must be worried, he sends a few of those ‘Miss?’ texts as he waits. Eventually, I decide: I tell him he can come back

 

Wednesday 10 September:

Everything goes ok, but at the same time I can see that the boys are slightly anxious and on their best behavior – especially Leroi. You know, just being that extra bit more polite. They’ve had a good day at course and want to shout dinner, which is nice. Even so, we’re aware of recent events, so it feels a little awkward. Leroi asks if he can take a drink out of the fridge; that kind of thing. It’s all kind of tiring. Not in a bad way, just… in a way.

 

Thursday 11 September

I miss a call from the agency and debate with myself over whether to ring them back or not.  I eventually decide I’d rather crawl over broken glass than go do a day’s substitute teaching today. I don’t know why, because it isn’t that bad. But really? – I ask myself. Did I quit teaching at MC just so I can keep doing the same old thing somewhere different?

Bang goes another 230 bucks (that’s about what it is after tax), but I just can’t do it today. And I even packed up my lunch, too. Oh well.

 

Friday 12 September

Pretty crap weather out – and I’m supposed to be teaching PE all day. But I see a narrow window of opportunity to be seized, as the relief coordinator at Carthill High comes out with the timetables. “Which one do you want?” she asks the assembled group of substitute teachers, vaguely proffering a couple of sheets towards two of us. One of these looks to be Junior PE from start to finish; the other has a mix of PE and other subjects. I see Samoan 301 in period 1, English 101 in period 2… “I’ll take this one,” I tell her.

The other reliever, who has waited too long and now hovers just behind me, says uncertainly, “I was told I was having English…”

The relief coordinator looks a touch exasperated at this, saying, “We’ve asked for eight relievers and we’ve only got six. I’ve got all this internal cover to do as well…”

So off I go to 13 Samoan.

 

Saturday 13 September

I get up to make a cuppa tea and some toast, thinking how this time last week, Sheree was here and clinging like a leech to the boys. And this time Sunday, I was still outside with Leroi as the sun came up.

It doesn’t sound nice to write that Sheree’s clinging like a leech. But ‘nice’ is not where I need to be at present.

 

Friday 19 September:

My evening doesn’t work out quite as planned. Because after school, where am I? At the doctor – waiting two whole hours to get Tau’s  forms filled. And where’s Tau? Out at Clancy with the boys, who’ve come to pick him and Leroi up. And why do I do it? Because I can’t not try. Sometimes I wonder at myself, though. I question my sanity, sitting there in the waiting room, having already been told by one of the receptionists that the doctor (not being Tau’s regular GP) might not be able to sign the forms without his actual presence. She shrugs, not unsympathetically, saying, “Try if you want. But I can’t guarantee it.”

 

Admittedly Tau had tried too, earlier on in the day (they told him to come back later; there was only one doctor on). So I wait patiently, talking with a man called Wiremu – who turns out to have Alzheimer’s – about his army days. His wife (Joy is her name), comes out from her consultation and sees us, flurries straight over to ask if he’s been bothering me.

They affect me greatly, Joy and Wiremu. His voice has the unmistakable tone and oratorical style of a native speaker of Te Reo. She’s Pakeha. He remembers the old days, she tells me; his army days. All the people, all the places – he served in Malaya and Singapore. He forgets the things that happened a few minutes ago. They married in 1960 and have been living in Municipal for 48 years.

He doesn’t drink beer anymore, doesn’t go out in the evening nowadays. And every afternoon, he says to her, “Mum, can I have an ice cream,” and she makes him a big one. He eats it in the room, and five minutes later, he asks, “Mum, can I have an ice cream.”

“You’ve already had one,” she tells him.

“When did I have one?” he asks. “I didn’t have an ice cream.” He insists, and gets bad tempered, argumentative. “He takes it out on me,” Belle tells me.

“It must be very hard on you,” I say.

“It is,” she replied. “Sometimes it’s like that all day long.”

She doesn’t have a single complaint to make about her situation – she’s just tired, and acknowledges it. I’ve already heard her coughing in the doctor’s room. She has high blood pressure, and edema in her legs (cellulitis, she says, showing me the purple swelling).

 

At 5:45 I come away with Tau’s signed paperwork. The boys are still up at Clancy, of course. I have a feeling they’re going to ask me if they can have a few cans here again, sometime soon. I don’t know how I’ll play it when they do. It’s not a ‘never again.’ (despite Leroi’s text hyperbole). It’s just… I do need to set boundaries.

 

 

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Happy

Wednesday 29 January, 2014:

I wake up at 4 am, with questions that press at my thoughts and won’t go away, like a large and persistent cat squashing and squirreling itself onto a cushion. What am I doing back at MC? How am I going to cope there on my own? And when my mind straight away adds, ‘without Slade’, I lay in the peaceful dark, and feel tears sting my eyes.

The troops have left… I feel like the last watchman, sometimes. I need to pack up the last handful of stores, shut the door quietly on the dusty rooms, and ride out.

 

Sarsha mails me – Tau didn’t go see her last week. I say I’ll try to get hold of him. I guess his beni’s been cut by now. He has to actually go to a course, for Winz to be satisfied with paying him on an ongoing basis. Having said that.. obviously I’ll help in whatever way I can to get him reinstated.

It’s not like he doesn’t know the deal, either. It’s more that… things get in the way, I know they do. And Winz (apart from Sarsha) have been useless, really. They insist on ‘compliance’, and at the same time they make it technically so difficult to attain. But as far as I’m concerned, Tau’s entitled to something. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about that. He does his best with all of it, and he tries over and over again. It’s just – like I said – things get in the way.

 

Thursday 30 January:

Just being at school keeps  irritating me, just scratching at me all day. I have to keep reminding myself to take ‘that look’ out of my eyes. Even so, it hovers there.

Sometimes it works to just tell myself – honey, you’re doing good, you’re doing great. No shit – but my eyes still feel big and hounded. I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t notice.

 

Sunday 2 February:

Shame is so embodied, for me. I never actually think  – oh, I’m ashamed – in advance of any situation. When it happens, it’s more like a physical and instantly betraying reaction. I feel it kick in, and then I’m powerless as a limp little kitten terrified by a big dog. My bones quiver. It can happen at the weirdest moments: one time it was the supermarket checkout. I could hardly speak, my mouth felt as if it might lock up, I was dizzy – I don’t know why.

And yet there are times I can just stroll in and take control, like it’s no thing. When the stakes are so much higher. When the game matters.

I guess in some ways, shame (that old knee-jerk reaction) could just be my body’s way of trying to cut myself some slack, after those high stakes situations. Maybe it forces me to go to ground for a while, and to rest.

But there must be other ways I can restore my energy. I look in the mirror and sometimes I wonder: So, what do I have? Do I have anything, or no? Could I ever be one of those lucky people who gets stronger, more useful with time? And I do not know.

 

Monday 3 February:

I’ve been thinking about how it feels (or how I think I remember it feels) to wake up and be relaxed and happy. Just plain “happy”, huh. Could I ever get it back? And I’m not sure. I remember a time, long ago, when I didn’t wake up with my jaw clenched like a trap, to steel myself for the day ahead.

Being unhappy, it’s like the worst habit of all. It’s not a thing you do in itself. It’s like a combination of all the other things, the things I was trying to write about yesterday. Endlessly looping that old shame circuit, with a little rest in between rounds. My mind’s constant wheeling and the exhaustion that brings me to an halt… before the whole thing just cranks up again. Over and frickin over.

There are things that make me happy, and there are times I’m happy – don’t get me wrong. But often, I have this sense that I’m just doing those rounds. That I’m allowed small bits of happiness, that I can have these crumbs if I’m ‘good’. If I’m loyal. Never complain, never refuse my part, never stand out, never try to be anything special.

It is enough, I sometimes think, to be acknowledged for your role (and you know by that I don’t mean teaching). But what if you can’t keep on proving your worth?

Makes me feel very quiet, writing this down.

Problems of my own

Sunday 1 September, 2013:

The boys have stayed out all night, everything seems securely fastened when I look out the window this morning. But in the time it takes me to have a shower, all of a sudden the shed lights are on, door wide open. And still no-one home. It hasn’t been locked in the first place – just the bolt slid across from outside. I guess someone has been over and gone in to see if the boys are here. It pisses me off that whoever it was could just stroll in there, like it’s no thing, like they’ve got the right to.

I look around for the padlock to lock up properly, but I can’t see it. So I just shut the door, pull the bolt across once more, and start to pull out weeds in the garden.

 

After a while, Leroi and little Michael arrive in Michael’s car. Leroi is truly surprised to learn someone has been around and let themselves in. But he’s also far too blasé about it for my liking. “There’s no lock,” he informs me casually, as he rifles through his possessions to find a couple things. He and Michael are going back to the city, Tau is still there.

“What do you mean, no lock?” I ask him.

“We haven’t got any padlocks.”

“But… how come?” I say, unable to help sounding a bit interrogative.

“Cos we lost the key, yesterday. I had to break the padlock to get in…”

“You broke the padlock… again?” I repeat, incredulously. “Faar, how many times are you guys gonna do that? I only got the new padlock a little while back, you need to keep hold of the keys.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he says, in an airy way. “We got nothing to steal anyway.”

“It does matter,” I retort, crossly. “It matters to me – because this is my house, man. I don’t like random people just coming right on in like they own the place. Opening up the shed. They could do anything they wanted if we weren’t home – and we wouldn’t even know. It’s not good, Leroi.”

His face falls. “Sorry… Miss,” he says, rather uncertainly.

“I’m sorry for growling, Leroi. But honestly – I can’t just leave the place unlocked. I’ll get another padlock, but this time you have to hold onto your keys and not lose them. And if you do, then don’t just break the lock. Text me, okay?”

“Yup, Miss,” Leroi replies. He sounds meek enough, but actually I’m not sure if he’s really taking these directives in.

 

I let them go off back to town, and return to the gardening. Only by now I’m annoyed. And this particular task (which I’ve never enjoyed in the slightest degree) just makes me feel even more stressed out. I whisk my way around as quickly as possible, grasping weeds and hiffing them into a plastic bag, then moving onto the next spot. On the way, I get my nails all dirty, and my jumper snags on twigs, and I prick my thumb. Then, by the time I reach the back yard, I find cans in the bushes, Cruisers and Cody’s, God knows for how long they’ve been there. Ciggie butts and pie wrappers… and yeah, I know, sometimes stuff blows over the back fence from the park. But some of it is just too close to the shed. There are even chicken bones, for fuck’s sake, just chucked out on the grass, like it’s no big deal. And by the time I’ve picked these up, I’m outraged by the whole thing. I’m glad the boys aren’t home right then, otherwise there’d be some dramas for sure.

Just as I finish the last of the weeding for the day (out by the gate), I cut my face on a cactus spike, and the feeling of warm blood on my cheek kind of brings me back to a more restful state. I don’t know why, but somehow it grounds me again. And I go wash the blood off my face, and my heart starts to settle, and I realize that I’m really hungry. So I go make a feed, and then I start to calm down.

 

I procure another padlock from the supermarket, and make a list of things I need to ‘discuss’ with the boys. There are quite a few items on the agenda, ranging from the padlock itself, to the ciggie butts, to the rubbish bin, to keeping the shed tidy, and so on and so forth. It all has to be said, and probably should have been said sooner.

But like I said – calmly. Because my two house guests, I must concede, have been doing their recent best to adjust to some difficult circumstances (and it’s not like they’ve ever been asked to curtail their social lives before, either).

To be honest though, Leroi’s ‘default setting’ is extremely laissez faire, which is pissing me off a bit. And yup, he’s just doing what he knows, and what’s got him through life so far, and he’s had it pretty damn tough. Tau too, but… I guess the difference, for me, is that I have a more natural understanding of Tau’s ways. Inside me, I resonate with Tau so much. Leroi, the Piscean, is harder for me to grasp. Kind of like my mum was hard to grasp. I never knew what she thought about anything; not really.

And I notice Tau says ‘home’ when he’s talking about this place, even though I know that in some sense it’s simply born of necessity. But all the same, it touches my heart.

 

Monday 2 September:

Slade and I have an argument, well, kind of. He brings up the subject of Leroi and Raphael in Municipal the other day – with those Carthill boys. Apparently it’s all over Facebook, and there’s more happening, of course. Anyway, I tell Slade what I knew, and how Leroi (and probably Raphael, too) had been ready to have a fight right there in the Youth Services office. I say to him how I’d realised that Leroi wouldn’t have hesitated, even in front of me, or the office staff.

Slade just shrugs and says, “Oh well,” in a manner which implies I should get over it. I feel hurt by this – I can’t help it. I’ve always tried to let Slade know that his reactions to things are not to be slighted. It’s not that we always have to agree. But I don’t trample on his feelings. And in this moment it seems that he’s willing to just tromp on mine without a second’s thought.

So I feel myself bristle up. Slade’s sitting at my laptop, jamming Youtube and I say, at his side. “No it isn’t ‘ohwell’.”

He says nothing.

“One of those boys had a knife,” I continue. “And I had to go out there and deal with it, cos otherwise Leroi was just gonna let them bring it on.”

“Ohhhhhhhhhwel,” Slade says, in that very concluding way. “That’s just… life,” (and ‘harden up you sook’ – is what I read into that)

“Yeah, it is life,” I reply. “And I know that, and that’s why I dealt with it. But I got feelings about it, all the same.”

“Yup, well I got problems of my own,” Slade says.

“Yup, well so have I,” I say back. “And if you feel like that, why don’t you just go away then.”

And then the bell rings, and off he goes without another word. All day I feel cross about it. Because I do have frickin feelings, and you know what? I don’t need to be talked down to by Slade, even if I care a lot about him.

So.

 

When I get home, both the boys are back. Raphael’s with them, so I don’t say everything I’ve planned to. I mention the key though, and the ciggie butts on the driveway, and the cans in the bushes. Tau is sorrowful about the last two points, telling me (truthfully and trustingly) that whenever he sees the boys leaving their rubbish around, he tells them off.

But inside me, there’s some resentment that won’t go away right now. And it’s more complicated with both boys here, not to mention more expensive. I do care about Leroi… and yet the fact remains that he’s here in the first instance because of Tau. If it wasn’t for Tau, I wouldn’t be offering. And as for the other boys… well, likewise. I wouldn’t be even a quarter as welcoming as I’ve been, if not for Tau’s sake.

Plus money’s so tight, honestly. It makes my heart catch, some days. To think that as soon as my pay comes in, it’s spent. And yup, I still pay for the gym. But it’s one of those things I can’t give up. It’s like a refusal to capitulate – to actually give myself something I want. Otherwise all the budgeting and nursing of my income doesn’t even make sense.

Far from here

Thursday 6 June, 2013:

Go to bed and cry. Wake up and cry. I just want to howl like a wolf, at the thought that it’s only and ever about what I can offer and do and provide. And I’m supposed to go to school and act like I care about learning and crap?

So today I’m just going to imagine that I’m far from here, just looking on at it. Like I’m curled up watching a movie about someone else’s life. And just thinking… oh yup, that’s an interesting story.

 

I pick up Tau for PD, on my way to work. In the car I feel myself just start to unravel further, and my eyes get filled up with tears. “Sorry Tau,” I choke.

“Algood, Miss…” Tau murmurs to me.

We drive, as everything bumps and scrambles and refuses to settle in my heart. I just keep thinking, what am I gonna do, what am I gonna do? About this… about anything. Tears run down my face, and I say, “Ohh, sorry Tau, I’m sorry. You already got enough to deal with.”

“It’s algood, Miss,” Tau says again.

And so I tell him about Kepaoa – the other night, and how I feel like he’s straight hustled me, and how everything else has just flown right out the window, now that Teri’s back. Messing with his head and all. I say how I don’t trust Teri, and how stuff went missing from my room. I just keep right on crying as I tell Tau, “Kepaoa asked if she could stay here with him, and I said no, I don’t trust her, and I ended up yelling at him. And now I think he hates me.”

 

And, “Tau?” I say. I’m really crying now, and I can’t stop.

“Mm, Miss?” Tau said, very gently to me.

“I don’t wanna bring it up… but I want to tell you something else, so I hope its ok.”

“It’s ok, Miss,” he says.

“Well, you know when you were with Shae?”

And he nods. He just lets me go on.

“I just want you to know that you guys were pretty awesome, that’s all.” I can’t stop crying, quietly, while I speak. “You never hustled me, and you always respected my stuff, and even when you had shit going on, you never wanted to take it out on me. You just tried to keep it to yourselves, and I really appreciate that, even though it was hard sometimes. For all of us.”

“It’s algood, Miss,” says Tau. “Thanks for that, Miss.”

“Nah, thank you,” I said. “I just wanted you to know.” And then, “Shae was far better than Teri,” I cry, feeling this big pain in my heart which still seems like it’s never going to stop. “I know you guys aren’t together anymore, and it’s ok… but I just wanted you to know that. I was algood with Shae. The whole time.”

 

“Shall we have a ciggie, Miss?” We’ve just pulled up outside the PD centre.

“Aw, yes please Tau,” I tell him, and he lights up.

I shouldn’t be smoking, I know it’s not something I want to start up again. But I’m just so stressed and everything hurts so bad, and I don’t know what the fuck to do about any of it. Tau has to go to PD, but  he takes ten dollars out of his wallet and gives it to me, saying, “Gas money, Miss.”

“Nah, Tau – no need,” I say.

But he insists, and I can see he just wants to do something kind for me, and it touches my heart very much.

I sit in the car, on the side of the road just there and smoke the end of the cigarette, and text the MC relief number to say there’s been an emergency and I can’t make it to work. By now I can see there’s no chance of handling school, not feeling like this.

 

I drive back home, still crying. I feel sick, actually, from the cigarette. Hobble inside and have a drink of water and lay on Kepaoa’s couch, curled up with my head on the pillow. I don’t know what the fuck to do about anything. School, Kepaoa, Tau…

Then I email some relief through, for my classes. Because there’s nothing else I can do. I don’t know how I can keep going in that place. Day after interminable day.

And then I text Kepaoa

Stressng out, i hope ur ok kepaoa. It felt like i was getting hustled. Just upset and tired and woried and felt superstresrd tht night. But just wntd to say tht im stil down for nxt wed 12th for knee.

But I never hear back. I guess he just doesn’t care anymore. No reason to care, because there’s nothing I can give him – or nothing he wants.

 

Around midday I take Tau’s ten bucks and go to Municipal, where I pick up takeout coffee and a piece of rocky road slice (like chocolate on chocolate, with a jelly layer in between and mini-marshmallows as well). I sit in the car on Rangitikei Rd (just down from that well known hangout, the cop shop) and sip my coffee, taking little bites of the sugar hit until it soothes my jangling nerves a bit.

About Kepaoa. I guess it couldn’t have stayed how it was for ever. When all it took was for one stupid little girl to arrive back, and then I don’t mean anything but a hotel and a ride. And honestly, Teri’s just damn average, in my opinion. One of those silly big ol’ bigmouth girls who rates herself way up there. Squawking and carrying on about how thug life she is. Shae was so much stylier.

I message Shae on facebook, when I get home. Here’s what I say.

Hey Shae, just mailing to say hi. I was thinking about you today and hope you are doing good. I just wanted to let you know that I miss you, and I haven’t forgotten you. You’re an amazing young woman, and I appreciate the respect and care that you always showed for me and my place, when Tau was staying with me. Thank you. I hope your life is going great, and that you’re on your way to achieving the dreams you have for yourself. I know sometimes life doesn’t always work out the way we plan it to, but i just felt like i needed to let you know those things. K, take care honey xo

Then I just lay there on ‘my’ couch, if we’re still talking about the two couches that way. I mail school to say I’m taking the day off tomorrow.

 

Far, I miss Kepaoa, and I don’t want to miss him. I want to tell myself he’s a selfish, hustling kid. And half of me buys that, too. But the other half of me remembers how he how he didn’t leave me when I cried. And so, I’m very sad right now. I’m tired of being sad, but I don’t know how to stop. And I’m obviously a total idiot, I know that. But I’m sad anyway. And if I let myself think about it for too long, I’ll just start crying all over again. So I better go set my relief, huh. Fuck school.

Tau arrives, around 3. It means a lot, because I can see he cares, and he wants to say so, only not in so many words. With Tau, actions always speak louder than words. I know he came to see if I was alright. Because the PD centre’s closer to Fitzroy than here.

Nuances

Thursday 28 March, 2013:

Today seems full of nuances, I’m sizing things up all over the place.

First day back at school after being sick. Slade shows up before class, and we sit in my room and kick back, listening to music. I really like the way Slade kind of ‘presents’ songs to me, quite formally: “Here Miss, this is what I was listening to last night… it’s a mean jam aye, mean lyrics,” and he’ll bring up a lyric version, so we can read as we listen. He nods at me, with the pleasure of sharing all this. “Mean as, aye Miss.”

Bell goes, I have 11 History who are my favourite class right now, though I don’t, you know, love them or anything like that. They’re a good class though – and it touches my heart a little bit that they like history. When I give them a quiz at the start (for the do now), I see them all joyful that they know stuff. Murmuring to one another, “James Meredith… and could those be the N double A CP lawyers?”, or, “Little Rock…  was that in  1953… no, 57.” Waving their hands in the air, eager to be the one who tells me.

It’s one class where still I think that… what I say, what I offer people, has some semblance of meaning to it.

 

Not like 13 History, which comes next, after interval. Overall, there’s no vibe for me. Some of the kids are really nice, and some are quite interested. But the only one I really have a bit of fellow-feeling for is a boy called Elijah.

Elijah has recently joined the class, sans prerequisites – Marjorie has signed him up without so much as a consulting word to me. I’ve never even met him, although I think (but am not entirely sure) that I might have seen him a couple times with Tau. Anyway, he’s snapped at the beginning of his second-ever history class, today. Marjorie comes by, and pops in to say to me, “Thank you so much for agreeing to take Elijah…” I look at her, mystified. She sees my expression and together our eyes swivel to Elijah, who knows at once the game is up. It turns out he’s managed to convince Marjorie that he has already discussed the situation at length with me – and this is why she has approved his enrolment in the class.

 

He now has five minutes to persuade us of his good intentions. To my surprise, he manages to handle this with considerable diplomacy. He explains that he had wanted to drop his Math class. History (in the same option line) had occurred to him as a possible alternative. Never having taken history before, he knew he wouldn’t have the prerequisites – so he had constructed his story carefully and hoped for the best.

“So you only chose history because you wanted to get out of math?” I say, unable not to laugh.

“Ye-es,” he begins. “But, I also thought… it sounded like it might be interesting.”

“And now you’ve sat through a whole class!”

He nods.

“So – is it interesting?” I enquire.

He nods again.

“Hmm…” I weigh up the amount of sincerity in this nod. “Elijah, what’s interesting about it?”

He replies, simply, “I like it. It’s different from anything I’ve ever done before. I’ve been listening to everything you’re saying, Miss. About the old days… I want to know more about it; all that Maori stuff.”

This is probably the deciding point, for me. Some of the usual ‘academic’ year 13’s are such smug lil fuckers, when it comes to ‘Maori stuff’. Like there’s no possible connection in their minds between World history and NZ history. Full of self-important ennui, they just want to get through this ‘topic’ and move onto the Cold War. They don’t even know anything, and yeah, they’re only 18 and it’s understandable and everything, but they’re such lightweights, all the same. Honestly, to think of them being the future lawyers and engineers of the land.

“What do you think, Miss?” Marjorie asks me, and we raise our eyebrows at one another, with slight amusement, because he does look very sincere.

“Ohh… alright,” I decide. “I’ll keep him.”

“Thanks, Miss,” says Elijah, with a look of contrition and relief.

 

When Marjorie leaves, I tell him, “You’re lucky you had some good answers there.”

“I know, Miss,” he assures me.

“Have I seen you once or twice before… with Tau?”

“Yes,” he replies, just straightforward, and with no presumption. His eyes are very nice and clear. There’s none of that – hey Miss, we’re boys – talk.

“All good then,” I reply.

 

About 30 minutes into class, I open my desk drawer, and notice that I have new messages on my phone. So I have a quick look, as the class are walking across to the library.

Ms whats doing? You free ms?

This first text, from Kepaoa, was sent a couple of hours earlier. The next one, received around the start of class, reads like this:

Ms I wana hang myself 😦

Sorry

My heart’s pounding, because Kepaoa’s a hustler for sure, but he’s straight up about it, never manipulative. And once someone’s tried that for real, you’re never quite able to ignore the possibilities.

 

So I reply, just standing in a sheltering corner of my room, trying to calm myself:

Wea u? U ok? U plez get n touch wt me asap. Tryna ring u and u nt pickn up man. Woried as!

 Ms just been for a run clearing my head tryna dw im guds

 Whats going on? Anythng u need let me know. Straight up if u nt algd then ur more of a priority thn school to me.

 He texts a couple more times, letting me know he’s ok, but asking if I can come get him after school. And I say of course I will.

 

By the time school finishes, I’m just trying to hold on to some kind of ‘route’, I don’t know exactly what I mean by this, but that’s how it feels. Some route that we can go down, today.

Get to Montgomery Rd, and Kepaoa comes out straight away and bumps himself down into the car. He looks flustered, which isn’t a ‘Kepaoa’ look. Hyped, yes. Amped, yes – but not flustered. I see his eyes swim with tears, and I just say, “Awww,” and put my arm around him, gently rubbing his tight shoulders.

“My parents…” he manages to choke out. “I got a hiding.”

“Aye?” I ask. “For what?”

“Over money,” he tells me. “Cos I don’t earn enough, haven’t had any overtime for ages…”

“Ohyup,” I say. “But that’s not your fault.”

“My mum said I’m useless, she called me dumb,” he says, quietly. “Dumb… she said I’m stupid, useless. They’re struggling and everything, Miss. But…”

“She doesn’t mean it,” I say, soothing him. “She knows you’re far from dumb. She’s just stressed out, worried about Elroy, you know.”

“I know,” he says, and then, “Teri says I’m dumb sometimes too, I fuckin hate it when people call me dumb!” He spits out the word, and lowers his head, then goes on: “Teri said to me, “Fuck, you’re dumb. I told her I was algood at Math – you know how I told you I love Math, Miss? And she said, “Fuck no, you’re dumb.”

I say, “Well, that’s just bullshit, obviously. She must have been mad about something else.”

“She was,” he says. “It was when this chick mailed me.”

“Ohh, uh-huh,” I say, and then we just look at one another and laugh. I say, “Yeah, well there you go, then. That explains that!”

 

So we just sit there for a bit, and I see Kepaoa’s hurt pride being restored, gradually. It squeezes my heart to understand that even though he can handle himself like a man, he’s still so young, and sometimes just needs the reassurance a child needs. And right then, I’m trying to be the adult, that’s for sure.

Would you believe, he’s been riding his bike up and down the streets of Carthill, looking for someone to scrap with.

“Oh my gosh!” I say. “That’s the last thing you need.”

“Scraps up…” Kepaoa mutters.

Hell no!” I emphasize, and he laughs, saying, “Could you… take me to training, then?”

“Yeah, algood,” I tell him. “But what about your knee?”

“It’ll be ok, I don’t care if it ain’t,” he says. “I just need to spar.”

“Yeah, for sure,” I say. “Better to do that than scrap. But… I don’t know if your knee’s up to it, honest to who.”

“I’ll give it a try,” he tells me. “I really want to.”

“All good then, but if it’s sore, then stop, okay?”

“Mmm,” he says, uncertainly. “I’ll see.”

 

He goes and gets his stuff, and I take him to the gym. The road’s already blocked with Easter traffic, so I follow a circuitous route home, via the butcher in Municipal, picking up stuff to make butter chicken.

Later I’m just starting to chop up onions, when I get a text from Kepaoa, he’s ready to be picked up. I drive back, through all the traffic, and Kepaoa hops in the car, on his lame knee. Tells me it’s really sore now.

“Ohwell,” I say, with a philosophical shrug. Cos he insisted on training on it.

“I know, Miss. I felt it pop out, when I was sparring.”

“Faah, told you,” I reply. “But all good I guess. Just stick to biking for a couple days.”

“Yeah, hard.”

 

Knee aside, Kepaoa’s mood has improved considerably, I’m pleased to see. And as we come up Montgomery Rd, we’re just talking about this and that, and Kepaoa says, “Look Miss – there’s Nio.”

Sure enough, there is Nio, walking down the road. Kepaoa waves out the window, and he stops, looks, turns around and lopes back again, meeting up with us as we pull up outside Kepaoa’s house.

Kepaoa gets out and Nio jumps in, saying, “Miss!”

“Heey,” I say. It’s good to see Nio, and yet for some reason I look at him and feel alarm bells ring, I don’t know why. Just… something. An incautious look in his eye.

“Miss – wanna come see where I stay?”

“Huh?” I say. “Where’s that?”

“Around the corner. Just around the corner!” Nio crows. “That street there.” And he jabs a finger in the appropriate direction.

“Oh,” I say. “I didn’t know you were staying there.”

“Me and my missus just moved in there for a while, with her Nan,”

“Mmhmmm,” I say.

“Do you wanna come over?”

“Ummm…” I say, looking at the time. It’s 6 o’clock, and I’m not sure if an unannounced visit to Nio’s girlfriend’s grandma is gonna be quite the thing.

“Don’t you want to, Miss?” says Nio, first looking crestfallen, and then giving a supercilious tilt of his nose.

“Yeah, well I do… but…”

“But what?”

“Well, they might be busy, round this time.”

“They’re not,” Nio tells me. “I’ve just left there. Kayla’s Nan’s not even home.”

So we drive round the corner, just me and Nio. Kepaoa waves us off, and I’m pleased his day has improved, and at the same time, I just get this… funny feeling about Nio. First time ever that I’m not getting that instant shot of ‘Nio-ness’ which always feels like a breath of life, straight up. Don’t even get why. But there’s no reason to say I won’t come see Kayla.

 

I wait at the door as Nio goes in, and after a bit, out he comes with Kayla. She looks gorgeous and pregnant – 11 weeks to go. We hug, and stand talking by the door, in the sun.

Nio says, “So Miss, when are we gonna have lunch?” (Because we’ve talked about this a few times already).

“Anytime you want,” I say. “How about this weekend, if you guys are free.”

“Are you gonna shout us lunch?” Nio clucks. “We’re free if it’s your shout.”

“Aw, probably,” I tell him, but with a veiled sheathing of my claws. I’m not entirely sure I like his tone.

“You said you would, you said your shout…” he says, in what is actually quite a disagreeable voice.

“Yeah well, algood then,” I say. “But no need to sound like that.”

“I can sound however I wanna sound,” Nio persists. “I can talk to you however I wanna.”

“Oh, can you now?” I say, with a narrowing of my eyes.

“Aha yeeh Miss, I can talk how I want to you.”

“Sweet then,” I tell him. “I’ll shout Kayla lunch, you can get your own.”

“Nah, you have to buy me lunch, faar you better, Miss, cos you said it’s your shout,” says the extremely unwise Nio.

“Aye, don’t speak like that,” I tell him. “It doesn’t sound nice.”

To my left, Kayla draws the conversation back to safer themes. Pregnancy, baby shopping. And all is well again, at least outwardly. But in my heart, I feel unsoothed.

 

After a while, Nio asks me about Elroy, and rehab, and then CP is touched upon, and inevitably, Tau is mentioned.

“How’s Cluzo, how’s that fag?” Nio says – which is the kind of thing Nio always says, not even meaning it. I know that. But today, I’m already cross with him.

“Hey, shut up talking like that,” I chastise him. “He never talks about you like that.”

“Fuck him,” grumbles Nio. “Did he tell you I saved his life? Up at Municipal.”

“No – you did!’ I retort. “You told me like how many times, and Tau’s algood with you, so just leave it, Nio.”

“I don’t have to leave it,” Nio sings. “I don’t have to. I can say whatever I want about that fag.”

“Oh, Nio,” I say, suddenly weary of all this. “Isn’t it time you started being a bit more mature.”

“Yeah, show some respect please,” adds Kayla. “That’d be a start.”

“I have respect for other people,” Nio tells me. “Everyone else.”

I feel my blood beat up fast, and I just look at him. He cackles, “I respect other people, just not those CP faggots, or you either, ahahah Miss…”

“K sweet then,” I say. “Well that’s your choice. But in my opinion you should think about how you treat people, and how you sound. Because right now you don’t sound nice, at all. Talking like that to me, when I’ve always shown respect for you. And that’s the honest truth.”

Whoa!” says Kayla. “Teacher side coming out now, Miss.”

“No, it’s not the teacher side,” I tell her. “It’s the human being side. Cos I don’t need this, to be honest. Not from Nio and not from anyone.”

 

There’s a little pause. And I think – Nio isn’t gonna back off, right now. So why carry this on unnecessarily. Then I just feel flat… there’s no magical energy boost, nothing at all. Just a very rude, cocky little brat standing next to me, thinking he’s the fuckin man. So fuck him.

I say, abruptly. “I’m off.”

“Huh?” says Kayla, bewildered.

“Fuck this, I’m off. I don’t need this shit from Nio. I wouldn’t speak to a dog the way he just spoke to me.”

Nio tries to laugh this away, but I just stalk down the steps and get into the car, not even looking back.

“Wait, Miss,” I hear Kayla say. But I don’t wait. I just do a U-turn, and go home. Driving past Kepaoa’s house, I don’t even look to see if anyone’s still out front. I don’t want to ruin the buzz there, now that his day’s gotten better, at least. But as I get up to the roundabout, I feel tears just roll down my cheeks, thinking about Nio, and how it used to be, and then I just sniff and cry a little bit, all the way home.

 

Later on, Kepaoa texts me to make enquiries about the butter chicken (hook-ups). That’s what I mean about being a hustler, but straight up with it.

I pack the leftovers into a tupperware to take over, and the night ride makes me feel a bit better.

What they want to see

Saturday 16 March, 2013:

First time in a while that I’ve been able to sit down and write. Kepaoa’s been here every night since Wednesday, and we haven’t gone to sleep until way after midnight. He’s got heaps on his mind, heaps of stuff.

This morning he’s making noodles; toaster’s going up and down. We’re just talking about nothing much. Despite all the serious stuff going on (more of which later). I tell him I’ll take him home, after breakfast. His mum’s been texting – she needs his ATM card to go get the shopping.

And a car pulls up. I put my head out the french doors. It’s Tau, and two other boys. I don’t know them – older boys – maybe older than Tau. One of them’s driving. And Tau’s unlocking the shed. He directs a “Hey Miss…” my way, but doesn’t make any introductions. He looks like he’s been drinking for a while already.

My heart sinks. Not because Tau is drinking, exactly, but because… I don’t know. The fact that I have to go check it out. That Tau doesn’t think to ask if; or introduce… I just feel like – oh, what the fuck? Because those boys aren’t gonna care about me, honest truth. They probably don’t care about Tau either, come to that. Or not really.

 

But yeah, there they are. I put my head back inside, and Kepaoa raises his eyebrows, saying, “Who is it?”

“Tau and some boys.”

“They drinking?”

I nod.

“What the fuck?” says Kepaoa, quietly. He comes out to the deck with me and stands looking over towards the sleepout. He’s so quiet, dignified and humble. Blue rag tied round his head and all that. But I know Kepaoa’s got my back. I won’t forget it.

He just says to me, “Um, Miss… I don’t wanna go yet. I’ll stay a while.”

“Aye, nah it’s ok,” I tell him. “They’ll be alright – and I’ll be fine.”

“Nah Miss please, I’ll just stick round awhile.”

So I nod. Inwardly I’m happy about it. I can see Kepaoa wants me to know I’m being protected.

 

When Tau comes in, he and Kepaoa speak in a friendly way, but Kepaoa makes it clear – without a single word needing to be said on the subject – that he is looking out for me.

And Tau tells me, “There’s only two boys here, Miss. We’ll won’t be here long.”

“You gonna have a nice quiet day though, huh?” I ask.

“Straight up,” Tau assures me.

Tau goes back out to the shed, and Kepaoa appraises the situation. “Who are those niggas?” he asks me.

“I don’t know,” I reply.

“They should come introduce themselves… not just act like they own the place,” huffs Kepaoa.

“Yeah, I know,” I say. “But Tau isn’t thinking right now, that’s for sure.”

“Liquored up,” says Kepaoa, with a sigh. “It’s like he don’t think straight anymore. He didn’t used to be like that, aye Miss.”

“Nah… he always used to tell me he’d only bring the main boys over, the ones I know, the ones I can trust. He was good like that. And I was alright with it, mostly anyway.”

“Faar, he’s changed a bit…” says Kepaoa. “I know you care about him a lot Miss. But he shouldn’t be bringing them to drink at your house like this.”

I shrug, saying, “I know. But he says they’re going soon.”

“Well, I’m gonna stay for a while anyway,” says Kepaoa, monitoring the situation with calm eyes. Then he just puts his arms round me and hugs me tight.

 

Later we go out there to the sleepout – Kepaoa just accompanies me out like a friend. Shakes hands with Tau’s boys. Graciously accepts compliments on his shoes (blue Air Max). Politely declines the offer of a can. Looks at them respectfully, but at the same time his expression tells them that he’s watching them, no question about it.

After that, I’m sure there’ll be no trouble and I eventually persuade Kepaoa to go home. By the time I get back from Carthill, there are two more boys at mine. Little Michael (no real problems there, except that he’s still, technically, a student at MC). And another boy I’ve seen around school; he’s gotta be about 15. His mates are the lil kids from 9 Social last year. I just look at him and felt the irritation rise up in my chest. I mean, he’s a nice boy, I got no problems with him. And I don’t see a can in his hand… but the others are drinking, and that’s enough to set off alarm bells in my mind. Little kids at school, next minute they’ll be talking shit about things they know nothing about. And that’s all I need.

So I just say, casually to Tau, “Hey Tau… can I talk to you for a minute? Is that ok?”

One of the older boys mimics my tone: “Tau…” and then laughs, saying, “Off you go; enjoy that!” The others laugh as well.

“Shut up eggs,” I say, generally.

 

On the deck, I tell Tau, “I thought you said there weren’t gonna be any more boys coming over.”

“It’s just Cruz and little Michael…” begins Tau.

“Yeah well I don’t care – Cruz’s friends are younger than Leroi, I don’t need him over here with you guys.”

“He’s not a snitch, he’s CP…” Tau tries placating me, but I won’t hear of it.

“I don’t care,” I say again. “That’s not the point – you shouldn’t be putting me in this position. And you ought to be using your brains, the way you used to!”

“Okay, we’ll be going then,” Tau says, shortly but without rancour. He goes back to the shed, and I hear them start to pack up. After a little while, the car leaves. And that’s that.

I’m mildly pissed off that Tau doesn’t even acknowledge I have a point. Not that I really expect him to. But all the same. I text him, just once. Saying – I’m always here for you, but that means you, not random people.

Never hear back, of course.

 

By now Kepaoa is texting me, too: Whea they at nw ms?

They gone idk where. Bt they only left cos tau knew I wasnt happy bwt it. I’m always there for him no matter what. Bt that doesn’t include every random cp thinkn its their hangout pad. Plus when i askd tau to come talk to me the older ones were just laughing like it was funny.

Aye ms??!! Man should just just smakd them like u was thea mama! Not cool man disrespecting you like that fucks sake shit!

Ohwel, idc they gone now. I’m glad u were here though, thanks for that, i know they respect  u an wil be scared to cause trouble. I just wish tau would use his brains again, the way he used to. He doesnt even know they’re just using him. If the time came those randoms wouldnt hav his back.

 Yeah hardout ms. Yea that’s alguds ms gotchur back big time ms! Yeah ms that’s the one yea before he use to ay too muj licor..

 

We just text back and forth a few more times, then I go take a shower, and make a sandwich. I still feel upset with Tau, though I know he’s not doing this stuff on purpose, he’s just not thinking straight. But at the end of the day, I can’t put myself in that situation – I just can’t. I love Tau, but I’m not going to let myself get walked all over, not by him, and certainly not by people who don’t even know me… who just see what they want to see, and who think I’m soft. I’m not soft: I love who I love, and I trust who I trust, and everyone else can sort it out their own ways.

 

If a way exists

Thursday February 28, 2013:

Not going to school today. I wake up at 6, and realize within ten seconds of opening my eyes that I can’t. I’m not ‘sick’ sick, but I’m exhausted.

I text the relief phone, then mail the work through. Just stuff out of the textbooks – and that’s easy, as for some reason I actually have the books at home for once.

I’m back in bed when Leroi texts me, just before 8, wanting to know if he can get a ride to the bus stop. Of course he thinks I’m going to school like usual. I don’t have the heart to tell him I’m still in bed. So I just go over and pick him up, in my jarmies. No-one bats an eyelid, to be honest. Not Leroi, not Sheree, and not Tau – all of whom come out and talk to me. And I end up taking Leroi  all the way to the gate – and why not? I’m not doing anything else.

When I get back home, there’s a card in the door for Tau, from the Ministry of Justice. So I go round to Fitzroy again (still in my pj’s) and Tau and I ring them. Tau looks alarmed at the card. I can see he’s in two minds about even calling the number. But I think he sees there’s no point in leaving it – especially not with his next court hearing today.

Turns out to just be about fines, which makes us both laugh with relief.

 

I think I’ll take the day off tomorrow as well. And have a good look at whatever it is that I think I’m doing. Ohh, I don’t want to be a teacher anymore. I hate almost everything about it: teachers, teaching, school. There’s an unbridgeable gap now, between what I have to do there, and what I can actually bring myself to do. Some days I wish things would just hurry up and crash, so I could say how I really feel about it.

The only genuine interest I’ve got in the whole place is in my compadres Rook and Quest. And I think I could do just as much out of school, with those two.

Like this morning. Everything I did was… it was real, not fake. And even yesterday, with bloody Kepaoa. For what it’s worth – I know I’m real, when I react like that.

 

Later Kepaoa 798’s me and I call him back. I can sense that we both approach the conversation warily. I’m expecting him to say sorry, I guess. But hmmm… I expect too much. I expect a lot of things, huh.

Anyway, we just talk a little bit: how are you’s, that kind of thing. And he wants to know if I can print out his CV, he’s got an interview at Foot Locker, down at the mall. I tell him I’m not at school today; I’m sick. Tell him I got no ink in the printer at home, which is true. If he wants, I could go get some ink later on.

He says his interview is at 12:30, his brother’s gonna drop him off there. It’s almost 12 o’clock already, when he rings. I can’t have it sorted by 12:30, and I know it.

I suggest he should go look for the CV which we did ages ago. I gave him copies at the time. And that’s pretty much it. I feel myself go quiet, with not knowing what else to say right now, and wanting to cry because I’m still hurt. I feel tears run outa my eyes and drip, drip against my fingers and hair.

“Miss?” Kepaoa asks. “You ok?”

“Um… yup,” I manage to say.

“Take it easy today,” he says. “K Miss?”

Afterwards I cry a bit, and then go take a shower. There’s no point, is there? In crying – when it comes down to it.

 

Tau texts, right after that: Hi miss d u thnk u cn take me t court at 1.55 an il gve u 10buks gas, algud f nt

Of course. And honestly dw bwt the gas. Thnks for offering most people dont even offer. Il come get u at 1.55 then.is tht algd?

Yup k miss, thanks for that

It’s true, most people don’t offer. Tau always offers, if he’s got money on him. Right now, I really appreciate that. It isn’t the money… it’s just knowing that not everyone wants something for nothing.

At the end of the day though, I think I’m just a blip on the radar.

 

Off we go to court: Sheree, me, Raphael and Tau. It works out good – he gets PD hours, no extra disqualification, and the knife charge gets dropped.

Raphael and I just hang around and wait for them. Couple hours. I can see Tau is glad I’m there. I think he wouldn’t even mind if I came in with Sheree, but I don’t feel the need to; I’m ok outside.

Actually, I’d rather be here than almost anywhere else I can think of. I sit with Raphael, right on the footpath. People walking past smile at us. Later on, we go and sit on a bench, in the sun. We just talk, and wait for Tau.

“How come you didn’t go to school, Miss?” Raphael asks. “Are you sick?”

“Yeah, I’m sick…” I say, then mutter: “Sick of assholes.”

He cracks up laughing, at that.

I never want to go back either, but Monday’s still three days away. Tomorrow I’ll do my CV.

 

A couple times I think about Kepaoa, and my eyes fill up with tears all over again. It’s like this: I think that other people can let you down, not show up, say the wrong thing, get mad, have a problem… and it’s all ok. But with me – it feels like it isn’t that way at all. Aw, what’s this all about? How come I think that people only want to be with me if I’ll do more and more and more for them, and never falter? Never get tired, never get mad, never say no. I feel like if I do one thing different, everything cracks apart. If I make one false move: I lose, perhaps for ever and ever.

 

Later on, I ask Sheree if Tau has been to the doctor yet.

She shakes her head, saying, “I talked to him. He just won’t go.”

“I talked to him too,” I tell her. “Just to ask him to think about it. And to let one of us know, if it got any worse or if he felt sick.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said… he would. Think about it, I mean.”

“Ohh, I wish he’d go,” Sheree sighs. “But you know how much he hates going to the doctor.” Then, “He’s got some real issues, about… his body,” she says, quietly. “But, you know that already.”

“Yeah, I know,” I say, without the least judgment to make about Tau, who’s always beautiful in my eyes, no matter what’s going on. I add, “It must have been so hard for him, to go to hospital that time.”

“It was,” agrees Sheree. “It was… traumatic for him.”

“Course it was,” I say, gently. “Tau was very brave, that’s what I think.”

“Oh my goodness,” Sheree says. “You and Tau have got such a strong bond. I think you understand him better than anyone, sometimes.”

“Mmm, I think I bonded with Tau on the very first day I met him,” I say, thinking about it again.

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

 

Friday 1 March:

I really miss Kepaoa a lot. Miss his stream of 798’s and his funny ways. I know he’s got his violent side, and sometimes I think that’s part of what draws me to him. There’s something in my blood which understands it, tooth and claw. It scares me a bit, to feel this way. To feel ‘natural’ towards it, I guess. It’s hard to explain. I can’t encourage it. It’s more that I can’t pretend I don’t understand.

Yup, I miss that egg. I feel like I’ve been ‘careless’ with a person that I really care about, and at the same time, I think: Did I do anything real bad? And the answer’s no, I didn’t. But in my heart, I still feel that way. I think no-one could really care about me unless I flatten myself for them; unless I say yes to everything they need.

Old patterns – sure can’t beat ‘em. Or can you? You’d think I’d learn – wouldn’t you? To do things differently, and not cry for the moon. I don’t know. Sometimes I think I can’t stop until I call that moon right down from the sky and into my arms. And some days I think I’ll do it, too. If a way exists, I could find it.

 

Saturday 2 March:

Late at night, Kepaoa texts me off his brother’s phone, he’s got no credit and is stressing out. He hasn’t heard from Teri for two days, since yesterday morning. All in capitals, he begs me to: TXT MAIL RING PLZ MS HNESTLY MINDS GETTN CRAZY KANT DNK STR8 PLZ MS KANU TELL HER HW WIRED IAM!!!!! :(‘  He adds: wat if sumin bad happnd!? Aw fcuk man :(‘

I try to reassure him that everything will be ok, and start to ‘txt mail ring’ – eventually I get hold of Teri’s cousin, who tells me Teri’s alright.

I text Kepaoa back, and get this message from Paki: he just doing some chores, man he worried ae cant even do his chores properly, what happened?

Canu tel him shez alryt plse? I write. Teri’s ok

One more crisis averted. But the whole time in my mind, I feel so tired I can’t even think straight. And oh, I just want everything to be alright, for all of us. For me, and Tau, and Kepaoa, and Elroy, and Mischa, and everyone… and I don’t wanna be a teacher anymore, I can’t stand it, I can’t even stomach the thought of it.

When I look in the mirror, I feel ugly, hollow, pinched, weary, and disgusting. I can hardly look at myself. And I think: I might lose. I really might. I don’t know how to do this stuff. I’m just a tired, strung out bitch, who’s got nothing and got no-one, and I don’t know where to go with it.

All I know is that I can’t give up. I may be the weakest and most useless member of this alliance. I honestly might be. But I guess… it’s my vocation. And I can’t give up on it. Somewhere, it’s probably going to matter, that I didn’t give up. I really believe that, as much as I’ve ever believed anything in my whole, entire life.