Matching

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.

 

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Keeping

Saturday 17 May, 2014:

At 3 o’clock, Tau and Leroi are still slumbering with the door barely ajar, no sound or light coming from the sleepout. They were going to the beach later, but who knows?

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind a little break tonight, just to kick back with the leftover chicken curry.

Because here’s the thing: I cook dinner every night – or if I don’t, I pick us up takeout. I’m taking on all the responsibility for them being ‘too shy’ to come in and make a feed, so no wonder they’re not doing it. And I ask myself why I keep on acting as if their every need is more important than my own. Especially when the food is there, and they know it’s there, and they’re perfectly capable of slinging something in the frying pan.

Then I just feel mean and slightly ashamed even for thinking that way.  I’m so attuned to someone else’s feelings that I regard my own as selfish.

 

At 4:30 they wake up and ask if I can take them round to where Sheree’s staying; they’re going to the beach after all.

For some reason, it makes me think of childhood adventures, and how my sister and I would roam over the big hills behind our house. It felt like going way away into a whole other place, far from home, yet mysteriously accessible through some little rip in the fabric of the landscape. I remember a huge bare tree that we climbed and swung down from, our toes curling away from the bobbly sheep droppings in the grass as we landed.

Sometimes we would lose our bearings completely, and look at one another with a little bit of fear, suppressing the urge to panic and scamper. Instead, we would scan the horizon like prophets waiting for a sign.

But it was all a long time ago.

One day, this is going to be a long time ago too… and I don’t want to say I just ran back to safety. I never want to be one of those people who thinks they got something to lose; nothing to gain from heading out.

 

Monday 19 May:

Wake up with my eye watering again. Yesterday I went to the gym and it dripped all the way through pump class. Man, I’m tired of struggling with the same old things, over and over again it feels like.

I get up and set cover for today’s classes in ten minutes, then look at job apps online. The whole time, I’m in that default state of anxiety which I’ve grown used to. I’m scared of being someone who doesn’t love many and isn’t loved by any. And that feeling takes me back to ‘a long time ago’ too.

 

My mum was the child of an alcoholic father and a huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ sort of mother, Anna: the least maternal type imaginable, especially back in the day. Her whole life was a study in independence. I once heard her described as a ‘man’s woman’ – not in a glamorous femme fatale way, but as someone who could hold her own with any man. I can picture her now, riding through the plains of the central North Island, ciggie in her mouth and one hand on the reins.

As a child, my mother took care of her younger siblings with a grim passion that I still saw in her face, even after many years of relative comfort. She cooked, cleaned, washed and sewed for them (though she was barely older than they were), at the same time as she tried to protect her own mother from the effects of her father’s alcoholism.

 

My dad’s mother (her name was Mary) died suddenly when he was eight years old. He still doesn’t know how it happened; maybe a heart attack. He was by far the youngest child, and she would have been in her forties.

His father and older brothers were nonplussed at the idea of raising the young boy themselves, so they sent him almost five hundred miles up country to live with his mum’s sister, Vera, and her family. He left on the train, the day after the funeral.

They were stony broke. Dad remembers a collection going round at church, for a ‘poor family’ which turned out to be his aunt’s.

His oldest brother was killed in accident a few years later. Dad only found this out by seeing the story in the newspaper and commenting to Aunt Vera, “Oh, here’s someone with the same name as us.”

Vera took a closer look and exclaimed, “That’s your brother!”

“He looked like a nice guy…” Dad mused one time, showing me a photo. “I think he was a nice guy.”

That was all he ever said on the matter – my father always kept his emotions in check.

 

They worked hard. Always two jobs – mum only gave up work briefly when we were born. Dad was an entrepreneur by temperament, and a skinflint. Mum was naturally inclined to lavish spending (much to my father’s frustration), but this was tempered by her sacrificial devotion to hearth and family: working a day job, coming home to fling food in the oven – she was not a graceful cook – then staying up all night to knit, sew, and remonstrate with God, no doubt.

They saved the deposit for their first house; this beginning an upwardly mobile path through the suburbs, leading eventually to a ‘lifestyle property’ which straddled the divide between town and country. That was the house my mother loved the most, I sometimes think. But then again, I never truly knew her opinions on anything.

 

I haven’t mentioned her fits of rage. She would “go and go and go” (as she put it), giving her last scrap of time and energy in willing bondage; sometimes not getting to sleep until two or three o’clock (I could hear the frenzied sound of the sewing machine far into the night), then getting up at five or six to make breakfast. But every few months, she would snap.

The build up always started with panic over some real or imagined deadline (and our laziness in assisting her to meet it), then escalated to shrieking and full-blown rage, finally descending into a paroxysm of wild crying which dwindled to crumpled despair and horror at herself. Her swollen eyes implored my sister and I to draw close to her and be rocked as she sobbed, comforting her more than ourselves in the process.

 

Perhaps I learnt service at my mother’s knee, but where emotion was concerned, I remained in my father’s camp. Other people might display their big feelings – I would keep mine on the low. I barely ever cried a tear.

Funneling it all down some safety chute, where does it go? I think I turn it into something else, and burn it up as fuel, I don’t know. I only know that I couldn’t have done the things I’ve done without transmuting my own feelings, somehow. Turning them into grist for the mill.

But the payoff is that I’ve been able to go out with the troops. I’ve cloaked myself to be the unseen one, the cover on the flank, sheltering the company. The carrier, the keeper. Ensuring the route stays open is my game. I honestly don’t know how that works, I just know it’s part of the way I live and breathe.

And yet there are days when I long for someone else to carry things for a whileInstead of always staying on course, never giving up control. Keeping perpetual watch over a little spark that must neither go out nor be allowed to ignite.

 

Like my mum, Sheree gets to have her feelings. She gets to cry all night, and ‘go funny’. She can shout and throw stuff around, and yell at everyone. She’s cared for, and indulged, and covered for the whole time. And no matter how tough her life is (and I’m not saying it isn’t), at least she gets her big feelings validated.

And my feelings?  It would probably surprise the hell out of Sheree to learn that I have them one way or another.

Feel and do

Saturday 26 April, 2014:

I take Tau to his counselling appointment with Max Rosdolsky. Leroi comes along for the ride, just to see what it’s all about; he tells me he’s going to sit in the waiting room.

While they’re in there, I go for a walk. The surroundings look weirdly familiar in some way. The air seems to hold a gently disturbing feel to it, almost as if I’ve time-travelled back to my childhood – as I walk past the independent bookseller; the boutique dress store; the deli.

A whole multitude of ‘white people’ are promenading up and down the leafy suburban street, and I remember Kepaoa… and then push the whole thing away, abruptly. Instead, I concentrate on the store fronts. I feel my energy drain away, and I bumble along automatically. But I have no thought at all to even go into any of those places.

 

After a while I go back to the car. I see the boys strolling back too, and: “That was quick!” I tell them. It’s only been 45 minutes.

“Oh, but Miss, Max wants to meet you, that’s why we came out – to get you,” says Tau, with the greatest of ease.

I’m surprised by this, but try taking it in the spirit intended by Tau, and hop out. Though idly and inwardly, I wonder if Max wants to suss me out; check if I’m dodgy or something. This passing thought doesn’t really disturb me too much. Well, fair enough, I think to myself.

So we go along the street again and up some stairs to the consulting rooms. Maxwell immediately shakes my hand, telling me it’s good to meet me. Then he ushers Tau and me into the office – Leroi waits outside.

 

As far as I can make out, Maxwell genuinely wants to share what Tau has been working on, with a view to having even more people on the same page with it. He goes over a schema which has been drawn on a mini white board. Four saucer shaped tiers with ‘think’ at the top, then ‘do’ underneath that, then ‘feel’ and ‘body’. Key words have been written on the diagram (‘K2’  currently featuring in the mediation between ‘feel’ and ‘do’), with arrows showing how everything connects.

It makes a lot of sense, when I think about it. Your physical body, supporting your feelings and moods, which influence the actions you take, which can change your thoughts and beliefs. And then the reverse: your core beliefs about yourself in the world, influencing the actions you take, which have the potential to shift your feelings and moods, which you can stabilise by looking after your physical well-being.

Tau and I both mention the ‘feel/do’ thing. Because how Tau’s feeling at any given time always makes such a big difference to his actions. Max says something interesting in response: “Moods change all the time – that’s normal. They’re like clouds in the sky; they shift constantly. Letting your moods dictate your actions is like letting the clouds tell you what to do.”

The thought makes Tau laugh and nod. And Max goes on to talk about how he can use all his support people, and strategies, and the other levels of the whole process: to keep on ‘doing’ – and to achieve his goals.

It’s actually pretty helpful, and Tau feels comfortable – I can see that. Afterwards, he’s happy and talkative in the car; even Leroi comments on this, saying, “Far, Tau’s always in a good mood after counselling.” He adds wistfully, “I wish I could go.”

“Maybe you can,” I say. “We could find out.”

 

Sunday 27 April:

I wake up with certain thoughts still kind of troubling my mind. Thoughts about myself, first of all. I don’t feel so jumpy (that fish on the hook, twisting futilely), but I do feel like I’m still kind of thrashing about – maybe in a little puddle of water (but in water all the same, which has got to be a improvement).

The heart of the thing for me, right now, is my own beliefs about myself (thanks, Maxwell). Because my words and actions rest on them – and at the moment it isn’t much of a rest. You know, I can state things calmly; clarify the boundaries. But my beliefs are putting out a different vibe which is… what? Appeasement? Fear of abandonment? I don’t know

I too, get mixed up about the links between ‘feel’ and ‘do’. Right now, I want to feel I’m strong, and convey that to the world. But my actions give my real feelings away. Not the actions themselves… but the timbre of them.

 

By the time I go to the gym, Tau and Leroi are also heading off on their morning constitutional – to Ellis (it opens at 8, they’re not even going to be the first of the day’s customers).

When I come back though, there’s a motorbike parked in the carport, just parked up in my spot like it’s no thing.

I drive in and park in front of the sleepout, and soon as my car pulls up, Tau and Leroi come out with someone. It’s a guy I think I’ve seen before, but I’m not sure exactly who he is. It occurs to me though, that he might be family – so I just look at him, and he says, “Hey,”

“Hey,” I reply.

And then he leaves, and for some reason, Tau and Leroi drift to the front gate and just stand there, kind of waiting for me, looking kind of guilty – knowing I’m going to say something, I guess.

 

I go over to them, and, “Who’s that guy?” I ask.

“Inherit,” Tau replies.

I sigh, can’t help it. Then “Inherit?” I repeat, incredulously. “What’s he doing here?”

“He just came to drop us off…  something.”

“Huh?” I say. “But what did he come round here for?”

“Just to drop it off.”

“Well, I don’t care,” I tell them. “You should have met him somewhere else.”

They look down at the ground, and from side to side, saying nothing.

I continue, “I couldn’t remember who he was – I knew I’d seen him before, but I didn’t want to say anything in case he was one of your relations. I wish I had, but..” I break off, feeling my voice half stopped-up and lacking in power. Then I try again, something like this: “I remember who Inherit is now, and I don’t trust him –  I’ve never heard anything good about him.” I add, truthfully: “Kepaoa always said he was dodgy.”

More nods from Tau and Leroi, though they still haven’t replied. And I keep talking – feeling like I’m just trying to cover up the fact that I have no real authority for any of this. I keep on thinking: Who am I? To be saying… to be expecting?

Even writing it down now, my breath feels constricted, and I’m holding my eyes tight still. I hate this feeling so much.

 

Anyway, I just go over it all one more time; reminding them of the protocol for visitors. I tell them they have to be tough enough to say no to the others; they can use me as an excuse, I don’t mind. And even if I’m not home, it doesn’t make any difference – the exact same rules apply.

“I do trust you,” I tell them. “But that means you. – it doesn’t mean just anyone.” They still haven’t said anything, but I get a few more nods in response.

 

Around half an hour later, the shed is still open: a good sign – they haven’t battened down the hatches. So I knock on the door and go in.

They’re having a bucky (of course), and look at me quite placidly. I sit myself down, and say, “I just want to check things are alright between us.”

“They are, Miss,” says Tau, faithfully, and Leroi nods.

“I trust you,” I tell them again, looking from one to the other. “That’s why I’m happy to go out and leave you guys here – cos I trust you. Both of you.”

“Thanks for that, Miss,” Tau says.

“Algood,” I say. “And there aren’t many people I’d trust that way – just a few.”

They nod.

“And yes,” I tell them. “You could just have the boys over while I’m away, and say – sweet as, Miss will never find out. And maybe I wouldn’t and maybe I would… but that’s not even the main thing. The main thing is that you know it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Because you know I trust you.”

“Yup,” they say, and Tau even chuckles.

“Oh,” I continue. “I know it might seem hard, at first. But there are other places to go if you want to kick it with the boys. They’ve all got houses too – there’s nothing to stop you going to see them. They don’t have to come here. And that’s just the way it’s got to be, from now on.”

I know Tau and Leroi understand that. I know they respect what I have to say. But will they be strong enough to follow through, when someone turns up with a box? I honestly don’t know if they have the discipline of mind, just yet.

To give up all claims

Monday 17 February, 2014:

Sheree texts me, in reply to a text I sent earlier on, and it makes me cry for real. I’ve asked if it’s ok if I come over (not wanting to just stroll in), and she responds this way:

I love u, an u are most welcome. u are alwayz part of us im afraid hehe.

 A lot of water’s gone under the bridge since I first met Sheree, four years ago. I remember how I felt ‘safe’, that day. I remember it vividly.

I could never go over to Rutherford Ave and just walk in, the way I used to at Fitzroy – many times I wished I could. But I knew things had changed. I missed Sheree very much, and still do. But I didn’t expect her to swallow her pride, when I couldn’t, that night.

So I never saw Scott after he got out of jail. I regret that, too.

And it’s suddenly all too raw. I don’t mean just the events of the past few days, I mean all of it is too raw; too close to the surface right now. Everything, more than five years worth.

 

Tuesday 18 February:

School’s alright today, all things considered. I have non-contacts, then 12 History, swiftly followed by 10 Social, who sit willingly and alphabetically at my bid, to do their stupid scheduled Asttle test.

When the bell goes I pack up and head round to Rutherford, but the only person there is Raphael. Actually, it’s good to see Raphael – most people would just make me want to skedaddle. We sit out on the steps and talk, and share a ciggie (my first puff in months). He tells me he’s been popping in and out all day, but no-one’s been home. The house is unlocked though.

When I leave, I say to him, “Take care of yourself, and look out for the boys too, aye.”

“I will, Miss,” he tells me. “They’re not really themselves at the moment…” He shrugs, as if to say – that’ll come as no surprise.

“Yeah, I bet,” I say. I feel a lot of affection for Raphael right then.

 

I get home and I’m real sad. Everything’s just jolting quietly up and down in my mind right now, like water returning to its level. I don’t know… how come it’s so hard to change? How come it’s so hard to give up all claims?

 

Wednesday 19 February:

I go round there again today after school. Once again the place is unlocked, but no-one is there. Maybe they’re all at Lorna’s.

But I can’t just turn up at Scott’s mother’s place, I don’t want to barge into their family’s grief, even the idea of going to the funeral tomorrow makes me feel a little uncertain. No matter; I have to go. I’ll be there out of respect, and to say goodbye to Scott.

 

Thursday 20 February:

This morning the police turn up, asking for Tau. They say he’s not in trouble – they just want to return some ‘items’ to him. I look at them with deep suspicion. I don’t trust the cops after the way they’ve operated in the past, and I decline to give them an address.

At this point, one of the constables remarks on how unhelpful I’m being, but I remain polite. I explain that Tau’s dad has recently passed, the funeral’s this afternoon, and the last thing anyone needs is a visit from the cops. They wouldn’t go round there today, she backtracks, in an attempt to sound reassuring. But I’ve heard all that before too, so I just tell them I’ll pass the message on.

“We can find out where the funeral is,” she informs me.

“Well, you do that,” I retort – unhelpfully – and she stomps off.

 

And then the funeral itself. I don’t think Tau even notices that I’m there, and to be honest that’s something of a relief. Sometime during the service, it all becomes too much for him and he walks out. Leroi thanks me for coming, though it barely blips on his radar. And Sheree looks completely shattered, just emptied out. As for me, I feel like I’m too connected, emotionally, to all the ties and shifts and flows that I sense there.

I try to pull back, I really do. I know it won’t help if I don’t let go my grip on that energetic line. Oh it’s hard though, to feel like I can’t do anything. But I have to sit loose to the feeling of chaotic and wild energy.

“Scott, man,” I say to him, as I stand in the queue to lay a flower on his casket. “Man, you better pull your finger out, Scott. Tau needs you to sort your shit out pronto.”

Somehow I feel like that message might be transmitted, to Scott’s heavenly locale.

 

I get home and the only thing I can handle watching is the Food Channel, probably because it’s not ‘about’ anything and it’s not going to make me cry. Other things make me want to cry. Stories, you know.

I’m almost grateful to have work tomorrow. Friday’s a busy day, but it has these twin advantages: I won’t be alone, and at the same time I won’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me. There’s absolutely no-one left at Municipal College whose opinion I care about. So in a funny way, I can just do my own thing.

It seems like a reprieve. Because today – oh, I care. I feel both exposed and connected to every fibre of energy that tears past me. Afterwards, I’m kind of raw from the experience.

Finally, after this whole week of tension, that feeling of being on full alert eases up, and I let myself cry, gently. I sit on my bed with the windows open; crickets quietly calling and shirring outside.

And I think again: Could I change? Could I?  Sometimes I think it’s possible.

Leaving

Thursday 12 December, 2013:

It’s partly just the time of year, I guess. Everything’s about socializing, and socializing costs money… and not only that, but I’m not really into socializing. I’m not ‘not’ into it, either. It’s more that little things irk me. Like how Shakira invites Karys to the department party tonight – and she comes (why, God, why?) I’m so fakey fake fake, just sitting there while she makes small talk with the social science staff. I don’t want to drink, meanwhile people get tipsy, and then I have a kind of faraway feeling about the whole situation.

I don’t know how the others do it. Work drinks are definitely not my forte. And there’s another one tomorrow (the whole staff lunch).

 

Friday 13 December:

The school year winds up. I have one class this morning (9 Social) then junior prize giving – and then the luncheon.

I get through it. Though at one point a relief Math teacher named Milla (it’s her last day) arrives at our table. Just the sight of her always gives me a bad buzz and today I understand why. Having had a few too many wines, she shows us (with a demo) how she flashes her cleavage while taking the roll, to “calm the boys down”. My eyes narrow, and I go very quiet for a couple of minutes, then stroll over to the block just to get away from her, marveling at what kind of dumb hoe would do that? Let alone drop it into the small talk at the Christmas function, as if it was funny shit. But she’s not coming back to MC, so sayonara and good riddance.

Ross intercepts me on the way. “Are you off?” he asks. “You’ve got that ‘leaving’ look in your eye.”

“Nah, just going to the bathroom,” I tell him – it’s a partial truth at best. But then I sigh and give him what seems at least a proximate explanation for my expression: “Actually, it was that silly bitch Milla. I was going to say something if I had to listen to her any longer.”

“You too, huh,” Ross says, in a summative way, and then, “Don’t go before saying goodbye, okay?”

“I won’t,” I tell him.

 

When I get home, I write the blog post. But the same question: ‘For why? for what?’ is in my heart the whole time. I still don’t know the answer, even though it’s the thing that makes my heart soar. Only… the other part of that thing is riding with the troops – and right now I got no troops.

 

Saturday 14 December: 

First day of the holidays and I guess I do a couple of ‘useful’ things. The laundry, for one, and then sixteen job apps for Tau (he’s got Winz on Tuesday) – and later on, I make dinner.

But my heart is sore, all day. I miss Kepaoa a lot. I’ve never quite gotten over being chopped that way. Even though (right from the time I met him) I figured he was a hustler, I always liked that about Kepaoa – long as he wasn’t trying to hustle me. Nonetheless, it’s made me realize that we all have to stay on our game, in one way or another. No time to be sentimental. But man, I really did care about that egg. Straight up.

It goes without saying how much I miss Tau. I miss Tau’s whole family, actually – I miss hanging out with Sheree over at Fitzroy. And now, I don’t even go into Rutherford Ave,  I just wait out in the car when I pick up Tau. I used to pop into Fitzroy Rd all the time, but it’s different now, since everything happened the way it did. I don’t want to assume anything anymore, and I’m sure Sheree feels the same way.

Oh, things are what they are. But I’ve never quite recovered from that feeling I got, the night I came back and found her belongings all out in the sleepout. The night I trembled and shook, knowing at the end of the day I was just a roof, that’s all.

And I miss Slade so much too. My last friend at school – and I don’t want to be there now either. I don’t know where to go, I don’t know quite where to lay my head anymore

 

It all brings a couple little tears into my eye, but then I shrug. I can’t be as special as I want to be, just by the mere fact of my existence. Nope. I just hope I did something, more than nothing… and that’s as much as I can ever wish for, really. To be there, and to help make something out of nothing much.

Writing about it makes me feel a little more compassionate towards myself. As I go to sleep, I wish… and then I miss… And I remember how it feels, I’ll never forget how it feels – to belong to a place and a time.

And God don’t forget about us, please don’t forget. If any of it ever mattered, then please don’t forget about us for one second. Don’t forget, don’t forget, don’t forget.

Better days

Tuesday 24 September, 2013:

I arrive at school just before 8:30, and miss the staff briefing to show ‘Exhibit A’ to Slade. He confirms that it is, without doubt, a “baggie”, and though he lets out a couple of ‘ohhwell’s, he is very kind and patient.

“It’ll get sorted, Miss,” he tells me, his tone soothing my ruffled energies. “It’ll all get sorted, don’t worry Miss.”

We decide that my modus operandi should be to speak to Tau, on his own, as soon as possible after school. I’m to approach the matter calmly, and not accuse him of anything. “He’ll tell you, Miss,” Slade assures me. “If you just have a quiet talk, he’ll tell you what’s going on.”

“I’m not judging anyone for using – the boys included,” I say, and Slade nods, saying, “I know.”

“But if that’s a choice they make, doesn’t mean I have to have it at my place either.”

“Fair enough,” he says. “My aunty’s the same.”

“I’m not saying I like it, if Tau’s using,” I go on. “But at the same time, I don’t think he’s a P head. I just wanna have a say about what goes on at mine.”

 

I drop Ezekiel off after school, it’s started to squall by now, and a cold and driving rain has set in. As we walk to the car, he lifts up his shoes to show me their soles. They’re worn right through, and saturated.

“Thanks for the lift, Miss,” he says, with genuine feeling. “My feet are pretty wet, aye.” He laughs, but shivers in his school shirt (no jumper, no jacket).

“Sure are,” I say, just lightly.

 

When I get home, it’s close to 4. I feel discomforted, at the thought of bringing things up out of the blue, with Tau. But I know I have to do it. So I go out to the shed, chat to him and Raphael for a moment first (about a couple of inconsequential matters), and then say, “Hey, Tau… can I talk to you for a sec?”

“Yup Miss,” says Tau, looking at me curiously as he picks up on my tone. “Ok.” And he gets up and comes into the house with me.

Once inside, I murmur, “Just… hold on a minute, Tau.” He sits down, waiting with a slightly wary patience, and I flit into the bedroom and pull the tiny ziplock bag out of my handbag, where it’s been all day. This, earlier, has made Slade grin. “Faar Miss, if anyone saw that, they’d probably think you were using!” he tells me, with great amusement. “It’s still got a few bits in it, too.” He peers at it, adding, “You should lick it,” and we dissolve into laughter.

I come back into the lounge, and begin, kind of ‘formally’ I guess:

 

“I don’t really know how to start,” I tell Tau. “But I’ve been thinking about it all night, so I better tell you what’s up. First of all, I want you to know I’m not upset with you, and I’m not assuming anything, but… I found this in the bathroom last night.” And I hold up the bag.

“Oh,” is all Tau says. He actually looks quite surprised by my revelation.

“So, I’m not gonna go off at you or anything Tau, promise. But I do need to know what’s going on, is that algood?”

He nods, saying slowly, “I… probably left it there, I think. When I had a shower.”

“That’s what I thought,” I say. “I didn’t know what to do, when I saw it, and I felt kind of upset. So I decided to just sleep on it, talk to you about it when I felt calmer.” I don’t mention Slade, knowing he’ll be the very soul of discretion.

 

There’s a little pause, and Tau just looks at me steadily. He says, “I don’t really use that stuff at all, Miss. Hardly ever. I haven’t, for ages…”

“Then… why was it there?” I ask, wonderingly.

His eyes meet mine, without any guile. “I had some with Michael,” he says. “He wanted to shout me. We didn’t do it here though, it was when we went out Saturday. The bag must have stayed in my pocket that whole time, and I just found it when I was getting changed yesterday. That’s the truth, Miss. I’d never use that stuff around here. I don’t even… I don’t even really use, honest truth. It was just that one time, with Michael. Apart from that, I don’t touch it, not for ages…  not since way back last year, with Mischa.”

I nod, and he goes on. “I don’t even know how to drive it, honest, Miss. Other people have to drive it for me. I don’t wanna learn, either. Don’t wanna get addicted, straight up.”

“That’s good, Tau,” I say. “That’s a relief.”

“Honest to who, Miss,” he assures me. “I won’t bring anything like that here. I didn’t even know I still had the bag on me.”

“And none of the boys, aye Tau.”

“None of them, promise. I’ve never let anyone use crack round here.”

“I believe you,” I say, and we give each other a little nod, which means – I trust you, and – I understand.

 

“And Tau… please don’t hold anything here, for anyone, kay?” I say, just to clarify this point.

“No, I won’t,” he says. “The only thing I ever keep here is just a few foils for myself.”

“And I’m algood with that, Tau,” I say. “You know I trust you on that one.”

“Yup, sweetas, Miss.”

We look at one another, knowing that this whole potentially difficult conversation has been navigated with respect and care on both sides. I think we’re both relieved, at that.

 

I mail Slade, and this is what he says:

its allgoods miss sweetas, allways better days, solid you sorted it all out, allgoods miss anytime

 

Wednesday 25 September:

I’m sad from the moment I wake up this morning. I don’t really know why. Tears just fall out of my eyes, no real reason for them. I try (honestly!) to imagine my ‘happy place’. I don’t know… I keep getting this mental image of lions at rest in the long grass, near a quiet lake. And then I just feel tired of being sad, and I get up and take a shower.

Michael’s car is blocking the driveway again. I get a surge of impatience when I see it – I stamp my foot, in the shower. But the feeling gradually recedes. By the time I leave for work, round 7:45, I’m calm, and just knock on the door of the sleepout to wake Michael up.

Tau comes to open the door, bleary-eyed. He’s left the keys to the house in the front door all night, which is just one more thing to frustrate me, when I see them there. But again, I sigh, telling myself they don’t do these things to annoy.

He’s apologetic, and so is Michael. “I didn’t mean to stay the night – I just fell asleep,” Michael tells me. “I’m sorry, Miss.”

“It’s ok,” I say. “I just need you to move the car, that’s all.”

All the same, the day hasn’t started off so great.

 

And then, at work I feel ugly, straight up. Bad hair day, just for starters. Itchy eyes, blotchy skin. The feeling lasts the whole day, pretty much. Driving home (after dropping Ezekiel off in Bream), I look in the visor mirror a couple times, and sigh.

 

Thursday 26 September:

Today, right when I need it, a little bit of gratitude kicks in. As I head off to school, it kind of occurs to me. An oblique thought, just something like – I’m grateful to live in this house. And then, I’m grateful that I earn enough to pay the rent. After that, things seem pretty simple. I look around and think, maaan, what am I fussing about? I got food in the cupboards, and everything’s paid up: the rent, the bills, the car. And I don’t have to depend on anyone for that.

Can you believe it, when I get to school, I still feel happy. I walk along thinking – ohh, I’m glad I’ve got a job.

All day long, I just keep getting these little waves of the same sensation, which feel like bubbles fizzing. Even when I look in the mirror, I don’t feel ugly anymore.

I’m grateful for the tiniest things. Noodles at lunch. Being able to run up the stairs. Email notifications on my phone.

After school, I go upstairs to the Faculty meeting, and I still feel fuckin grateful. I’m there till 4, collating grades with Mandy, like it’s no thing. Everything feels sweet and in tune.

Drop Ezekiel off, and I head home. Have a little talk to Tau, in the sleepout. He’s been resting, and I feel real tender towards him. I just think – Tau, I’m so glad you’re here right now. I’m glad it’s safe, and you know you’ve got somewhere to go. Doesn’t even matter about whether I’m special or not. It honestly doesn’t.

Then I go to the gym. Same deal. I feel like – ohh, wow I’m here.

When I get back home I make sausages and eggs for us, and watch Shortland St, and jam the laptop.

 

Friday 27 September:

Last day of Term 3. And Kepaoa’s court case, down the line. I text him to say good luck, though I don’t expect to hear back (and don’t).

School. I decide not to show a movie to 9 Social after all. I was going to, but it’s actually not such a great idea, on the last day of term. Phones and food and iPods will come out, feet will go up on the table – everyone thinking they’re the big boss. So, nope. We go to the library to do something on the computers instead.

At break, I go upstairs to make a coffee, and when I come back, Slade has popped out to have a cig, and Ezekiel’s sitting calmly on my laptop (on Facebook). I biff him off straight away, and banish him to a netbook at the far table.

 

Later on, Slade and I talk about it.

“I wondered if I should leave him on his own, lil shit…” says Slade.

“Nah you’re algood, he just needed to be told,” I say. “He’s alright.”

“Mmm, suppose so.”

We tsk a little bit at the absent Ezekiel. Probably wisely, he stays away for second break, though he comes back after school, and waits through the Faculty meeting (I take my laptop with me, this time).

 

When I get home, that holiday feeling kind of kicks in… almost. I still feel a kind of suffering patience, which I don’t want to feel anymore. I want to be over it; the craving to be special. I used to think I was over it. But really, I don’t know.

Some nights, if Tau doesn’t come inside, not even once, I imagine all sorts of things. Sometimes I imagine that he hates me. Sometimes I imagine that he resents me. Sometimes I think he feels sorry for me. And sometimes, I think (and this is more like the truth), that he doesn’t think about it one way or another.

One thing I’m pretty sure of, is that I’m not special anymore.

I’m going to be honest, it does sting. It really does. But it’s too easy to kind of nurse pain. Sometimes when you feel it real bad, you almost want to hold onto it. I don’t know why that’s so. Maybe because it lets you have a memory of happier times, which croons to you. Remembering when you were special to someone, letting your mind run over those feelings again and again, like you can experience them one more time. The pain is almost like a stroke; a touch… a hug. It’s bewildering, how it doesn’t help, but you want to feel it anyway.

But no matter how hard you focus on trying to re-experience that original impetus, in a sense it’s spent. Memories don’t produce better days, at least not on their own. They need to be put to the service of something new.

And (thanks, Slade) always better days.

Bed of wire

Monday 6 December, 2010:

Most of the furniture’s back in now, but my room still looks bare. I get some of the year 9 boys to bring my stuff down from the office shelves. I don’t have 9 Social today, but I know they have Workshop, so I go over and ask if I can borrow two ‘helpers’.

Hands shoot into the air – I choose Andre and Eddie, but see some of the others look at me with crestfallen expressions. Mr Jordan says hopefully, “Would you like to take that whole table with you, Miss?”

“Oh, I don’t really need five people helping me, but… okay then,” I decide, causing them to jump up and down with happiness.

They follow me across, actually linking arms in their joy and bounding along. It takes them only three trips to carry everything down to my room, and they say, “Could you give us other jobs to do as well? We don’t want to go back.”

“Well – I do have one other job you could do,” I tell them. “But it isn’t a very nice job.”

“We don’t mind! What is it?” they clamour.

“I need all the chewing gum scraped off from underneath the tables…”

“Eww…” and then in the next breath, “Ok – we’ll do it!” they say with glee.

 

So they turn all the tables over, sit on the floor and scrape away at the old gum. Andre cuts his finger with the scissors but pays it no mind, and then after a few minutes they all spontaneously break into a rousing chorus of ‘Jingle Bells’. They finish that song in triumph, and begin another loud carol as they scrape.

“Hey you guys, not too loud – what about the class next door?” I say, but I can’t help laughing at their exuberance. However, after a few more rounds of their strident carolling, I suggest we might listen to some songs instead. This idea is met with delight. Then begins a musical sequence which alternates between majority decision and ‘Eddies’s choice’. Chris Brown followed by Tupac. Bruno Mars followed by Bone Thugs. “We’re not gangstas – only Eddie,” Andre announces, and Eddie grins.

I am actually rather fond of Eddie. I give him a number of special jobs to do, such as scrape the remains of the Ironlak spray off the whiteboard – fine droplets have misted around where the edges of the drop sheet were taped (weeks ago, during Wednesday project). He also gets to clean a few tags that we spy on table legs and a chair back – the latter is actually a ‘GAME’, but Eddie tells me, “Hey! I did that in my Math class – I remember doing it. I didn’t do it in your room.”

“Yes, but the caretakers moved the chairs around a bit when they gave us our furniture back,” I say, and he cleans it off assiduously.

 

Andre, working on a flipped up table, says, “Here’s a tag under this table, Miss. Shall I clean it off?”

I have a look: AXIS. “Oh, he must have done that ages ago,” I say. “Nio hasn’t been at school almost this whole year.”

“Who? Who’s Nio?” they ask.

“Just someone who used to come here…” I say.

“Shall I clean his tag off?” asks Andre again.

“No-oo, don’t clean it – you can leave it there.”

“Cos you really liked him,” concludes Andre, in a contented way.

“I did,” I agree.

“Why did he leave school?” they ask.

“Got kicked out,” I say with a sigh, remembering the very beloved Nio.

 

And all day long I keep thinking about things. How they’ve happened like this. For some reason, I remember back to when I was a little kid, and my mum used to buy eggs from the poultry farm up the road. While she talked to Mrs Chin, I watched the eggs being rolled through a sorter; dropping gently through the holes to end up in one or another of the various gradings. Some went all the way down to the bottom.  I remember that… and suddenly I feel like I’m one of those eggs that just dropped and dropped through all the holes, until there were no more grades left. The ones that fell right past the levels where the other eggs peaceably lay.

Things drop away… what’s left?

I feel like I’ve been sorted, without even knowing what was happening. I just know nothing fitted, so I dropped down… and down, and down. Down to the valley; down to the underground; down to rest on the last bed of wire. What’s left? What’s left?

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I only know that the categories don’t fit; don’t make sense.

So I drop down and down, and at the bottom of it all there are eyes that look at me without surprise. Inia, Noa and Aperamo. Alexander, Jack and Dimario. Libya, Leroi and Zion. Argos, George and Nio. Tau.

And how could I have never really known all this for so long? I don’t know.  I just know that I was always looking for that space to drop through; trying to get through all the gaps and just drop through. And so, when at last I saw them – I recognised all those other people who were dropping through: jumping, leaping, crashing, sliding through; getting through any which way, and finding that last grade, that bed of wire, which feels like the springingest, springiest, quietest and only peaceful place to be. Bird to its perch.