The equation

Monday 20 October:

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday 30 October:

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

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


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

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

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

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


Wednesday 5 November:

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

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


Monday 10 November

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

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

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

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


Tuesday 11 November:

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

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

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

Happiness + work ≠ financial security

Work + financial security ≠ happiness

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




Monday 8 October, 2012:

Kepaoa texts me twice in the middle of the night. The first one says he can’t stop crying; next one says something like: if I’m gone by then tell her I love her and my family. I text him back, telling him: Hey don’t talk like that! I want to ring someone… maybe his older brother, Paki. I don’t know his number. I lay there wondering if I should go over, then I tell myself not to panic. Kepaoa’s at home, he’s ok – they’ll all be checking up on him. I send a couple more texts, just to say I’m right here, and if he feels scared or upset he can text me any time. And then I fall asleep.


About 8:30am, I get another text: ‘Can i come hang out with you at yours ms please?’  I have to laugh as I reply, saying that it’s not going to be very exciting at mine. Kepaoa is undeterred, so I tell him I’ll come get him. His next text reads: Soon ms algood? Thankyou!

When I get there, Kepaoa seems kind of ‘flat’ – it’s hardly surprising. But dutifully, he checks with his parents, and they’re fine about letting him out of sight for a bit. Furthermore, he’s just received a call from one of the psych team at the hospital, and has agreed to meet with a counsellor in the next few days. So I can see he has a basic willingness to accept help.

As soon as we get inside, I can see him kind of relax and exhale a little bit. “Oh maan, Miss,” he tells me. “I just feel more comfortable at your place.”

I bring out the mattress off the spare bed, and some blankets and pillows, and he settles down in the lounge, with TV, laptop, and some food out of the fridge. His tired, jittery look kind of softens. “Miss,” he keeps telling me. “I like being here.”

“That’s good, huh…” I say, just sitting beside him and stroking his hair. His head’s still sore, from banging it on the ground when the cops came.


I’ve already arranged to meet La-Verne for coffee at 2. We’ve been in communication on Facebook (I having signalled my readiness to talk to her again by liking her new dp, and she having responded by messaging to ask if I’m free for a coffee). I feel okay about leaving Kepaoa on his own; he seems stable and calm. When I get back, I find him sound asleep. He’s cranked the heater up, and is slumbering away peacefully in the resulting sauna.


Tuesday 9 October:

I wake up about 5:30 this morning and cry quietly. “Don’t forget about Tau…” I whisper, to  whatever beneficence might be listening. “Don’t forget; not even for one second. He’s the bravest person I know – please don’t forget. Even if I haven’t done enough.”

And all day, everything seems surface level and tiring. I feel trapped by some whole persona of being not enough, being the one who’s not good enough. Things overlap and I can’t work any of it out, not right this second. I feel like I’m supposed to be someone else: a very good, very still little girl.


Wednesday 10 October:

“Gonna be a big talk tonight,” Kepaoa tells me.

“Good… good!” I say.

We’re sitting in the car outside Teri’s house, waiting for her to get back. Just talking about this and that, listening to a CD (one Kuli made for me, way back when).

“You can tell an Islander made this CD,” comments Kepaoa, and we snort. “Cos it ain’t gangsta gangsta,” he goes on, making me laugh. “But it’s not… white people’s music either.” He wrinkles his nose in disdain.

“Ohh, for fuck’s sake!” I exclaim, and he grins. “Kepaoa, I’m amazed you ever got to know me at all! You and your ‘white people’.”

“No, Miss… I never thought about you like that. Honest to who.” He settles back into his seat. “Actually, you always reminded me of my mum. Straight up.”

“Aye?” I ask.

“Yip. No shit.” He shakes his head, at the perplexing fact that there’s one aberrant ‘white person’ in his life.


Later, as an upshot of the ‘big talk’, Kepaoa and Teri are given permission by their respective families to stay the night at my place, before Teri flies out tomorrow evening.

Around 9:30, a car pulls up in the drive: Paki, dropping off the two of them – and Dante. Kepaoa says immediately, “Miss, it’s alright if Dante stays too, isn’t it?”

Dante, who is hovering in the background, can barely look at me, and seems to be in paroxysms of embarrassment at Kepaoa’s words.

Kepaoa goes on, unselfconsciously: “He’s really worried that you’ll be angry – but I told him, no, Miss’ll be awguds with it.”

I look at Dante, who, if the ground could have swallowed him up, would have taken this option willingly.

“Yeah, course it’s fine – come in, you guys,” I tell the three of them. There’s nothing else which would make any sense, and really, I can’t help being touched by Kepaoa’s faith in my hospitality.


I haven’t heard back from the Union Field Officer yet. Frankly, it’s all been very low on my priority list – the whole thing.

A funny kind of positive

Monday 8th June, 2009:

Let’s start with the positives… well, it’s a funny kind of positive: I have Nio in my room for the whole of my non-contacts between interval and lunch. Truant – of course.

At first I try to suggest he goes to his class, just to raise the mere possibility. “I won’t,” sighs Nio, “Even if I can’t stay here I won’t,” and he shrugs, as if to say he has no choice. I know he’ll be in even more trouble if he’s picked up outside, so I let him stay.

I sip my coffee and talk to him, while I do my marking. He’s as content as can be. At one point he says to me, “You know your Project – you had all the taggers in there, Miss!” He adds, “And all the waggers, too.”

“Yeah, I did…” I say, thinking about it. “But hey – they all showed up!”

And we can’t help laughing.


Nio – the very good Nio. Guess he and I have a lot in common, at heart we’re total refusers.

Today he tells me first about his older brothers, who are the reason why his parents moved the family out here. “Cos my brothers were always in trouble, always being brought home in cop cars,” he says. And then about the tagging he does, the places he goes… I’ve never heard him speak this openly before. Just before lunch he helps tidy up, and says, “Thanks, Miss,” and I say, “No problem.”

Apart from that, my day is stressy.


11 Social. I still hate geography. This school with its ‘integrated’ courses – I wouldn’t have to try teach it anywhere else but here. I can’t make it interesting, I just don’t know how.

I do try, course I do – but I feel like I’m losing them a little bit, even though they don’t see it, really.  Dimario and Alexander are peaceful and kind of disinterested today. They do some work, then bomb side by side, with rapt concentration and no attempt to disturb anyone else. But Jack persists with his work most of the time, with a patient, slightly grumpy willingness that touches me very much.

Dimario and Alexander modestly admire their own artwork (the ‘Vesuvius’ wall chart which is on display now). Nio does too, when he’s in earlier. “You know their tags!” Nio marvels. They signed it… and they did the work too.” He says, “I’d do all my work if I was in your class.”

I’m glad he doesn’t see those two later, drawing. Yet it’s such an intelligent choice; I truly believe that.  Makes me sound like a bad teacher, huh.  I’m not a bad teacher – I’m just a bad liar. Cos my sincerity is all I have, and I sincerely don’t like geography!

But I want to be counted, somehow, to be worth something, or have some ‘authority’ – for what? For what? Not for geo, that’s for sure. But for them; myself.


Tuesday 9th June:

By 5:30 I’m sitting at Mcdeez, eating my Big Mac and fries, and drinking coffee. I feel so quiet there, like I’m floating and dreaming. It soothes me and I feel serene to be watching the big screen TV (on cable sport) and looking out into the darkening world, cars slipping by. I don’t have the money to spare, but I don’t really care. I need to sit and drink my coffee and be somewhere and be calm.


Today my alarm doesn’t go off – I wake up an hour late. And even after I get to Kuli’s the panic just becomes a dull and familiar feeling of stress which lasts all day, the whole way through.

During options, I see Argos and another boy hiding out in a little spot by the cafeteria. As I go past, Argos calls softly, “Miss?”

“Oh, hey,” I say, laughing at their ‘cover’, and the trusting way they assume I’m not gonna tell them to go class.

And they’re right, I’m not. I really think of their choices to wag the stupid options as reasonable, and informed. I don’t know what else to say about it. I’m not saying that I don’t care what happens; I’m just saying that the school as a model of intervention and control is so bankrupt and so hypocritical – in so very many ways.


Nio, the escapee. Argos, evading his option class. Even these two –  it’s enough. I don’t understand why it’s enough for me, against the whole weight of school, but somehow it is. I don’t understand, and I’m conscious of all my failings, and I’m conscious of the possibility that I’m wrong, just wrong – but I don’t believe that I’m ‘just’ wrong.

I need to sleep now – I’m very tired of thinking.


Wednesday 10th June:

My head hurts like fuck. I can’t even cook this week, and cooking has (until now) been the thing that I do each day that gets me through; only I haven’t got the heart for it anymore. I stop and get a croissant and a cup of coffee – that’s dinner. I can have some fruit later so I won’t starve; that’s my vitamins or whatever. I don’t actually care, I don’t care – I can’t cook anymore, I don’t even have money to buy groceries so I spend five dollars at a time: lunch, dinner, whatever.

I think I’ve reached the limit; eking out every last bit of food in the house for days and days. Maybe if there was some respite, I could cope, but there’s no end in sight. No reward, no result, nothing for being any good at getting by – just more of it until I can’t stand the relentless pressure. No gas and no food, no money and no groceries, no bills paid, no energy, nothing except slavery at work and the cold at home… and I’m all out of ways to bear it.

It’s laughable because it should be so ordinary for people to eat, have money; to be casual and calm. All the teachers cranking on about ‘achievement’ , ‘learning’, ‘21st century learning’ and ‘learner engagement’, ‘transformation of the world’… and I’m so cold. I only care that Nio had somewhere to go yesterday, and that occasionally I can do something to show I care… and I can’t even care about making dinner. I haven’t got any resilient feelings except that I should eat a kiwi, a banana – it’s my little tiny act of resistance, and to stay warm.


Thursday 11th June:

Just about to go pick up Kuli. More small acts of resistance… of barely resilience; just a thread: eating breakfast, putting fruit in a bag to take to school. It’s the last little bit of hopefulness about this whole seriously fucked situation.

I feel like I’m being bombarded and all I can do is walk from point A to point B. I don’t even know if I’ll get there. My mind is not calm, I need to be calm and concentrate on my movements, make them… what’s the word,  sufficient? No, I’m thinking… economical.