Further than school can go

Friday 9 May, 2014:

This morning, Tau tells me – with some pride – that they only had three cans each. Once they started drinking, they didn’t feel like it, so they just went to sleep. He adds that today they’re doing ok, even with the thought of no K2.

But when I get home after work, Sheree’s there. And Sheree’s the one who’s really suffering the worst effects of this involuntary substance withdrawal. She’s been crying all night and all day, according to Tau.

 

“I think I need some happy pills,” she says, trying to joke about it. We’re sitting out on the deck, in the sun. “Last night was so stressful, a couple of times I started feeling like I might hurt myself.”

“I told mum she should go doctor,” Tau puts in. “We were gonna go earlier, but then it didn’t happen.”

“That’s a good idea though – you didn’t want to go?” I ask Sheree, but gently.

“I chickened out,” she tells me, with a grimace. “Didn’t know what to say there. And I didn’t have any money, so I was too shy.”

“We walked all the way there,” says Leroi. “And then we just came back here.”

“I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded about the money,” I say. “They’re pretty good round there. I think they would just let you pay later.”

Tau nods, saying, “Haard,” and then, “You should have gone, mum.”

“You still could,” I suggest. “We could go round there now, want to go?”

Sheree considers this, before shaking her head, saying, “I want to… I think I need to. But I’m shy of talking to them about this stuff.”

“They’re alright though, aye Tau,” I say, and he agrees straight away: “Yeah, they’re algood there.”

“See…” I coax Sheree. “Even Tau doesn’t mind going to the doctor nowadays.”

This actually makes her laugh.

“I’ll come in with you,” offers Tau. “If you go, I’ll take you in.”

“Oh!” says everyone, in surprise. I think it’s Leroi who adds, quietly, “Faar, look at you, Tau.”

Tau grins.

“I can’t believe it’s Tau, sometimes, talking like that,” Sheree says. And with that, she agrees to go.

 

There’s a 45 minute wait at the doctor’s, and the last thing I want is to interfere, especially with Tau’s excellent support of his mum. So I say, “Ok guys, I’ll come back later. Just text me when you’re done.”

“Ok,” Sheree says.

But as I leave, Tau follows me out, and says, hesitantly, “Do you gotta do something, Miss?”

“Um…” I decide to be honest. “Well, I can just go look around Municipal for a bit. I don’t want to bum your mum out, Tau. It’s hard enough for her to come here, she doesn’t need me getting in the way.”

“No,” Tau says. “I think mum feels better with you staying. I think she likes knowing you’re out here.”

“Oh,” I reply, and then, “But what about you, Tau? I don’t want to take over when you got it all under control.”

“No, Miss,” he says. “I want you to stay too… I mean if you don’t gotta do something else.”

“All sweet,” I say, and then, “You’re doing so awesome today Tau, everyone’s really proud of you.”

“Thanks, Miss,” says Tau, accepting this compliment very graciously.

“So… how does it feel, to be straight and sober for a whole day?” I ask, then.

“It feels… pretty good, actually!” says Tau, which stupefies the both of us into silence for a moment, then we just burst out laughing.

“But seriously, Tau,” I tell him. “Can you hear yourself?”

“I know,” he says, with a bit of amazement at his own behavior. He adds, “It’s all thanks to Maxwell – he’s got heaps of good tips.”

“He’s been awesome,” I agree. “And so have you.”

 

When Tau and Sheree come out of the consulting room, “Our whole family’s going to see the counsellor in two weeks,” announces Tau. “And the doctor said it was good to see me looking better… and he gave mum sleeping pills, and some other pills.”

“My happy pills!” says Sheree triumphantly. She hands the prescription over at the pharmacy counter, and gives me a pleased, kind of beady-eyed look, which for some reason makes me giggle. And then we just put our arms round one another and hug, standing there for a moment.

 

Later, I remember what Tau said about Maxwell. There’s a little part of me that just whispers, inwardly, “Oh, what about me.”  Honestly, I’m not proud of it. But I want to tell the truth right now: part of me’s envious. Envious of people who can do more, just… help more. Maxwell gives Tau his attention for one hour a week, at a cost of $150 (to someone: the government, I guess, or Vailea’s agency) – and I reckon that alone helps more than anything I do. I can put in all the hours god sends, and really, what do I do? I don’t know the answer to that – and so today I feel a little bit jealous, of Maxwell, and Vailea; the people who ‘know what’ and ‘know how’. They’re like the impact players on a sports team; the ones who get on the field and change things up straight away.

 

Saturday 10 May:

This evening Mia picks me up, we’re going to the movies. When she arrives, I’m in the sleepout with the boys, and so I ask them if they want to come out and meet her.

Tau just shakes his head slowly, saying first, uncertainly, “Oh nah,” and then, with a very sorrowful and bashful look in his eye, “I can’t, Miss… too shy.” He kind of breathes out the last word, and I see he’s tremendously anxious at the thought.

Leroi gives me the same quietly petrified look. He shakes his head too, and his eyes roll a bit.

“Sorry, Miss,” Tau says imploringly. “We just…”

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” I tell them at once. “I don’t expect…” And before I even finish my sentence, they look at me with great relief, and I go on, “It’s ok, you guys. I’m not going to make you do anything you can’t do.

“Thanks, Miss,” Tau murmurs. I can see he knows I mean it. Meanwhile, Leroi has pulled the blanket over his head with fright. I feel this big huge compassion in my heart for Leroi. I haven’t seen him like this for a long time. “I’m shy…” I hear him kind of whimper, under the purple blanket.

“Don’t worry, it’s sweet as,” I soothe. “It’s ok, Leroi.”

 

So I go out to Mia, and just say quietly, “I said to come out, but they’re too shy to meet you.”

Mia looks towards the closed door of the sleepout, a bit wonderingly.

“They’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” I tell her quietly.

“What kind of stuff?” she asks..

“Um, their dad,” I begin. He committed suicide, a couple of months ago. And since then, they’ve had some… issues.” I add, frankly, “Actually there were already some issues before that, but now there’s even more.”

She nods.

“Anyway,” I finish. “They’re just really shy, with people they don’t know. It’d be cool if they came out to meet you – but they aren’t ready for that yet, I guess.”

“That’s ok,” she says.

I feel my energy settle, because everyone has been honest. I’m relieved too – relieved that I’m not just a spinny bitch, and that there really are reasons why I’ve been reluctant to have my friends and family round, and that I’ve read it right, in a way. Not that things can’t change. But it’s got to be a slow, very gradual process.

I’ve beat myself up over this for literally years, ever since Tau came to stay the first time. Telling myself how I should just sort shit out and stuff. But it’s taken me this long to see that the complications are genuine, and not just all in my head. It’s like a lightbulb switches on, when I see Leroi pull the blanket over his head.

 

And suddenly it seems my life is getting more integrated, in a way. What I mean by that is I’m working out how to combine things, or at least start to. But being ‘a teacher’ is way over there, out on a limb. It can’t be combined with anything that’s meaningful to me (except, currently, earning money).

I’ve learned a lot, not from teaching exactly, but from figuring out how to operate within it; do something of my own, despite all the constraints. Everything I’ve needed has been in some way scratched (painfully, at times) out of it, like a means of inscribing my own movement in the world, leaving signs there for those who can read them. I think of how Tau trudged to school and waited for me in the car park – he’d already been taken off the roll. I remember how he was limping. His heavy, patient eyes, as he told me, “I’ve got nowhere to go.” And I think I knew then that whatever I could create, out of whatever I could lay my hands to, I’d share it.

All of that; everything I’ve done and tried to do, it’s taken me further than school can go. I’ll never do graff at MC again, I know it. I don’t think I’ll ever have real allies there again, either. Everything’s shifted outwards, and moved on, and it’s taking me in a whole new direction too – I just haven’t figured out exactly what it is.

 

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Deep holes

Friday 18 April, 2014:

First day of the holidays – I can hear Tau coughing outside, but he doesn’t sound too bad compared to yesterday. He and Leroi are just standing around laughing while he coughs, which is a good sign. Yesterday he couldn’t even raise a smile. He was real stoical about it, but I know it must have been pretty bad for them to call me at school.

Tau comes in to get another drink (he’s not actually too shy about filling up a cup of juice), and there I am, eating a yoghurt. Once again I feel guilty for eating. But there’s yoghurts in the fridge, there’s bacon and eggs, and sausages; muesli bars and chips and noodles in the pantry… and I wish they’d just come in and make some lunch, I wouldn’t care if they took it straight out to the sleepout again.

I’m just trying to let it go, that the boys are shy to do that. I can’t force them, and I don’t want to try. But at the same time, it bothers me, just because… I wish I knew how to do this stuff better.

Oh well, I’m not going to just go out so they can cook. At one time I used to do exactly that, with Tau. Not all the time – sometimes though, that’s what I’d do. Go out, hoping he’d come in and eat. But I can’t spend my days second-guessing the way people might be; the things they might want or be able to do.

And if I fixed lunch for everyone, I’d only be trying to ‘cater’ to them. And I’d know it, and they’d sense it – and it would feel like an imposition on both counts.

 

In the evening though, I make butter chicken and rice – and I take two plates out to the sleepout. This is accepted without the least resistance, and Tau in particular looks kind of relieved to be eating something sustaining. I see empty chip packets out there, which no doubt have contained their entire day’s nutrition, apart from the juice.

At least dinner they can handle, for some reason. Maybe because I’m just pragmatic about it, and it’s more of a daily routine (when I’m usually at work during the day and home for dinner).

I know they’re trying with all this, as much as I am. They’re here, and they’re reasonably safe, and they’re reasonably settled (so far), and Tau’s been to the doctors three times lately (totally amazing his family, I might add). And yeah, I still wish they’d eat, but sometimes they didn’t even eat at their place, Tau’s told me that often enough. So it is what it is. And I love them, for all their ways – not just the ways that I’d find easier – but all their ways.

Sometimes I say to myself: maybe one day things will be righted, huh? Everything good and right, for each of us, just like it’s meant to be.

 

Sunday 20 April:

I feel so bummed out by the fact that Sheree’s in the sleepout with Tau and Leroi. After an hour she still hasn’t so much as said hello, so I go out there – and it’s awkward. Once again, it feels like a demarcation, and also a kind of imprisonment for me. It’s a cold day, and there’s nowhere I need to be. And it’s not my fault that Sheree got evicted from Rutherford Ave, I tell myself. If they want to be together, well maybe she should have thought of that ages ago, when she maybe did get a 90 day eviction notice in the mail (that’s what Vailea thinks – that Sheree never read the mail, and there was a stack of letters and bills, and all the rest of it).

I want to burst into tears and then shout at her, “God, are you dumb or what? Go away, isn’t it enough that I’ve got the boys here Sheree? Don’t you think I care, don’t you think I got feelings? And yes, I’m on my own. And so what? Do you think I never had anything? Do you think I never had anyone? Do you think I’m not worth anything? Just fuck off and leave me alone, and go get yourself a damn house, and stop perching here like I don’t exist, and like all I am is a goddam place to be together when you need one.”

I bet Vailea Poe and Maxwell Rosdolsky never get themselves into this predicament. I bet they have a whole heap of people who love them for real, and they never get their priorities all mixed up; never get their boundaries blurred. Meanwhile I sit here like a creeping, shame-filled guest in my own home, while the three of them play at being happy families in the sleepout (which is a freakin mess, today, it honestly is – but that’s another story)

I’m very unhappy, and I don’t know what to do. So just for today, I’m going to act like I’m alright. So that Tau’s alright – I’ll do it, it’s enough of a reason. But there’s a big ache in my heart that won’t go away. It just says: You’re nothing, you got no-one.

It helps a little, tiny, teeny bit to write that down. I write to get myself out of so many deep holes, you know.

 

It starts to get dark; I go out again and Sheree’s asleep on the bed out there. And the only reason I’m putting up with it, is so I don’t hurt Tau, or make him feel shamed and worried about being here.

It would be different, maybe, if I wasn’t so hyper-aware of the bare facts. The fact that we aren’t actually ‘friends’, and I know it, of course I do. Sheree wouldn’t be here if she had a house. And yet, “Love you…” she says, and oh, maybe it’s true in one sense – but it hurts to think of that too, because it’s not ‘me’ that’s loved. It’s the fact that she’s grateful I’m such a freakin push over and have no boundaries in place for this kind of shit, and have obviously no life that anyone else gives a fuck about. That’s the only thing she ‘loves’ about me – that I’m a weak bitch who won’t act like I’m worthy of anything except being walked on.

The thing is, I don’t know how to get boundaries, with a family who pretty much don’t have boundaries.

 

I wrap myself in a rug, and sit out on the steps for a little while, thinking what to do… what to do.

It’s raining, and I realize that it isn’t a good idea for Sheree to walk home in the rain. So I think – okay, I know what to do. I’ll go ask if she wants a ride.

I kind of rehearse what to say. Then I go out to the sleepout and knock on the door, push it open… and there are Tau and Leroi, both sound asleep. Leroi’s on the bed, Tau’s on the couch. Sheree is nowhere to be seen.

I kneel down beside Tau, and just quietly say his name a couple times – and he opens his eyes.

“Where’s your mum?” I ask.

“She’s gone,” he says, his eyes flickering and drowsing.

“Oh, okay…” I murmur. “I didn’t want her to walk in the rain… I came to see if she wanted a lift.”

“Thanks, Miss… my uncle picked her up already,”

“Ohh…” I say.

His eyes slide shut again. I can see he’s stoned and tired, but quite calm. I’m doing okay, I think to myself. Not acting stressed, and not stressing him out.

Oh thank God she’s gone, is my next thought. And then I my body kind of slumps, as I finally allow myself to feel the energy drain of the past few hours.

The real story

Wednesday 9 April, 2014:

I have a alright sleep, I guess… under the circs.

But I wake up with that old feeling of shame twisting up in my chest, just like it’s always done at certain times in my life. It’s exactly the same feeling I remember from childhood. That feeling of thinking people won’t love me anymore if I do even one thing wrong.

The only thing that helps a little is to look at it like this: Well, obviously it’s impossible to do everything right. So if no-one’s going to love me, then I’ve got nothing to lose. I can be exactly the way I am, ha.

Exactly the way I am. And right now, no-one really knows me like that. Except, I think, maybe Tau.

 

I do the long day at school and make it back home, kind of licking my wounds. Sometimes it feels like the only arsenal at my disposal is that teacher talk – and man, do I hate talking that talk. It’s just false deployment, coming from my mouth; as I speak, the words are already floating away. I think the “ringleaders” sense that, and it irks them.

In any case, when I do get home, here’s the real story of the day. Tau and Leroi arrive, having just walked over from Bream, with their possessions (the game, a sesh, and a couple other bits and pieces) in two plastic bags. Tau tries to give me that sixty dollars back too, but I can’t take it. I tell him to save it for the time being, in case he needs to help Sheree out.

 

The fact that I’m here when they arrive is a piece of synchronicity, thanks to my utter horror of this afternoon’s Staff Professional Development. I’ve found (just in the nick of time, too) that today’s activity is a video skit competition, in preassigned groups, on the theme of ‘Home-School Partnership’.

What makes it worse is that my group is led by Chloe, the veritable queen of all things competitive. And I like Chloe – but I also know that literally nothing could induce me to take part in this particular activity. And yet to refuse is going to bring me exactly the kind of attention I don’t want or need, on this day.

So I compose a polite email to Marjorie, saying that I have just received some urgent communication, and need to go off site for a pastoral matter involving MC families. I apologize for the short notice, and add that I would not miss PD unless it was an emergency (which in my opinion, it most certainly is).

 

Then I calmly go home, where as luck would have it, my story is immediately transformed into reality. Not two minutes after I arrive, I hear voices outside, and there, coming up the drive, are Tau and Leroi.

We all just start to laugh. I’m not expecting them to turn up right then, and they’re not expecting me to be home yet either. Next minute we’re unlocking the shed, and they’re setting up the game on the TV, and kind of exclaiming over being back.

I know it isn’t easy for any of us – but they look so relieved to be here. That look in their eyes: it squeezes my heart so bad, and I think, there’s no way I’m letting you two down.

Leroi tells me it was ‘awkward’ at their uncle’s last night. And Tau says he kept the whole house awake, coughing and getting up and down.

“Now you can just keep one another awake,” I tell them nonchalantly, and they grin at me.

 

Vailea Poe rings me later on, and we discuss what to do next. He’s somewhat surprised to learn that the boys are with me – I’m sure he vaguely imagined I would pass the buck. Probably it’s just never occurred to him before that I’m involved (up to my ears, hah). We get on ok. I give him my address and tell him he’s welcome to come around and see Tau and Leroi if he needs to.

He says he’s going to talk to someone about social housing. He thinks he can maybe get Sheree onto the priority list, despite her previous track record with Housing NZ.

 

Thursday 10 April:

I don’t get much sleep last night. Tau coughs outside for a while, then Leroi tries to get in the front door (which is still jammed) using the wrong key, and I have to get up and let him in. This is around 2, maybe 3 am, I guess.

After that I just doze. In between times, I feel a lot of unforgiving rage towards school in general. Then I think about Kepaoa. I just lay there and wonder why people ditch people. I feel tears spring to my eyes, for a few seconds. And then I say – ok whatever, fuck you too, Kepaoa. And I try to go back to sleep.

But I can’t switch off. This morning we’re off to Winz again – and I’m pretty sure I’ll be way late for work. Ross is covering for me, but he can’t cover for ever, and who knows… who the fuck knows? I just hate school right now, and I wish I had a different job – any job would do, as long as it paid the bills, that’s what I think sometimes. It hurts my soul to pretend so futilely. It scrapes me raw. I’d rather have the kids actually hate me for not ‘caring’ the way a teacher should, than have them think I’m a teacher at all.

And once again, there’s so much to try to ‘grab’ and write about… I hardly know where to begin. So again, I’ll start with the simple stuff.

 

Leroi sees a caseworker called Salesi, today. He dots all the i’s and crosses every t on the paperwork, to such an extent that at first I think he’s suspicious of us. But it turns out that he’s ‘just fresh’ (as Tau puts it, making me laugh). Salesi is still in training, and has to check everything with his supervisor before committing himself. A couple times I try to put him straight about the various forms, some of which he is insisting Leroi fills in unnecessarily.

“He doesn’t have to do that one…” I comment, as the ‘Disability Allowance’ is pushed forth.

“I think the doctor needs to fill this page in,” is the reply.

“No, that one’s only if you’re claiming for additional costs, like counselling, or health care,” I inform him confidently.

“Um… I’ll check with my trainer… not sure, one moment please…” and he sets off to another work station.

“Faar, Miss – you know more than he does,” Tau says.

“Hard,” agrees Leroi.

“Should work here,” Tau goes on, smirking at me.

“I reckon,” I say. “But he’s not too bad – just a bit lost.”

 

At the end of the interview, Salesi thanks us for our patience, which is nice of him. He says he has to do a final check with his supervisor, and he’ll ring Leroi when payments are confirmed.

He does – later – but: “I didn’t understand what he was saying, Miss,” Leroi tells me me.

I phone Sarsha, and the matter is resolved. Leroi needs a two-year ID, and (as we know already) an extended medical certificate, covering the next four weeks.

Anyway, all this is progress. We’re at Winz until after 10 though, and I feel sorry for Ross, who texts me to see when I’m coming back. I tell him to ditch the class and I’ll take the rap – this makes Tau grin with amusement.

But he can’t – he has his laptop hooked up to the data projector, to show them a movie. It was his idea to use his own laptop too, poor guy. And I had hoped (in vain) that Leroi’s appointment wouldn’t take as long as I suspected it might.

Shackles

Sunday 30 March, 2014:

I’ve been thinking about Tau a lot (especially since I’m getting my strategies sorted for absenting myself from school on his behalf) and every now and then I wonder about those two people who are really helping him: Sheree’s social worker (Vailea Poe) and the counsellor.

I met Vailea one time, briefly – it was round at Rutherford Ave. Sheree introduced me as “Tau’s teacher,” well how else could she put it, I guess, to someone who didn’t know the whole story.

But I haven’t been Tau’s teacher for a long time. His last year at school was almost five years ago now. And yet… I understand how it’d be hard to explain.

We spoke inconsequentially for a few moments. And the whole time – not that that it was anyone’s fault – I felt like the unwilling representative of my profession, race and gender. Afterwards, I wondered what Vailea thought of me, if indeed he thought anything at all. Did he just see a do-gooder; a nice, well-meaning, mild woman teacher. Because that’s what I imagined him to see.

 

Then I think about Maxwell Rosdolsky, the counsellor (Tau’s started just calling him ‘Max’ now). Not that I’ve ever met the guy – but Tau says he’s mentioned me; told him I’ve been helping him out with Winz stuff.

And so I also wonder what impression Max Rosdolsky might have of me, even in passing. Probably much the same thing: a ‘nice’ teacher helping Tau out with his paperwork. Max even said to Tau that if things didn’t get sorted quickly on that front, to let him know. Well course he did – because if I was on the outside looking in, I’d have reservations about the capacity of someone like me as well.

Just a minor player, I’d think. A person who doesn’t even begin to comprehend the reality of the situation.

At the same time, all this pointless speculation irritates me; it just makes me think of myself as meek, quiet and feeble, like a bleaty and imploring sheep: “Baaaaa… what about me? Baaaaa, me too, me too.”

 

If those two know one another (which I’m betting they probably do, seeing as Poe hooked Tau up with Rosdolsky), they’d also know – right off the bat – that they’re both in the loop.

Which obviously, I’m not. But  I, I, I  want to be seen – and for certain things to be understood. And I don’t know how that works, or I don’t know yet.

And I guess there’s only one thing to do about it, which is just to keep trying patiently to remove the shackles which appear to tie me to a particular set of representations and expectations.

 

Later, I think of it all over again. Because after the gym, I go to the ATM machine to get some cash out. I walk around the corner to the Warehouse, and there’s a table with three girls, around 14 or 15 years old, selling girl guide cookies.

I don’t want to buy cookies, so I just go past to the money machine, and then, on my way back, one of the girls says to me, in a polite way: “Hello.” Just trying to draw some potential customers, no big deal.

And I glance at her, and I don’t know why but I feel so awkward. I say, “No thanks,” and then, I kind of mumble “Thanks…” and keep on walking. As I take a couple steps more, I almost trip over some shit on the ground, and I regain my footing and mutter, “Fuck,” to myself. My cheeks burn, because I hear them giggling. It’s no big deal, I know. They’re just three little girls selling cookies, probably a bit bored, having a laugh – and yet I feel so shamed. I actually feel like crying, all the way back to the car.

Right now, I think everyone else is a million times more likely. And I? Sometimes I think I don’t know shit.

 

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.

Fireworks and pouring rain

Wednesday 30 October, 2013:

I remember that (according to Tau) today’s the day Scott gets out of jail. My heart just sinks, thinking about it. I don’t know if there’s any ‘plan’ in place. I doubt it. Agencies and institutions talk a good game about this stuff. I’ll be surprised, truly, if they’ve actually done anything at all.

Oh well. If Tau needs to get away, he’ll come. I just don’t want all those other boys, and cars, and hangers on, they can all go somewhere else.

Yeah, I already know I’m not special – but I’m not stupid either.

 

After classes finish for the day, I find Ezekiel on the stair outside my room. He asks if I ‘have time’, and I say (truthfully) no, not really. I’m intent on marking assessments for an hour. But he follows me in, anyway.

“So… you don’t really have time?” he asks again, though not with particular hope.

“Time for what?” I say.

“Um… to get a ride home?” he tries.

“No, sorry, I don’t,” I tell him. “I have to get this marking done, that’s why I’ve just made a coffee.” (I have it in my hand). “Anyway, it’s a nice day – you’ll be ok.”

“Oh, okay,” he says. He looks crestfallen, and I feel guilty, irritating myself.

“You’ll be fine,” I say again. It is, really, a nice day. If it was raining, maybe I’d be swayed. But I think to myself – no, best to let it go.

 

And he leaves. I feel guilty for a bit longer, and then just sigh to myself and mark the assessments – some of which are quite good.

Ezekiel’s not a bad kid, not at all. But I can’t be at anyone’s beck and call. And I don’t know what the story is, with that one. Maybe I’ll never know. Anyway, I don’t want to get attached to anyone else, at school.

 

Thursday 31 October:

Bloody school… bloody useless today. And it’s Thursday, so that’s not fair! Thursdays are supposed to be alright.

The thing that pisses me off the most is the overt sentimentalizing of the ‘last week of school’ with the seniors – the whole place feels like like some big playroom today. Honestly, it’s so false, the system that apparently celebrates their success at the same time as it’s already booted out so many of their peers over the years.

13 History today, in the main they’re smug lil fuckers, pissing me off with their self-indulgence – like no-one else has ever left school before. Eli comes and works with me, which pretty much saves my bacon. Because at times I feel I’m gonna snap and tell all the rest of them to fuck off.

“I know, Miss – I can tell,” Eli says to me quietly, apropos of this sentiment. I’m very grateful to have him there, I can tell you.

 

After work I leave the whole stupid place behind and take small measures to ‘normalize’ my day: stop at the gas station to put air in the tyres; pick up fruit and vegies; make a coffee at home, head over to the gym…

And the gym is another life-saver. Soon as I hit the treadmill, I can feel the whole chaotic vibe lift. Then I’m alright again.

When I come back home I make fried eggs, eat them with bread and tomatoes, avocado, and then a big chunk of pawpaw. Two posses of cute kids trick-or-treating arrive at the door, and I give them Doritos. Altogether I feel much, much better.

 

Friday 1 November:

Funny old 9 Social in the morning, they’re quite sweet.

Jackson says to me, right off the bat, “Miss – do you live with CP?”

This surprises me so much that at first I’m almost shocked… then I just about choke with laughter, and he and Deshaun look at me, wide-eyed. I say, “Um, yeah right. They all live at my place,” and they actually wait with bated breath, checking to see if I’m joking.

Once I realize that they’re not even trying to take the piss (which is very un-Jackson, to be honest), I say something like, “Heey, where did that come from?”

“I met this guy in Carthill, and he told me,” Jackson says.

“Who on earth was this?”

“Um… a boy who used to come here, but he got kicked outa school,” he explains. “He asked me if I knew you, and then he said – you’d better be good for her, she lives with CP.”

“Who was he?” I wonder.

“I don’t know his name,” Jackson says. “I just met him.”

“Oh,” I say, still wondering.

But not wanting to inflate the matter any further, I just tell them with a certain degree of frankness, as we walk over to the library. “No, I don’t live with CP. But I’ve had a few… foster kids, from time to time.” I don’t really know how else to put it, in a way that would make sense. And more than that I can’t say, obviously.

Jackson and Deshaun are fine with that – and they leave it. I’m as matter of fact as I can be, with these two really very nice boys. And they pick up on the vibe, which ensures there’s no ‘secrets’ in the air, nor rumors flying around the library.

At the library, Eli and one of his friends come over and work at my table, chatting to me in a most collegial way throughout the period. The 9 Social boys look over with interest, and I realize that my stocks are currently quite high, the understated presence of these two lending additional credence to the earlier reports.

 

Saturday 2 November:

Mia and I go for brunch, it’s good… and a little bit not. We order pancakes, which turn out to be very bijou (and expensive to boot), and I’m still hungry afterwards. City cafés, hah. Not like out in Municipal, where the pancakes come in fat stacks.

And I feel tense, it’s an effort to hold that in, and at the same time I don’t really want to – I just don’t know what else to do. My jaw and my eyes get stiff from the effort of smiling and conversating. And both before and afterwards, I can’t stop yawning – some kind of attempt to release the tension, I guess.

 

Leroi turns up unexpectedly when I get back. He’s looking for Tau (and I haven’t seen Tau since that one time last week.) Which makes me feel even tenser than I already am.

Scott’s out of jail. He’s staying with them too – just as I thought. Of course he isn’t supposed to, but does anyone really check? Nope. The probation officer came over, and Scott pretended Sheree was his aunty.

“And they believed him?” I ask, very incredulously.

Leroi nods, in an amused but still matter of fact way.

“Sheree doesn’t look like she could be Scott’s aunty,” I continue. “ You’d be way more likely to think Scott was Sheree’s uncle.”

“I know,” Leroi agrees, and we snort with laughter.

 

Leroi says it’s going “ok,” with Scott. Then he adds, “So far…”

“He off the alkies?”

“Kind of…”

Honestly, I know it isn’t a good bet. But no-one’s sorted anything out for Scott, and so where the fuck is he supposed to be going? It’s not exactly his fault. Or Sheree’s. And those probation people and social workers and men’s groups don’t do shit. All those so-called ‘wrap-around’ services. Just like teachers never do shit either – I’m not saying they do.

And so… Scott’s just ‘out’. No home detention, no community service. Nowhere to go, and wanting to see his family. What the fuck would you do? Honestly – what would you do? If you were Scott, or Sheree, Tau or Leroi? All the same, Sheree’s the one who really gets the crap deal here.

 

After Leroi leaves,  I cut my losses and take a nap, wake up and turn on the TV. Got nothing more than that to do, nowhere to really go. The foxes have their holes… and the birds of the air have their nests. Didn’t Jesus say that? I sometimes think of a happy place, when I’m sad. Lions, resting in the long grass, by a little river.

Or I think of my ‘one good thing’. How I won’t let Tau down. It feels like my atonement for everything else I’ve done or left undone. But at the same time, I’ll be ashamed, if he comes. I’m so shamed, just thinking about it. My heart cries, quietly. Because I used to be special and now I’m not. Serves me right, for being so bad at everything else I’ve ever put my hand to.

And I don’t know anything. I just pine for those days of being special too.

 

Sunday 3 November:

When I lay in bed last night, I ‘talk to’ Slade, Kepaoa, Nio and Tau. Actually address them, each one. Say the words I’ve been wanting to say. Then as my brain gets tireder I start actually falling to sleep, and I hear myself mumble some random out of it things. “Reading a book…” I say, at one point.

Reading a book? Oh well, why not?

 

The gym’s good, this morning. I chuck some extra weights on my bar, and feel a bit better for it. But it’s kind of a precarious feeling, just yet. Still, I tell myself – the reason you’re feeling better is because you chose to feel better. Got off that bad buzz all by yourself!

And well, maybe things aren’t over at all. Maybe things are only just getting started. Stuff keeps right on happening, there’s always something new about to happen – even when you think it’s not.

 

Monday 4 November:

My muscles are aching after another round of Pump. One thing about the gym, I always show up when I say I will.

Partly, this is because I don’t want to waste my gym fees. And partly, it’s because I like it. And then, even when I feel tired… I tell myself that half the battle’s won just through showing up. Which is true, in pretty much anything I reckon.

I get home and take a shower and wash my hair, it’s the night before Guy Fawkes and there’s fireworks exploding all around Municipal, literally.

Fireworks and pouring rain.

 

Happy and safe

Monday 30 September, 2013:

I hear from Kepaoa today. ‘gta pay $1250’ he tells me. ‘And 6 months hme d, nd 9months supavisn. Cake az!’

I tell him it’ll go fast. For sure. But I’ll miss him, all the same.

Yup, but I’m not kidding myself either. I’m not after crumbs from anyone. Just… I love who I love, care for who I care for, and I’m gonna do my own thing anyway.

 

Tuesday 1 October:

La-Verne and I go for coffee at some deli place. The expedition gives me a semi-tired feeling. I start to actually feel my eyes swish and flick with heaviness. Not that it’s unpleasant exactly… just that I can’t be doing with it. Gourmet pies and ready made tiramisu. Little vacuum packs of pork mince at some exorbitant sum. Seventy bucks later, La-Verne walks perkily out to the car with her five items. Try that trick, I just wind up feeling brittle and frozen.

I know when I feel like myself. I get the faintest sniff of a particular scent on the air, carried to me on some little breeze. That’s when my nostrils quiver, my eyes narrow – I feel warm and alive. Like I could chase down anything I want, and get it.

And I want to live and live and live. I want to be warm, and do a million small and big things. I don’t want to just feel sad. I want… what is it that Daniel Miller said? To turn alienable things into ‘inalienable culture’. Transform whatever it is you’re allocated… or anything that you receive, stockpile, hustle, borrow, apprehend. And make something else, something that’s happy and safe. Honestly, happy and safe.

Sometimes, when you think about it, it makes sense.

 

Saturday 5 October:

I’m in the city by 11, and the first thing I do is sit at one of the outside tables at Istanbul Café, eating lamb pizza out of a paper bag, and sipping on my coffee. The coffee is strong and superhot, and revives me instantly. Then I walk down to the library, find a chair, and keep working on the edits, leafing through books from time to time.

Later I just kind of keep the idea in my heart, and leave it there as something to think about.

I’m still trying to figure this out. Whatever I decide to do, it’s going to take some work to do it. But I really want to. And I have this feeling it’s going to take me ‘somewhere’.

Because I can see how a different pattern’s emerging. How I’m ‘telling’ things, rather than just holding them, no matter how tenderly.

I’ve always tried to create something out of nothing. But I feel like now it’s time to start communicating… re-creating, I guess. Not just looking at memory as something static, but taking another step, to renew and re-create it, and send it forth. I still feel a kind of shame, at the idea of doing this. Being seen, I guess. Being open to scrutiny, or critique, or just being ignored, even. But at the same time, it makes sense to me. And the shame’s not actually as bad as I thought it would be. It really isn’t. My heart sometimes flutters, but I don’t care. Let it be like that, I’m going to do it anyway.

 

Monday 7 October:

I hear from Leroi a few times today. He wants to know about his Independent Youth Payment. No doubt it’s been cancelled, seeing as he’s back living with Sheree. I toy with the idea of helping him get his beni reinstated – but decide against it. For weeks he’s known about this, and I’ve offered to go with him to Winz already. He hasn’t taken me up on that, and now I’ve got more than enough to do this week.

Quite honestly, Tau is the only one of the boys (Slade being down the line) who I’d go out of my way for right now. With Tau, it’s just… well, it just is like that. Is, was and ever shall be, ha.

But I haven’t seen Tau for a whole week – more than a week. I miss him, and at the same time I just think: I don’t want to be sad. Sheree’s got a house, and it’s the chance for a fresh start for them. Especially with Scott being out of the picture (for the moment). I bet Sheree never thought she could get a house all by herself – without Scott. Though it’s lucky she had Tau to help, Leroi’s money having gone nowhere fast. And Sheree never had any – it was Tau who somehow saved (or procured) the whole, entire, bond.

No, I don’t want to be sad. These three months that Tau stayed here, from the start of July right through to the end of September: well, it mattered. I know it did. It’s something; it isn’t nothing. And I’d do it again, if it came to it. Do it again, and do it better. That’s what I always think, about everything.

 

Tuesday 8 October:

I go to the PhD info evening, at the Faculty of Education. Actually I don’t get the same vibe as last year, when I sensed – what? I’m not sure. But something.

The evening is enjoyable enough, that isn’t the issue. I meet some people, and there’s wine and a bite to eat, and it’s all very civilized. Which is kind of… but still not entirely the problem.

It isn’t even a problem. Everyone is very nice… and ‘white’ (with one or two exceptions). Everyone’s research is introduced as being ‘really great’ or ‘really interesting’. The crowning glory of boringness (for me) is when a very bouncy and bounding Drama teacher  does a presentation about her PhD topic and her exchange to work with a theatre group in Hong Kong.

Then a Canadian woman talks about her trip to some conferences in the States. Well, that’s great for her, but at the same time it’s just non-confrontational stuff, which all feels as if it just as well might have never been, if you get what I mean? It’s so hygienic, and praiseworthy, and nice.

I sit at a table with a social worker, and an early childhood teacher. A ECE teacher…? I mean what kind of PhD would a early childhood teacher do? They are both warm, approachable, easy to get along with. It’s good to meet them, even.

But maybe I don’t want a PhD at all. And yet, I haven’t entirely ruled it out.

I think: I can’t afford it. Plus why would I want a PhD in Education? It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with what these people do. But honest truth, I probably couldn’t handle all that worthiness, all day long. STAR path, and people being ‘passionate about education’, and something called CRSTIE: Critical Studies in Education… yup, critical my ass, that’s what goes through my mind as I sit there and try not to yawn.

 

Sunday 13 October:

I still feel kind of precarious. I go to the gym, where I keep thinking about Tau, sure he won’t be there when I get home, and then hoping he’s there… and then hoping he isn’t.

 Of course, when I get back, Tau isn’t there. I’m glad, in a way. I just think how I don’t want to pretend. I don’t feel like pretending. I feel sad, and at the same time kind of tough.

Old patterns… sure can’t beat ‘em. Or can you? I don’t know about any of this stuff. But I can’t do the same thing over and over. Expecting… what? I’m not sure. I just know I want to change those old patterns. Find another way.

See, I give you my life, mix it up in a blender
To make sure that you feel me  (Kendrick Lamar)