Some days all my metaphors are expressed through exhaustion. I feel like a fallen rider hanging on to my horse’s tail, being dragged up a hill and tumbling down over the other side. Or like the girl in the red shoes, who has to dance forever.
All day long: Tau, Tau, and more Tau. Teachers emailing me; Morris and Marjorie coming into the office and into my room to tell me:
“Tau’s outside again.”
“Taurangi is out with the water bottles again.”
Tau and Leroi, drenching anyone and everyone they encounter. I get them to Math for the last twenty minutes before interval. Somehow we perambulate our way there (and they’re both in different classes) – and they go in.
Oh, and I forgot to mention Tau’s been stoned all morning. During break he sits in my room, eyes rolling up and down and all over the place. Tired, restless, but staying put temporarily – which is kind of incredible.
After interval I take them to their next class. No luck; they’re out of there within five minutes, prancing past the office window, looking in, spotting me, and scraping at the door:
“Miss, it’s boring in class, we’re thiiirrrsty, we’re thirsty as.”
Tau tells me, “Fuck, I’m tired, I want to sleep – and I’ve got the dry horrors.”
“Class – go to class!”
I take them back, they go in, but soon after I see them roaming free again. They’ve got their water bottles, and are squirting people from the overbridge. They see me and run off and then… come back.
“Miss, we need something to drink.”
“Miss, have you got jobs we can do?”
“Miss, can we come into the office?”
I say, “Drink some water.”
“Nooo, the water here’s all kaka, it’s all that recycled shit.”
“We need Coke… or Sprite,” says Tau, hopefully, because he knows I’ve got drinks for the 11 Social shared lunch this afternoon. “We could do a job for you, and you could give us a drink.”
I say, “Look, just go to class – then come see me later and you can have a drink, ok?”
They make an attempt to go back to class, but are soon evicted and sit on the seats outside. And I don’t think they’ll be allowed back in now; I can’t see it happening – and I have got work to do. I try and concentrate, up in the office, but they keep coming past, looking in, getting stopped by teachers and running off; roaming past again and again and again.
Another flurry of emails arrives, titled:
‘Tau and Leroi’
‘Water fights in the grounds’
‘‘Continual behavior concerns’
And every time a teacher comes by, it’s: “Tau is out there again.”
“I know, I know,” I say, weary of all this, all the time.
Tau has had so much freedom he can hardly cope with even me pulling him in. But he does come, reluctantly.
“Where are we going?”
“You’re going to come help me carry the books up and the drinks down, and the cups – and then you can have a drink.”
“Yeah! Shot, Miss!” they say, coming along at once.
They bring the books up to the office, and I hand them the bottles to carry. When we get to my room (it’s just lunchtime by then), I give them paper cups of coke, and Moro bars. They sit, momentarily stilled for ten minutes. Then they say, “We’ll be back.”
At lunch emails fly back and forth. Leroi’s mugshot beams out of an email from Marjorie. There’s been an incident with Tau and Leroi, and Jamal from 11 Social. I can’t work it out exactly – but they squirted him and someone threw a punch. Leroi’s about to be sent home; Tau is still roaming free, as the bell rings – and my 11 Social class come in.
The pizzas have been ordered, and I go pick them up from reception with Jack and Dimario. When we get back to class, there’s Tau sitting outside my room with Simeon, looking very mournful.
Tau tells me, “They sent Leroi hooome…” then, “I don’t want to be at school now – I’ve got no water buddy. I want to gap.”
“No Tau, just stay here. Either go to class or come with my class.”
“I don’t want to go to my class.”
“Then come into my class – it’s ok”
“No, cos you’re having a shared lunch, and I’ll be shy.”
I say to them, “Alright, stay out here and I’ll get you a drink.”
Jack pours drinks for everyone, and I quietly take two cokes out to Tau and Simeon, then get some Hawaiian pizza and take it out too: “Here you go – may as well have some pizza.” Tau looks so relieved. It makes my heart sore to think of him not eating – I can’t bear it. For some reason I think of a line from the Bible: Feed my sheep.
“Just let Alexander know I want to see him,” I say to Dimario, when I go back inside to the year 11s.
“I probably won’t see him,” Dimario replies, patiently. “He’s still hiding out.”
“Well – just text him for me.”
“I can’t text him. Alexander hasn’t got a phone.”
“He hasn’t got a phone?” I repeat, intrigued.
“Nah Miss, you have to text his missus.”
“Ohh,” I reply, and then, because I’m interested, “What’s Alexander’s girlfriend like?”
“She’s gangsta,” says Jack.
“No she’s not – she’s freaky,” says Dimario.
“Nah… oh, kind of,“ says Jack, and they laugh.
“She’s all weird looking, she looks like one of those crack babies,” Dimario tells me, while Jack guffaws.
“Oh you guys, don’t be mean,” I protest.
“No Miss, she does. But it doesn’t matter if she’s ugly… cos so’s Alexander!” Dimario rejoices.
“Oh shut up, that’s just sad,” I say, and he laughs, adding, “It’s like Shrek meets ET.”
Actually I can’t help laughing too, because they say this stuff so tenderly and untruthfully. And I know if Alexander was here he’d just give that gentle, peaceable smile.
Then, “It’s ok, Miss,” Dimario assures me. “Alexander’s sensei. He gets all the girls.”
“Yeah,” Jack agrees. “At parties, all the chicks go for Alexander.”
The room’s very contented, and I think for sure if any class deserves a shared lunch, it’s this one. And it’s a nice afternoon in that way, but Tau is not very settled (understatement of the year) and I’m worried about him. He’s still got that wild look in his eye, and I know that he’s close to cutting loose again.
Near the end of class he runs around a bit, wanting to start up the water fights again. Noa comes out of a neighboring classroom, sees me and Tau, and laughs – putting one arm around him briefly. “Fuck, Cluzo… still going,” he says.
“I know,” I sigh. “Noa, I’m so tired, all I’ve done today is run around after this guy – and what does he ever do for me?”
Tau, standing on the stairs, looks at me, and says, earnestly, “I did do stuff for you, Miss.”
“Like what? Run away when I ask you to come, and not go to class?”
“No, like… I brought down your drinks, I carried down your drinks!” he tells me triumphantly, filling up a huge Sprite bottle from the tap.
I snatch the bottle from him. “No Tau – that’s not a good idea.”
I hand it over to Noa, who accepts it without batting an eyelid.
Jamal looks out the door and Tau says, “Gonna fuck him up later. Gonna shoot him.” He pats his jacket, telling me, “I’ve got my gat with me today.”
“You have not.”
He says, “It’s here – wanna feel?”
“No I do not,” I say, and Noa grins.
It wouldn’t surprise me if he had got it with him – and this is getting too hard to roll with, right now. It all seems to be leaping past the few boundaries that still exist – and I don’t know what to do. It’s very hard to do anything, except try and hang on. That’s all I do today: just try to hold on for the duration.
But at the same time, my heart just about breaks. Because like I said, the things I love about Tau are also the things that hurt, or are going to hurt.
The sun goes down, and I don’t cry. I’d like to cry – all the sad things can’t make me cry. I’m hot inside, and my solar plexus aches and I breathe, patiently. I think about all the things which tear at me… and even if I’m full up like a swollen river, I just contain more and more.