My Best Friend, Rock

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When I was four years old I had pet rocks. My mom and I lived together in a small low-income apartment in Ogden, Utah, and we weren’t allowed to have normal pets like a dog or a guinea pig. There was no particular reason why I chose rocks instead of some other free or cheap inanimate objects like twigs or grass. It just kind of happened. One day my mom and I were returning home from the grocery store and I spotted some stones around a tree. They weren’t really beautiful or interesting, just your typical gray, flattened golf-ball-sized stones, and it occurred to me that they’d make pretty good pets. I ran over and picked them up, careful to brush off the ants, and returned quickly to my mom’s side.

“My pet rocks,” I showed her.
“Well that’s nice,” my mom said in a way that told me how interested she actually wasn’t. She heaved the grocery bag over her shoulder and we continued to head inside our humble dwelling.

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While my mom put the food away, I marched directly into the bathroom to give my rocks, “a bath.” I filled up the bathroom sink with soapy water, testing the water on my wrist to make sure it wasn’t too hot.
“Hold your breath,” I told my rocks, before plunging them into the water.

I scrubbed. I sang. I rambled on with a manic level of excitement. I told them everything about me, as quickly as possible:

My favorite color was: Not pink
My favorite toy: Castle Gray Skull
My best friend: Rocks!

I didn’t have any friends.

I went to daycare but those kids didn’t talk to me anymore.  I’d been shunned, eighteenth-century style, for a teeny-tiny incident that had happened a few weeks prior.

During an of afternoon recess, a group of us had gathered on the playground. Some of the other children were talking about their siblings. I didn’t have one yet, but everyone else was Mormon and had 7,000. One little blonde girl proudly bragged, “The stork is going to bring my family a baby sister soon.” I rolled my eyes because doctors deliver babies, not giant birds. I waited for someone else to call her on her bullshit but nobody did. The others just smiled stupidly and nodded. Clearly, I was the only one who knew anything about life or babies.

So, I told everyone. And I drew a diagram in the sand. “Babies,” I explained, “come from chicken eggs that grow inside of your vagina.”

“What’s a vagina?” One of the girls asked. I dropped my pants and pointed to it.

“This is a vagina. You have one, too. There’s probably chicken eggs somewhere around there already,” I shrugged and pulled my pants back up.

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It took less than an hour for my impromptu sex-ed lesson to spread like a wild fire throughout the school. Parent’s called. The daycare teachers were so horrified that they glared at me and whispered to each other when I walked into the room. I received the same treatment as a forty-year-old truck driver who’d walked onto the playground and whacked all of the children over the head with his dong. I felt ashamed and embarrassed mainly because I knew that’s how the adults wanted me to feel. Their eyes were very clear about it. Although, I was super confused why. By the end of the day, the other children had stopped speaking to me.

I’d been a little lonely ever since. But, no longer. Because rocks. And rocks, unlike the assholes at school, just listened, non-judgementally, to all of the super cool shit I had to say.

I named my rocks Moon, Star, and Crystal, which also happened to be the most popular stripper pseudonyms of all time. After their bath I patted them dry, one by one, wrapped them in a blanket and set them on the chair next to me during dinner. Later, I took them to bed and laid them gently on the far left side of my pillow. My mom tucked me in,  shut off my light, and I whispered stories to Crystal, Moon, and Star, about the badass adventures I would have one day when I finally owned a Pegasus, until I passed out.

For the first few weeks, Star, Moon, and Crystal were faceless. They were just gray, on gray, and hard to tell apart. But one day I found a marker and drew them a set of black circles for eyes and a turned-up line for a mouth.”Now,” I told them, “you can see and stuff.” And there was a part of me that was pretty sure that they could. Or at least hoped that they could. I imagined that without eyes, it was probably pretty horrifying to be launched down a slide or taped to a swing. I wanted them to have a good time, too. Even though they were rocks, I liked to think that they were participating in our friendship in their own, stoic way.

“Now,” I told them in my magician voice, “you can see and stuff.”

And there was a part of me that was pretty sure that they could. Or at least hoped that they could. I imagined that without eyes, it was probably pretty horrifying to be launched down a slide or taped to a swing. I wanted them to have a good time, too. Even though they were rocks, I liked to think that they were participating in our friendship in their own, stoic way.

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I’d been having a great time, painting with them, storytelling, and jamming cottage cheese into their little line mouths. I tied a string around them and dragged them behind me, up and down the sidewalk, so they could get their exercise. I tried to teach them to read, and sometimes took baths with them. Life was totally sweet for me. And, even though they were rocks, I liked to think that they were enjoying our time together, in their own, stoic way.

If my mom was concerned about my exhibitionism, bizarre interpretation of the anatomy/baby lesson she’d given me, or my new best friends, or lack of actual human interaction, she never let on. She went about our daily life as if I were perfectly normal. And she asked me about my rocks the same way a parent would ask  their child about their pet hamster, “Oh, did Crystal enjoy her nap?” Years later, she told me that the whole pet rock thing was fucking hilarious. I can imagine her, cigarette in hand, on the phone with my grandma while I lectured Star about being a bully, “No, seriously, this kid has lost her goddamn mind, and it’s a fucking hoot.”

Then one day, after weeks of playing rock jump rope, rock, rock, goose, and rock tag, I met a boy outside of my apartment building. He called me a rude name and I kicked him in the willy with my red cowgirl boots. He got back up and pushed me into a thorn bush. We became fast friends.

Shortly after, my mom returned Star, Crystal, and Moon to the wild.

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One thought on “My Best Friend, Rock

  1. Pingback: Empathy, Apathy, And Ants | M.E.

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