Posted on: July 25, 2013
It was that point in winter when the snow drifts started blocking the view at intersections. In the car on the way home from school, Rocko’s mom cranked the heater up full blast and rolled the windows down. She craned her neck to check for cars, then turned onto their street.
Rocko jammed his hands into the pocket of his hoodie.
“How was school?”
“Did you learn anything?”
Rocko was already out of the car before his mom cut the ignition. He had shit to do, and it didn’t involve shoveling snow or checking on Mrs. Gotwalls next door or having an afternoon snack while he caught his mom up on high school happenings.
Down in the basement, he colored the white rubber toe of his Converse sneaker with a black Sharpie while he waited for the dial up to connect.
On AIM, sn0wbunny86’s away message, purple comic sans with little asterisk accents, told Rocko she was just waiting for someone to sign on:
and if this is what it takes / just to lie with my mistakes / and live with what i did to you /
all the heIl i put you through / i always catch the clock / it's 11:11/ and now you want to talk
He wasn’t going to play into what she wanted just yet. Rocko finished coloring in his shoe.
There it was.
He waited a few seconds. He wouldn’t want her to think him overeager.
sn0wbunny86: whats up?
sn0wbunny86: school sucked today
sn0wbunny86: i’m so tired!!
sn0wbunny86: are you tired
orockorocko: i slept in english
sn0wbunny86: lol!! you always get away with stuff
Rocko waved the uncapped Sharpie under his nose and sniffed three times, almost as a joke. He capped the Sharpie and tried to spin it over his thumb like the debate kids. It torpedoed onto the floor behind the desk chair. Next he fiddled with the bent cigarette he’d bummed from some goth kid at school. Rocko didn’t even have a lighter. He’d have to work on that.
orockorocko: not as much as you do lol
Sn0wbunny86 had two classes with Rocko. She lived three blocks away in the same subdivision, Tregaron Oaks III, which sprung up after the identical houses in Tregaron Oaks II had devolved mostly to rentals. Sn0wbunny86’s real name was Heather.
When people asked whether they were together, Rocko shrugged it off. “Whatever,” he’d say. “We’re just friends.”
Heather wasn’t exactly beautiful. She looked like all the other girls in Nebraska. Freckly nose, stringy brown hair, no makeup. Skinny legs and a little bit of a pudge, which she hid under her knockoff North Face.
Nothing physical had happened between them yet. Heather’s parents had a strange no-boys-in-the-house policy, and Rocko’s parents weren’t much better, frantically worrying that his “bad attitude” would send him down the slippery slope of marijuana like his cousin Josh. His parents liked him busy, preferably at church.
But parental paranoia didn’t prevent Heather from stirring up enough tension as sn0wbunny86 to prompt hours of analysis. Heather rehashed everything with her best friend Kristen. When Rocko said she “wasn’t not good looking” what did that mean? Why couldn’t she get him to reveal his feelings on AIM? She even logged in with Kristen’s screen name trying to prompt Rocko to say he liked her, but he didn’t budge.
And yet, they IM’d until 3 AM most nights, continuing their are-we/aren’t-we dance, unless Rocko’s mom saw the light squinting from the basement door and shut the whole operation down, because it’s a school night and what were you even thinking?
sn0wbunny86: i only get away with stuff with you ;)
sn0wbunny86: soooooooo what are u doing tonight?
Rocko took a deep breath. The pixels in the computer screen were starting to look a little 3D, like a magic eye he’d stared at for too long.
orockorocko: i’m gonna come see you
At the bottom of the IM window, the “sn0wbunny86 is typing…” message flickered on and off like a twitchy light bulb.
A good three minutes. Then her response appeared.
All that for one word? Rocko hoped she was anxious, too.
orockorocko: the park. across from the miller’s house
sn0wbunny86: u sure? ummm what time?
orockorocko: 1 AM. i g2g, mom needs the phone
sn0wbunny86: wait hang on
orockorocko: just be there
He signed off. Tilting the desk chair back onto two legs, Rocko reached for the Sharpie on the floor.
His mom opened the basement door.
“You’re going to ruin that chair or crack your head open. Your choice!” his mom called.
After dinner, Rocko made a big show of dragging his eight million pound book bag up the stairs to “work on homework.” At ten thirty, wearing pajama pants, he made another show of going to the kitchen for milk and being “really wiped out.” At twelve fifty, Rocko sneaked out the sliding glass door and into the yard.
It was snowing, and the street lamps glowed hazy overhead.
Heather stood on the corner by the Miller’s. She’d brought her family’s dog, Lucky. Good excuse if she got caught.
Rocko reached into the pocket of his hoodie and ran his fingers over his stash. Matches. Cigarette. Spearmint gum, just in case. Sharpie, for some reason.
“I’ve never snuck out before,” Heather tittered.
“I know,” Rocko said.
“I don’t remember,” Rocko said.
He hadn’t. He hadn’t done anything. He’d never done anything. He’d always been supervised and chauffeured around—jailed. He knew all his friends were probably lying about how far they’d gotten with girls, about the one time their brother bought them beer, but surely something was supposed to happen eventually.
He struck a match and lit the cigarette like he’d seen people do at school, shielding the flame from the falling snow.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” Heather said.
“I mean, sometimes,” Rocko said, trying not to choke.
“Cool,” Heather said. “Can I try it?”
Rocko passed her the cigarette. She held it formally, as if she were clenching a peace sign. She took a drag, letting the smoke drift back out into the freezing air, then passed it back.
“Sorry if I got chapstick on the end,” Heather said. “You know…it’s almost like we’ve kissed now.”
Rocko looked for lip prints on the cigarette paper. He didn’t see anything.
“Yeah,” he said. “I guess it is.”
Photograph By: Yanbo Tang
Written By: Dot Dannenberg
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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