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.
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.
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.
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.