851 words about Rock.
His mother named him Benjamin, but at the age of 17, he feels he's outgrown it. He despises equally all variations – Ben, Benny, Benji. His mother pouts at him for it, but he insists on being called Rock, a nickname he picked up on the playground years ago. His friend Alex still has a scar on his right temple from that day.
Rock is not a morning person. According to his mother, he's not an afternoon, evening, or night person either, but his mom just doesn't get him. Maybe no one does. He stays up late at night, listening to music that makes his parents quake. He studies liner notes the way he should be studying for school. He holes himself up in the room he has painted black and adorned with posters of musicians who wear more eyeliner than most drag queens. He has stacks of milk crates filled with CDs, most of which bear parental warnings that have apparently been sold to him despite his varying degrees of minority. At least, his mother hopes they've been sold to him. She doesn't know where he would have gotten the money for them, but she doesn't ask. She's afraid of the answer. She's afraid of her son.
On the mornings when Rock is successfully ripped from his bed, he ambles out of his room dressed like a pauper. His mother is horrified at his constant state of fray and unravel, at the greasiness he carefully applies to his hair, and the boots he bought used, already older than him. The clothes she has bought him from the plethora of catalogues for the upper-middle-class she receives hang in his closet, still tagged and unworn.
Rock doesn't eat breakfast, makes it a point to never eat any meal with his parents. Although it looks like he's just rolled out of bed when he heads out the door, he is already late for another day of algebra and gym socks. Rock has the most impressive collection of tardy slips his school has ever seen. The vice principal keeps giving him stern final warnings, and Rock keeps proving them to be useless empty threats.
Rock takes 2 buses to school; the #86 collects him a few blocks from his house in the suburbs and deposits him on the outskirts of the east end of town, where property values are a fraction of what they are in his own neighbourhood, and the people living there reflect it. This is where he feels most at home. From here he boards the #14 to the last public school that will still accept him. But since he's late anyway, and he's pretty sure there's a chemistry test he couldn't possibly be prepared for and doesn't give a shit about at any rate, he crosses the street and gets on the #34 instead.
Rock is barely conscious during his bus ride. He closes his eyes and listens to another multi-millionaire raging against the system. If other passengers are bothered by the noise seeping from his earbuds, Rock doesn't notice. The bus takes him past the college where he'll never be admitted because he'd never apply, and even if he did, his permanent file, now well over 3 inches thick, would mean an automatic rejection. It also eases through a series of towering office buildings where drones wearing 3-piece suits walk briskly in expensive Italian leather shoes, jostling each other with their briefcases, too hurried to apologize or care.
Rock stays on until the end of the line, where he disembarks in the section of town that time and progress have forgotten. Rock would like to be forgotten as well. If he thought no one would come looking for him, he would be tempted to stay away for good.
He sits on the sidewalk, his back against an old brick building that has windows of plywood instead of glass. The cement is cold beneath him, the sunshine is weak and intermittent. Over the course of the morning, many people have walked around or over his legs, which are stretched out on the sidewalk. Of these, there are people of two kinds: the first don't notice him at all, the second acknowledge him with a series of grunts and nods. This is the language of the street. Without words or much eye contact, a transaction is made. Money is exchanged for the tiny plastic bags of illegal flowers Rock has stuffed in his pockets. These are the people Rock considers friends. They do not know his name, or where he comes from, or that he should be in school. Nor do they care.
Occasionally, Rock will catch the impression of a gun or a knife in someone's pocket or waistband. Weapons tend to have a distinctive glint. It leaves him feeling largely apathetic.
Rock is angry, and he doesn't know why. He'd trade in his life in a second, all of it, he'd take poverty and crime and oppression if it gave him a reason to feel the way he does.
No one understands him. Not even himself.