a flash non-fiction story
Published in Havik: The Las Positas College Journal of Arts and Literature
There were only a few times in my life that I actually felt like an adult. Eating cookies at three in the morning, surprisingly, was one of them. I sat, floating in the darkness, illuminated slightly by the blurring sounds and faces of 90’s Nickelodeon flashbacks. An unopened book rested beside me, tattered and waiting. I bit down into the comforting sweetness of a chocolate chip cookie and repressed another yawn. A gulp of lactose-free milk brought a smile to my lips. This was what freedom tasted like, or it was at least close enough.
I remembered when I used to have to sneak into the kitchen if I wanted to steal a cookie. I would slink meticulously down the stairs, avoiding the creaky spots, the terror of being caught giving me the super-human ability to remain inaudible. True adulthood, I decided, was being allowed to eat cookies wherever and whenever.
I took another euphoric bite and chocolate oozed out of the side. If only little Alex could see me now.
Yes, life had not always been like this. I was a child once, unfortunately.
The rules were stricter and much more difficult to bend to my iron will. It was then that a memory came to me fondly, encasing the moment with bitter nostalgia.
It was kindergarten. The sky was fresh with hopes, buttered with clouds that held so much promise for the young souls that toyed underneath. Kick balls littered the air, dashing across the scene in a blur, and bouncing to a stop along the sides of swings.
It would have been a perfect recess, if it weren’t for the grumbling sounds emitting from within the depths of my stomach. My mom had packed me a Skippy peanut butter Squeeze Stix for my snack and despite the cool kid on the advertisement, the sack of oily crud had been a disappointment.
I looked down at the encased goop in my hand. Why couldn’t I pick my own snacks? At least it wasn’t a cheese stick this time. My stomach grumbled at the memory. I highly doubted my classmate John would be alright with taking the blame for another flatulent outburst.
I frowned, once again examining the bright blue Skippy stick. Given the choice, I would eat those tiny chocolate cookies that my teacher gave us when we got a right answer in class. She kept them in a Cookie Monster puppet, which couldn’t be sanitary, but we were kids, so what did we care? All that mattered was that getting a simple alphabet letter correct was rewarded with the divine opportunity to reach down the furry character’s plush throat to retrieve either a chocolate or vanilla cookie.
My child lips squirmed into a pout. There was no greater disappointment than getting a vanilla cookie. And right before recess, that is exactly what had happened. It was unfair. It was unconstitutional. I deserved that chocolate cookie, but all I had was this tube of brown gunk.
My tummy rumbled, the tiny earthquake shaking my infant morals to the curb. I looked around surreptitiously and tossed my Skippy tube into the trash where it belonged. Maybe now since I didn’t have a snack, my teacher wouldn’t mind if I had a few cookies.
I glanced towards the daunting, giant blue door that guarded the classroom and took a deep breath.
What was the worst thing that could happen?
After another brief survey of the playground, I decided it was the opportune time. With what seemed like super-sonic speed, I slipped through the crack of the door and sauntered forward into the dimly lit classroom.
Milky darkness sunk into my eyes as I looked around, frantically searching for my fuzzy, blue prey. The classroom looked so different under this light, or lack thereof. Fear tingled in the pit of my empty stomach. So many things could be lurking in the darkness, waiting to chomp on thieving little girls…
The sound of my own scream startled myself as I saw the hairy form, its bulging eyes piercing into my very soul. I quickly threw a hand over my blasphemous mouth and grabbed the Cookie Monster puppet, delving my hand into the rewards that sat in the sack of its polyester stomach. I pulled out the vanilla cookies, tossing them aside until I finally found what I was looking for: chocolate.
I had never tasted cookies so sweet. The moment stilled and I chewed slowly on the ambrosia, relishing in the unadulterated satisfaction. I could get used to this.
Shit. I mean, oh boogers. My gaze snapped up, meeting with the clear blue orbs of judgement in my classmate Jacob’s horrible face. He began backing up, reaching for the door handle. I knew, in that moment, exactly what he intended to do next. It was what kids our age did best. Jacob was going to snitch on me.
“Jacob, please don’t tell. I was so hungry. I didn’t mean to.” Desperation clung to my voice as the realization of my parent’s possible disappointment in my actions became a pertinent liability.
He nodded slowly, but I saw the truth in his eyes.
Unsurprisingly, that booger-eater told on me.
Surprisingly, my parents did not punish me for it.
That was the day they finally knew what they were in for: 10 years of unbridled trouble-making, courtesy of yours truly. I hadn’t known it at the time, but I would never truly prescribe to any sort of demanded respect; I would simply get older until people stopped caring where and when I wanted to eat my sugary snacks.
The taste of my last bite of cookie lingered on my adult tongue.
“Alex? You’re still not asleep?”
I glanced up, a surprised look crossing my face as I made eye contact with my mom who was walking down the stairs, tying up the string of her robe.
“Yeah, I’m thinking. Why are you awake?” I shifted and leaned my head lazily against the couch as she walked to the fridge.
“Your dad snores pretty loud sometimes. Whatcha thinking about this late?”
I grinned. “Remember when I stole cookies in Kindergarten?”
She laughed quietly, taking a bowl of fruit from the icy depths of the refrigerator. “Oh yes, how could I forget?” She popped it open and ate one of the bright yellow blocks.
A moment of silence passed as she chewed before speaking.
“You were never a good rule follower.”
I turned my head back toward the glow of the television. The ghost of a smile lingered on my lips as I reached for the book that had been so patiently waiting. I brushed my fingers over each letter of the title until they spelled out “The Essential Ginsberg”.
Everyone great broke a rule or two.