That he drove like a maniac. That the only time I saw the small simmering of temper behind his cool demeanor was when someone was late or not where they said they'd be. That he liked his brother, tolerated his mother, and never mentioned his father at all. And that whenever I pressed him for details about any of these things, he would sidestep me so gracefully that I could never find a polite way to ask again. Still, there was something so strange and tender about those nights when I just sat with him in the car, my arms around him, wondering what had happened at home that brought him here, needing me so much. It reminded me of how I'd felt when Cass and I shared our room, the peace of mind that comes from knowing someone is so close while you sleep that the worst of the monsters and nightmares can't get to you.
Rogerson and I would stay that way until my father flicked on the outside light, bright and yellow and startling in my eyes. Then I'd wake him up, kiss him good night, and he'd drive off, drowsy, while I went back to my own bed feeling warm and content. I'd close my eyes, alone in my room, remembering him breathing and wonder who he saw, or found, in dreamland.
Rogerson's depth of knowledge continually surprised me. It seemed like there was literally nothing he didn't know. One day, he was changing the oil in his car and I was sitting on a lawn chair in his garage, doing my homework. The Biscoe garage was jam-?packed with stuff. His mother was apparently addicted to shopping, and there were boxes upon boxes, unopened, of laundry detergent, Tupperware, canned goods. In the back, where Mr. Biscoe kept his fishing supplies, was a graveyard of barely used exercise equipment, including a treadmill, a bike, and some strange contraption that looked like skis attached to a trampoline. Whenever Rogerson worked on his car I could spend hours just walking around, poking behind boxes, excavating things. But today I was trying to cram American history, as well as complaining out loud about my teacher, Mr. Alores, who gave trivia quizzes each Friday for extra credit. He didn't teach the material on them; you either knew it or you didn't, and lately I'd been falling into the latter category. “I mean, it's so ridiculous,” I said to Rogerson, or rather to Rogerson's legs, which was all I could see of him poking out from under the car. “How am I supposed to know this crap?”
“It can't be that hard,” he said. “Yeah, right. Okay.” I pulled out my last quizI'd gotten a zero and unfolded it. “Here. Number 4. The Victoria was the name of the first ship to what?”
“Hand me that wrench by your foot,” he said, and I kicked it under the car to him. "Thanks.
Circumnavigate the globe.“ ”Do what?“ I said. ”The Victoria. It was the first ship to circumnavigate the globe. Magellan. Returned 1522. Right?“ I glanced down at my sheet, where Mr. Alores had written the correct answer in his clear, block-?style printing. ”Yeah. That's right.“ Something clanked, hard, under the car. ”Shit,“ he said. ”Damn screw's practically rusted on.“ I glanced back down at my quiz. ”Rogerson.“ ”Yeah.“ ”Who was the first person to climb Mount Everest?“ ”Sir Edmund Hillary. 1953.“ He pushed out from under the car and stood up, walking over to his toolbox. ”
The Ojibwa Indians are better known as what?“ He picked up a screwdriver, examined it, and dropped it back in the box. ”Chippewa,“ he said. I could not believe this. ”The cluster of stars called Pleiades can be found in which constellation?“ He crouched down, sliding back under the car. ”The Seven Sisters,“ he said. I looked down at my sheet. ”Taurus,“ he added, his voice muffled. ”Also known as.“ Right again. I put the sheet down. ”Rogerson. How in the world do you know all this stuff?“ I walked over and knelt down on the floor, peering under the car while he drained the oil into a pan resting on his stomach. ”It's, like, amazing.“ ”I don't know,“ he said. ”Come on. Nobody just knows stuff like the thyroid is located behind the breastbone. It's insane.“ ”Thymus,“ he said. ”What?“ ”The thymus is behind the breastbone,“ he explained, shifting the oil pan. ”Not the thyroid.“ ”Whatever,“ I said. ”You're like a genius or something.“ He smiled at this. ”Nah. I was just really into history and science as a kid. And my grandfather was a trivia addict. He bought me books for practically every birthday and then tested me.“ He shrugged. ”It's no big deal.“ But it was. There were momentswhen Jeopardy came on, in the car during radio trivia challenges, or for practically any question I couldn't answer in any subjectthat Rogerson simply amazed me. I started to seek out facts, just to stump him, but it never worked. He was that sharp. “In physics,” I sprung on him as we sat in the Taco Bell drive-?through, ”what does the capital letter W stand for?”
“Energy,”he said, handing me my burrito. Sitting in front of my parents' house as he kissed me good night: ”Which two planets are almost identical in size?“ ”Duh,“ he said, smoothing my hair back, ”Venus and Earth.“ ”Rogerson,“ I asked him sweetly as we sat watching a video in the pool house, ”where would I find the pelagic zone?“ ”In the open sea,“ he said. ”Now shut up and eat your Junior Mints."
Rogerson, for the most part, didn't like any of my cheerleading friends. Rina was the only one he could tolerate, and her just barely. He said she was too loud, but he liked her spunk nonetheless. Since she was still hot and heavy with her quarterback, not to mention a developing situation with a college-?boy shoe salesman she'd met at the mall, I didn't see much of her other than at practice. When I wasn't there, I was with Rogerson and his friends. We'd been together about a month when he took me one Sunday afternoon to an old farmhouse out in the country. It was yellow, and kind of ramshackle charming, with a big yard and a dopey looking yellow Lab, curled up in the late winter sunshine, that yawned, uninterested, as we walked up the steps. There were two carsa yellow VW bug and a pickup truckparked in the driveway, and when Roger-?son knocked on the heavy wooden door I could hear the TV on inside.
“Come in,” a voice called out, and as I stepped in behind Rogerson I saw it belonged to a girl with long, straight blond hair who was sitting on a big couch in front of the TV, her feet tucked up under her. The room was small, with bright white walls, sunshine slanting in through a window with a bunch of plants crowded on the sill. The coffee table was an old trunk, covered with magazines and packs of cigarettes, some bracelets and a flurry of envelopes. There was a fish-?bowl on top of the TV with one bright orange goldfish in it, circling. The girl on the couch was smoking a cigarette and watching the Home Shopping Network, which I recognized instantly from my mother's newfound doll addiction. The jewelry segment was on, with some woman talking up a cubic zirconia bracelet she had draped over her fingers, modeling it this way and that.