The Grubb Twins

Redwood Elementary; 1985

I collected and played with action figures.  He-Man action figures. While all the other boys and girls my age were sneaking into the bathroom, discovering the next phase in life, I stalled, regressed and chased the 4th-grade boys who played with the latest toys. We’d all meet at lunch by the big tree aligned with bushes which served as a backdrop for all the dramas we created.

Of all the kids I played with that year, I remember the Grubb twins. I remember them not because of their ability to be in two places at once, or their academic achievements. The Grubb twins possessed the original He-Man action figure. The hard to find, search all over town, don’t supply but demand He-Man action figure. This made them the official leaders of the group.

The Grubb twins had interesting features: they were identical, rough and tumble boys, down to the dirt in the insides of their shoes. They had oval faces with perfect bowl cuts and matching bangs. While one’s face was a little more symmetrical than the other I could always tell who was who: by their teeth.

David’s teeth were positioned in a way where when he spoke, his tongue would close at the edge of his front molars and act as a dam. Although he didn’t have a speech impediment, the collection of saliva in his cheeks and eventual overflow onto the faces of a captivated crowd made it sound as if he did.

Daniel on the other hand was a bit more refined…and he did have a speech impediment. But what I remember most about Daniel was his soul. While David was gruff and tumble, Daniel was lite and airy. He was submissive compared to David’s tough exterior. When I spoke with Daniel, our souls connected…we shared a collaborative connection. So when I needed to sway the vote, I’d always hit up Daniel first in order to get what I wanted.

On one occasion, David brought the coveted action doll to school. He showed it to us during first recess and said, “bring out your henchmen for lunch…we’re going to play.” We were all amazed. The figure came with a sword, battle-ax, and shield…and when all three props were placed on the action figure it was like a shot of heroin to the body. The anticipation of holding it would get me through the two hour period before lunch.

By lunchtime, while still in the cafeteria, David made the announcement:

“I have a better idea, we’re going play He-Man and Stellator inthtead of the action figures,”

“I’m He – Man and Daniel’s Stellator.”

The rest of us were left to choose who we wanted to play.

“Where’s He – Man?”, I asked disappointingly.

“Heths inthide my pocket but leths play real life instead.”

I needed to sway the vote.

As we went round and round, pretending to knife each other with our swords; picking each other up and throwing each other to the ground I double teamed with Daniel. My plan was that if we rouged each other up hard enough, we’d rethink the idea of play fighting.

After all, I didn’t wait half the day only to be told no.

Stelletor and I were making good headway, tearing everybody up until He-Man went into a manic state:

“eeeeeeee-yaaaaaaaah!’ screeched David at the top of his lungs. He raised his fists and clenched his teeth.

As for me, I was in the middle of a death grip when I noticed what all the excitement was about. He-Man had a fixed target. Me. I readied myself for battle as any normal henchman would: I bent my knees, crouched down just a little and waited for the enemy to attack…and attack he did.

David’s fist had tunneled its way towards my stomach.  He sucker punched me right in the gut; a direct hit right above my navel. Each second after was sheer panic.  Panic from the hit; panic from the instant pain; panic from having the wind knocked out of me.

Panic. From. The panic.

All I could do was fall to the ground with my arms wrapped around my stomach.  All I could think of was how to find my next breath.

“…just try and breathe”, I told myself.

“…just try and breathe.”

***

Thirty years later, I felt the same way after the break up with John.  My mind was frozen, my emotions were out of control and I couldn’t breathe.

It would take therapy and a support group to help me start breathing again.

That Pink, Wavy, Elongated Tongue

Beech House: 1982

Eyes open automatically. 2:30 in the morning. 

That tongue; that pink…wavy…elongated tongue.

At any moment, as I pushed my head deeper into the hood blanket, I knew that tongue would creep its way between the sliver of the open curtain that hung steadily over the living room window.  To everyone else, the patterned providers of security guaranteed privacy from the outside world. But at night…when everybody finally gave in to the darkness outside and after the deafening silence of rebirth had settled in, that pink, wavy, elongated tongue would eventually reveal the man behind it.

It all began one evening when mom yelled across the room “Es satanas!” as she feverishly crocheted yet another completed square onto the growing quilt.

“What are you doing?”, my brother complained after I snapped his concentration from what was playing out on television.

“I’m trying to keep the porch light out” I grumbled, “it keeps shining in my eyes; I can’t sleep.”

Mom continued her rant, “Mira que fueo el Diablo!” as she knitted together her words of fear and spread them throughout the room.

The truth was, I had seen the devil that night. He had long platform boots that resembled a dragon straight out of hell.

That night, and every other night after, no matter how hard I tried, a sliver from the curtain would eventually find its way back to the default position. A long, thinly shaped triangle would slip in and out of sight and allow the porch light in. The anxiety and fear of what was behind those draped vertical folds only heightened after I had gone to bed and a wayward draft would create a succession of waves that set the stage for what I fought so hard to avoid.

Sometimes, in the height of summer, the linen fabric shades would appear as overgrown tendrils of murky moss that quietly held the heavy, recycled air emitted from the swamp cooler.  As the dank smell of mold rose from the ground like dry ice. No matter what the season, as the night wore on and the tension built, the late night concert was sure to begin.

At any moment those tendrils would open up and reveal an active world of ongoing performances that ranged from slick 80s hair bands to dark shadows conspiring to find a way into the safety of my bed.  My imagination (my runaway imagination) had already joined the shower of beaming light the moment I woke up.

I was nine years old, it was 2:30 in the morning and I was trying my hardest to avoid Gene Simmons’ signature tongue waiting for me on the other side of the window.