Masters of the Universe
By X. Press
From Kindergarten through second grade, I had no idea if Lynn was a girl or a boy. I only knew that Lynn had a curly red mullet, which in the eighties, was often rocked by both. Lynn wore red and blue checkered, button-up flannels shirts and jeans and when bullied, took no prisoners. Tenderness quickly succumbed to red-faced fierceness when Lynn was challenged, teased or otherwise tortured as we all were on that sun-beaten playground.
Once, when I was on the merry-go-round, two boys decided to spin it so fast that my head hit a metal handle bar and I was thrown off into the gravel pit, landing flat on my back. When I opened my eyes, I found myself surrounded by curious second graders. I looked up, mostly at the faces of other little girls and most noticeably, I saw two Lynns: both a girl and boy version. For that brief moment, I believed I had seen Lynn’s true form: a boy and a girl, standing side by side, decidedly neither and unapologetically both. The howl of the freight train still haunts the memory.
The train track felt dangerously close to the playground, with only a steep hill and a fence protecting us from the train that whistled and screeched by twice a day. On good days, I fantasized about packing a backpack full of Cheerios, peanut butter and a loaf of bread and jumping aboard when the train stopped. The good thing about being so invisible is that you could do things like that, like jumping a fence and hopping aboard a train in broad daylight. On bad days–for instance, the day I watched three boys knock a robin’s nest off a branch and use short sticks to stab baby robins to death and I could do nothing to stop them–I thought of jumping in front of the tracks and letting the train take me on a different kind of journey, a place where darkness swallowed me and every day cruelty would no longer throttle my nerves and heart so viciously.
I never jumped aboard the train or stood on the train tracks, but I did eventually find out Lynn’s sex, at least, the bits and pieces Lynn was born with. However, by then, it didn’t matter. Lynn and I were in the fifth grade and we’d embraced our outcast status. We sat secluded on a small slope of the playground, played with He-Man figures, and chased off pretty girls who called us freaks. Lynn was Lynn, freckled & baritone. I was me, strange, observant and yes, mostly invisible.
At our new school, I still heard the train’s whistle and roar, but it no longer beckoned me. I’d found a place with Lynn in the fresh cut grass, tiny-headed, plastic men in our fists, who shouted in our voices, I am Master of the Universe! And in those moments, we were.