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It started with five of us. The original group, five nicknames, for five kids; Pinky, The Brain, Courage, Dexter, and Ash. We were brats, all of us, and upheld a serious belief (that could almost be called religious) that we were everything. All the other kids weren't really experiencing life, how could they? They weren't us, so they must be envious, because we were so damn amazing. Honestly, we were like every other kid, believing the world must be jealous. Our lives were just static, though in the best way possible; laughter and fun every day, with no fears to hold us back.
I guess it was Courage who we lost first.
Courage had gotten her nickname from the cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog. Historically it had begun as an insult, but within the group it evolved into a term of endearment. The rest of us were good at playing brave, making stupid dares that we'd fake confidence towards. It wasn't true, it was just little kid stuff, showing off. Courage would get scared by things that any kid would be scared of, though we all feigned casualty. Courage was the one who actually was brave, followed through with things when it came down to it. Before the birth of Courage though, there was Sandra. Sandra was the smallest in the class, and that's were the insult came from. She and I were the ones who formed the group really, our friendship anchored down everyone else. We bonded over soccer. No little kid actually knows how to play real soccer, and the ones that do just avoid soccer altogether because no one else gets it. Sandra and I both knew how to play it well, so we played it once together; it made us inseparable.
But, then, Courage packed up and left.
Her departure was over the summer, during a time no one knew about it. None of us found out until the actual day of her moving. The four of us stood on the sidewalk, solemn soldiers watching a red mini-van pull away, holding a sullen, waving Courage inside. No one else quite felt the way I did about it though, it was a mixed bag. Suddenly, I had to hold the group together solo, no partner to help me keep things concrete.
Dexter was the next to go.
We were in the know about it this time though, and in recollection, Dexter was pretty depressed about leaving. Dexter was the quiet component of the group, and around other people, he became intensely secretive. If we hadn't started calling him Dexter when he began to hang out with us, he would have been known as 'That-Weird-Quiet-Kid-In-The-Back-Of-Class' forever. It was the cartoon, that once again, inspired us to the nickname. Dexter got really attached to us, because he had an intense dislike of anything he perceived as stupid, which, as a kid, happens a lot. Again, there was a before time. Before Dexter, there was Barren (we always thought it was odd that his name was spelled as the adjective and not the general name). He was never bullied, but he wasn't exactly liked. He was that kid no one wants to mess with, because you just don't know what the reaction will be. Could he beat you up? You don't know. He adopted us, almost like when a pet owner says that their pet chose them. Obviously, Barren wasn't like a pet, it's just that he began to spend time with us, not the other way around.
He took a liking to us for our 'free projects' at some grade or another. We had each done a piece of one giant project. So, Barren started to sit with us. We eventually tossed him a nick-name, and the slight smile he deigned to grace us with sealed the name. Dexter was chosen as the nickname because of how he was quiet and occasionally secretive. He wasn't secretive about leaving though. Word had gotten around to us all from our parents, a large PTA gossip mill. We didn't have all the facts, but basically, Dexter's dad cheated on his mom, and now Dexter was leaving with his mother to live someplace else. We tried our best to console him, but it wasn't like we could do much. None of us had ever dealt with parental issues such as these, we didn't know what it felt like.
When Dexter left, we all grouped up to hug him. It was like we were trying, each of us, to take a little piece of his sorrow into ourselves, so that he would be happier when gone. We smothered him in a hug of desperation, desperation at not knowing how to help.
We waved goodbye, but he just nodded, facial expressions dead.
It was 5th grade when the group became Pinky, The Brain, and Ash. Pinky and The Brain had a pretty interesting tale, one that kept them utterly entwined.
Melody and Harmony Riece were twin sisters. They grew up in the generic suburbs of some eastern city, with two loving parents, who only divorced once the girls went to college. The sisters went to different colleges, but reconnected after they each reached 'fiance' status with their now husbands. They married within a month of each other, and then moved to the same Texan neighborhood. Their houses were one block away, and Pinky and The Brain were born within a month of each other.
The boys grew up close to one another, always going to the other's house. Soon enough, I was going with them. Most days after school, we'd head to one of their houses. We would always plan for me to stay until 5 o'clock, but every evening it became an emotional ordeal, that led me to staying for 30 more minutes. Most of those 30 minutes were filled with us all blushing and attempting to somehow show affection to one another, though we were all too chicken to hug another at that age.
Pinky was the younger of the cousins. Pinky got his nickname at the same time The Brain did, by my own lips. Pinky was considered the 'less-smart' of the two boys, though it wasn't that he lacked intellect. He had good common sense, even if he could be occasionally dense about school work. He was the joker, class clown kind of kid. He wasn't obnoxious, it was just the way his jokes and comments went. He didn't have witty or gross jokes, more of an in-between. The kind of joking that you do find it funny, but in a 'I can't believe he said that' kind of way. He kept us in earthy humor.
The Brain got his nickname with his humor as well. He was a joker too, but he was the cool kid. He had to be the coolest of us all, and even the popular kids tried to suck up to him. Our lunch times would often start as the three of us, and escalate as more and more kids crowded in; everyone wanting a little touch in the hopes of gaining some of the cool factor. His jokes were always a slam-dunk hilarity, though a lot of them none of the other kids got. We were all a little bit too bright, not saying we were annoying straight-A'ers, more that we were already becoming aware of more pieces of the world than our own bubbles.
Pinky and The Brain gave me my nickname; Ash. In fact, it happened as soon as they had joined the group, after Courage and before Dexter. They had determined I was a floater, even at that young age. Claimed that I fit in all the groups and none at all; all groups would accept me, but I would never fully submerge into any of them. They said it made me like Ash from those early pokemon cartoons. (We would all watch reruns on Saturday mornings and then talk about them at school that Monday.) They said I was like glue, always keeping everyone together, no matter what happened everyone would gravitate back to me. It made me feel special, having them give me my own nickname.
When we hit middle school, we separated. I went to one middle school, and Pinky and The Brain another. It differed from the loss of Courage and Dexter, they didn't leave the state or city. They continued to demand I visit their houses, and gave reenactments of what had happened at various times during school. Often these stories would end with 'wish you could have been there', and we would all make scattered attempts to change the subject. Emotions weren't any of our strong suits.
Before Pinky was Pinky, he was Dylan. Before The Brain was The Brain he was Brian. Where Dylan was the joker, and Brian captain cool, I was smooth sailing. They claimed I rolled with the punches, didn't matter who was speaking, if I saw an opening I took it.
The loss of Pinky and The Brain was the hardest on me. Courage and Dexter were long gone, out of touch, lost. Pinky and The Brain had stayed until freshman year of high school.
They told me they were leaving on a weekend. They had invited me over to play video games, watch movies, eat fattening junk food, and generally have a good time. Near the end of the night, upon my departure, they grabbed me by the front door and told me. They each had mumbled it, but the two voices combined made it clear. I was there when they left, each off to board a different plane to a different state with their family. When we all shared hugs, none of us seemed sure we could let go. It happened anyway.
We stayed in touch though, stayed close. Weekly conference calls, and outrageous stories abounded over the phone and internet. Our group continued on, and we eventually were able to fully cope.
Pinky, The Brain, and Ash. The second version of our group. We always stayed close. Even now.
Providence, Rhode Island
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