The hulk inside me hulks and skulks on the sidelines, waiting for her chance to crash through walls.
Unfortunately for her, my life seldom calls for wall-crashing, so she spends a lot of time waiting. When she gets impatient, a wall sometimes starts to bulge and spider veins appear in the plaster. I have to remind her not to push.
I feel sorry for her, which is probably why, a couple months ago, I invited her to go to a dance class with me. I hoped she’d say no, since dancing isn’t really her skill-set, but she jumped at the chance.
No surprise, she stepped on lots of toes and led more than she followed. Her partners began taking water fountain breaks when it was their turn to dance with her. Even though it’s old-fashioned and sexist, most guys don’t like dancing with someone who might pick them up and break them in half.
Rob was the exception. When my hulk stomped down on his feet, he joked that he’d worn his shoes with a reinforced toe just for her. When he teased her, she laughed her big booming laugh (she’s never had much of an “indoor” voice). My face got hot watching how obvious she made her crush on him when he was clearly just trying to be nice.
Which is why I didn’t invite my hulk to Rob’s housewarming party. I know how she gets when she’s excited: I knew she’d sit too hard on his new couch and break it, or knock into the copper bottomed pans on the hanging rack in the kitchen, denting them and causing a clatter. I felt responsible for protecting his house as well as saving her from embarrassment.
But she didn’t get that I was doing her a favor. She sulked while I dressed and applied a smoky liner (which I don’t let her do since that time she almost poked my eye out). She’s not wordy, but her demeanor can speak volumes. She was accusing me of wanting to “steal” Rob for myself. There were things I could have said in my defense, but I’ve learned it’s pointless to rile her up when I need her to cooperate.
Since my hulk lives inside me, when she won’t cooperate, it’s bad. For the party, I needed her to stay out of sight and not stare at Rob the whole night. I explained—again— that even when people can’t see her staring, they can feel it—and it’s creepy.
When I got to the party, Rob was talking to other guests. I recognized two people from our dance class, but they were close-dancing and didn’t look like they wanted to be interrupted so I pretended to be interested in a drinking game some guys were playing in a corner, though I couldn’t figure out the rules. My hulk poked me hard in the side to remind me I’d said staring is creepy.
But then a familiar song played and Rob came over and asked me to dance. Even though we were just playing around, I was careful not to step on his toes. He joked, “What did you do with that girl who takes the lead?” I felt my hulk lurch forward, but I mentally pushed her back, assuring her that his disappointment was only mock —no guy really wants to be swung around, out of control.
When the song ended, Rob and I went to his new sofa, where I sat down gently, not breaking any springs. As he sat beside me, he complimented my eyeliner. I thanked him in my “inside voice” and batted my eyes. Rob moved a little closer. My hulk gave a little gasp, and I thought— see?—wanting her to admit I’d been right.
But then, she was gone. Suddenly, I couldn’t feel her creepy, hulking, presence. Fine, whatever. Just because she was being a drama queen didn’t mean I had to stop.
But before Rob’s lips could touch mine, I stood. “Excuse me,” I said, “I just need to—” and
I fled to the bathroom to deal with my annoying Hulk.
Hulk? I waited, but she didn’t answer. Rob’s bathroom was nicer than most guys’ bathrooms, with a waste-basket, a scented candle and a bowl of glass marbles on the back of the toilet.
Nothing happened, I told her, why are you making a big deal about this?
No response. So annoying.
I couldn’t stay in the bathroom all night, so I cracked open the door. Rob was still sitting on the sofa. I could go back to Rob and deal with my hulk later, or make a lame excuse and leave.
This was the choice I was pondering when the aliens invaded.
At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing: Lizard-like creatures half-climbed, half-slithered through the open window by the snack table, knocking guac, salsa and macarons to the floor on their way to the center of the room.
Then one of the aliens stood upright. It was about seven-feet tall, with red, malevolent eyes.
Most of the guests immediately screamed and ran out the front door.
But the group doing shots in the corner took longer to notice. When they did, they squinted up at the alien, grinning, as if it was a joke. One guy, wearing expensive sweatpants, laughed as he asked “What the hell are you?” and threw an artisanal beer in the alien’s face. His friends laughed and threw their drinks, too. Maybe they thought the alien would dissolve like in that one movie, but it just looked wet and pissed off, which made them laugh more. The alien raised a claw-hand and pointed at the guys.
The other aliens stood on their hind legs. They were also tall and scary… and carrying ray-guns.
A few seconds later, there were burn holes in each of the drink-throwers, as well as in the braided area rug they were heaped on. No one was laughing.
Rob was still on the couch. I could tell he was in shock—unmoving, staring at the pile of burn-marked bodies. “Come on!” I whispered under my breath, willing him to climb over the back of the sofa and hide. But he remained, frozen, which I understood, because while in my mind I was doing something—like throwing marbles from the glass bowl to distract the aliens so we could run— in reality, I was glued to my spot, doing nothing.
Slowly the alien leader turned his lizard-head, scanning the room. Its glowing red eyes came to rest on Rob and it began to lift its arm, to point its claw-like finger…
And that’s when my hulk crashed through the wall!
She landed on two of the aliens, snapping one of their ray-guns in half, kicking the other across the room. She threw the alien leader out the window, in a shower of shattering glass. (Yes, it crossed my mind she could have used the already-open window instead, but I know when to hold my tongue.)
“COME. ON!” she said, in her yelling, outside voice, which was exactly what was needed to snap Rob from his trance. When she leaned down, he instinctively wrapped his arms around her neck so she could more easily carry him.
She held him protectively as she shielded the remaining guests from more ray-gun blasts that bounced off her. She smashed through a few more walls, leading us out of the building, into the night.
Now we’ve put some miles between ourselves and the aliens, and we’re walking through the woods with other people who’ve escaped the city. No one knows how widespread the alien invasion is or what’s going to happen next.
Rob takes our hand and squeezes. My hulk squeezes back, hard enough to pop knuckles. He’s okay with that.
And so am I.