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SOUL Survivor
Gary Smith
December 02, 2002
For almost two years Washington State receiver Devard Darling has been haunted by the need to find the spirit of his deceased identical twin, lifelong teammate and best friend, Devaughn.
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December 02, 2002

Soul Survivor

For almost two years Washington State receiver Devard Darling has been haunted by the need to find the spirit of his deceased identical twin, lifelong teammate and best friend, Devaughn.

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But they're torn today, because it's Sunday. Torn between the joy of jiggling on Daddy's knees in front of the TV and catapulting off when his beloved Miami Dolphins score touchdowns and watching emotions they didn't know he had pour out of him—and the bliss of pretending to be Miami Dolphins scoring touchdowns in the big backyard. Look at 'em bolt, man: Speed and agility are in their blood. Their cousin Frank will soon become the first Bahamian ever to win an Olympic track and field medal, a bronze in the triple jump in Barcelona in 1992, and a three-time NCAA champ at the University of Houston. Their older brother, Dennis, will captain Houston's track team and twice win the 200 and 400 meters in the Conference USA indoor championships. Their aunt Yvonne would've been a cinch to make the '64 Olympics in the sprints if she hadn't gotten pregnant, and their great-uncle George Knowles won the European Commonwealth's middleweight boxing crown. Those two long-armed rascals even run the same, trained by cousin Frank on his visits from Houston, their wrists flicking up on the back-swing as if they're shooing gnats riding in their draft.

Let 'em pretend to be Marino and Duper in the yard. They don't know yet that kids like them can't play in the NFL because there's no high school football in the Bahamas. They don't know yet that their upper-middle-class life as the sons of the Bahamas' deputy treasurer—maid, two cars, private schools, big-screen TV, vacations at Disney World—will be shattered in just a few years, that the cops will surge through the front door at 5 a.m. and Daddy will end up in handcuffs on the front page of the Bahamian Tribune, wrongly accused after $2 million vanishes from the national treasury. That their parents' marriage will crumble, even after Daddy is found innocent in court, and they'll drift with Mummy from house to house, unable to pay the electric bill even though she works as a government clerk by day and delivers pizzas at night—the butter floating in the ice cooler is how brother Dennis will describe their altered state.

Devard stared at their old home, rubbing the wetness from his eyes, then turned and trudged away. His half-soul wasn't there.


Have you ever had someone you could lie down in the dark with and talk to about anything? Maybe you're lucky. Maybe you have.

He was me and I was him, says Devard. Devard was the shy and quiet twin, the one few could imagine pouring out his heart to anyone, at any hour. The one who'd softly talk Devaughn out of sacking their toy bank and blowing their life's savings on candy bars, the one a few minutes older and wiser but assured enough to let Devaughn function as the leader. Their grandfather, a Baptist minister, predicted that Devard would become a preacher too.... So what in the Lord's name was the silent, sober one doing now, returning to the house his family had moved into on the outskirts of Houston and screaming a name in the middle of the night: Devaughn! ...DEVAUGHN!

There he is, pile-driving Devard's rear end right through the bedroom wall and apologizing in the same grunt—the dispute settled before the dust has. It's here that they show what they're made of, immigrants thrown into the swarm after their world collapsed in Nassau and their divorced mother turned north, to America, with her 12-year-old twins and two daughters. Here where they learn to mimic Mummy, who just keeps taking blows, smiling and stepping into tomorrow. Here where they grab mops at night to help her swab the library and the courthouse in Sugarland for a few bucks an hour, then sardine together at bedtime, all six of them—Mummy, the twins, Monique and Stacey and Stacey's child, Rashayne—into one bedroom, where Mummy will dip her finger into olive oil and anoint their foreheads, and then they'll link hands and pray and fall asleep.

Father, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, school, status, home: The twins lost so much when they left behind the Bahamas. What can America possibly offer to compensate?

Football! Daddy's favorite! Shoulder pads, hip pads, helmets, jerseys, cleats: The twins adorn themselves in these sacred new vestments, unsure whether to howl in delight or kneel in reverence. Well, then, Devaughn could howl and Devard could kneel, for distinct personalities have emerged in Sugarland, their twoness as well as their oneness. Devaughn's their mouthpiece in this new world. The one who makes all the phone calls, the jokes, the peace. He'll croon the corniest songs and dance the silliest dance without blushing: "The Big Man Dance!" he'll bellow, remaining motionless except for thrusting his chest out and in, and soon everyone will be flushed out of the shadows, boogying around the big teddy bear.

Funny thing, though. The girls Devaughn flushes from cover usually go for the silent one, the mystery man: Devard. The brothers harvest each other's fruits that way. Devard can hang back and feel his way, pulled along in Devaughn's bubbly wake. Devaughn can let his impulses howl, knowing Devard will whisper in his ear if they howl too loud.

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