© 2000 Rogue
The following is not a story, per se. It is merely a collection of letters written by Nekobe to his sister Lyell during his first few months at school in America. They are presented here for no better reason than perhaps to give the reader a better understanding of Nekobe's thoughts and emotions as he adjusted to his new environment.
I finally arrived in America! The trip was quite an adventure. I lost my way in the airport in Germany. The signs were very confusing. I thought I was where I was supposed to be, but there was nobody at the gate and no airplane outside. I could not find anyone who spoke English or Swahili. Maybe they were just afraid of me. I know you said that people might react strangely to me but I wish you had told me what you meant by "strangely." Most of them seemed to want to pretend I was not there. I expected them to be frightened so I was trying to be as unintimidating as I could be, but most of them just shook their heads or waved their hands and hurried on. Luckily, I found a very kind Japanese businessman who spoke English and was willing to help me. He said that he had heard about our people and had always wanted to meet one of us. It is so strange -- a huge crowd of people who preferred not to see me, and then one single man who could not get enough of me. Is this how it is going to be with everyone in this country, too? Should I get used to it?
Anyway, Mr. Nomura (that was his name) insisted on walking me to my plane. It turned out that I was in the wrong terminal. He made sure that I got to the right gate in time. Then he insisted on buying me something to eat. I tried to tell him what you told me about eating around humans, especially Americans or Europeans, but he was so kind that I could not refuse. He bought me a hamburger which was the most vile and grotesque thing I have ever been forced to choke down, but I had to do it with a smile. It is the thought that counts, after all. Mr. Nomura gave me his card and told me to visit him if I ever go to Japan. I am going to send him a thank-you letter once I am settled.
Right now I am at the airport in New York waiting for my next flight. I saw the Statue of Liberty from the air. I was so excited! It was such a moving sight for me, but it was spoiled when I got into the airport and saw all the cheap souvenirs they have with her picture on them. There were little plastic replicas that were so poorly made that she looked like some sort of Martian, and glasses and shirts and even a toilet seat. (!!!!) I could hardly believe that they would be so disrespectful. It is troubling to me that Americans do not realize what a wonderful message she delivers and that it is only people like me from other countries who can appreciate it.
They are calling my flight. I will write once I get to school. Thank you so much for all the things you taught me. I think I will need them. America is a very, very strange place.
Your loving brother,
I am very homesick. I have been at the university for four days and have had all of my orientations, and now we are supposed to socialize with the other students. That is giving me trouble. I am friendly to them and most of them are friendly back, but I can sense many unpleasant things from them. Some of them are afraid; some of them avoid me. The ones who talk to me mostly seem to think I am some sort of amusement. They make me feel like I am part of some freak show. It is not everyone, of course, but there are a lot. They all keep a certain distance no matter what, both figuratively and literally. To be fair, I suppose that growing up with the Masai has gotten me used to humans, but to the people here I must seem like an alien. I just wish they would not treat me like one. I had thought that I would fit in better with some of the African-descended students, but I find that they are very American. They also have some very bizarre idea of what it means to be African. Some of the things they say make me feel very uncomfortable.
Right now I am staying in a little room in something they call "International House." It is bare and depressing. I think that the room I stayed in at the YMCA in Nairobi was nicer. The bed is too small, too, and I do not sleep well on it. About the only thing that makes me able to tolerate it is that my treasured sister told me to expect these things, and that everything would get better in time. I trust you -- I just hope "in time" happen soon.
I am going to go to the Dean's Office tomorrow to apply for assistance in getting an off-campus apartment.
I wish I could get a letter to Father and ask him to send me a bottle of clean African air and a box of grass. What they call "grass" here is pitiful, and the air has so many unfamiliar and unpleasant smells in it. I can not imagine ever getting used to breathing it.
Still, I guess things are not all bad. At least there are no gangsters or Indians around the university (remember how worried I was about that?) The movies were very misleading. Well, there are Indians, but they are actually very nice and dress just like the other Americans. Of all the people here, they seem to be more accepting of me than anyone else.
They have some rooms set up on campus with computers that anyone can use. I still want to have my own, though. I want to get a job so that I can earn enough money to buy one for myself. The stipend from my scholarship is enough to pay for an apartment and for food, but it really would not be enough for a computer. Besides, I want it to be something that I earned myself.
It is getting hard to see the paper. The light from the white tubes in here is just terrible and gives me a headache. I will write more later.
With all my love,
Yesterday was great! There is a fat old Futu woman who works in the Administration Building. She is very bright and loves to laugh and we became friends right away. She called me a "kitten," which at first was a little disquieting, but she has such a cheerful smile when she says it that I can not imagine she means to insult me. She said that she was going to work on getting me an apartment. Everyone calls her "Miss Eva." She does not seem to mind at all that I am not human, and in fact she seems thrilled that I am not. It seems that now I have a friend I can talk to, and maybe very soon I will have a more comfortable place to sleep.
When I was finished in her office, she sent me to an office building and told me to talk to a Mr. McCreedy. He gave me a job right away! It does not pay as much money as I would have hoped for and it is not very glamorous, but it will help me save for my computer. I will be working as a custodian four nights a week
I decided to try going to the cafeteria today for food since it is cheaper there. Everything they had was burned, even the vegetables. I cannot fathom how humans can stomach it. What is more, the woman behind the counter would not serve my meat raw even when I asked her to. She said that regulations prohibited her and that she would get in trouble. I did not want that, so I left and went to the butcher shop like I always do. I hope I do not wind up spending all of my money on food.
Classes start tomorrow so I should go to bed early. I have taken the blankets from off of the bed and put them on the floor. It is more comfortable than trying to fit myself into that little bed.
Your loving brother,
I cannot thank you enough, my beloved sister, for the money you sent to me! I did not really need it, but how could I refuse such a generous present? I cannot ever pay you back, except to make you proud of me, and I hope very much that I am successful in that. I have used much of it to buy myself a car. It is battered and rusty, but it works and it was very inexpensive. I also needed it badly, because...
...I HAVE AN APARTMENT!!!
It is a wonderful place! Miss Eva helped me to get it. She actually came to my economics class when it was ending and said to me, "I got a place for you, Kitten, if you want to see it." Of course I wanted to see it! It is a small apartment in the same building that she lives in. The landlord did not look very pleased with me and first said that he did not think it was a suitable apartment for me, and then he said that someone else had already asked to rent it. If only you could have seen Miss Eva in action! She is a very sweet and happy old lady, but before my eyes she turned herself into a Zulu warrior. She shouted at the man in a voice so loud it sounded more like it was coming from one of our people than from a human woman. (hu-man wo-man...is that redundant?) When she was finished with him the man was even whiter than before and said that he was only expressing his opinion and that he would be more than happy to rent it to me. Apparently the "other person" had not really decided yet and had only been looking. I learned later on that Miss Eva was at one time a leader in the fight against this country's version of Apartheid. I can see now why the fight has been so successful. She is my hero!
The apartment is not big, but compared to my little dorm room it is a palace. It even has furniture. The only thing that disappointed me was the bed, but Miss Eva took me to a store where I used some of the money you gave me to buy a big mattress. It is still not my size, but I can fit upon it if I lie diagonally across it. "We ought to put you on the basketball team," Miss Eva said. It sounds like fun, but I do not think I have much time for sports. I have to study very hard to make my cherished and generous sister proud of me!
PS: Could you send me one of your graduation pictures?
Things have been going very well. I have had a few tests by now and got good grades on all of them. I have decided that I want to study linguistics. Have you ever really watched humans move their mouths when they speak? They rely so much on their tongue and lips. I am interested in seeing how our speech differs from theirs -- physically, I mean. It might give some insights into helping both humans and leonines who have speech problems.
My custodial job is a little dull but I make the best of it. My duties include emptying the trash cans, vacuuming the rugs, cleaning the bathrooms and waxing the floors. I get paid for five hours each night, but Mr. McCreedy said that if I finish early, I am welcome to stay and do my homework; just as long as I do not leave early, I will be paid. It is very generous of him, and it is nice to be paid to study! I usually finish in about two hours, sometimes a little more. That gives me more than two hours to work on my assignments and still leaves time for me to go to the computer center afterward.
Last night I found something intriguing near the trash bin. It was crumpled up in a ball and I opened it up just out of curiosity. Believe it or not, it was a picture of me! I do not know who drew it, but it is very flattering. I straightened it out again and hung it up in my "office." I really would like to know who drew it.
I love my apartment. I hope that you might be able to visit sometime and see it, although I know you are very busy. The shower is the best part. Hot, hot water! I could stay in there all day and all night. I have bought a little alarm clock to put in the bathroom to make certain I do not do just that. Miss Eva gave me a set of dishes and some silverware as a housewarming present. I did not have the heart to tell her that I do not use silverware, so I quietly gave it to a student from Singapore who needed it more than me. He is a nice fellow, but he works all the time so I rarely get to talk to him.
Thinking back, I should have kept the silverware. Who knows? Maybe some day soon I will have some human visitors (I wish!). Oh, brace yourself, but Miss Eva also bought me some cat food. Ugh! She really meant well by it and I admit that it is better than hamburgers, but I do not think I will be eating much of it.
My psychology professor has asked me if I would share some of my experiences with her regarding how humans react to me. She is very candid and pleasant and I like her a lot. She was curious to know if there is a "racial fear" in human people for our people. I told her that I did not think so since the Masai never seemed to mind us, even the children. She asked me if I would write down my experiences for her. I'm going to tell her about Mr. Nomura, Miss Eva, my Singaporean friend and some of the other people I've met. I think that yes, people are afraid of us not because we look like predators to them, but more because we are so very different. Americans more than anybody hate new things and do not like to be surprised. That, I believe, is why many of them have that bizarre stand-away reaction to me. They do not know how to deal with something so far removed from what is normal to them. By the way, I get extra credit for writing all this down. I may need it. Human psychology makes absolutely no sense.
The leaves are beginning to turn very bright colors. To my surprise I have started to get used to the bad smells in the air, and there is a new one now, one that I cannot describe but which I like a lot. It is much like cut grass, but sharper. I am sure you know which one I mean. I am even more eager for Autumn to arrive in force now, and I cannot wait to see Winter. I hope it snows!
America is looking better. Thank you again for your words of advice. They really have helped me to settle in to this Brave New World (which I have to read for Literature class. Boring!).
Your loving brother,
I just finished looking at some essays for my English composition class. The idea is that we are supposed to critique each others' work. I hardly know what to say about these. Two are written by Americans and are so bad that I can hardly read them. The third is written by a girl from Japan, and her English is immeasurably better. It is very strange. Some of the people who have been speaking the language for years are acting like they are learning it for the first time. How did they get into college?
There has been a nice surprise for your poor lonely brother: I finally met the person who drew that picture of me. He is a male human who works in one of the offices. I think I remember seeing him about a week ago, or a little more, while I was making my rounds. He bumped into me just this evening (almost literally!) and asked if he could talk with me for a little while. You should have seen him. He was nervous and shivering but tried to hide it. It was not the same kind of discomfort that I feel from most of the other humans here, though; it was more as though he was excited to have made my acquaintance. I figured that since he was so eager to talk with me, and since he obviously admired me enough to draw my picture, the least I could do was invite him to chat a while.
I am very glad I did. We had a long conversation in the janitor's closet where I do my studying. He is very curious about our people, which is not out of the ordinary, but here is the fascinating thing: he had never heard of us before, and he had never seen me before that one night. The picture that he drew was not supposed to be me -- it was simply someone that he had always wanted to meet. The coincidence is really amazing. I suppose that is why he was so nervous. I would be, too.
Except for Miss Eva, it was the very first time since I got here that I have felt comfortable talking with an American. His unease was understandable, and it did not put me off. In fact, I really feel flattered. There was some quality about him -- I cannot really say what it was, but I really enjoyed his company. He was so full of questions about Africa and our people, and it was real interest, not the sort of gawkery I'd gotten used to from the other students. It sounds strange to say, I suppose, but talking with him, I felt almost as though we had known each other for all of our lives and were seeing each other again after a long absence. In fact, that is sort of scary when you think about it. Maybe we were both banana slugs in a past life together (haha)!
Anyway, the photographs that are enclosed are of my car and the apartment. The lady next to the car is Miss Eva. I'm sure that you would like her. I have had copies made of the photos and have sent them to Father. Let's just hope he gets them before I graduate. Developing the film is a little more expensive than I had thought, so it might be a little while before I can send more. Maybe instead I will ask Shawn to draw a picture or two for you.
This is a very difficult letter. I have been very worried about writing it but I need to talk about some things. I am scared that what I have to say will upset you or make you think that I am some kind of monster. I can't bear that thought, but I have to tell someone this and I thought that you, more than anyone, would understand. Please do not be angry with me for it. I feel very unsure and ashamed of myself, and I need your wisdom.
I told you in my last letter about Shawn. I ran into him again earlier in the week and we talked some more while I was working. We got onto the topic of his artwork, and I got the idea to invite him over to my apartment so that he could draw a leonine from a live model, and not from an idea in his head. He came over this weekend and we started out just talking for a while. Then I posed for him so he could draw.
I do not really understand why, but I offered to pose for him in the nude. I think that somewhere, deep down inside, I wanted to. I mean that for some reason I somehow wanted him to see me nude. I did not think about that at the time, though, only afterward. When I took my clothes off, right away I smelled the scent of unyege from Shawn. It was like being hit by lightning as I realized that he was feeling some unnatural attraction for me. What is most upsetting is that while I thought I would be disgusted, I found instead that I was starting to feel the same kind of attraction for him. I was stunned! I knew that it was wrong and I tried to put it out of my mind, but I couldn't ignore it. The more I tried to make it go away the stronger it got. It occurred to me that I had smelled unyege on him when I had invited him over, but I had not paid attention. Now that I have had time to reflect, I think that at the time, deep inside, I wanted him to be attracted to me.
At the time, though, I did not know what was going on or why I was feeling the way I was. I should not be feeling such things for a human, much less another male. But it was overwhelming. I should have been asking him to leave, but instead I kept making excuses to touch him. I couldn't help it. He noticed that I was doing it and said that it was okay, and things just happened all on their own from there. We wound up in the bedroom, holding each other, and then before I knew what was happening we were getting very intimate. He stayed for two days after that, and we spent most of that time together in bed.
I can imagine how this must shock you and I am very, very sorry. I do not even understand how I let things go as far as they did. Here we were, two males, not even the same species, and we were mating -- and yet while we were doing it, nothing seemed at all unnatural. It was as if he was one of our people, and what we were doing was perfectly reasonable and ordinary. It felt wonderful, in fact. I didn't want him ever to go away. It all seemed so right while I was holding him.
But now that he has gone home the magnitude of what I have done is finally registering. Even now there is a rational part of my mind that is roaring that what we did was just plain obscene, but even while I am telling myself that, I cannot wait to see him again. It is like I am being torn apart inside by what I know is right, and what I can't resist.
Lyell, is something wrong with me? Please, dear sister, do not hate me for this. I am very confused and I do not know what to think now. I feel so awkward telling you the details, but who else can I turn to? I keep thinking of how Father reacted when you brought Jeremy home. Can you imagine what he would say if he were to find that his son, too, was mating with a human, and a male one at that?
Please write back soon. I need help. I want Shawn to come back. I want to hold him again. I want to feel him and mate with him, and those desires terrify me. I can't stand thinking about them, and I can't make them go away. I do not know what to do.
I just pray that this whole thing will not turn you away from me, Big Sister. I really need you now.
Thank you, THANK YOU! I love you more than any lion could ever love his sister. Your phone call made me feel like a crushing weight had been taken off of my body. I am sorry to have kept you on the line so long, but hearing your voice was the best medicine for my soul. You are the greatest sister in the world!
It cannot tell you how relieved I was when you told me that you understood. That meant more to me than anything in the world. I was so afraid that you would react strongly. Thank you also for sharing your experiences you had with Jeremy. They were helpful lessons for me, as awkward as I imagine it must have been for you to talk about them with your brother. I guess that being attracted to human males must run in the family, wouldn't you say? (haha!)
But Shawn is different for me. I do not have any attraction to humans in general -- just this one. I wish I knew what it was about him so I could put it into words. Maybe I see him as a lion. He looks a little like one, after all, and his spirit is more leonine than human. I guess I should just place my faith in your wise words: "Your instincts will tell you when you have found your mate." I think that they are trying to tell me that right now. I cannot imagine being with anyone else but Shawn.
Do not worry, though. I am taking all of your cautions to heart, especially what you said about the differences between love and infatuation. I know that having such strong feelings might just be a reaction to having felt so lonely of late, but I have been trying very hard to look at things objectively. There is something else here that goes well beyond simple joy at not being lonely anymore. There are other humans that I could call friends. Not one of them affected me the way that Shawn did, though. I've never before felt such an instant attraction to someone I had only just met.
Why did you think you had to warn me not to tell Father? Do I look suicidal to you?? There are some times when it is true that ignorance is bliss. I am certain that he would be very unhappy to learn that his son has the same choice in mates as his daughter does. I see no reason right now to make him upset, or to see him hang my skin on the wall. Still, it hurts to know that he would be ashamed of me if he found out. Don't I recall him once telling me that I will be what I am made to be, and that I am only deceiving myself if I try to be instead what others make me to be? I wish I could remind Father of those words now. I do not dare, though, remembering how strongly he reacted when you brought Jeremy home.
I need to ask this: when you were with Jeremy, did it make you feel dizzy, almost like you were falling? Holding Shawn does that to me. I am thrilled by his touch. His skin is so smooth and warm, and the little bit of fur that is on it is so downy and soft that it is like air. A few months ago if someone told me that I would get such delight out of touching a human I would have laughed out loud. I always thought that humans were rather ugly, and the thought of all that skin with so little fur used to make me shudder. Imagine how confused I was when I found myself smelling of unyege when I was with one of them. But like I said, Shawn is different. To me he is not human. He's just... Shawn.
I am surprised that I do not feel more awkward talking about these things. Maybe I should not be discussing such intimate details with my sister; but then, it helps to know that you have been through the same sorts of things as I am going through now. I am so glad you understand and that you are willing to accept your brother's strange desires. I do not think I would have been able to accept them myself if you had not given me your support.
Your very grateful and loving brother,
It has been a little while since I wrote last. Sorry! I have had a lot of time to reflect on many things, and I am pleased to report that your cub-brother is at peace with himself. I know now who I am and what I want from life. It would not have happened without your gentle guidance and encouragement, and I am forever in your debt for it. Now more than ever, I am determined to make you proud.
I am even beginning to feel at home here, even though it is starting to get colder outside. I am glad that you made me buy lots of heavy clothing. I have still not gotten used to the American styles. The sleeves are tight and they ruffle my fur the wrong way when I pull my shirt on, but it keeps the wind away.
Of course, I also have my Shawn to keep me warm at night. We are spending so much more time together. It turns out that he has exactly the same feelings for me as I have for him. He says that all of his life he has been dreaming about someone like me. That sounds like a line someone would use in a bar, I know, but he means it literally. The picture that I found in the garbage (which I still have safely tucked away in a drawer at home) is ample evidence of that. It was a picture of someone that Shawn thought was imaginary and that he longed to be close to, but then to his surprise I appeared and brought his dream to life. The fact that I in turn felt such an immediate attraction for him (even if I did not recognize it right away) leads me to believe that our meeting was not just accidental. It's almost as though we are characters in a story being written by some author who wants it to have a happy ending.
Personally, I think it is juju. How else to explain it? Do you suppose Father is behind it? No, it could not be. If it were Father's doing, Shawn would be a leonine female and I would have 25 cubs by now. Whoever it is, though, I am grateful to him.
There is always the thought in my mind that this is just an infatuation and that some time the juju is going to wear off. That has not happened yet, though. Every time I greet him, every night I spend with him is just like the very first night all over again. He feels the same way. Our bodies fit together perfectly when we lie in bed, almost as though they were made that way. We live entire lives together every single evening. How can juju that strong ever go away?
Shawn will be here soon. I am going to lurk in the dark and pounce on him when he comes home. It's a little game that we play. Often we act like a couple of cubs when we are together, but I think it speaks of the incredible joy we bring to each other.
Now for an embarrassing but important question: how many times was Jeremy able to make love to you in one night? Shawn claims that he can muster no more than three before he is exhausted. I am curious if it is the same for all humans, or if I should send him to a doctor. I have tried to squeeze a little more out of him, but he is awfully tired in the morning when I do that. Maybe with practice I can work him up to five or six. But if two or three is normal for human males, then I will not try to push him too hard.
Despite his physical faults, though, he is still irresistible to me. Our physical bodies do not mean anything when we are together (not that we do not enjoy each other's). Our spirits are meant for one another; I am now certain of that. I know that Father would disapprove, and so would a lot of the people around here, but I do not care. I intend to be with Shawn for the rest of my life. Having him by my side makes me unbelievably happy, and if one cannot be happy, then what is the point?
Your loving brother,
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