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“So how do you know?”
I know because of this:
I am in the tree in the yard of the house on the corner. It’s a hot summer day. A summer day that’s wet in your memory, with all the water, you know. My knee is bleeding. I am looking over my kingdom. I am victorious over the others.
I am in elementary school and me and two others never do anything but play animals. The hill next to the playground is red-rock and I dig at it. I want it under my nails. When playing with a tennis ball, someone outpaces me in the game and I shriek at them. My lips curl, my teeth are bared. It’s important to do this. I can’t just yell at them, then they wouldn’t get it. This is my first instinct.
I am in the backyard of my friends, or the group that’s my friends by default. Lovely lovely place backed into woodland, lots of bracken and a stream, jump from bank to bank. We’re playing animals. You can’t cross this boundary, this is my territory. This is mine. An absolute rush of rightness.
I am in the house of my friends, and we’re playing, and I crawl under the table to hiss at anything that comes near as part of the game. In my head there’s a script on how I want this to go, I want others to get down with me and snarl back, I want to play-fight and wrestle, I want. It never gets that far.
Why don’t they find this as fun as I do? Why aren’t they taking this seriously?
I carry the play home. I hide under furniture. I’m an animal. I’m an animal, I’m not human, I haven’t been human since I was six and realized that’s what I was. This is a constant in my head, I’m not human, or at least I’m somehow different from those around me.
I bite and chew on the edges of tables. I get on top of tables to rest.
At amusement parks and playgrounds, I am a cunning, sneaky predator, hiding and leaping out and knowing exactly what I am and not knowing that it’s not going away, ever.
Why doesn’t anyone want to play the same way I do?
The laser pointer at home is for the cats. I chase it too, trying to explain to my mother beforehand that it feels good and it’s fun. It’s fun to do something like this.
I find out on the Internet that some people like to dress up like animals and have fun costumes and I’m thinking of the day when I’m an adult and have money and can have my own lion head.
I want a tail. I want a soft furred tail. I want ears and I want paws. I want ears that move with my emotions. I want I want I want. I buy claw gauntlets.
I headbutt my friends. In a certain space, easy platonic affection is encouraged, and I use that for all it’s worth. I headbutt my friends in the shoulder to say I love you. I lick the back of my hand and when I get cuts I do the same and sometimes I do it just to taste the salt of my skin. There’s nothing about my body that’s gross. My hands are my best utensil and I lick them clean.
I pick things up with my teeth when I can. I make it a joke, in the lunchroom, that I bite what I’m allowed to. I pick up my cellphone with my mouth. Maybe it’s a joke. Inside it’s just the thing to do.
I paw at the sand of the volleyball pit.
All of my motions trace back to this, this instinct, that I rarely pay attention to. I hiss when I can get away with it. Others comment on my way of eating and my positioning when I stand up and how I scratch my head and how my eyes crinkle when I smile. I strip meat apart.
It’s natural. I’m choosing it because it’s the right thing to do, not because I want to be it.
When I startle, my back straightens and my head snaps towards the noise. I keep my head and eyes in that direction, blinking, until I know nothing’s there. I slowly calm, I slowly back down. My family jokes about this.
When I eat alone in my room I do so on the floor. When I lie down I fold my knees under myself and then let my body lower to the side, curling up. If I trust you I flop over onto my back.
When I’m running, I feel lacking, like I’m missing some power behind my movements. I love the speed, but I love the feeling of pushing off of something more. I go down under the bleachers during a game in the night, it’s good and warm and there’s plenty of people, only one or two others under the stands and I think they have the same awareness I do. It smells like fried food. I’m prowling. I stay hidden because that should be the default.
I sit at the window with my spine straight and my hands on the floor in front of me, neatly curled. It’s just not overt enough to be suspicious.
I hum and growl and make click-ticking noises to myself, when working by myself. I discover how to purr by setting my tongue back and trill this whenever I’m happy about something.
I don’t train myself out of picking things up with my mouth until I’m eighteen.
Why don’t I ever see others moving and walking and eating the same way? Why can’t there be others like me?
If you met me, I can guarantee you wouldn't know.
I nudge my head against my partner to say I love you.