'Your Kind' by Dan Brook
You are out on your own, having left your mama, who was left by your dada, but you don’t ever think about it anymore. Actually, you never did. You enjoy your neighborhood and you have never left it. You are familiar with the streets and many of the inhabitants. It’s the whole world to you, yet you don’t stay in any one place too long within it. Except when you’re sleeping. And you sleep as much as you can.
Indeed, it seems that the whole purpose of roaming your neighborhood — walking along this street, cutting through that yard — is ultimately to find yet another safe place to curl up and take a nap. Ideally, it is a sunny spot that warms you all over. Ah, to flop down when the moment feels right, wherever you are, and to doze off in that special spot. To sleep, perchance to dream. Such freedom, such a sweet life. What else do you need?
Well, you also need to eat. You walk around Gion, neither knowing nor caring that Kyoto was Japan’s capital city for a thousand years before it moved to Tokyo. What good would that do you anyway? How would it fill your belly?
Hoping to get some food, you pass businessmen in a rush. You gaze up at them, giving your cutest look, yet they don’t even notice you. They move so quickly, you think, that maybe they have forgotten the meaning of life. As you amble along, you pass some foreign tourists. They look different, they look up, they look around, and they look confused. They finally look at you, but they say strange things that you don’t understand. You don’t need that, so you scamper away from them, turn a corner, and feel a little better being away. But you are still hungry. You pass a group of geisha with their painted faces, elaborate kimono, wooden geta on their feet. They look at you and say things in a high voice that sound sweet. One of the geisha calls you Keiko for some reason and then they turn to each other and giggle. You fail to see what is so funny.
You go on your way. Sometimes tall ones will give you rice. You don’t really understand rice, you don’t especially like the smell of rice, and you certainly don’t enjoy the taste of rice, but you eat it all the same when you’re hungry. That’s life, right?
Ah, but when you come to the shop of Kazutaka, you have arrived. Kazutaka is a tall one among tall ones. When he gives you tuna, whatever that stuff is, you are soooo happy. Mmmmm, you just love the smell, the taste, the texture. What’s not to love about fresh tuna, you think, especially when it comes with a little skin? Mmmmm. When you bother to think about it all, you feel that you were made for tuna and tuna — what the tall ones call tsuna — was made for you.
It is quite nice when Shizuka gives you liver, to be sure, because that is also a treat. And Shizuka doesn’t make a fuss like Kazutaka does, which you appreciate. You wonder why Kazutaka has to change his voice to a higher pitch, get all excited, and sing a little song each time. You imagine that tuna must be his favorite food, too, and he simply cannot contain his own happiness in sharing his dearest treasure and singing its praises. You would prefer he get straight to business, but you forgive him easily each time you get your preferred delicacy.
Shizuka is quiet, which is how you believe all tall ones should be. She rarely speaks to you and when she does, it is only a soft word or two, sometimes barely audible. Shizuka always bows to you before giving you the liver and that makes you feel special, even though you don’t know why. But liver is not tuna and never will be. You are sure that everyone must know that, even the tall ones, but they apparently forget this simple fact so often. And then you remember that the tall ones might be the tallest, but they are clearly not the smartest. Perhaps, you reflect compassionately, they are as smart as they need to be for themselves and that is good enough, you suppose.
Shizuka seems lonely, but it doesn’t make sense to you. You enjoy being alone most of the time. Whether tall ones like Kazutaka and Shizuka or short ones like you, sure, they have their time and place, but you need your you time. And your you time is mostly spent sleeping, which you believe is the pinnacle of civilization.
You have been called many things in your time. Yoko, Mayumi, Himari, Ichika, Akari, often Neko. You have been called other things, too, but you do not care to think about that, let alone repeat it. Many tall ones look at you and say “nya, nya”. Stranger-looking tall ones like to say “meow” to you. You have learned that these weird-sounding utterances are how they think you talk. But you know you don’t talk like that at all! Those tall ones are not too clever, you’ve realized. Ha, they don’t even sleep in the sunshine like you do! But some of them are kind, even if they are not quite your kind.
Now that you’ve had a good meal after scurrying around your area of Kyoto, you are getting sleepy again, so you meander off to find a nearby spot for some afternoon slumber. Full of belly and tired of body, it is hard to even think straight. Ah, but there’s a good spot in a garden, with sun on the rock. You put your back to the flat side of the warm rock, stretch out your four legs as long as they can go, then bring them back, scrunch yourself together, and out you go to dreamland.
Copyright. Dan Brook.
Dan Brook teaches in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at San Jose State University in California, from where he organizes the Hands on Thailand program. His most recent books are Harboring Happiness: 101 Ways To Be Happy (Beacon, 2021), Sweet Nothings (Hekate, 2020), about the nature of haiku and the concept of nothing, and Eating the Earth: The Truth About What We Eat (Smashwords, 2020).