|Ever Have a Feeling It's Going to be One of Those Days?
by Andrew Kaiser
© Andrew Kaiser -- all rights reserved
"Here" I really hate the first day of classes. I always have.
"Is there, uh, any nickname you go by or Leon or Leonardo or..." The professor trailed off, looking hopeful.
"No. My name is Leo, I don't have any nicknames, and besides, no one is really likely to mistake me for the other Leo in class." The professor looked distraught, obviously hoping for a little help, not wanting to ask a 6'4 lion-morph to change his name or pick a nickname.
"Oh, I suppose you're right," the professor said and continued to take attendance. The lion-morph in question looked at me quizzically, trying to decide if I was a smart-ass or just an asshole. I hope he decides on smart-ass because I don't want a big ass lion mad at me any more than my professor does.
The teacher finishes up, mangling the names of a few Chinese exchange students, and begins passing out the syllabus and course guide and paper guidelines and on and on ad nauseum. The lion-morph is still staring at me. I think he's trying to figure out the name thing. I get that a lot, when people hear or see my name they tend to assume I'm some lion scab. Strangely enough, I tend to get that more from scabs than norms. I think it's because a lot of them think they ought to hang together and be brothers and all that, and they assume I'm one of them. I can understand, I mean Leo Proudheart seems a bit of a silly name for a norm. Sometimes I think that my parents named me that on purpose in hopes that I'd actually become a lion. My folks are a bit weird like that.
The prof really doesn't have much to say, typical of a first day, and tells us to be back on Wednesday with the first chapter of our book read and quotes ready for discussion. Great. One of those types. Would someone please remind me why I felt the need to go to a small college "where the professors care and you aren't some anonymous number." It's really not that bad, I tell myself as I pack up my bag, at least I don't have some incompetent grad student teaching my class.
As I stand up to leave, I notice the lion is walking in my direction. It's funny, but he looks timid and insecure. He really isn't built for that look. He gets next to my desk and makes a little cough. It's obvious he wants to ask me something but he doesn't know where to begin. I look up and decide I'm going to make him talk first. He looks like a lost kitten and it's making me smile. I mean, sure he's only got a couple of inches on me, but at 6'1" and a soft but somewhat lean build I'm not the kind of guy who would make a 6'4" stacked lion nervous.
"So, your name's Leo, too?"
"Yeah." Come on. Surely he didn't get all nervous and come over here to ask me that.
"Leo Proudheart, that sounds like a name that a scab would have."
"Yeah, I get that a lot."
"Is that your real name?" OK, so he wants to go there. He probably wants to know if I'm a scab and can form shift or polymorph or whatever but doesn't want to be rude and just ask.
"Yeah." Ok, so I suck at conversation. If this were a story I was writing it would be much better. I'm a much better conversationalist if I can revise.
"I mean, your parents named you that, you didn't pick it... later?" Ok, so he just asked if I had the Flu. Maybe he's not the greatest conversationalist either.
"No, I've been stuck with this name since birth." Turnabout is fair play. "Is Leo your real name?"
"It's real enough now." Ouch. He definitely looked hurt. He must not have been a scab very long.
"It's funny, I mean, my parents are wildlife nuts and I thought they always wanted me to be some kind of animal scab, but..." I trail off as I realize that I'm talking about this in a classroom with a stranger.
"But?" He doesn't want to let this go.
"But I had the Flu and nothing happened. Listen, I was going to go get lunch..." Ok, so I said that a bit abruptly.
"Um, right, sure..." Oh crap, now he's got this sad kitten look. That bastard. I must be a complete sucker.
"Well if you wanted to come with..." Yep, complete sucker, but now Leo's got that kitten with a ball of yarn look, and I know it's too late to change my mind. I have no idea why I keep thinking of Leo as a kitten. He bears no relation to the cute little tabby I had when I was growing up, and even now he is showing off his decidedly un-kittenish fangs.
"I know this great restaurant. All you can eat fried chicken, and they even still let me in." Somehow it sounds like there's a story behind that. "Of course they charge me for two, and I can only stay for forty-five minutes, but still..." Definitely a story there.
"Sure, whatever." We start walking, and are soon off campus and headed in a direction I'm not familiar with. As we walked, we weren't really talking, be we exchanged white noise. How's the weather, will this class be any good, and other nonsense to pass the blocks. We were waiting for the light to change at an intersection when Leo got bashful again.
"Um, I was wondering..."
"Well, there's this website, and it's got a bunch of stuff on it and it's by a guy that goes by Leo Proudheart, and I was wondering..."
"You were wondering if it was me." Aha, now it makes sense. That explains the looks in class. He looked at me expectantly, and I suddenly wondered what I should tell him. Yes I run a website, probably the one in question, where I keep some art, music, and stories. Back toward the end of high school I was really big into the website, and kept www.theleo.co.de, aka The Leo Code, pretty up to date and got over a thousand hits a month. As of late I had lost interest in it. Even though there were few updates, I still regularly got a couple hundred hits a month. Ok, stall, "I have a website, but I'm not sure it's the one you're talking about."
"Oh, the website I'm talking about is The Leo Code, it's a great site, but it's not being updated much. It's a shame, too. His stuff is really good..." Don't say it. Please don't say it. "I really feel like I know him from all his work." You said it.
"But you don't." I don't mean for it to sound so bitter, but it does. This is why I didn't want to tell him. I want to stop right there, but I can't, "I get letters all the time from people who think they know me because of my stupid website." There's a lot of emotional stuff in my art, and people seem to think that everything in my art is biographical, that they know what type of person I am just by reading my stories, or listening to my music. "I've tried making friends with fans of my website before, and it either goes nowhere or goes to hell. They think they know what they're getting but the don't. I don't care how many times you've read all my stories or listened to all my songs, you still don't know!" The light has changed, but neither of us are moving.
"No, I don't." Great, now Leo is looking down and turning away. Dammit! I do not need another fanboy! His ears are all down, and his tail is so low it's scraping the ground. Dammit, why should I even care what he thinks, I only met him and hour ago! Leo is turning around to say something. Fuck, I made him cry?! Why can't he have a little backbone for the love of god, a thicker skin? Why does he make me so flustered? Why the hell is my vision going blurry?
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset--"
"No... No. Don't apologize. I didn't mean to fly off the handle, and you had no way of knowing..." good god, I'm letting him completely off the hook? What am I thinking? "Lets just forget all of this and have lunch, OK?"
Leo stood up a little straighter and his ears did this half-lift hopeful kind of gesture. In a way it was really sad, like the smile on a kid who usually gets picked last (or not at all) and he's suddenly picked third to last. He wiped his eyes, and I did the same, surprised at how wet they were. Was that almost a tear? I didn't think I did that sort of thing anymore. This lion is trouble, no doubt about it. I start to cross the street but the light has already changed back. Suddenly I start to laugh.
"What's so funny?" Leo looks confused.
"This is going to be nothing but trouble, isn't it." I say with a big grin. Leo pauses for a moment.
"Like a train wreck." he says with a straight face. "You can see it coming, but you can't stop it and you can't look away."
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