This morning, a thunderstorm squatted over the entire city, and thunderstorms are nothing like monsoons. Lightning flashed from cloud to cloud and hit the rods on Galasu’s tall buildings. Thunder rattled my windows. Torrential rains started when I was halfway to the Skyrail terminal, so I ran. Thankfully, I packed another gyena in my bag. The dark purple and white one I wore into work soaked through in minutes. My hepteri vest clung to my skin.
Once I detrained, I stopped for a cup of hot nonu at a vendor stall and dashed down Kisera Street.
I watched the rain pounding against the glass walls in the lobby and dropped a lehi into Nukena’s fountain. My skin felt cold and clammy, and my teeth chattered. I ran into the bathroom, removed my hepteri vest, and changed my gyena. The underdress billowed shapelessly when I went into my office, but the hepteri vest wasn’t even dry when I put it on to leave work. My feet felt clammy because the rain had soaked through my sandals. Everyone else wore waterproof ones. O Salus, what did you expect? Shija is not so different from the Canyons that you don’t need an extra underdress at the office! This is so unprofessional.
My first agenda item for the day — going into the archives — meant coping with the cold, but the thick archival coats and gloves are warm. I went in and grabbed a document reader. My tits felt like they had frozen solid.
The video disks from the 1830s are so large and bulky, especially with the gloves. Most of the documents in that section consist of old-fashioned paper, often in binders. I wonder why the Progressive Movement hasn’t used digital preservation on more of it, especially the papers. It would be easy to take a document scanner so people could leaf through records on smart sheets.
The first video I picked up was from an event in 1841. The camera panned around smiling faces and groups of people mingling while a dance started. Sixteen minutes into the film, Adviser Tenes asked Akah Khera to dance, and the former glanced repeatedly at the camera, frowning. Le looked like le hadn’t slept, and white streaked ler hair. I hadn’t seen white when we met earlier this week.
Some people say that the nuamua remain young because they steal youth from others. When Sehịnta united the Ịgzarhjenya, le executed them. This is the reason quoted by some commentators. Others cited a falling-out with Namgyatzi, and still more say that the nuamua bring plagues, which is why their eyes are always the color of mourning. The nuamua and Karatha are both subtypes of tesekhaira. Do the tesekhaira steal life, and do these rumors apply? Certainly not the one about the eyes — but do they? To Adviser Tenes? The Karatha? What makes someone a tesekhaira, not a normal human being?
I have paused to write about this because, while I recount what happened earlier today, someone with eyes like a nuamė is making ler way to this apartment. Le has the voice recorder, and le will help me install it in my hair. I cannot believe that one of them will be within a meter of me. I will hollow out my hair and follow ler instructions because I cannot, cannot, cannot, CANNOT receive another purification for something like this.
My grandmother received nuamua in the house while I was small, but in accordance with the custom, le never allowed those of us under the age of majority to see them. I might have, however, while Kelis was alive and we were planning our marriage. I was going home on the light rail, and four people came into the car and sat down nearby. None of them spoke. On my way out, I passed by, but I couldn’t see any of their eyes because the sun had set. The one time I thought a nuamė had gone into my grandmother’s office, it was actually a thirty-something woman with very light brown eyes.
Thinking about them doesn’t help me recount my day for you, Liga. While watching the video, a hand landed on my shoulder. I yelped and nearly dropped the document reader, but caught myself just in time. Akah Sehutañi let go of me. Le held a gyena in ler right hand.
“Listen,” le said, “I don’t like apologizing to people for hookups, but I’m sorry about what happened. We were drunk. I didn’t realize who you were, and I wouldn’t have slept with a coworker had I been in my right mind.”
Le would have chosen someone else. That makes a lot of sense, but it also means that Sehutañi has taken many other people home for the night — and until we made that mistake earlier this week, le never had to see them again. My cheeks feel so hot. This is so embarr—was so embarrassing then. I told lim not to apologize. “I don’t regret what happened,” I said. I couldn’t take my eyes off of ler lips.
To think that this is the woman I need to betray.
Le smiled and let out a breath. I set the document reader on the shelf and closed the distance between us. I took the gyena, and ler body stiffened.
I leaned forward and pressed my lips against lers. Le smelled like spices and incense. Ler body melted against mine like wax yielding to heat. The gyena fell to the floor.
Who needs to be a nuamė to steal life? Sehutañi gave me lers with each kiss that passed between us. I swallowed each sigh, each gasp, until le was mine utterly. I nagmiña gdatazosa, as the song says.
I feel unclean inside. O Salus, is it really worth this?
Back at my journal. The nuamė has come and gone. Yes, Liga: I have called lim a nuamė because I don’t want that ambiguity you gave me.* Le has red eyes, and le spaces out when speaking. This must mean that you thought I wouldn’t consent to having lim here if I knew the truth. Don’t do that again.
Let me explain a bit more, just in case I wasn’t entirely clear. Kati answered, not me, and le looked between the nuamė and me as if I had poisoned lim. I tried to mediate by saying that I was doing a favor for Suka, and Kati drew back from the door as if something had burned lim. Le went into the kitchen and murmured something about heating nonu. The nuamė and I went into my room and shut the door.
The nuamė volunteered a name, Okiyot. I hadn’t even thought to ask, and I know that none of them has a personality because they all exist in that collective, so that name is more of an identifier than anything else for the physical shell.
Okiyot’s name is Classical Atarahi. Le behaved almost as if le had a personality, and ler breasts are truly amazing works of creation. Why did you send someone so attractive, Liga? I was so nervous around lim, and it wasn’t only that I have never interacted with a nuamė before. My heart kept hammering, and I felt dizzy. Everything I said and did seemed too flirtatious to me, but then again, any warmth is too flirtatious for one of them.
I wanted to ask lim about the legends, but le said, “You’re treating me like shit, just as Liga said you would,” and I instantly sobered. I have never felt guilty about any of my opinions regarding the nuamua before. My parents share my thoughts.
Le told me to stop staring like I had just been slapped in the face, and then le laughed. Is this what you associate with, Liga?
We went over the particulars of the audio device, and le helped me install it. I stammered a few words, but I couldn’t get anything meaningful out. Le asked me what was wrong, and I finally blurted out the bit about nuamua stealing life through breath. Le looked like le might slap me, but answered the question, and it made me feel even worse. How will I ever be a good politician if I cannot even cope with tesekhaira?
Now, though, le has installed the audio piece, so I am live and ready to go.
Kati (ugh) just came into my room. Le says that le might mention that a nuamė came by to ler and our family. I feel like I could die. Liga, why did you do this to me?
Salus Niksubvya, please be reasonable here. I didn’t lie to you. Nothing you have said here truly reflects how either the nuamua or the Karatha or any other collective works. Okiyot visited you because le understands the hardware (and, in fact, made it), and I trust ler work. Please don’t criticize my associates when you know nothing about them. Your grandmother would want better from you, and le won’t care if you had someone who presented as a nuamė come to your apartment. I won’t say anything else on this matter because you have upset me. Fuvä, fuvä, fuvä, Liga. I really don’t get you. ↩