In June of 1999 Naleighna Kai was playing spades on-line when she started sparring with a man she calls Kevin. "He had a wicked sense of humor--my kind of sense of humor," says Naleighna, a legal secretary who lives in Lansing, and whose name isn't really Naleighna Kai. "He was like the male version
They got to know each other quickly by chatting on-line. She learned that he lived in New York City and worked in telecommunications. She also realized he met most of the requirements of "the List," a set of criteria she'd created with her partner, Vee Denise Kai (also a pseudonym), to define what they were looking for in a man. They wanted, says Vee Denise, "a man that was sure of himself, that knew what he wanted--a man that did not mind showing his emotions or expressing them. We wanted a man who could love two strong, independent women, knowing that they had separate personalities, and be able to get along with both of them.
"Last, but not least," she says, "he must not have heart failure."
Naleighna and Vee Denise were looking to include a man in their life because, says Naleighna, "We wanted a different flavor." They didn't expect to find him on the Internet though. Says Naleighna, "Chicago is a big city. We expected to find him here."
Naleighna and Kevin's correspondence began to heat up after an impromptu episode of phone sex. Kevin sent her a half-finished erotic story that starred the two of them. He asked Naleighna to finish it and she did--gladly.
"I really liked it," she says. "It came easily. It came quickly, so to speak, and it hasn't stopped coming."
Naleighna introduced Kevin and Vee Denise, and the trio started writing more erotic stories. They also penned accounts of key events in their lives, included surviving incest, rape, and abusive relationships. Naleighna, who'd never written prose before, wove the stories together into a book, More Than Enough. Then she, Vee Denise, and their family set up a publishing company called Infinity and this October printed 1,000 copies--Naleighna, Vee Denise, and Kevin Kai share the author credit.
Naleighna says it's equal parts memoir, novel, and fantasy. Just as Kevin was, the character Ray is asked to read a list of books that includes several titles by feminist African-American science fiction writer Octavia Butler. He also has to show the women he's willing to deal with old issues and identify and work toward his dreams. After Ray has made some serious changes in his life--going through a nasty breakup with his girlfriend, asking for a raise, charting a new career path--the women allow him to come to Chicago for a visit, something Kevin still hasn't done. The erotic scenes that ensue are juxtaposed with long discussions about feminism, recovery from abuse, and the nature of God.
The three characters share their deepest secrets and fears, but it doesn't come out until chapter 22 that the two women are more than just friends. "In real life, Kevin knew immediately," says Naleighna, who was worried that readers would not approve of the women's bisexuality. "We figured that if people get to chapter 22 they're going to finish. If we put it earlier, they would have stopped reading and missed the messages we wanted to get across."
Instead, it's the idea of man-sharing that's sparked heated debate. "At a signing in New Jersey I had women saying that Ray was the whore of the group," says Kevin. "Men look at it like, 'Two women, I'm in heaven.' But you've got to look at what's behind the sex."
"There are a lot more women doing this," says Naleighna. "A lot of people E-mail us and say, 'This sounds like our relationship.' We just happen to be the first people to talk about it."
All three authors have gone through changes in the past year. Vee Denise left her job and now runs the Infinity office. Naleighna has finished a couple of novels (including a sequel, And Even More), and is working on two more books. Kevin returned to school and is completing a collection of erotic stories. All three communicate regularly and spend their free time promoting the book--separately.
The women have never met Kevin in person. "Time hasn't permitted," says Kevin. "We're not going to rush it. When the time is right it will happen. We'll come together."
"All of us will come together," says Naleighna. "No pun intended."
Naleighna Kai will read with Denise I. O'Neal, author of the Infinity-published novel Rivers' Crossing, Saturday at 3 at Barbara's Bookstore at Evergreen Plaza, 9500 S. Western in Evergreen Park (708-423-3456). She also regularly appears at Cultural Essentials, 686 River Oak Drive (at River Oaks Mall) in Calumet City. Call 708-832-9738 for specific dates and times.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Pete Stenberg.