• Lyla Bollag

Basement Date

Shit, hopefully, I’m not too late. Traffic was not great, but I’m here, at what seems to be this old diner, with a 1950s vintage genesqua about it. It is nearing dark, a little past sunset and so the neon lights attached to the building are augmented by the dimming day. It’s a beautiful sunset really: a golden yellow strip is lined across the horizon with a bright cadmium yellow semi-circle of light in the middle. Above are vermillion oranges and faint peach clouds with lavender and blue to scale the top. I park my bike, use the lock that mirrors the tantalizing sunset in its metal round face, distorting the image by bending the light reflected, from general relativity. It was given to me along with the bike that is now fully locked, for someone unlike me, on the upright green corroded pole. I have this Tourette of checking it twice, making sure it’s correct in its code. I check it twice, pulsing the metal arch down twice, and hear to my satisfaction the chlink, chlink, of the lock. I lock the helmet to the bike too, just for safekeeping. Taking one more glance at everything, I turn my back to my precious baby and walk toward the door of the diner. Opening the transparent door, feels as though I’ve traveled to another reality: people are thriving in numbers as they talk, and laugh, and tell about their day, make satirical jokes about the assignments and teachers, and gaggle with their drunken friends after some major bar hopping, regretting that last shot of Tequila they were initially peer pressured to do and make amends to stand their ground and say ‘NO!’ as Regan promoted in the past. As I continue traversing among the crowded ecstatic diner, the smell of comfort food from the kitchen griddle of burgers, eggs, buttermilk pancakes, pies, shakes, fries; the smell of everything from America in 1950 penetrates me instantly.

Walking in, I begin to search for my blind date who Danny set up for me without my knowledge. I spot them from across the front of the diner, all the way in the far left booth; that is the only one in which no one has claimed yet, but them. Moving forward, I have to say despite Danny’s annoying nature, he’s very attuned to what people say or like aesthetically because they’ve checked every box: wide frame, shaped like a V, lean yet the muscular definition is visible enough to see in the curvatures of their arms. Their beanie is strikingly black, hugging their head and leaving only a few pieces of hair to see on their face that lay perfectly on their forehead, dangling over their meek features, just above their purposely cut browline, providing an edge to the facially quiet dynamic. It’s upwards of their vibrantly golden-green eyes, juxtaposing beautifully with their darkened umber skin so smooth without any blemishes. Usually, I like more of a slight formality to fashion, but the casual paint sprinkled overalls, with pockets galore and holes ripped in the pant legs, messy artist look, works. Under the overalls, they have a black tank, which has paint splatters on it as well; the tank matches their beanie that is finished by their black converse; applause to them for making an untidy aesthetic come off very appealing to someone like me. As I approach the humbled table, I notice that there are bits of paint stuck under their fingernails and other bits of dried paint on the top of their hands and on the tops of their forearms. My furtive gaze has failed because they bring their forearms off of the table where they are not visible to my sights any longer. Finally, I reached the table. They nervously raise their right arm to where their hand is cupping their head as tilts it to the left, hiding a bashful glance; their eyes dart downward.

“Hey, sorry ‘bout the look. I lost track of time at the studio and rushed right over here.” They finished with an octave higher at the end of their sentence. I feel bad for their anxiety and try to immediately quell it.

“Hey, no, it’s all good. Actually, I’m really digging this messy painter aesthetic. I’m Lawson by the way.” Their arm is brought down and they face me again. They have a pretty face; quaint: both eyes sit just above their ears; and on the sides of the ridge of their nose, they form an almost jaguar look as the invisible curve meets the crescent crease of their eyes, communicating an Asian heritage. Their cheekbones are high, but not too much to where it seems plastic surgery has been placed. In relative proportion to their face, the cheekbones give them an Elvin countenance that enhances the quaint-ability about them, amplifying the Pythagorean symmetry of their face.

“Haha, thanks, um, I kinda like it myself, but usually try and clean up for outings. And I’m Duncan.”

“I understand completely. I wanted to change earlier but ran late ‘cause of the fiasco at a house I was looking at in IV, haha.” Duncan, feeling more comfortable, brings their arms back up and rests their slight cleft chin in between the space of their prominent knuckles; their eyes almost twinkle after I laugh.

“Are you up for storytelling? This sounds quite interesting.”

“It’s a bit of a story…”

“It’s fine, I don’t mind long stories as long as I’m entertained.” They finish with a Cheshire smile revealing their hidden dimples.

“Hah, alright, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Ha, my lips are sealed.” As they spoke, their fingers proceeded to gesture the invisible zipper upon their mouth.

“Alrighty; today my friends asked myself and this girl, Jade, to look around this house before they got there in case they needn’t waste their time looking at it. I got there a little earlier than her because I wanted to take some photographs of the neighborhood for the book I’m writing.”

Their eyes instantly lit up when I said ‘book I’m writing’ asking what it’s about. I say to them, it’s a nonconventional romance between two strangers who always pass each other by from both perspectives of the characters. And both only open up to each other at the end leaving the reader excited, yet frustrated by the length of time it takes the two characters to confess to each other.

“After taking the shots needed for reference, I walked inside the house; it was a two-story with a very scraggly front yard that had some overgrown grass and a table wedged inside one of the fences. Inside the house, it was pretty decent. The wooden floors were pretty smooth; the living room was ‘livable’ in the sense that it had enough space to fill my friend group and me; the kitchen was adequate in comparison to what I thought it would be: there was one round table with five chairs, a mediocre metal sink that was surprisingly clean. The kitchen led you to a staircase that went up to the bedrooms and balcony of the house. As I was looking around, Jade had finally arrived. She came in casually, but seemed as though she was slightly distressed.” Duncan interrupts me asking, “Was she pretty?” I respond with a slight laugh, “yes, very much, but she was kinda bitch to me in the beginning.”

“Oh, I see: pretty but bitchy.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“Oi.”

“After coming in, she stood jauntily, with her arms crossed over her cropped white shirt complimenting her very olive tan skin, and introduced herself: ‘Hi, my name is Jade, I think Danny mentioned me to you.’

‘Oh, yeah; he did. I’m Lawson, nice to meet you.’ She quickly dismisses me and heads right toward our obligation, ‘kay; let’s just look at this house.’ She turns around luckily in time for her not to notice my eye roll and walks right past me with her roughly cut short jean-shorts and ankle-length gray converses, oozing attitude, to scope around the same places I already had. She looks around, bending down, to see if there’s any grime amongst the cabinets and walls, with her messy black top knot swaying each time she jerked her neck. After her look-around, she walked up the stairs to the patio as I followed her. When we made it to the balcony, I asked her, ‘What do you think of this balcony?’ she instantly spits, ‘If I fell off this, I would fucking die.’ “Are you always this much of a bitch?” is what I wanted to say, but I know how that can escalate from being raised by two mothers and having four younger sisters.”

“Whoa..! That’s a lot of women. Not gonna lie, I’m kinda jealous.”

“Why?”

“Well, because I was raised primarily in a family of men who most are pretty straight and well, I’m me, so…”

“Ahh-kay; I see. I’m sorry you don’t have many other queer family members.”

“Nah, it’s fine. A lot on my mom’s side are hella gay so things got balanced.”

“Okay, that’s good to hear. Am I boring you yet?”

“Nope, I have nothing better to do than sit and watch a hot biker tell me a story.”

“Haha, thanks. After this, you gotta tell me a story about you, otherwise, it won’t be fair.”

“Alright, I will. I got plenty.”

“Cool. Instead, I diplomatically said, ‘Okay, well if we end up in this house, you’ll get a different room then.’ After I said that, I think she realized how she was coming off and attempted to connect with me asking ‘so, what do you love doing?’ Of course, I said ‘I love riding my motorcycle, really anywhere, especially in Malibu.’ She abruptly turned toward me and asked, ‘Motorcycle? Is the one outside yours?’ ‘Yes..?’ is what I shakily said. Wide-eyed she responded, ‘wow. I cannot imagine riding that thing’ she stares at me with her chocolate eyes that were colder instead of the presumed warmth that usually came with them. Here, I thought she wanted to try and connect, but I was sorely mistaken. I repeat facetiously, ‘that thing?’ and look at her with my eyebrows furrowed. Her response lights a dormant match of mine. ‘That thing, is a family heirloom given to me by my mother who got it from her father.’ She sensed my bubbling anger and attempted to shut the conversation down. She quickly ran down the stairs, ‘I’m done with this conversation; I’m leaving.’”

“Wow, what a tool.”

“I know, tell me about it..haha. She saw that I was blocking her and said, ‘MOVE’ while she tried to push me out of the way. From her attempted push, the wooden floor instantly collapsed beneath us where we fell about a story, or story and a half into the basement. I fell on my back and she fell belly-down onto me.”

“Oh, shit. Are you okay? Is your back okay??”

“No, no, ya; it’s fine; don’t worry. I luckily fell on some pool noodles left by the previous owners, so it wasn’t as terrible of a fall.”

“Oh, good.”

“After landing, I say, with understandable emotion, ‘Fuck…, man — that was weird, are you okay?’ She responded quietly ‘umph... Ya, t-thanks for asking..’ ‘Yap, no problem; mind getting off of me..?’ is what I asked after checking in on her despite her prickly behavior, ‘OH. Ya, shit..!’ wanting to ease her I said ‘Nah, it’s cool,’ and she got off rather fast but awkwardly moving her hands and knees to the floor to push herself off of me, and moved the rest of her body over me. I closed my eyes as she moved. When she got off, she centered herself on the cold concrete, balling up her legs and knees with her arms tightly around them like a seatbelt, holding herself still, as if to prepare for an impact of some sort. After, she began to look around, familiarizing the territory in which she was abruptly placed, through her actions, and began to hyperventilate. First, it started with a few slow breaths, but quickened by the fourth, each time the speed would increase resulting in her stiff jugular starting to protrude from her neck. ‘Hey, are you okay..?,’ she immediately looks down, wide-eyed, divulging the red veins on the whites of her eyes, and yells, ‘I am going to have a fucking heart attack..!’ I instantly get up and reach around for my phone in the back left pocket of my Levi jeans..”

“Wow, this is legit getting spicey..!”

“It sure did… I finally find my phone and try to call 911 but the reception down in the basement wouldn’t allow me to, ‘Shit!’ I yelled, ‘it won’t work ‘cause the reception’s bad. What can I do to help??’ Jade semi-stops herself, but says through breaths ‘UH… I — no, I – I’m claustrophobic… and today it’s worse than usual…’ I put my fingers between the arch of my nose and sighed in relief.”

“Damn, this girl is something.”

“Ha, that’s for sure. I would have loved to vent my frustration to her reaction, but that would have done nothing but escalate the contentious environment, and so, as my past experiences tell me to do, I say through a calm face, ‘oh. I understand. What do you need?’”

“Wow. You’re an angel, I would’ve flipped out on her if I was in your position.”

“Haha, thanks, I wanted to, believe me.”

“I’ll take your word for that, most definitely.”

“She’s still breathing hard, but lesser so and responds, ‘I don’t know… I — nothing really…’ and trails off. Everything’s quiet for a moment with the exception of her labored breathing. I ventured to ask in hopes of a solution to her distress. ‘Has anyone suggested anything for this type of situation?’ She still holds her stare to the concrete floor, but answers in a tone foreign to her previous disposition. ‘Uhm… like, tell myself: ‘it’s going to okay,’ hug myself simultaneously, or like imagine someone has their arms around me, just shit like that…’ As she spoke, the older sibling instinct in me took over my self-frustration and I instantly hugged her as I would with my sisters when they had panic attacks or nightmares, or felt shitty during their cycles. ‘What the —’ she spurts out of shock at my gesture, but eventually acquiesces to muttering ‘ I…’ Finally, she accepts the embrace, ‘umph…thank you..’ she whispers into me and closed her eyes, losing herself, and leans against me like a wall. We both stayed there for what seemed like a while; I’ve never met Jade before today, but it seemed as though this vulnerable side of her is seldom seen by none other than herself. Alas, the serene moment ended abruptly when our friends walked down into the basement to find us: ‘OH MY GOD, were you guys??’ one blurts out, and Danny, of course, the one who set us up said ‘whoa, Lawson…’ perverting things as usual. Both of us stood up quickly and we both tried to speak, ‘we got —’ and looked at each other as I said ‘oh, n-no, you can go first if you want,’ but she said ‘no. It’s fine. You can tell them,’ ‘uh, okay, sure’ I said. ‘ When we got here, we got into an argument about my motorcycle and weren’t paying attention to the wooden floors near the staircase and we both fell into the basement’ I explained to the awaiting group of curious friends and curious Danny. Danny shifted his weight to an asymmetrical, contraposal stature and said, ‘ah, I see, that makes sense — but that doesn’t explain why you two were—-’ Jade interrupted him as he was about to finish his sentence, ‘I got claustrophobic and he was comforting me; quit conflating your own thoughts with us, Danny..!’ Her face turned a little red as she finished and crossed her arms to guard herself once more. ‘Oh-kay, Oh-kay, chill, don’t get your panties in a twist’ Danny, the continuous smart-ass said cackling. Jade rolls her eyes with indignation ‘ugh.., fuck off, perv..!’ ‘Haha, alright, Princess..’ Danny said laughing still; he couldn’t get enough of Jade’s reaction.

“Do I sense a crush…?”

“Ya; actually, you’re exactly on point. Danny’s been telling me for weeks about this Brazilian girl with a bit of a prissy attitude, but is strangely charmed by her.”

“Really?”

“Yup. He hasn’t stopped talking about her since September.”

“Wow, that’s something, especially regarding Danny.”

“Ya, it sure is. We walked out of the basement and entered the beautiful world. One of my friends asked us all if we were all up for going out. Everyone answered ‘sure,’ but I told them ‘I got a date to get to’ and took off.”

“Funny, you didn’t mention that it was a blind date?”

“Nope, that would have elicited far too many questions that would’ve made me more late than I was because I usually don’t talk a lot about my dating life.”

“Haha, I see.”

“I mean partly because it’s been nonexistent until tonight.”

“Funny, funny; but same here honestly.”

“They all said ‘good luck’ and I thanked them and left to come to see you.”

“Okay. So, is that the end of it, then?”

“It is. Would you like to tell—” but our waitress interrupts my attempt at receiving information about the lovely creature who sits before me, saying, “Howdy! What can I get y’all today?” She stands there upright, with an apron tied around her number two waist as she plasters on a genial smile. We both say water, “Alright, here are your menus and I’ll be back in a jiffy..!” “Thanks,” I say, and smile back at her. As she turns her head right, her long black ponytail swings left to right as she walks away. Alright, take two:

“So, Duncan, tell me something about yourself?”

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