The Basement, A Fictional Reality


Preliminary Material:

1) Some of this is true. Some is for humorous effect. Some is both.

2) It’s all your fault. You know who you are.

Stay safe. Stay sane.
Katherine Walcott

“You weren’t as much of a bitch as I thought you were.”

That’s why my first boyfriend decided to go out with me.

The relationship didn’t last.

Imagine that.

He wasn’t the first boy I dated. He wasn’t *the* first. This was my first serious relationship. This was the first time I went on vacation à deux. This was the first time I said things I thought I meant at the time.

I say “boy” because he still was. We thought we were so grown up. Mostly, we were young and stupid. Mostly young. I certainly was.

On paper, I was an adult. I was of age, by a wide margin. I was a college graduate. I had a job. I had my own apartment.

Paper lies.

The apartment was a self-contained unit in the converted basement of my father’s house. I had my own entrance and was paying rent. It is to laugh. The rent was nominal. More of an object lesson than actual money. It was a trailing wheels form of independence. I could come and go if I wanted. I could retreat to the house above if I needed food, or company, or heat.

Yes, heat. The apartment was unheated. I had a small space heater for the shower and lots and lots of blankets for the bed. It was an odd mix. I wore a wool ski hat to bed and slept really, really well. Getting up was hell. The glass doors and a glass front wall let in light. The cinderblock walls made it gloomy. Despite the shortcomings, I was surprisingly healthy in the cold months. Fresh air? Good genes? Lack of constant temperature changes? Youthful exuberance? Who knows.

Nothing says lack of functional adulthood like winter in an unheated apartment. This is not a sustainable lifestyle. This is the lifestyle of a person who is thinking from month to month, a person who’s time horizon is still the next college term. Of course, I would have denied this. Vehemently.

My beau was no more ready for the real world than I. He was living at home for six month before leaving to take up an one-year internship at a Japanese bank. Leaving in six months? Did that matter? Of course not, six months is an an eternity when you are still thinking like a college student.

I never went to his house. I never met his parents. My family used the wrong kind of fish knives for that to be a possibility. Yet, we talked about living together when he got back.

Since his place was out, my apartment it was, warts and all. One holiday, as a romantic gesture, I splashed out for a local hotel room, as a change from the constant cold.

When you’re young, everything is an adventure.

Then, one month, I was late. Cis-women know what I mean. Gentlemen, if you don’t know, ask someone with lady bits.

I was never late. My system ran like clockwork. Twice in my life, the clockwork has gone sproing. This was the first time.

It was in those initial few days when you can convince yourself that it’s not happening. I’m just late. Everyone is late? Right. It’s not a problem. What if it is a problem? It’s not a problem. I was nowhere near panic stage, but doubt was leaking in around the edges. This is not a thing. What if it is a thing? It’s not a thing. It couldn’t be. Quickly reviews preceding month. Could it be?

My strongest memory from the kitchen of that basement apartment is of me standing in the middle of it thinking, ‘What now?’

I didn’t say anything. Didn’t want to make it real. Plus, there was nothing to say. Either the situation would resolve itself, or I would have plenty of time to inform the world at large. Naturally, the first person I would need to inform would be the gentleman in question.

I couldn’t picture the conversation. What would we chose? I could not see traveling down either path with him. Would he hold my hand at a clinic? Neither one of us had so much as sneezed in the other’s presence. Our conversation ran toward D&D characters rather than weighty sociopolitical issues. Conversely, would he introduce me to his parents? I’d never met these people. Now I was going to be introduced as the bearer of their grandchild?

The imagination fails.

Fortunately, the clockwork resumed ticking.

That’s when I learned the difference between people who are charming and people you want at your back in a dark alley. The world is full of people with whom you are compatible when times are good. There are far fewer people you want around you when times are bad.

It wasn’t a matter of being a good person or bad person. We were both good people, just not for each other. It was a matter of who you want with you at a dinner party versus who you want with you in a lifeboat. Maybe in another time and another place. But not this time and not this place. We did not fit into each other’s lifeboats.

I can’t rely on you. A harsh thing to say to someone. Particularly when there was no need. This all happened at the beginning of the month he was due to leave. And wasn’t that another potential monkey wrench to ponder.

Since my alarm was a non-event, nothing had changed. He was still fun to be with. I kept quiet. I let the remaining weeks coast by and waved him on his way. I let the weight of distance sever the connection. This as pre-Internet, so easing apart was expected.

Once his internship was over, he came back to town and came sniffing around.

I told him we could be friends.

He said no. Relationship or nothing.

I told him to have a nice life.

We never spoke again.

I never told him why we broke up. I wonder if he ever wonders.


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