At 1:00 a.m., I sat in the basement of 3565 Wideridge Road. The two storey duplex house belonged to Aunt Angie and her husband George. I used their house as a weekend escape from campus life. The basement living room was my main station.
The muted TV threw patterns of colored light across the room that reflected off the smooth white surface of the humming refrigerator and the quietly bubbling aquarium that housed a single yellow fish. I sat in the futon bed with my laptop on my folded legs. I pecked and tapped at my touch pad, photoshopping a perfect white lotus into my brother Edens super short black hair. His attempt at a sexy smoldering expression coupled with the flower tucked behind his ear drew a chuckle from my lips.
I thought of emailing the picture to Eden. I chuckled again, began to close my computer, then stopped. Footsteps creaked on the wooden floor above my head. I suspected it was Nathan, my aunts eldest son, looking for midnight snacks. The creaks became dull thuds as he entered the tiled kitchen. There was no creak of the fridge door, no slamming of cupboard doors. The thuds continued, then died suddenly. He had reached the carpeted stairs that lead down to the basement where I sat.
I looked up, a snarky remark at the tip of my tongue. A bulky figure emerged from the shadow of the stairwell. It wasnt Nathan.
It was George, my aunts husband, in pajama bottoms. And shirtless. A fine line of graying hairs ran up his bulbous belly and spread out across his flabby chest like the mouth of a river feeding into a lake. His slippers shuffled against the carpet as he dragged himself across the room. I tried not to take too much notice. A prickle of discomfort played at my spine.
George opened the fridge door. Glass jars and bottles clinked. A smell of old asbestos and dampness wafted my way. George bent over, peered into the fridge, scratched his head. He moaned and shut the door. He took nothing out. He put nothing in.
I shrank away from the edge of the bed a bit, stared at my computer screen and chewed my lip. George took a few steps towards me. He stood beside the futon and studied the muted television. He stood there for a long minute.
What you doing? George asked leaning over me slightly.
Okay then. George rubbed his head and yawned loudly. His hand in his hair sounded like his slippers on the carpet. His belly jiggled as he dropped his hand back to his side.
Well, good night then.
Good night, I mumbled.
I blinked and Georges hand took hold of my chin. He forced my face upwards towards him. I cringed and averted my gaze. I felt a paralyzing chill. George yanked my head back towards him and brought his face down to mine. I wriggled and squirmed. His warm breath brushed against my lip. Moisture stung my eyes. George leaned in towards me.
I froze. Georges lips touched mine. His scraggly, uneven moustache brushed against my upper lip. I jerked away. My voice didnt work. I felt like a tiny, trapped animal: wide-eyed and crazed.
George straightened up, looked at me, and half-smiled.
Whats the matter? George asked.
I shook my head. My hands trembled. My voice left me. I clenched my fists.
What? I cant kiss you?
A voice I hardly recognized as my own sounded firm. Id rather you not.
Okay, George said. Good night.
I turned back to my computer. I watched Georges slippers shuffle back up the stairs from the corner of my eye and listened for the thuds on the titled kitchen floor and the creaks on the wooden hallway that would tell me he had gone back to his bedroom, to his wife, to my aunt.
I shut my computer down and buried myself into the thick covers of the futon. I wrapped myself into the duvet, leaving only my eyes and nose out. I watched those stairs and listened to the floor above my head. I watched until I fell into fitful sleep.