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  • Writer's picturethejsingraham

PSYCHO excerpt | "Basil & the Heartbeat of the City"

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

When an inappropriate thought crosses the mind of Basil following a brief phone convo with his business partner Rhône on a Saturday night, he decides to step out into the city for some fresh air.


The non-harmonious sounds of a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday bounced off the exposed brick wall interior of Exhale Bar & Lounge in northeast DC. To the right of the entrance, was a stairwell that took you up from a lower level currently not in use, but held an intimate gathering type of vibe.

Dimly lit below, Basil walked upstairs as the singing got increasingly more loud...and bad. But the energy definitely felt right. At the top was a wall of a man sitting on a stool in a Washington football jersey. Three other guys stood across from him at a high top table throwing together extremely impressive strings of curses while talking about the latest Jay-Z project.

The ratio of women to men tonight had to be about 3-to-1, which was very favorable in a spot of this construction. Exhale put you in the mind of your standard hole in the wall watering hole that was more long than wide. And when filled to capacity, provided easy access to roaming and adventurous hands once the liquor got flowing.

Looking at one of the two TV’s on the wall directly across from the top step, was the second title bout of the UFC pay-per-view for tonight. Tyron Woodley was undoubtedly about to notch a win on his tally, in another undoubtedly unexciting fashion. I respect what he does, because he’s damn good at it. But the Mayweather style doesn’t play well in the Octagon from an excitement standpoint, Basil thought.

Scoping out a prime location to watch the fights, Basil’s eyes came across a full-figured woman the color of butterscotch, no taller than maybe five foot two, with a matte red lip, and chocolate brown goddess locs swept up and over to the side of her face. Tried as he might he couldn’t help but to stare-- as she had the girls sitting up and out proudly on full display. Her face holding an easy and nonchalant expression that calmly said, 'I'm not even trying.' Wearing a black blazer, some ripped jeans that looked like they were painted on and black patent leather four inch heels, she was intoxicatingly bad. Just the kind of woman he didn't need to be looking at right now.

“Enjoying the view my man?” Said a guy who seemed to appear out of nowhere, with an impeccably lined salt and pepper beard and deep set, probing eyes.

“That depends. That’s not your lady or sister at the bar right there is it?” Basil answered carefully.

A big laugh fell from the man’s lips. “Nah slim, well not exactly. That’s my homegirl. And see the one over there to the right, that’s her girl. Not like that though. They ain’t gay or no shit, not like it’s anything wrong with it. Now see her right there at the end of the bar with the bald fade and the sheer top?”

The big man spoke in excited, rapid fire bursts that flowed like a perpetual run-on thought, as he pointed to the end of the bar. When Basil's eyes followed suit he drank in the frame of one of the most ridiculously put together women that he had ever seen.

Five five, maybe five six. One hundred sixty-five or so pounds of curves. Thee prototype for any man or woman that enjoys the appearance of a curvy woman who loves her shape and body composition. This specimen is clearly the type that works out regularly to keep everything tight. Not to lose weight or to get hard in the wrong places.

“She gay as all outdoors, but she’s cool as shit. Just a got damn shame that she ain’t rockin’ wit us though. Her name’s Symmone. One of the people that put this whole thing together tonight, so you’ll see her walking back and forth through here. When she passes, make sure not to miss her. I’d say the majority of the folks in here though, are for the friend of the girl who has your attention though. It’s her birthday.”

The big man continued talking about all of this and then some, seemingly without taking a breath. “Ron, where are the blueberry Red Bull’s?” One of the bartenders yelled from behind the bar. “Hold on,” he shot back over the crowd. “Let me go take care of this. Oh and in case you didn’t know, this is not a dry establishment, so make sure you come holla at the bartenders before you leave.” Basil assured him that he would, then watched him walk off, checking on people on the way back to a closet beside the bar.

Spinning his gaze back to the TV, his eyes ran across Butterscotch again. But this time, she was staring directly at him while the birthday girl was in her ear. Clearly she could not hear what was being said or just didn’t care though, because the woman's eyes were locked on the counselor with zero shame. When the tall guy in her group caught wind of the stare down, he started teasing her but her facial expression never changed. And neither did Basil’s. Returning her unapologetic stare. Good to know they're not a thing.

The sound of percussions invaded the space suddenly. Bringing a crush of people from off the wall and away from the bar in droves. The DJ situated opposite the bar, at the other end of the space, was transitioning into his go-go set and the natives were definitely appreciative. Basil didn’t claim to be an expert on the heartbeat of the city, but as a longtime fan of live music, his appreciation for the genre grew quickly once he relocated to the city from Miami, a few years ago.


The crowd called out, as the the DJ cut the audio so they could respond in unison with the Backyard Band record of the same name. Go-Go was just something you had to see for yourself to understand the effect it had on natives of a city filled full of transients. The energy that seemed to bounce out of the speakers and off the walls was just different. It grabs a hold of you, and if not, it's hard not to recognize and respect the way longtime residents feel about the sound and the culture. Their DC. The real DC.

Taking advantage of the opportunity, the counselor got up and worked his way thru the crowd to the almost empty bar. Ordering a Bombay and 7Up, he put in an order of wings and went back to his table with drink in hand.

The birthday girl was partying like there was no tomorrow. And the woman making it hard for the counselor to forget his current self-induced dry spell, was right there along with her. Dancing with two of the guys from their party. The more she moved, the more turned on he became.

Then she turned around and bent at the waist, grinding her ass against the guy she was dancing with. Looking over at Basil this time with eyes that were lower than before. A look of lust washing over her features that was undeniable. Pushing pass the non-verbal pleasantries they had exchanged earlier.

His cell vibrating mercilessly against his thigh, was the only thing that broke him from this new dance he had entered into with the attractive stranger. Doing a quick scroll, he put the phone to sleep and sent his attention right back to the woman who was still staring at him. Now she had her bottom lip between her teeth and had pulled her blazer off leaving only a spaghetti strapped halter, showing the fullness of her ample breasts. Sweat beading up on her skin, giving them and the rest of her that indescribable club glow.

At this, he didn’t even mask his admiration. Grinning in her direction, all he could do was shake his head slowly. Trying to quell the carnal thoughts that were banging around in his head and behind his zipper like a jackhammer. His cell continued to vibrate, this time on the table. And as much as he didn't want to, he flipped it over to break the connection with the woman. A last ditch effort to regain some semblance of control.

There were text strings from his homie Stace, who was trying to hang out. Another from Mrs. Culligan. A frighteningly needy client who kept him on retainer for the occasional gripe fest. And an extremely unexpected one from someone he hadn’t spoken to in a number of months that simply read...HEY, HOW’VE YOU BEEN? In all caps.


“Why hasn’t he responded yet?”

“It’s only been forty-five minutes Ashley. Besides, it’s Saturday night” her friend Jeremy replied.

“Do you think he’s purposefully ignoring me. I mean, why would he do that? Honestly and truly, I didn’t do anything to him.”

Jeremy looked at his friend curiously. She was sitting on a stone bench outside of Del Frisco’s, staring down at her phone. Bouncing back and forth frantically between her text messages, Instagram and Twitter accounts. All as a means to track his movements.

Ashley Saturday, the recently named Director of Development and Communication at the National Education Reconstruction Society, had been acting very suspect lately. At least in the eyes of Jeremy Anthony, her best friend and coworker who she met when she first started working for NERS three years ago. It was obvious why. The problem was getting her to admit and accept it.

Together, Ashley and Jeremy are the two highest rated fundraisers at the nonprofit organization, that specialized in the touting of for-profit institutions. Charter schools. And Ashley’s latest exploits proved to be enough to convince her higher ups to remove the Associate from her Associate Director title at the top of the year, when her predecessor retired.

At five foot ten and one hundred twenty-seven perfectly tanned pounds, the natural blonde from Arizona was a living and breathing Victoria’s Secret model. Beautiful, intelligent, accomplished professionally and down to earth, Ashley was single strictly by choice. A woman far more interested in collecting experiences than settling down with any one guy at this point in her life, her suitors were a virtual who's who of Washington D.C.'s elite.

Which made it all the more hard to fathom, why one particular hang up had her so far off of her game.

Rejection even of the perceived variety, was extremely damaging to her. And the lack of communication between her and the one guy she couldn't seem to have in any way-- was fucking with her something terrible. Even moreso than she or even Jeremy realized.


“You want me to go talk to her for you?” Stace asked Basil, eating another of his wings. “These good.” She had eaten almost half of them since she arrived at the lounge a half hour ago.

“No. I’m not afraid of her, that’s just not what I came for.” He replied. Taking a bite of a now lukewarm fry.

Stace, short for Stacey, was the ex-girlfriend of one of Basil’s former clients. They got off to a rocky start initially, as the sessions with his then client ultimately led to the severing of ties between the two women. But after a volatile initial run-in, he was able to help Stace through a number of her own issues. The main being, severe anger management. After three months of weekly sessions, he gave her a reference to a psychiatrist at George Washington University who took up meeting with her full-time.

Less than a year ago, Stace reached out to Basil on a whim. That call turned into occasional calls that lasted anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. The topic of discussion ran the gamut from sports to work, life goals to women. Three months ago they started hanging out, and found that they actually had a lot in common. Becoming fast friends.

“She got some nice titties bruh,” Stace remarked in the direction of the woman Basil had become infatuated with since his arrival. Licking some sauce off of her own fingers, “pass me a napkin please.”

Doing so, Basil had to agree. Shit, he had been admiring them and her entire frame for the better parts of two plus hours.

“You still hung up on Cierra?” Stace asked. “Nah, can't be. It’s been a minute since we spoke, but I know that’s over and done with.”

Wiping her mouth and hands with the napkin, she sipped off of the Red Bull in front of her and walked off towards the bar. Singing along with the Backyard version of 2pac's Thug Passion. At the same time missing the lack of a response from her boy and his mindlessly tapping on the table top at the mentioning of his ex's name.

With the place being even more packed than before, he looked up and watched as Stace slid between Butterscotch and three people standing around her. Whispering something in her ear, Stace continued her more important mission. Making a beeline for Symmone, the damn shame she don’t rock with us like that lesbian that was helping throw the birthday party. Cornering the woman near the bathroom, all he could see was his friend’s teeth and the other woman nodding and grinning. A lot. That girl is a got damn pimp.

While he took in the show, Basil missed one of the guys in Butterscotch’s crew looking down at a napkin he was passed. Less than two minutes later, she was being escorted over to him by the same guy who in the dimly lit lounge looked like the singer Joe. So much in fact that he had to take a second look at him, when he grinned and walked away without saying a word.

“Good evening,” she said.

“It is. Please have a seat, he said pulling out the stool beside him.”

“No thank you. If I sit down I might not want to get back up. Renee,” she said holding out her hand.

He shook it and introduced himself in return. This time looking at her lips and how they moved when she talked. There was something about them he couldn’t quite place, but they now had his undivided attention...

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