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Don't go into the basement.

Part of a series on dating.

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So there I was.

It was my first time to this girl's house. Her name is... Carmen. Yes. Carmen.

We'd been seeing each other for about a month. Nothing incredibly serious, but not seeing anybody else - although I've thought that before.

She was a college student, a graduate student actually, in Political Science. We mostly didn't talk about that, because her idea of a good discussion about politics was regurgitating whatever she'd recently read for class, sometimes verbatim, and vaguely suggesting that since I didn't have a degree, my "sciolist opinions" didn't have any weight.

Other than those occasional crude potshots from the balcony of the ivory tower, I enjoyed her company. I mostly shrugged them off as secretly amusing, and I admit to occasionally leading her into elaborate traps solely to hear her backpedal.

She was reasonably clever, attractive, and trilingual - native Spanish, excellent English, and enough Italian to fool the old lady who runs one of the holes in the wall here.

She'd been in the States on a student visa since her Freshman year of school and kept in close touch with family back home in some tiny, dirt-poor village in mid-Mexico. She said she hadn't been back to Mexico at all except for a funeral, information which under later forbearance seemed likely to be false. But I'll get to that shortly.

Okay, enough Tarantino chronology. There I was; it was my first time visiting her house, and I was a little gobsmacked by the opulence. I asked if she had any roommates, or a sugar daddy, or a rich dead uncle, or what, because she lived in a very, very nice part of town, in a very expensive townhouse, and had more money in brushed steel and blue LEDs in her livingroom than I had in total assets.

"No," she said, "I don't have any roommates. Just... don't go in the basement."

This didn't ring any bells. If I did any thinking about it at all at the time, it would have been that the place was a mess, full of boxes, or full of dirty laundry, or ugly paintings, or any of the other millions of things that girls don't want guys to see. If I thought much beyond that, it would have been "shit, maybe the stairs are busted or there's no light". The elaborate point I'm making here was that I didn't even get remotely close to the real reason.

So, the opulence of the house struck me as strange, as did her choice of vehicle.

She said she'd had it since she moved to the States originally, when she was going to school at SDSU. That had made perfect sense, as what she was driving was dirt common. For the most part.

See, in the desert in SoCal, a lifted, heavily modified '87 Bronco with huge tires and heavily tinted windows is not at all unusual. What did seem a bit unusual were the two kinds of radar detectors, police scanner, and ham radio. But hey, they might have been included when she bought it, and when I asked her once about them, she said "Oh, yeah, sometimes I talk to truckers or whatever. I don't really know that much about it." My only comments at the time were "Cool!" and "If you don't have a permit for this, you're actually not supposed to use it, this transmitter is rated 500 watts."

Like many things she said, under later forbearance this seems likely to have been a falsehood.

So a few weeks go by. I make my third or fourth visit to her house. About three o'clock in the morning I wake up needing to piss like you can't believe. My thrashing woke her up and she beat me into the master bathroom, telling me to use the one downstairs.

Skip past ten minutes of shin-bashing fumbling around in the dark in a house I didn't know that well, and I ended up in the basement, ankle-deep in terrified, screaming illegal Mexicans. Literally dozens, wrapped in quilts and sleeping bags and stained sheets.

This of course brought her running, and I was quickly hustled out of the basement while she talked to them and got most of the screaming under control. One of them dashed right out of the house when she came upstairs to make some coffee and attempt to explain things to me.

She initially tried framing it to me as some sort of ham-fisted ideological argument, about the right to freedoms or something. As she strung together this highly dubious chain of arguments, I sipped my coffee and put six and nine together. She would have me believe she was some sort of struggling freedom fighter, or, something. Rising up against tyranny and injustice. Or, something.

The Bronco was a desert rat's wet dream, and loaded with everything you'd need to keep track of the heat along the border and on the highway. The ham was way too high powered for anything that a normal desert rat would use it for.

There's no way in Hell she could afford a place like this without some kind of something going on, I knew that much before but didn't press too hard. But, now, it was pretty goddamned clear - she was a coyote, and had moved up in the ranks from actual border running, to sheltering and placement.

That's where the money came from for the opulent house, the designer clothes, the expensive makeup. College student struggling against social injustice, my hairy ass.

Two days later I called the INS. She was put in jail for a year and then deported.

Some rich old guy lives in her house now.

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