HARTFORD, CT. The summer of 2011. I was getting ready to move to Hartford for graduate school and had about a month to find an apartment.
Not really knowing what else to do, I got on craigslist and set up a few places to check out.
I was particularly excited for one of them. It was a great price and in West Hartford. The desirable, expensive, yuppified neighborhood. I was naively thinking I was going to score a sweet deal on my first attempt.
The first red flag was as I was driving to the place, I literally crossed over into the wrong side of the tracks. (Why is it always train tracks?)
I was expecting some apartment complex looking place.
It was a suburban neighborhood of single family homes. At this point I realized that this wasn't an apartment. It was a room in somebody's house.
I rationalized. That's fine. Lots of people do that. I'm open to lots of living situations. I have to be. I'm a month away from being a totally broke graduate student.
As I approached the house, I heard a woman inside yelling and screaming at someone as loud as a woman can scream. I was getting ready to go back to my car and call the police because I thought someone was probably getting murdered.
Thank goodness the lady saw me coming and opened the door.
How quickly she resumed a normal tone of voice was more frightening. She invited me in and got back on the horn to keep screaming.
Turns out she was on the phone with the last tenant. Lovely. Something about him stealing her car or car keys. Or something. She had an extremely thick accent and was difficult to understand.
I went inside. Needless to say, I had already decided that there is no way in holy hell I would live there. At this point it was more curiosity drawing me in.
Two things immediately struck me as odd when I walked in.
First, the incredibly pungent smell of cigarettes.
To give you a sense how how strong, consider that my grandmother has been smoking cigarettes every day of her life for 50+ years and is somehow still alive, without any of the horrible diseases you normally associate with smokers, and still sharp as a tack. I have no idea how that is even possible. As a result of her lifelong habit and her lungs of steel, she still lives in and smokes in her house. It smells pretty strongly of cigarettes and has as long as I can remember. I'm familiar with the way a smoker's house smells.
This house was exponentially more stinky. It hit me in the face like a brick wall. It smelled like she was burning tobacco in the fireplace to keep warm.
The second thing that freaked me out was throughout the living room and surrounding the couch, there were at least 40-50 statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other Catholic paraphernalia. The were all lined up to face the couch in a way that it felt like they were all staring at you.
Finally, she hangs up. She explains that things weren't working out with the last tenant and that's why the place is for rent. Ah, no shit Sherlock.
We leave the human sacrifice pit/altar/living room area. She shows me around the house while I try to maintain a strong mental note of two or more possible paths of egress. Surprisingly nice, modern kitchen.
We get to the available rooms. Two big rooms for $600 together.
She points to a room with a bed.
"Here, you have office."
She points to a room with with a solid oak desk.
"You sleep here."
Emilio: "Don't you mean the other way around? I sleep in the room with the bed and work in the room with the desk."
Cigarette Jesus Screamy Lady: "You no wanna sleep there."
Cigarette Jesus Screamy Lady: "The Gay in there."
Emilio: "The Gay..? It's haunted with a ghost that's a little **fabulous**? Or just a regular ghost and that's its name?"
Cigarette Jesus Screamy Lady: "Old tenant take my key and have so much The Gay in there. You no wanna have The Gay if you sleep."
Emilio: "He had The Gay...?"
Cigarette Jesus Screamy Lady: [deeply concerned] "HE FUCK THE GAY ALL OVER THERE. NOBODY SLEEPS THERE NOW. YOU NO LIKE THE GAY, RIGHT?!?!?!"
Emilio: "No The Gay here, ma'am."
Cigarette Jesus Screamy Lady: "Ah, you good guy. You move in this week?"
I can't remember if I said no or made an excuse to go to my car and just left.
If there is a fair and just God in this universe he will make sure that house is haunted by the Village People until the end of time.