The two urgent things I had to do when I moved to Richmond were get a job and find a place to live. Having somewhat secured a job with a little bit of ease, my attention went to finding a place to stay as quickly as possible. I had up to this point been staying with some friends who, even though they had shown me every hospitality, likely wanted me the fuck out of there house (and into my own place) as soon as possible. If nothing else, they could get their quiet domestic life back without the weirdo third wheel hanging out.
Said friend told me about a facebook group dedicated to local Richmond affairs. There, people posted rooms for rent. There seemed to be plenty of ads, and though few of them were actually in my desired price range, there seemed to be loads available. And the places I was seeing seemed to be pretty nice looking and relatively central.
Things looked like they were going pretty well, until I learned that most of those ads were for women only. This was learned when I started messaging people and I started getting a whole lot of rejections, often in the form of a reply that merely said ‘females only!’ Suddenly, a lot of those really nice places quickly vanished, and I found myself with a whole lot of dregs.
The first place I went to see was absolutely perfect, but they didn’t take me. The second place was terrible in no way that would make for an interesting story. But the third place I saw convinced me that I likely wouldn’t live through the experience.
A person posts an ad to that facebook group for a room to rent. There are no pictures whatsoever. The ad says that the house is on the East end of Richmond. The price is cheap. The ad also proudly proclaims ‘no Trump supporters’, and so I figured how bad could this guy be. So I messaged him and he gave me an address.
I’m pretty incredulous that this place was actually in Richmond. It was way out by the airport, and right from when I got off the highway it seemed pretty suburb-y and desolate. My GPS directed me to turn right after a strip mall, and right there the suburb ended and the farms began.
I was already saying ‘no’ to myself, but just for curiosity’s sake, I figured why not go see this house.
The road this house was on wasn’t even paved. When the GPS told me I had arrived I looked around in disbelief. The house closest to me was in a state of disrepair, with many of the windows being covered in transparent plastic tarp. It didn’t look like there was any actual window beneath. I was not sure if the front door was merely unfinished, or if the door was not at all present and in its place was a single piece of board. You could just make out that the walls were once white under the dirt and mold.
In Asia there is often indifference as to what a house look on the outside in favor for having a really nice inside. I doubted this was going to be the case here.
Just as I was ready to make a hasty U-turn and get the hell out, someone exited the house from a side door. A friend knew where I was, and I am pretty physically intimidating, so I figured why not go see what was going on in this place.
I got out and met the man who was renting the room. He had some physical disabilities (a limp and a pretty heavy speech impediment), and I decided I wasn’t going to judge him on that – I’m not a fucking monster. He also had two, very friendly dogs. Then we went into the house.
We entered via the side door, which led into the kitchen. As a certified fat-ass, kitchens are very important to me. I will let dust bunnies roam free in a house, but a kitchen must be immaculate. Everything in this kitchen was awful; the walls were not dry-walled and you could see studs and pipes. The pipes looked pretty old, and the sink looked fairly grimy. A large work surface was made of what looked like blackened, rotting wood. There were no real cupboards, but some exposed shelves where there was some old looking, dirty plates and glasses.
Nope. The living room was next, and it stayed on the more restrained side of creepy. The walls here were finished, and there were even some paintings here and there. In this room you could clearly see that the windows were unfinished and just covered in tarp. The sofas were also covered in plastic.
Next to a little piece of furniture in the living room rested an ax. Just there. As you do.
He next showed me a small (closet-sized), completely barren room. The walls were unfinished (exposed studs with a plastic tarp over them), and the floor was bare concrete. There also didn’t seem to be any light fixtures here. He told me that this was a room that he rented out on airB&B to people who maybe missed a flight and needed a cheap and easy place to stay.
Next he showed me another spare room, and this one actually looked fit for humans. It was a room to everyone’s expectations (finished walls, finished floors, finished windows, furniture) and he made a bit production about telling me that the previous tenants were two gays guys but, you know, that didn’t really bother him any, and they just kept to themselves the entire time they were here.
Ok… not sure why I needed to know any of this.
Next he showed me his own room, which was equally finished and properly furnished. He showed me how the only way to the laundry room (a rough, unfinished room of exposed concrete and – you guessed it – studs) was through his own room, but not to worry about it because he didn’t mind, and that I could come through anytime I wanted.
This too felt like a deal breaker. Just as much as the ax I had seen previously.
So I asked him which room was the one available, and he gleefully told me that it wasn’t any of these, but the attic. We walked back to the cold, dark corridor and he opened another door
He then told me that the room he was renting out was upstairs, and proceeded to open a door leading to some very dark, very creepy, stairs. There was no light coming from above.
So this is how I will die, I thought to myself. Nifty.
“After you,” he said. I went up the stairs and found myself in an attic to dark to navigate. The air was cold and moldy, and it felt like no one had aired the place out in some time. Thankfully, my host soon walked up the stairs and removed a thick blanket that was curtaining the window. The ‘room’ was oddly shaped, and the roof came down to give you only about a foot and a half of wall on two sides. In the room’s center was a bed with no headboard. What little furniture there was seemed to be in a state of disrepair. There were no light fixtures that I could make out.
I spent a lot of time inspecting the hard wood floor for signs of hastily cleaned bloodstains.
I thanked the guy for showing me the room, made some excuses, and then got the fuck out of there.
Maybe a day later I saw a fourth place. It was good enough and I moved in on the first of February.