Stories from hell house

I have a shirt that I reserve for tough times, like the week last semester when I had six papers due. It looks like this:

everything is horrible

I bought it at a thrift store last summer for $3 and surprisingly, it fits me perfectly. I’m a Beck fan as well, so I can’t imagine why anyone would give it up. If things are horrible, I can just wear the shirt, and then people can see that I’m a fan of cool music like Beck’s and I feel slightly better. Even horrible things can’t change the fact that I like my music collection.

After what felt like five minutes at home, I found myself back on the road to Charlottesville. My summer sublet had opened up, and I was ready to trade a dull summer in Leesburg for a busy and rewarding summer in the world class city of Charlottesville. I pulled into the small gravel parking lot next to the house just as the sun was setting and wandered through the sprawling brick house.

I’ve legitimately never seen a house so coated in grime. I spent my first night scrubbing the baseboards with Chlorox wipes and repeatedly vacuuming the filthy carpet in my room. I peeled an inch-thick layer of dirt from the filter in the air conditioning unit. While cleaning, I found:

  • 1 used tampon applicator;
  • 5+ large tumbleweeds made of human hair;
  • 1 pack of large red pills;
  • 3 dead house plants;
  • 1 empty Honey Nut Cheerios box;
  • 1 dusty bottle of “Purple Power Cleaner” (obviously ineffective);
  • 1 urine-smelling box spring;
  • and a dozen crusty stains that I don’t want to identify.

Sick Boy’s bedroom in Trainspotting is an immaculate paradise by comparison. Before I could take a shower the next morning, I reached into several inches of murky water to extract a submerged layer of human hair that was blocking the drain. The toilet in the upstairs bathroom wobbles precariously any time it is touched, and everything is suspiciously sticky. Actually, the whole house reminds me more of the worst toilet in Scotland.

Check out how clean that floor is; even junkies in a movie take better care of their house than the previous tenants did. (Image from:

Check out how clean that floor is! (Image from:

Okay…that’s an exaggeration. Still, at least Sick Boy didn’t leave trash piled in his room, and at least he vomited in a bucket during his detox (assuming that some of the stains are bodily fluids).

My head pounding after a sleepless (read: bedless) night, I returned home from work last night to find that dusk had settled in the house and that I was powerless to drive it out. Yes – the previous tenants had either cut off the power or neglected to pay the bill, leaving us with no electricity. An unopened bill from Dominion addressed to the previous tenants sits smugly in our mailbox. With food spoiling in the refrigerator and mold colonizing the bathrooms, the house is well on its way to resembling the junkies’ limbo. We also found (and disposed of) a potted marijuana plant in the backyard, so there’s that.

Without power, I haven’t been able to use the steam cleaner that my friend Hannah leant me, and I’m too fanatical about cleanliness to allow my possessions to touch the carpet unprotected. For now, I’m living out of plastic bags, storing most of my stuff in my car, and sleeping on my friend Laura’s floor. Her room is across the hall from mine and luckily has hardwood flooring that she spent a long day sanitizing. It’s the only safe zone in the house.

With no power, no internet, and no idea whether or not the heaps of trash will be collected, my future in this house remains uncertain. I have high hopes that conditions will improve once the year-long residents move in on Tuesday, and until then roughing it has some perks. Last night, Laura and I lit a candle and traded stories about boys we’ve dated and friends from home. Our eyes adjusted to the darkness as shadows played across the walls. Laura has balanced my neurotic horror by remaining easy-going throughout the experience. “How romantic!” she joked about the candlelit room. I’m hemorrhaging money at restaurants due to our dead refrigerator, but at least I’m living in a city with a thriving food culture and hundreds of great places to eat.

Our lack of internet also drove me to the public library across the street, where I tapped out this blog post until the library closed. I did manage to pick up a library card application on my way out; the librarian said I’d need to show proof of residence in Charlottesville. As overjoyed as I am that my name is not on the hell house’s lease, I do want a library card; I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

"When do you all close?" I asked a librarian passing by. She glanced at the clock and replied, "In three minutes."

“When do you all close?” I asked a librarian passing by. She glanced at the clock and replied, “In three minutes.”

“It’s a full moon, you know,” my co-worker has insistently reminded us the past few days. “Everything really just get crazy whenever there’s a full moon. I’m telling you, you have to watch out.” I’m starting to think that she might be right.


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