(It's a long one, but it's totally worth it.)
The third place that I went to see was actually an apartment-share situation in Astoria, Queens. The posting on Craig's List said that it was a 4-bedroom place with one room available. The main guy was a Canadian computer-consultant in his mid 50's; we'll call him "Charles". The post was actually one of the more descriptive ones that I found. It made a point to highlight the rose garden, grape arbor, and grey cat.
At first my aunt Alisha was going to accompany me on this voyage, but she ended up having to go to yoga-for-woman-who-be-pregnant class so Matt once again stepped in. As it turns out, I think that we all agreed that was a good call.
When Charles came to the door, he seemed totally nice. He asked us if we were coffee drinkers and invited us to head on to the kitchen to have a cup. This made total sense to me since he would need to get to know me in order to decide whether or not I would make a good roommate. When we made it upstairs, I was fairly disappointed. The apartment was really cluttered and pretty messy. There were tons of books and other stuff just stacked-up all over the place. To be honest, it reminded me a lot of my dad's apartment - but messier, which is saying something. Still I was optimistic and thought, "Well if it's only for a few months, I could live with it." We then went into the kitchen and were introduced to the roommate who was preparing to move out. We'll call him, "Tate". The third roommate, who we were told was Peruvian, wasn't around. The kitchen was a total mess and reminded me of the messiest kitchens I had seen in college, which is really saying something. The four of us sat down, and Charles poured us coffee.
It all started off fairly boring and low-key with lengthy discussion of the immigrant population within the various boroughs of New York. Surprisingly neither of them asked too much about me. They found out where I was from and what I was going to be going to school for and that was pretty much it.
The whole thing took a weird turn when Charles started telling us about meeting a "vivacious, sexy black woman" on the subway. He struck up a conversation with her and quickly found out that she had just been released from Riker's. He went on to tell us that he asked her what she was there for to which she replied, "Prostitution."
Now, let me take moment here to remind you that I was sitting right next to my uncle, and Charles knew that I was sitting by my uncle. And yet he went on.
"I mean, boy! Do I know how to pick 'em!" He told us about this encounter. I sipped my coffee a little faster. Then he started telling us about one of the other applicants for the room: a teacher who had been interested in renting out the room on a part-time basis because she couldn't get the quiet-time she needed at her other place to write out lesson plans. The reason, he explained to us, that she couldn't get the quiet-time was that her other living situation was a communal one. Where they all worked together to help pay rent. They worked together by throwing "Orgy Parties" once a month.
Again, I was sitting by my uncle.
He went on to explain how she had told him these orgy parties worked and that, unfortunately, single men weren't allowed to attend. (At this point, he made a bad joke about them not being allowed to come. Remember: Uncle, next to me.) He detailed the protocol of this set-up in such a way that it was quite clear that he and this woman must have discussed it all at some length. I sipped my coffee a bit faster. He then told us that they didn't have orgies at this apartment, and I quote, "Not that we don't want to - but because no one would want to have them with us!"
"Not that we don't want to -"!!!! I was sitting next to my uncle!! And of course no one wants to have an orgy with these guys - mostly because of the fact that these are the stories being told in the first meeting! At this point, I started gulping my coffee and hoped that Matthew was developing an exit-strategy.
Oh! I should also say that after telling us the orgy story, he asked Tate if he had ever told him that story and Tate couldn't remember. Couldn't remember whether or not he had heard this story! That could only mean that Tate has heard far crazier stories from Charles so that this one doesn't stand out. Yeah, that bodes well.
The next topic of conversation? The fact that a friend of his was B.F.F. with none other than Jeffrey Dahmer growing up. Seriously, people! I couldn't make this stuff up. Let me also point out that Charles created a very loose segue in order to tell the story at all. He told us how he had recently discovered that a good friend of his had been best friends with ol ' Jeff back in high school. He said that he asked his friend if, you know, he ever had any hint of the crazy in his good bud, and his friend said, "Well, I mean, we spent most of our time drunk and/or stoned - just trying to pick up women. But there was one time when he did mention knowing a good place to hide a body, but I didn't really pick up on it at the time." This was the point when I stopped drinking the coffee all together because I figured that we had been drugged and were about to be murdered.
Luckily, Matthew interrupted Charles to tell him that we did need to be going so we should just take a quick look at the room. The room was tiny - as if, at this moment, there was any way in hell that I would consider moving into this murder-den. What little furniture they did fit into the space was one of those super-uncomfortable metal futons and a little table, which served as a desk. Tate told us that the furniture would stay and was there when he moved in. All I could think was, "You mean that you slept on this furniture supplied by crazy Charles! Dude - that mattress is probably stuffed with fingers!!"
We thanked them and started our escape. They asked me a couple of questions like it was possibly conceivable that this interview had gone well and that I might be moving-in within the month.
Once we were about 10 paces from the building, Matthew turned to me and simply said, "No way in HELL!" We then spent at least the next half an hour recounting our favorite parts of the insanity we had just endured. It was during this when we realized that, at some point in all of that, we had both had the exact same thought: "Oh God, we have been drugged! We just need to get out of here so that we can pass-out on the street in public or on the subway. We'll be safer there."
Matthew's theory is that Tate was someone who came to look at the apartment a couple of weeks ago and is now hoping for someone to come and take his place so that he can go free.
Remember too that I said it was a 4-bedroom and we were only told about 3 of those being occupied. Who knows what could be going on in that fourth! I say it's used to stuff mattresses with scavenged body parts.
And these were the stories he told us upon the first few minutes of knowing us - with my uncle sitting next to me! And thank God Alisha didn't go with me because I am pretty sure that they would've kidnapped her and tried to harvest the baby.
I also realize that I am very lucky to have had Matthew there because otherwise I might have agreed based on the comic potential of the whole situation. And I would've ended up sleeping on fingers, wich couldn't possibly be comfortable.