maybe i’ll just live in a box

my long, exhausting quest to find lodging in lawrence, ks continues. last week i met with a city prosecutor in order to learn more about my legal rights around my landlord’s retaliatory decision not to renew our current lease after we called the city on him in order to force him to install our legally required bathroom door. the prosecutor ushered me into his office & asked me to share my sad tale of woe. i gave him all the details & he paused & said, “well, it sounds like you are concerned about retaliation.” (i had used the word “retaliation” about twelve times while telling the story.) “i specialize in discrimination law. i noticed that you used the word ‘partner’ while telling your story. pardon me for asking, but are you a lesbian?”

“oh no,” i said, “i just used the word ‘partner’ because we’re not married. it’s a heterosexual relationship.”

the lawyer looked rather crestfallen. “oh. well. if you were a lesbian & you felt that perhaps your landlord wasn’t renewing your lease because you’re a homosexual, i could certainly make a case out of that. i mean, if you, as a woman, were in an intimate relationship with another woman, & you thought maybe your landlord didn’t want to rent to a lesbian couple…”

“no, i don’t think there’s any discrimination going on. it’s just retaliation over us exercising what few tenant rights we have in kansas.”

“well…maybe if one of you was transgender…?” he raised his eyebrows hopefully.

“uh…no. sorry.”

so he directed me to the housing & credit counseling people (they can offer free legal advice) & douglas county legal services (more legal advice & potential legal representation for court appearances). but he seemed really hopeful that i would suddenly tear off my sweater to reveal a lesbian avenger t-shirt beneath, or maybe a t-shirt featuring an airbrushed image of a wolf howling at the moon, & yell, “i am lesbian! hear me roar! i’m taking this lease non-renewal to the supreme court! i love to eat box & i’m proud!”

as a side note, back when i was in college, i actually was in a lesbian relationship. i was all about being out & proud. one semester, i took an ethics class through the philosophy department. we discussed all kinds of hard-hitting hot button issues, like capitalism, affirmative action (it was the 90s), abortion, & homosexuality. i prefaced my remarks in that class with the words, “as a queer woman” approximately 97 times a week. in the interest of full disclosure, i will swallow my shame & admit that i even went so far as to wear a pride rings necklace to school. anyway, after i sat my final exam for the class, i stepped out into the hallway to check my e-mail. i found an e-mail from one of my classmates awaiting me. the subject line said, “have a good summer :)”. the body of the e-mail said, “dear ciara, you eat box for living. have a nice day! regards, john”. naturally, i printed it out & brought it to the next meeting of the campus queer rights club (of which i was the secretary). all the dudes were like, “oh my god, that is so offensive & disgusting. we need to make copies for our hate speech files,” & all the girls were like, “‘you eat box FOR A LIVING’? how can i get a job like that?” then they started leaving flyers for the upcoming “box city” event (in which students live in a shantytown made of cardboard boxes in order to raise awareness about homelessness) in my student mailbox everyday, scrawled with messages like, “you’re the mayor of box city, right? see you there!”

anyway. i continue to prowl the internet & the classifieds of the local paper, seeking shelter for august 1. jared & i looked at an apartment downtown yesterday, upstairs from the newest frozen yogurt place to open in lawrence (i think that brings the ratio of local businesses to 53% KU merchandising outlets, 22% shoe stores, 24% frozen yogurt proprietors, & 1% everything else). it was rather fabulous. it got a metric ass-ton of light, especially considering that it was basically a row home. it was huge & spacious with tons of storage, a washer & dryer…it had some ramshackle elements to it, like exposed sprinklers & pipes & whatnot, but it gave it kind of a funky 1982 unfinished manhattan art gallery vibe. my heart went pitter pat. until jared pointed out that it was literally directly above the patio of the tonic lounge, a bumpin’ downtown brodude dance club. jared popped in to ask the bartender about weekend noise & the bartender confirmed that shit gets rowdy. jared pretty much put the ix-nay right then & there, leading me to an extended bout of mourning that involved smoking like six cigarettes in a row (i know; remember how i quit? not so much).

we decided to take a walk past the patio last night to see how loud it really gets. the block was lit up several streets away by all the police cruisers out responding to some kind of disturbance call. a crowd of drunken brodudes & their lady friends were congregated in front of the tonic lounge while cops stood around looking stoic. we ducked into the alley & confirmed that the patio (which was blasting music & filled with drunks even in the snow & ice) was about eight feet away from the windows of the otherwise great apartment. as i looked on sadly & jared looked on with a great big shit-eating grin on his face (he likes being proved right WAY too much), a brodude in a KU t-shirt hollered at us, “come to tonic lounge! just jump the fence! we won’t tell!” we politely declined & sadly turned to go home. goodbye, lovely downtown apartment. i’ll always remember what could have been. i’ll never complain about frozen yogurt again, now that i know the true evils of the tonic lounge patio scene.

i tried to point out that maybe the cops weren’t really responding to anything happening at tonic. maybe there was some kind of brouhaha at teller’s, just down the street. teller’s is a very posh & expensive restaurant to which people wear suits. maybe someone had called the police after their twin lobsters resembled each other not at all. maybe teller’s was trying to pass off a merely fine wine as “the finest wine”.

alas, it was probably the dudebros. i had to make my peace with this likelihood after i got home & googled “tonic lounge lawerence, ks” & the first 15 hits were transcripts from the lawrence police scanner. (there were some other gems too, like “injured possum found in parking lot” & “gunshots reported; responding car sees fireworks”.)

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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