You know how if you have to be somewhere early in the morning and it’s super important then you can’t sleep the night before? That was me. I finally went to sleep at 3am and then I was an hour late for my 9am appointment. The courtroom was full and on one side were white people and one side were Black people, so I was like, okay, here’s where I belong. And then someone asked me if I was a lawyer, and I said no, and just as I was getting ready to go to the other side I heard someone calling my name.
The landlord’s lawyer said, “Are you Ms. Greenheart?”
I said yes and we went to a back room to talk.
This is how housing court works in Boston. The judges really really do not want to try cases because the outcomes are so bad for tenants. So they want everyone to do mediation.
This is my fourth month in a row of mediation. It’s always with different lawyers from the landlord’s law firm. They’re all really pretty – by far the best looking lawyers in all of housing court. It’s little touches like this that make me want to stay in my apartment.
In the room, I was surprised that I completely burst out crying. Like, panic-attack level crying. I tried to tell her what is going on — how I got five months behind and have not been able to catch up. After I wiped my hands on my pants, the lawyer asked me if I want a Kleenex. I said no, and she got me one anyway. I said to her between cries and heaves, “I’m a capable person. I just got behind. I know I can catch up.”
She said, “I know. We know who you are.”
This is an unnerving thing that happens in my life.
I pretend that I’m a normal person and that’s how I can function in the world. But then someone will let slip that they’ve read every post on my blog or looked at my Wikipedia page, and then I don’t know how to act. I don’t know if this means they like me or hate me.
So I freeze.
Then I think, well I have to assume she likes me and just go on.
She asked me about my situation and she was so nice I wanted to hug her. And then she left and then she came back and then I couldn’t even really understand what we were doing. She introduced me to two people who helped me fill out forms and she introduced me to the judge’s clerk who introduced me to more people and I was basically at the Golden Globes of housing court — going from one table to another talking with people who could get me on the right path.
Finally, when it was clear that I still had no idea what to do next, the lawyer told me I need to start paying rent on time. Because they want to know if don’t have to worry about catching up, will I be able to pay on time.
I was so stunned I couldn’t believe it.
You know what it reminded me of? After the World Trade Center fell on me, the therapist told me that my childhood was so traumatic that I should just focus on that, not 9/11. And I was like, oh, god. That’s really bad.
I felt like that in court. The landlord’s lawyer was so incredibly compassionate to me because she really heard what I’ve been dealing with. And then the judge sent her clerk to meet with me to figure out how to keep me from being evicted. Everyone was so incredibly nice.
When I got home, I slept for a full day. I have spent the last month thinking today was the day I’d be evicted. I had no idea what I was going to do.
I am really grateful to so many people for making this happen. I feel like I need to give an acceptance speech in order to make sure I get all the people I should thank. But suffice to say that the city of Boston, and my landlord, and the friends who listened to me be overwhelmed along the way — they all held my hand to help me land on my feet. And now I feel like I can just go back to being me.