Well, it happened again. It was an event that could easily be explained away by logical means–it was cold and dark and I inadvertently didn’t push the key all the way in the lock. This has happened before. Only this time, the key broke, half of it wedged inside. I glared at it, in disbelief; the key glinting, a flash of mockery. In that moment, my thoughts were ignited in a conflagration of simmering thoughts passing at lightning speed:
Omigawsh, the key’s stuck in there. Can you get it out? No, no you have no tools out here. It’s freezing out here. There’s snow on the ground. Oh why didn’t I dress warmer? What did the weatherman say? COLDEST DAY OF THE YEAR?! Yes, that’s what they warned. Of course I’d be locked out of my own house on a day like today–of course! Dammit! Who can help? Landlord’s away…
On and on it went as I used my beloved smartphone to call for reinforcements. The trouble was, I only had two people I could call and only one was of any use. Neither one picked up and I ran through all of the alternatives in my mind. There weren’t many.
Had to go someplace warm…
En route to my corner store, the person who I needed called me back. They said the same thing: go someplace warm. But, they would be unavailable for another hour or so. Damn.
The corner store glowed like a beacon as I walked towards it.
“Yes, yes of course. I understand. I’ll wait.” But even as I said the words, my voice weakened.
The attendant, a robust Dominican man, sat behind the counter as has always has. He never knows how to address me as I often go there requesting some product he doesn’t carry, or order he can’t fill. As usual, I walked in complaining.
“What is it?” he asks in his jovial manner, in English although he doesn’t speak it fluently.
“I’m locked out, can you believe it? On the coldest night ever and half of my key is STUCK IN THE LOCK!”
I showed him the broken piece that hung on the end of my keychain.
“Well, why you no call the number there, sweetie?”
“There is a number there. Why you no call?”
And right on the stupid key piece was a phone number. Plain as day…
So I went outside to get better reception on my phone and as I was negotiating the most exorbitant rate for getting access to my apartment, I saw my neighbor. We’ll call her, Juana.
I met Juana one particularly cold winter day in 2012. It seems that cold winter days are the only ones I see her. Juana is handicapped and needs to walk with a cane. On a good day, she can navigate the steep decline in the sidewalk rather nimbly, but on snowy days or days when there is a sheet of ice on the ground, she struggles. It seems like I hadn’t seen her in an age and she explained that she’d been away.
As I carefully walked Juana to her house, she filled me in on the highlights of her trip and how she was so grateful that I was outside when I was.
“On days like this, I ask God for help because it’s so hard walking in the snow,” she said, “and there you were!”
I left her off at her doorstep and returned to my residence to find the locksmith in the driveway. He made short order of the key and sprayed some WD40 in the lock.
Oddly enough, I also had my groceries delivered at the same time because I’m ridiculous like that.
“How long did your friend say they’d be? ”
I phoned my friend who said it’d be about 20 minutes.
“Oh good,” the locksmith said, “you can wait in the truck so you don’t freeze.”
The truck was warm and enveloping me like the belly of a giant whale. The locksmith after a few minutes became a captain about to tell me the tallest of tales…
It was a juicy tale filled with self-imposed villainous acts. It turns out he was a recovered addict, a man who had sunk down the murkiest depths of the cavernous belly of a bottle. His debauchery knew no limits as he searched the world for meaning. Lost at sea, when he’d lost all hope of being rescued, he landed into the annals of a church. The denomination didn’t matter, nor did the route. His course from then on would be straight as an arrow and led him to wonders and riches he’d never expected. The tale told, my friend arrived–not a moment too soon.
Past the threshold of my own front door and into the safety of my own home, I pondered the mysteries of my own journey here.
But there are oh so many shores left to sail…so many doors left to unlock and so so many many keys!