I’m on the verge of a really long layover. My life is on a layover right now. In between flights. Waiting around. Getting ready to change all of the keys on my chain.
My transatlantic move is ever nearer, but not quite near enough to give me that giddy, free, sometimes scary feeling that I’ve always had before boarding a plane to a place I’ve never been. Not that I don’t know where I’m going this time. I just have no clue how it will all turn out.
As I continued cleaning out drawers and closets this morning, trying to decide which stuff should go in the Salvation Army pile, which should go in the freight boxes pile, which should go into the suitcases pile and which should go into the what the hell I am going to do with this pile, I remembered the other times in my life when I ceremoniously changed all the keys on my chain.
The first keys that were really mine were the keys to a shared apartment on 3rd Street and Avenue C in New York. It was a never-ending set of keys, one for every barrier and door to get into the fortress of that gentrified old apartment building lodged between a Polish restaurant, where I learned to love blueberry blinzes, and a true life crackhouse (this was the Eighties, a.k.a. Pre-Giuliani), where the stream of occupants would regularly stretch a hand holding an extension cord through our barred windows and implore us to lend them some juice, man. I learned to position the keys in the exact order for opening the many doors in the knuckles of my clenched fist, which I imagined in my naïve head that I could use them to beat the shit out of anyone who tried to mess with me. I loved those keys. Even though they were the keys to a locked down fortress, to me they were the perfect symbol of freedom. I was eighteen and very, very far from home, and so FREE.
My next set of keys was for the first car that was truly mine (I’m not counting the rust eaten suburban held together with bumper stickers that I had shared with my brother in Florida). They were the keys to a gray Ford tempo that I bought in East Texas, and drove to New Mexico, where I stopped for a night and wound up staying for four years. I kept those keys on one of those feathery New Mexican dream catchers, and soon added the keys to the first apartment that was mine and mine alone. Those keys followed me on the road trips with the many people I met along the way, most of whom had stopped just like me and decided not to leave. The New Mexican state motto isn’t Land of Enchantment for nothing.
I then spent a glorious year with no keys at all. No car. No home. Until I got married and came to Italy, where my first key was an authentic skeleton key to the front door of my house. My house was built in the 1600’s, and has since been added onto and transformed in so many ways by so many people, that there is not one level wall or ceiling anywhere in it. When we renovated about ten years ago, a stash of guns were found under the kitchen floor, which were hidden there by the partisan resistance fighters in World War II. The skeleton key soon became a keepsake when we finished the renovation, and now I must admit that I don’t know where it is.
The latest key was the key that made me feel like a grown-up… the new car key with the locking buttons on it! I tried it over and over again from all kinds of different angles and distances when I got it. I think I liked it even more than the car. That key will soon be in the bottom of someone else’s purse when I sell my car at the end of June before leaving for America. As will my keys to my house, which will belong to the tenant we have found to rent my house.
I will be keyless. I will be keyless with children. Keyless with my husband and his hard earned green card (he had to marry me to get it, after all). Being keyless is always exhilarating.
And being keyless is always temporary.