Back when I was married, my key ring boasted eleven keys: a house key, a key to the back gate, one for the storage locker, another key to my sister’s house, the key to my 2006 Stella Scooter, the key to my GTI, a key to the wife’s car and four keys for work (one for my room, one to a supply closet, another for a file cabinet and a medieval-looking one that was rumored to open the hallowed men’s faculty bathroom downstairs).
For good or evil, keys have always been highly symbolic. They can open doors, grant freedom, and unlock power, wealth and knowledge. On the other hand, they can deny access, lock up, or keep things hidden and unreachable.
Each one of my keys seemed vital to me back then (except maybe the dungeon master’s key to the bathroom). Each had a purpose, a job, and each was connected to something that carried deep positive meaning and significance. So much so that I carried them around with me wherever I went. It was annoying sometimes, sure–and I always loved the summertime when I could temporarily ditch my four school keys–but putting them aside even for a moment was unthinkable.
Then my life went a bit pear shaped, as they say, and the meaning I attached to my keys began to change. My key chain started to change. As my marriage crumbled all those keys began gaining weight. I almost immediately ditched the wife’s car key. That bulky little MINI disk went first. I wanted nothing to do with that car or anything in it. Shortly thereafter, when I underwent a trial ‘separation’ while still living under the same roof, the house key became a ten ton lodestone. It unlocked not a home, but a soured, diseased place full of artifacts from a time not the dreaded, ugly, painful now. Closed doors, strange sounds, unwanted images.
After a few months I moved out and the wife changed the locks behind me. Now those keys I had come to dread didn’t even work. I threw them away.
In the middle of the divorce, in an inane attempt to feel lighter, I off-loaded my work keys onto a separate school lanyard and kept them in my car.
I sold my beautiful Stella Scooter to help pay for lawyer fees. I wasn’t riding it much anyway. Not since my firefighter friends began regaling me with stories of scraping shredded bodies off of the asphalt from their latest motorcycle wreck call.
I gave notice at my school that I was going to try and teach abroad for a year or two, have an adventure, and I turned in those school keys forever.
Officially only two keys: the GTI and my sister’s house key, now my house key as I had taken over her lease.
I booked a one-way ticket to Italy before I had a job, and vowed to go, just go, and have my adventure. On June 29, I sold my car and moved out of my glorious rental house near Zilker.
Now, just a key ring.
Nothing in my pocket. No symbols. No ties. I was now the most free I had ever been. Free to go out and adventure. Indiana Jones didn’t have any keys in those archaeological khakis!
Then I was offered that job and asked to stay another 6 weeks in Austin.
Rut ro. I had nothing but my key ring. Now that lonely key ring meant I was living carless and homeless.
But I did/do have friends and family. Friends who let me lean on them sometimes quite heavily. Family who have always been there. I borrowed cars, borrowed rooms and ultimately borrowed time. I love them for it.
Today I leave for Italy. And in one of my suitcases I have a naked key ring.
It’ll be looking for new keys.