The Keys to Life (just mine, and not the Universe and Everything)

As I wheeled my bike out this morning, I noticed that my key ring was well on its way to being a cephalopod.

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The keys and tags that hang off this ring direct the course of my days. Several tentacles belong to my apartment building. There’s a key to the building itself, a key to the lock on the apartment, a key to the deadbolt that my super bamboozled me into installing, a key to the mailbox, and a key to the bike room in the basement where my bicycle resides. And speaking of bikes, there’s also the key to the Ulock for my bicycle.

Then there are keys to my workplace: one for the main office and one to my own office.

There is also a mystery key whose use I have forgotten but which I refuse to take off because one never knows where I might face the lock that needs it.

Then there are the key tags: one to the gym near my home, one to the Y, one to the New York Public Library, one to a Goodwill, and one to the neighborhood pharmacy that claims that members will get a discount but deliberately mislabels all the items to trick me into paying more for stuff that I’m too embarrassed to put back after it’s been rung up.

To accompany this tangle of misfits, there’s a measuring tape that a friend gave me and a mini-flashlight, both of which I forget I have and then am always pleasantly surprised to rediscover.

But looking at these makes me remember the keys and tags I don’t have on the ring any more: the ones to the tiny locks I put on my suitcases when I first left my home country, the one to the cable that someone cut in order to steal my poor old Huffy, the ones to my old apartment, the ones to a friend’s house (in case she locked herself into her bedroom again by mistake), the ones to my previous workplace, and the ones to my grad school building and office. Those last ones were the hardest to give up, for some reason. The first time I thought of doing it, I had a mild anxiety attack so I held on to them for FOUR more years.

If I don’t have to return a set of keys to someone, I hang on to them. But the little buggers can weigh me down, so every once in a while, I have to take a few off the ring to make room for new ones. I just put them aside in a bowl with the current spares and the defunct tags. It’s a nice reminder of all the locks that life has seen fit to open for me.

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