I measure my life by how many keys I have on my ring. I hate keys.
Keys remind me every day that people steal, and that I need to lock up my stuff. My hands full as usual, I curse while I fumble to get out of my house, to get in my garage, to unlock my trunk, unlock my car. I curse the guy who stole my daughter’s bicycle and made her cry—not because she lost her bike, but because she was afraid I’d be mad at her. Because she ached from the inside out for an hour while she worked up the courage to tell me. I hate him for that.
Besides my usual fat double-ring of keys, I have a set of “summer keys.” It’s the lightest possible, minimalist set. Car, house. I use it when I go jogging or Frisbeeing or whatever, because my mighty regular set pulls down my shorts sure as an anchor.
It isn’t entirely the fault of the heavy keys. These days I am shaped less like Big Man on Campus and more like Big Bird. This is why old men have their pants hiked up to their nipples. It’s not a fashion choice. It’s just that it’s the first point at which their body tapers in enough for anything to hang on to.
When my key wad gets too big, I begin to examine my life to see why it has become so complicated. But in spite of the mass of keys, in spite of the Jingle Bells song I make when I walk, I can’t part with any of them. I need them just to manage my bar: front door, back door, storage room, apartment door, safe, etc., sheesh.
With Mick’s Music & Bar itself coming to its final lock-up, I expected to have moments of mixed emotions, second thoughts, sentimental memories, and such. To my surprise, every day seemed pretty much like a regular work day. Even though we had “last day open!” twice, thanks to the buyer’s shady funding, I didn’t really get that feeling. I can only guess it’s because I’ve worked there so long it just feels second nature, and my body won’t accept that anything is changing.
We closed on the sale yesterday. Afterwards, I stopped in the bar to help one of the new guys get oriented. Afterwards, as I was leaving, it occurred to me that I should turn in my keys. I slowly unthreaded my “work” ring from my “life” ring—yes, I have a system for everything—and suddenly my softball-sized shrine shrunk down to just a few simple, lightweight keys. I felt naked. And like the naked, liberated.
I walked slowly through the front door, and out of habit called back, “Do you want me to lock you in?” realizing before I even finished asking that I no longer could. I couldn’t come and go as I pleased. It wasn’t my door anymore.
That’s when that feeling finally hit me.