Friday, June 08, 2007

Keys to The Kingdom


I woke up the other night to screams and a wild dog tearing at my face.

It was another nightmare. This time it was our family dog, Schnapps, or some demonic version of him, who died more than 30 years ago.

All I remember of the dream was that he was viciously biting my face right along the jawline and I couldn't fend him off.

This follows a recent nightmare where my late father was about to attack me. It seems like the dead and I just can't get along.

I opened my eyes and saw it was 12:20 AM on the digital clock. Somewhere in the neighborhood, an idiot in his car was leaving rubber, so the screaming I heard was actually the screeching of tortured tires.

I had to get up early for work that morning so I could cover the same-store sales reports for May. I have to be in an hour ahead of time to start writing the story, which I update about three times during the morning.

It's pretty stressful and this one was made worse by the fact that it would be the last time I would be doing it. I'm being taken off the retail beat because my editors are not happy with my work.

They tell me they'll try and find something for me, but, I'm told, "we may not." I can take a hint: I'm going to be out of a job in two weeks.

That explains the nightmare. I'm worried about being out of work at 50 years old. Why Schnapps was resurrected to attack me, I don't now. He was known to bite, but old Schnapps also loved us very much.

Is he a stand in for my family? Am I afraid they'll be angry at me for losing my job? Hard to say.

The rest of the morning was rough. I got up, bone tired, and got dressed. Usually I'm prepared for this early day, with everything all lined up and ready to go. And I did have everything--wallet, cell phone, clothes, lunch--I had it all, except my house keys.

I honestly tried to stay calm. I knew if I panicked I would never my house keys, even if they were right in front of my face. But I had only held on for a few minutes, until the rage took.

"This of all mornings I lose my house keys?" I raged.

All Keyed Up

Of course, there's the obvious psychological question: did I lose them on purpose because I resent my situation at the office? That's so obvious that I'm tempted to dismiss it out of hand. But I'll hold off for the time being.

It's been a week for keys. Two days earlier I stood in front of my aunt's apartment door with a set of keys that didn't work on the locks.

My aunt's away in the Berkshires for the summer and she wanted to go in there and pick up some items and mail them to her.

Only I couldn't get in.

I called her on my cell and we just couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. She recently changed the locks, but I was certain I had the new set. But it didn't look that way as I stood in the hall. I finally went home empty-handed.

I ran to a jar full of keys in the kitchen and tried every one on the front door. My father kept losing his keys and broke one of them in the lock, so I was constantly getting new sets made.

Add those to the older keys we never threw out and it was quite a stack for me to wade through.

I finally found an extra set and took off for work. I was worried I left my keys outside on the front ledge, where some dirtbag could pick them up and rip me off at his leisure. But I couldn't stick around any longer.

I jumped on the R train just as the doors were closing and sat down to read my paper. I noticed a story in the arts section seemed familiar and that was because it was from the day before.

I figured there was some kind of layout mistake where they accidentally ran the old story in the latest paper. Then I checked the date. The entire paper was from the day before. The Times had sent me a day old newspaper.

Great. Now I'm living "Groundhog Day." Nothing to read, I'm too tired to sleep, and even I could, a pair of idiots at the end of the car were talking and laughing so loudly, sleep would have been out of the question.

At Prospect Avenue a young man in a bow tie stuck his arm in the closing door so he could board the train. He was holding a bagel in the trapped arm, but the conductor opened the doors and he got on board.

I looked to my day-old Times and try to figure why I have this hostility toward people who wear bow ties. I just automatically assumed they're twits desperately looking for attention. It's a prejudice, I know, and I should be ashamed of myself. But I'm not.

I turned my head and saw the bow tie guy was standing right over me.

As if by magic, he's leaning against the door reading The Post with a front page story about the guy who tried to board the Pope-Mobile and a headline reading "Come to Poppa." I assume it was today's paper.

I space out again with my time warp paper and then I hear a metallic clunk. I look up because I know exactly what the sound is--it's the sound keys make when they hit the floor.

A man in a seat a few feet away from apparently shifted in his seat and dislodged his keys. And there was the bow tie guy, sitting across from him, and pointing to the floor.

"You dropped your keys," he said.

I know, I thought, I just don't know where.

Lock It Up

I made it to work on time and started cranking out my story. It's an odd, unpleasant atmosphere, knowing my days are numbered. It's dead man walking and I don't expect any last minute calls from the governor.

I came home that night, called the Times and ask for credit to cover my case of deja vu. I walked into the bedroom, moved a few things around on the bureau and found my house keys. The morning's panic had made me blind.

"If they had teeth, they'd bite you!" my father used to say whenever we missed something that was right in front of us. Well, keys have teeth, don't they? Nothing bite me that morning, except life, and that was right on the ass.

I worked with a guy in the Poconos who used to say "key" when he meant to say "cool." It was meant as praise, but I wasn't feeling too key this day.

My aunt sent my extra keys to her apartment and I went back there tonight. I got the items she needed, took some stuff out of the refrigerator, but I couldn't get it all.

I walked down to Union Square with a shopping bag full of stuff. I passed bars full of young people, drinking and having a good time on a Friday night.

I thought about how old I was, how uncool--unkey?--I looked with a shopping bag, and how I'm likely to be out of work soon, so Friday nights will lose their meaning.

There were the usual clusters of people on the street smoking or lining up to talk on their cell phones.

"No!" one young man declared into the phone as he emerged from a bar and almost bumped into me. "If you're in New Brunswick, you're in the wrong city."

Can't argue with that. But this guy was making me angry, cutting me off like I wasn't even there. I may be middle-aged and facing unemployment, but I deserve to be respected.

I found myself fantasizing about starting a fight with the guy, showing this young punk who was top dog around here. Fortunately I kept walking, though if he had been wearing a bow tie there would have been blood on the streets. Probably mine.

I turned a corner and caught a vanity license plate on a sports car reading "I EXIST" and that seemed to say it all.

Yes, I do, I thought. But I'd like to live a little, too.

I just have to find the right key.

2 comments:

Anne said...

I need to find the right key too.

But the I EXIST license plate made me laugh outloud.

Maybe we're all really key and we don't even know it.

Rob K said...

Kind of the Tin Woodsman and the other Oz characters.

They had what they wanted all along, they just needed something "official" to make them see it.