I am missing a key.
I can feel the space it once occupied. It's like a hollow place, a sinking pit. Deep inside, I know it's not where I think it is. It's missing.
I do this thing with important things. Keys, iPod, phone, inhaler, book--all go into my purse and stay there. During the day, I remove them as needed and replace them when I finish with them. But that doesn't stop me from pausing, a sense of dread washing over me, to rush back to my purse or coat pocket so I know I still have keys to my car and my cell phone isn't in the hands of terrorists or tourists who make long international phone calls.
It's not that I don't think these things are where they belong--far from it. They have never been missing before. I go hunting for them compulsively, and when I find them, I feel a sense of peace and joy, a contentment that comes only from knowing that I haven't locked anything in my car or dropped whatever it is in a public restroom. I do it for the rush I get when I discover the objects aren't missing.
I think it's evidence of mental illness.
In the seventh grade, we got lockers for the first time.
In the beginning, I got a lock with a key, because I couldn't figure out the combination lock Mom gave me to practice with. But then I lost the key, so I used the bolt cutter-thing from the front office, and I had to get a new lock.
I repeated this process a lot. I went through seven locks in the first semester of junior high. I killed two more in my second semester. Keys, I explained to my mother, are hard. They can't just live in your pockets, because then you wake up and put on CLEAN pants, and the keys stay in your dirty ones in the laundry basket, where they are of no help to you.
Mom bought me a purse, but I refused to carry it, mostly because it kept me from carrying around the giant Complete Sherlock Holmes book I was reading when I was bored in class. It was over a thousand pages of Holmesian Goodness.
I had a lot of friends in junior high.
To make matters worse, I couldn't use the bolt cutters. They were heavy, with long handles that made aiming them difficult. If I positioned them around the lock and tried to reach back and take the handles, the blades (are they called blades?) would slip and mean I'd only managed to scratch the locker's paint. I used to have to beg an office helper to come with me, or else wait for someone to walk down the hallway to help me.
Mostly I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
That was how my System was devised. First, you make certain you have lots of sets of keys, then you put them in various places. Then you panic, check that they are still where you put them, and after that, you can relax and go to class or work or home to sleep.
I'm telling you--mental illness. I scare myself on purpose. I like to scare myself. Are your keys still there, Laura? (I think to myself in the third person, like my brain is the narrator). Then I check. Good, I think. Keys are good.
This morning I did that when I got to work. Car keys? Check--just finished driving. Key to the building....what?
MY KEY IS GONE.
Naturally, I am panicking. At some point between yesterday and today, my key VANISHED.
Now, I know where it is. It has to be in my pants pocket. Really. There is no other place.
BUT WHAT IF IT ISN'T.
In the car, maybe? Did it fall into the seat? What could I have done to it at the pizza place / Walmart / home that made it leave me?
YES, BUT WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Certainly they are in my pants pocket. My pants from yesterday. And they are in my room. In the laundry. So they can be washed. But there are keys there. Unless they fell out, and then they're somewhere else. Like at the pizza place, where I ate dinner, in that booth by the window, across from the woman who left her teeth at home when she went out for pizza. She spent the whole meal using her gums to tear off pizza chunks, then her whole face seemed to collapse as she tried to chew without teeth. It was...alarming. And maybe it was why I didn't hear it when my keys fell out of my pocket. If they fell out. Because maybe they didn't.
Of course they didn't.
Since when does stuff just fall out of my pockets? The only pants with that problem are these pants, which I am wearing today, which means I most definitely did not wear them yesterday. And still, even with these, I only lose lip balm--never keys. Keys are heavy and not round, so they stay where you put them, generally.
Unless they fall out.
But they didn't.
You know, if people use those keys to break into my house and murder me and use my skin as material to make a dress like that one man I heard about on TV did, it will be because I could not find my keys*. He will be waltzing around in his Skin Suit and hating his mother, who made him crazy, and I will be skinless, dead on the floor. It will be on Dateline, and it will all be because I could not find my keys.
Or I could just get robbed. Because there is so much robbery here in the country, where no one lives.
Maybe they will steal my car, and they will use it as the getaway vehicle and there will be a nation-wide manhunt because of the Skin Suit thing, and that car isn't even paid off yet.
But I will be dead, so I guess I won't really be in a position to care.
Still, I would rather stay alive and find my keys. I need my keys. They let me into places, like my house, where my books live. And me--I live there too!
WHERE ARE MY KEYS?!
I need to find them.
But I can't go home at noon like some people do, because it takes me 30 minutes to drive home and 30 minutes to drive back, and that adds up to my whole lunch hour. Notice that it would not include time for eating. That defeats the purpose of having a lunch hour in the first place.
Maybe I can call home.
Mom could look in the pockets of my pants, and then she will find my keys!
Unless they aren't there. And what if they aren't? THEN WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
You cannot use bolt cutters to take off the door of your house when you lose your keys! You have to call a guy to come, and he'll make you a new key--BUT THOSE GUYS ARE EXPENSIVE! Also I don't think anyone would be walking down the road to help me work the bolt cutters. People don't just walk down our road, mostly because there is no sidewalk and it would be easy to die when large trucks barrel down the road at a high speed.
This is bad.
I think I was the only one with a key to the house! Maybe Dad has one too, but everyone else doesn't! Or maybe they do, but they always have me unlock the door! I won't be able to unlock the door without a key?
We will have to start living in the garage.
And spiders already live there. We ceded the garage to the spiders when we ran out of Bug Death Spray in the fall. They are as big as my face, and they want me dead, I'm sure. I could see it in their eyes, which are big enough to see from across the room. Shelob lives in my garage.
Please don't make me share a bedroom with Shelob.
If you see a set of keys, they will have a key ring on them from my college, which is what they give you when you graduate even though it is worth a fraction of a percentage of what you spent to attend school there. If you find them, please tell me. Seriously. Call me on the phone. I will come pick them up, and then I will be able to, you know...
*You probably shouldn't click the link to Wikipedia, but I'm putting it there anyway so you don't think I'm making horrible, disgusting things up, because I'm totally not. I just remember everything and some of the everything involves the life stories of gross and morally reprehensible people whose lives inspire movies like Psycho and books like Silence of the Lambs.