An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

11 August 2006

Old key, new key

This key, printed with yellow flowers and green leaves on a blue background, used to belong to the man in my life. It is a key to the downstairs entrance to my apartment. I took it away from him before I left Baguio last week.

This floral key does not work anymore, because my landlady had the lock changed recently, the same day a neighbor in the building reported that she had been held up at knife-point, and her bag, which contained her keys, had been taken. (My neighbor is fine now, although, I assume, cellphone-less and credit card-less for the moment.)

Of course my man now has a copy of the new key, although I wasn’t able to find a floral design for him before I went to visit him in Baguio. What he has now is an ultra-light alloy colored a strange orange-y gold, with a matte finish. I chose the most conspicuous-looking key template I could find, so he can quickly distinguish it from all the other shiny steel Yale keys that he has, keys to his numerous places of habitat – his quarters at the brigade, his office drawers, his house keys in Baguio and in La Trinidad, Benguet, his locker keys in school.

My own copy of the old key, on the other hand, has always been the ordinary silver Yale key that was given to me by the caretaker when I first signed the apartment’s lease contract. When the caretaker gave me the new key he asked for the old one back, and I noticed how worn the old key looked, with the patina already showing in the corners, and with the formerly sharp edges now smoothed out after over three years of use. How many times has that key locked and unlocked the downstairs entrance? Since my days are so irregular – some days I just stay in, some days I don’t go home, some days I’m in and out of the building – it’s hard to tell. On the average, I would say that the combined locking and unlocking of the downstairs entrance would most probably amount to more than 7,000 times a year, which totals to over 21,000 times from day one of my stay until now. That’s a lot of use for a key!

The floral key, on the other hand, had not yet been used as much. After all, my man came into my life only this summer. And regardless of the fact that the floral key had also been held by a different man from further back into the past, the floral key had always been just a duplicate, a side key, a cute reassurance that someone will come into my life and hold that key in his hands whenever he wants to be with me.

Furthermore, since the floral key is a signifier of the kind of simple and limited reality that I have in my relationship, it thus does not deal with the nitty-gritties of my apartment that would require its holder to go in and out of the building several times a day, like taking out the trash, or dropping off the laundry, or letting the cleaners in and out once a month, or running to the store to shop for supplies or groceries, or to go to the landlady’s office to pay the rent and other bills. The purpose of the floral key is to simply look conspicuously feminine within the secret folds of a male wallet, a reminder of my purpose in its holder’s life: the light, sunny, prettifying fixture. Which is what should be, I think. Like me, the floral key is an occasional thing, a part of reality but not the entire reality, but is a critical element to hold in a man's hands when the need arises. It might not always see the light, might not even be kept in a proper keychain, but it is always there when needed, a promise of unconditional companionship and acceptance.

Lest I portray my man to be negligent, let me say that his holding of the key proves his power and reliability. A key inherently carries reponsibilities with it, and duties that have to be rendered to the occupants of the space that the key secures. In this sense, all keys are the same. My silver Yale key requires me to pay the rent and take out the trash; his floral key requires him to treat me with tenderness. But the sameness ends here, and where the sameness ends, the beautiful, chaotic, mad, turbulent, healing, reassuring, strengthening, challenging, inconvenient, and uplifting difference begins.

The floral key is just one of two keys that lead to my sanctuary; the holder of the floral key still has to knock on my door, to which he doesn't have the key. But still, the hand that used to hold the floral key – which now, temporarily, holds a strange orange-y gold key with a matte finish while I have yet to find another floral key template for him – is no insignificant hand. He opens the first entrance, I open the last one. After these two equally important unlockings, together we lock the door behind us to create our own microcosm in which there is no more need for keys.



Blogger Sidney said...

I love the story of that floral key!
But I do hope that your partner will choose the silver Yale one day...

12:07 PM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

thanks, sidney. we're okay, :)

1:56 PM  

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